Sarah Palin hugs Donald Trump after she introduced him in Tulsa, Okla., yesterday. (AP Photo/Brandi Simons)

THE BIG IDEA:

— Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump underscores something remarkable: Neither Trump nor Ted Cruz, the two Republicans leading in the polls, has the endorsement of a single sitting governor or senator.

“It is staggering that Trump does not have a major elected official or any statewide elected officeholder anywhere in the country supporting him,” said former New Hampshire GOP chairman Fergus Cullen, who has not endorsed anyone. “People who actually win elections recognize he’d be a train wreck … but his supporters love that. And Cruz wears the lack of a single endorsement from a Senate colleague as a badge of honor.”

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Ames, Iowa. (Reuters)

On the Democratic side, the entire political establishment of New Hampshire publicly lined up behind Hillary Clinton – including Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen – but Bernie Sanders’ lead in the state has grown into double digits. Even in Sanders’ home state, neighboring Vermont, the Democratic establishment – including Sen. Pat Leahy and Gov. Pete Shumlin – publicly backs Clinton. Yet Sanders has the state’s March 1 primary locked up.

Liberal talk radio host Arnie Arnesen, once the Democratic nominee for governor in New Hampshire, thinks Clinton has struggled to change the perception that she typifies the status quo because of all the politicians who have endorsed her.

“Now more than ever, endorsements don’t matter,” said Arnesen, who is officially neutral. “This is a year where everyone is really looking for someone who is prepared to change the conversation or change the landscape … Clinton will bring in the same people.”

— A bunch of high-profile GOP endorsements in the Granite State scattered last year among the establishmentarians. Ex.-Sen. Judd Gregg, the scion of the storied political family, backed Jeb Bush. Former senators John E. Sununu and Gordon Humphrey backed John Kasich. John McCain, who won the New Hampshire primary in 2000 and 2008, went all in for his amigo Lindsey Graham – making several visits to the state before the South Carolina senator dropped out.

On the other hand, even Cruz’s best friend in the Senate (and, frankly, one of his only friends in the chamber), Utah’s Mike Lee, is staying neutral. It is worth noting that Cruz has received endorsements from several House members, including Iowa’s Steve King, who represent deeply-conservative areas. Ken Buck blew a winnable 2010 Senate race in Colorado by running a disastrous campaign. In 2014, he got elected in a safely-Republican district. Yesterday, the Cruz campaign released a statement touting his endorsement.

Joseph D. Kenney is a member of New Hampshire’s Executive Council, a powerful post that gives him some control over state spending. He has been courted by all the candidates. Chris Christie texts him. Heidi Cruz sat down with him last week. Carly Fiorina baffled him by repeatedly calling him “Joey.” Kenney’s wife prefers Marco Rubio, but at Scott Brown’s rally for Trump in Portsmouth this weekend he explained why he plans to stay neutral. “My endorsement is not going to mean really anything,” said Kenney, the 2008 GOP nominee for governor. “It’s different in local and state races. But presidential endorsements here don’t mean as much as they used to.” At that same Trump rally, before the Palin rollout, several rank-and-file voters told me they want someone who is not “tainted” by holding elected office.

–Local press dutifully covers most endorsements, though, even when they are totally irrelevant. The Star-Ledger yesterday wrote, for example, about David Karnes endorsing Christie. He represented Nebraska in the Senate from 1987 to 1989. The truth is that this doesn’t matter. Ditto with Chuck Douglas, a one-term congressman from New Hampshire (1989-90), who formally backed Kasich yesterday.

Bob Dole (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

— Then there’s the anti-endorsement: Bob Dole said yesterday that Republicans would suffer “cataclysmic” and “wholesale losses” if Cruz wins the nomination. The former Senate leader argued that Trump would perform better in the general election and probably have better relations with Congress as president because “he’s kind of a deal-maker.” The comments, made to the New York Times, drew more attention than when Dole came out for Bush last year. And they came a day after Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, another fixture of the Republican establishment who is officially neutral, publicly said he wants Cruz to lose his state. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has also previously expressed disdain for Cruz, but she’s stayed neutral ahead of the primary and kept a low profile because she faces a tough reelection battle this year and cannot afford to alienate his supporters.

Dave Carney, a top GOP strategist in New Hampshire, said there are two kinds of endorsements. When a senator or a governor backs a candidate, it may prompt voters to give someone a second look or bring with it an organization to help field efforts. Then there’s the celebrity endorsement. When someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Oprah visits an early state, it helps build a crowd to hear the candidate make his pitch. Palin would be more in the latter category. “If you hate Washington and think everything there sucks, having Mitch McConnell endorse someone is not so good,” said Carney, who is unaligned in 2016. “If there’s anything we know for close to a fact this cycle, it’s that the status quo isn’t going to cut out.”

— UCLA political scientist Lynn Vavreck, who has done research on the impact of endorsements, argues that they still matter a great deal and have not this year only because the establishment did not coalesce behind one contender early on. “It’s the power of the cumulative sum of all the endorsements,” she said. “It matters less who they are now than how many they are. … The pace of endorsements in 2016 has been slow. … If all the Republican governors came out tomorrow and said, ‘All of us are all in on Kasich,’ that would mean something. … They’re not doing what they could have done, and that’s why it’s not having any affect.”

— In this climate, endorsements from activists can be more powerful than from elected officials. Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler thinks, for example, that Phyllis Schlafly’s support for Trump a few weeks ago was actually more consequential than Palin’s because the 91-year-old has a deep reservoir of credibility with social conservatives. He told Yahoo News that it sent the signal that “maybe it’s safe for them to go ahead and support Trump.”

— A final factor: the endorsement process in the early states has become tragically transactional. It’s a poorly-kept secret that many prominent “activists” get compensated by the candidates they support to be “consultants.” Ex-Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, for example, defected from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul ahead of the 2012 caucuses in exchange for cash payments. Social conservative activist Sam Clovis withdrew his support for Rick Perry last year when he stopped being able to pay. Then he signed with Trump. Stories about this these kinds of deals, which abound, undercut the legitimacy of all endorsements in the minds of savvy voters.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— The Obama administration will announce as early as today its plan to introduce new visa requirements for European travelers who are dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or who have visited any of these countries in the last five years, the Associated Press reports. “U.S. officials and congressional aides involved in discussions say the Homeland Security Department will outline how it will phase in the new rule, designed to make it harder for Europeans who have fought for the Islamic State to enter the United States.”

— A fresh WBUR poll shows that Sanders and Kasich would benefit the most from a strong independent turnout in the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. One-third of independents in the state are undecided — and they don’t have to make their minds up about whether to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary until the day of the vote. But they’re poised to have a significant impact: among indies who’ve made up their mind, 29 percent plan to pull the opposite ballot from 2008, the last open presidential contest. Those who benefit the least from indies voting in their primary? Trump, Cruz and Clinton.

— Vladimir Putin most likely personally approved the fatal poisoning of a former KGB operative-turned-U.K. intelligence agent at a London hotel, according to a new British report. (Griff Witte)

 Militants attacked a police checkpoint in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and killed five policemen. (AP)

GET SMART FAST:


Obama chats with members of the Michigan congressional delegation on the tarmac in snowy Detroit. (petesouza)
  1. President Obama is mulling whether to use his executive authority to require federal contractors to disclose political contributions they make to independent groups. (Juliet Eilperin)
  2. There are now fewer than 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., the lowest number since 2003. (Jerry Markon)
  3. Senate Democrats filibustered a bill to prevent the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the U.S. after Mitch McConnell declined to allow a show vote on Trump’s Muslim ban proposal, which would have put Republicans in a tough spot. (Karoun Demirjian)
  4. 2015 was officially the hottest year on record, coming in 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit higher than 2014. (Chris Mooney and Joby Warrick)
  5. The biggest hold-up on criminal justice reform continues to be mens rea. Some advocates want to force prosecutors to prove defendants willfully broke the law, which would let more criminals off and is a poison pill for key Democrats. (Mike DeBonis)
  6. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the government needs to hire hundreds more employees to perform background checks for gun purchases because the demand is so high. (Wall Street Journal)
  7. The Supreme Court sounded torn during oral arguments about whether an Alaska man violated the law by using a hovercraft on federal land. (Robert Barnes)
  8. A former White House supervisor was charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money by manipulating an employee’s time-card sheets. (Ann E. Marimow)
  9. A freelance journalist working for Voice of America was killed by an air strike in Yemen. (Joe Davidson)
  10. A St. Paul police sergeant apologized for a Facebook post he wrote that encouraged people to run over Black Lives Matter protesters with their cars. (Pioneer Press)
  11. The board that oversees the Academy Awards will meet today to discuss ways they could diversify the nominees. (Los Angeles Times)
  12. WalMart will increase wages for 1.2 million employees next month. (Sarah Halzack)
  13. The Buffalo Bills hired the NFL’s first full-time female assistant coach. (Buffalo News)
  14. Cam Newton was named NFL MVP by the Pro Football Writers Association. The AP’s MVP awarded won’t be announced until the day before the Super Bowl. (Des Beiler)

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. A longtime aide to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Fred Pagan, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for allowing his home to be used as a “stash house” for meth. (Spencer S. Hsu)
  2. Bill Clinton’s presidential library will release 500 pages of records related to Trump, including interactions the Trump Organization had with the White House from 1993 to 2001. (Politico)
  3. Hillary reiterated she never sent or received classified emails as Secretary of State in an interview with NPR and suggested the intelligence community’s inspector general is motivated by politics to come after her.
  4. At the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, Rahm Emanuel largely avoided talking about the anger in Chicago over his handling over a white police officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald. (William Wan’s story; Dana Milbank’s column)
  5. Scott Walker is signaling strongly that he will run for reelection as governor of Wisconsin in 2018. That could position him to make another run for president in 2020. (The Journal Sentinel reports on his State of the State.)
  6. The DSCC will endorse Deborah Ross to be the Democratic candidate in North Carolina against Sen. Richard Burr.

THE REPUBLICAN RACE–

— Trump held a 20-point lead over Cruz in a New Hampshire poll from CNN and WMUR. Jeb and Marco tied for third with 10 percent. A Monmouth national poll put Trump in first with 36%, down from 41% last month. Cruz is second at 17%, up from 14% last month.  Rubio garners 11% support, similar to his 10% showing in December. Everyone else is in single digits.

— Bush and Rubio have spent a combined $91 million via their campaigns and outside groups, according to SMG Delta. By comparison, Trump and Cruz have spent just over $8 million on ads. That’s an 11-to-1 ratio. (NBC’s Mark Murray has the full breakdown.)

— Stat du jour: $22.5 million has now been spent on commercials attacking Rubio, according to a Rubio ally tracking the air war. The spots, largely from the Bush super PAC, have not taken a toll on his numbers. The breakdown is $8.3 million in Iowa, $7.4 million in New Hampshire and $2.6 million in South Carolina.

— Last night in Hollis, N.H., Cruz invoked Dole’s comments that Trump would be a better president than him to make the case that the establishment is for Donald. “Right now the establishment is abandoning Marco Rubio,” said Cruz. “They’re making the assessment that Marco can’t win this race, and the Washington establishment is rushing over to support Trump. We’re seeing that every day. And Mr. Trump is welcoming the support of the Washington establishment.” (David Weigel)

A group calling itself Americans United for Values is running attack ads in Iowa that call Cruz “a false prophet,” per Politico.

— Senior aides to Cruz say they have no plans to go after Trump on television, the New York Times reports.

— In Tulsa, Palin managed to connect her son Track’s arrest for domestic violence to Obama’s record on veterans issues. “When my own son is going through what he goes through coming back, I can certainly relate to the families who…feel these ramifications of PTSD,” she told the rowdy crowd of around 8,000 people. “And it makes me realize more than ever it is now or never for the sake of America’s finest that we have a commander-in-chief who will respect them.” (Jose A. DelReal)

— Mark Levin has turned ice cold on Trump. Last night, the conservative radio host said The Donald is “Nixonian,” running an “Alinskyite” campaign and lying about Cruz’s loans from Goldman. “If he becomes the nominee, a lot of people who otherwise would unite under that tent may not, because when you run a campaign of personal attacks, an Alinskyite campaign, wittingly or unwittingly, you turn people off.” (Mediaite has the audio from his show.)

— Last night in Keene, N.H., Jeb blasted Rubio and Cruz for being “all over the map” on national security, including Syria. (Watch)

SANDERS VS. CLINTON–

Hillary Clinton in Burlington, Iowa, yesterday. (Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein)

— Leading voices in the Democratic Party, including Planned Parenthood and the Human Right Campaign, slammed Sanders – for describing them as part of the Democratic establishment. I was somewhat confused when Senator Sanders said, ‘Well, you know Planned Parenthood and the Human Right’s Campaign, they’re part of the establishment and that’s why they’re supporting Hillary Clinton because it’s all part of the establishment,'” Clinton said in Iowa last night. “I thought, boy I wish it were.” (Abby Phillip)

  • Bill Clinton, in New Hampshire, said Hillary is the real “change-maker” in the race. (Philip Rucker)
  • The S Word: Sanders is also taking more heat on electability, and Clinton allies are increasingly describing him – publicly – as a socialist.

— Dueling ads: 

The Clinton campaign launched a 60-second spot in the first two states touting Hillary’s experience, perspective and toughness:

Sanders launched his first commercial focused entirely on foreign policy. He makes the case that Clinton has experience but his judgment is solid. He promises he would “defend this nation but … do it responsibly.” He also says that ISIS must be destroyed but that “we should not do it alone.” (He also went up with a spot in Iowa highlighting his opposition to the Bakken oil pipeline, which Clinton has declined to take a position on.)

— The Post’s Fact Checker this morning throws cold water on Sanders’ claims that he lost a 1988 House race because he supported an assault weapons ban: “”The evidence is mixed. He could have just as easily lost the election because he split votes with a Democrat, as opposed to being the only candidate without an NRA endorsement. In 1990, even Sanders was less sure that his failure to get an NRA endorsement two years prior was a major factor in his loss (‘It might have been. We don’t know. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.’) Somewhere between 1990 and 2016, Sanders seems to have decided it’s played a bigger role than he originally thought.” (Michelle Ye Hee Lee)

Sanders ramps up preparations for Super Tuesday: The campaign has deployed about 50 paid campaign aides apiece to Nevada and South Carolina, the two states after New Hampshire. And paid staffers are now on the ground in all of the 11 states that have contests on March 1. “The preparations are part of an effort to buck what has emerged as the latest conventional wisdom surrounding the Democratic contest: that even if Clinton loses the first two contests, her superior campaign infrastructure and other advantages — including the demographics of the electorate — will allow her to overpower Sanders in subsequent states,” John Wagner and Abby Phillip report.

— Nevada’s most powerful union, the Culinary Union, will NOT endorse before the caucuses there. The L.A. Times recalls how the group backed Obama in 2008, earning the ire of Bill Clinton and then saw Clinton carry the state any way, showing the limits of their juice.

— The Clinton campaign’s Q1 fundraising goal is $50 million. BuzzFeed reports that top officials spent four-and-a-half hours with Latino donors earlier this week, trying to get them to step up. But they want commitments that cash they raise will be spent on outreach to their community.

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

Bill de Blasio gives a press conference at City Hall in Manhattan last month. (Photo by Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)

— Progressive hero or political doofus? Why Bill de Blasio has fallen in the polls,” by Paul Schwartzman in New York: “Two years ago, de Blasio’s victory as an unrepentant progressive in the nation’s most-populous city was evidence of the electorate’s shift to the left … Yet, midway through his term, de Blasio, 54, is buffeted by sagging poll numbers and rebukes from an ever-clamorous spectrum of New Yorkers. Allies on the left complain he’s not progressive enough. Editorial writers deride him as more dreamer than manager. … The mayor’s problem is not his progressive message. It’s the mayor himself, the way he talks, executes his policies and presides over the city.”

— “New evidence suggests a ninth planet lurking at the edge of the solar system,” by Joel Achenbach and Rachel Feltman: “Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that they have found new evidence of a giant icy planet lurking in the darkness of our solar system far beyond the orbit of Pluto. They are calling it ‘Planet Nine.’ Their paper, published in the Astronomical Journal, estimates the planet’s mass as five to 10 times that of the Earth. But the authors, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have not observed the planet directly. … Telescopes on at least two continents are searching for the object, which on average is 20 times farther away than the eighth planet, Neptune. If “Planet Nine” exists, it’s big – about two to four times the diameter of the Earth, which would make it the fifth-largest planet after Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. But at such extreme distances, it would reflect so little sunlight that it could evade even the most powerful telescopes.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

–Pictures of the day:

Space flowers are the coolest. Check out the zinnias astronaut Scott Kelly is able to keep on the International Space Station. Then again, his plants apparently aren’t doing so well. “Would be a problem on Mars. I’m going to have to channel my inner Mark Watney,” Kelly wrote, referring to the lead character in “The Martian”:

This Donald Trump supporter in Tulsa, Okla., brings obsession to a new level:

Carly Fiorina nabbed a photo op with some cute kids at the Des Moines Botanical Garden:

With one year before the next president is sworn in, Hillary Clinton posted an old shot from Inauguration Day in 1997:

Rand Paul called Trump “Gollum” in a Facebook post, a reference to “Lord of the Rings:”

–Tweets of the day:

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) urged constituents to enjoy sledding at the Capitol this weekend:

Things apparently get a little creepy/funny with the portraits in a Senate hearing room:

Carson thanked Texas Tech for honoring Braden Joplin, a campaign staffer who died in an Iowa car accident:

Jeb Bush stressed that he’s thinking about women VP candidates:

Politics is just one giant feedback loop, per the NYT’s Nick Confessore:

A college roommate of Ted Cruz’s — Hollywood screenwriter Craig Mazin — took to Twitter to describe how much he dislikes the Texas Republican. His rant caught the eye of Mia Farrow:

Here are a couple more thoughts from Mazin (hint: that German word means “face begging to be slapped”):

Another former classmate of Cruz’s piped up as well:

One final thought from Mazin, for the record:

And the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser asked his BFF about the whereabouts of John McCain:

–Instagrams of the day:

New baby alert! Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and wife Lauren brought Ellie to her first lunch at Zaftig’s in Brookline:

Fox News host Greta van Susteren posted this text from Amir Hekmati, one of the Americans released from Iranian prison:


(greta)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), along with other Wisconsin lawmakers, celebrated National Cheese Lovers Day:

You just cannot get away from Trump, even in D.C. The Off The Record bar at the Hay-Adams hotel now puts down coasters bearing Trump’s likeness:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— New York Times, “As Supreme Court clerk, Cruz made the death penalty his cause,” by Jason Horowitz: “Cruz, the most ardent death penalty advocate of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s clerks in the 1996 term, became known at the court for his signature writing style. Nearly two decades later, his colleagues recall how Mr. Cruz, who frequently spoke of how his mentor’s father had been killed by a carjacker, often dwelled on the lurid details of murders that other clerks tended to summarize before quickly moving to the legal merits of the case. … In interviews with nearly two dozen of Mr. Cruz’s former colleagues on the court, many of the clerks working in the chambers of liberal justices, but also several from conservative chambers, depicted Mr. Cruz as ‘obsessed’ with capital punishment. … In Mr. Cruz’s time as a Supreme Court clerk, a coveted step in a legal career that he had meticulously plotted out, he showed his now familiar capacity to infuriate colleagues.” It is, indeed, remarkable how many went on the record to criticize him two decades later. If you need more Cruz, read The New Republic profile of campaign manager Jeff Roe here.

— Marshall Project, “Is Charles Koch a closet liberal?”, by Bill Keller: “Not hardly. But he’s for rolling back the war on drugs, ending mass incarceration, and letting former convicts vote.” Koch Industries General Counsel Mark Holden explains that Charles Koch prefers to be described as “a classical liberal” more than a “libertarian.” Holden adds that, “the term ‘libertarian’ can have many different meanings and interpretations, including those who believe in no government, no national defense, and/or extreme individualism above all else and at the expense of others.”

— Bloomberg, “What kind of man spends millions to elect Ted Cruz?” by Zachary Mider: “So far, Robert Mercer is the biggest single donor in the race. Working with his daughter Rebekah, he’s spent tens of millions more to advance a conservative agenda, investing in think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, the media outlet Breitbart.com, and Cambridge Analytica, a data company that builds psychological profiles of voters. Groups he funds have attacked the science of global warming, published a book critical of Hillary Clinton, and bankrolled a documentary celebrating Ayn Rand. … Some allies privately say they think he’s pro-life and opposed to gay marriage, and others say the opposite. Republican operatives gossip about what little scraps of information they can glean—his theatrical Christmas galas [and] his habit of whistling to himself during business meetings.”

— The Atlantic, “How Palin created Trump,” by Molly Ball: “Like no one else before Trump, Palin saw a constituency on the right for a politics of resentment that sought as its champion a pure agent of chaos, unfettered by positive or substantive views. … She tapped a vein of previously unheralded biker-bar conservatism that has lain dormant ever since, waiting for Trump to speak to it. Alienated from both parties, Palin proceeded to find a home in the then-nascent organs of the GOP fever swamps … In 2011, a right-wing filmmaker named Stephen Bannon made an adulatory movie about Palin, ‘The Undefeated'; he went on to become executive chairman of Breitbart.com, the website that has served as Trump’s most loyal cheering section. Palin’s people are Trump’s people.”

— Americans are skeptical that any of the 2016 candidates would be great as president. The Pew Research Center conducted a national survey this month of 2,009 adults and found that 35% of voters say that Hillary would make either a good or great president, while 28% said she would be terrible; 31% say Trump would be either a good or great president; 11% say he would be great. 52% think Trump would make a poor or terrible president, with 38% saying he would be terrible. 30% say Sanders would be either a good or great president, while 35% say he would be poor or terrible. Views of Cruz, Carson, Christie, Bush and Kasich are more negative than positive, on balance.

HOT ON THE LEFT

Poor Rand Paul. His dad, Ron, said last night that it is very possible Trump will be the GOP nominee. From the Huffington Post: “‘Realistically is Trump going to be the nominee at this point?” NewsMax’s Steve Mazlberg asked on Wednesday. After a long pause, Paul grudgingly conceded that, ‘at this point it certainly is realistic.’ Still, he said his son ‘may well surprise everybody.'”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Actress Stacey Dash said Black History Month should no longer exist. From Justin Wm Moyer: “Either we want to have segregation or integration, and if we don’t want segregation, then we have to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re black,” the “Clueless” star said on Fox News. “If it were the other way round, we would be in up arms. It’s a double standard. … Just like there shouldn’t be a Black History Month. You know?”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail:

  • 11 days until Iowa; 19 days until New Hampshire.
  • Trump is in Las Vegas, making an appearance at the South Point at 1:00 p.m. Pacific.
  • Hillary attends an organizing event in Indianola, Iowa at 11:30 a.m. Central before heading to Vinton and Iowa City.
  • Bill is in Nevada.
  • Sanders is in Peterborough, N.H., before going to Manchester, Nashua and Wolfeboro.
  • Cruz hosts two events in Manchester, N.H.
  • Rubio hosts a national security forum in Manchester and a town hall in Brookline.
  • Bush is also in New Hampshire, and will appear at events in Newport, Nashua and Hampton.
  • Christie travels to Chester, Pittsfield, Boscawen and Meredith, N.H.
  • Kasich hosts two events in Laconia before speaking at a town hall in Wolfeboro.
  • Carson speaks in Glenwood and Atlantic, Iowa.
  • O’Malley is in Henniker, Nashua, Straham and Manchester.
  • Huckabee makes stops in Sioux City, Le Mars, Sioux Center, Rock Valley and Sheldon.

–On the Hill: The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. The House is in recess.

–At the White House: 

  • Obama hosts leaders from the U.S. Conference of Mayors this evening at the White House.
  • Biden, in Switzerland for Davos, has a bilateral meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu. Later he hosts a trilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afhani President Ashraf Ghani. Biden then meets with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, followed by a one-on-one with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi. At the end of the day Biden flies to Istanbul.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

The Post’s Jason Rezaian, blessedly a free man, issued this statement from Landstuhl, Germany: “I want to get back to writing the U.S.-Iran story at some point in the future. But I won’t be saying anything further for awhile. I hope everyone will respect my need for privacy as I take some time for myself and for my family. For now, I want to catch up with what’s been going on in the world, watch a Warriors game or two, and see the Star Wars movie.”

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

— Today is “not a total calm before the storm as breezes gust up to 20 mph out of the northwest to start the day. But they do taper off by afternoon,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Sunshine has very few clouds to contend with but the cold air stubbornly in place with highs only in the low-to-mid 30s.”

  • But Prince William County cancelled school for today. Fairfax, Alexandria, Falls Church, Manassas and Montgomery schools will start two hours late. The University of Maryland preemptively announced that it will close Friday through Sunday. (Complete list of closings and delays)
  • Tomorrow’s big storm could start as early 11 a.m. or as late as around 4 p.m., per the latest modeling.

Here’s a short video with the latest projections:

— D.C. politicos were alarmed by the region’s botched handling of last night’s minor dusting of snow, which bodes very poorly for the days ahead.

Charlie Posner, policy manager at the Clinton-aligned Center for American Progress, posted this screen grab from his Google Maps app during rush hour:

Bloomberg’s Washington bureau chief:

Politico’s Glenn Thrush:

The Post’s Phil Rucker poked at Muriel Bowser:

And The Post’s Mark Berman fretted about the region’s preparedness:

Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in 2012, and Daily Beast columnist Stuart Stevens thinks Trump has the solution!

— The Wizards beat the Miami Heat 106-87. (Jorge Castillo)

— A judge ruled that one of the Baltimore police officers awaiting retrial in Freddie Gray’s death does not need to testify against three of his co-defendants. (Lynh Bui)

— A Virginia Senate panel scrapped a bill allowing police officers to take away guns from those a judge deems a “substantial risk” of injury to themselves or others. (Laura Vozzella)

— Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), endangered by a new court-imposed congressional map in Virginia, will likely change districts to stay in Congress. A spokeswoman for Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who is retiring, said the outgoing congressman is encouraging his Republican colleague to move into his district “and will fully support him if he makes the decision to do so.” Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms told the Virginian-Pilot the congressman is considering making the move. (Rachel Weiner)

— In the 2017 Virginia governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) raised less money over the past three months than Republican Ed Gillespie. Gillespie raised $483,000 by the end of December, while Northam raised $404,000. (Laura Vozzella)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Just another day on the trail, with two oddballs confronting John Kasich in New Hampshire as Mark Halperin tries to talk with the governor. Via American Bridge’s tracker:

An Ohio A capella group surprised Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) with an impromptu performance (and salute to Skyline Chili):

Check out the massive line of people waiting to get into Trump’s Tulsa rally:

Coincidence? Here’s what happened when MSNBC tried to carry Palin’s speech live:

A video from the Jeb campaign imagines Trump conceding to Clinton over Twitter and says “it’s not too late” to stop him.