— Eugene V. Debs is Bernie Sanders’ political hero. A picture of the socialist union organizer hung in city hall when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont. A plaque honoring Debs is now by the window in Sanders’ Senate office. In 1979, Sanders even directed a glowing half-hour tribute—released on vinyl record—to “a socialist, a revolutionary and probably the most effective and popular leader that the American working class has ever had.”

Debs ran for president five times between 1900 and 1920, earning 6 percent of the national popular vote in 1912. He spent six months in jail in 1895 for leading a railroad strike despite a court ruling that it was illegal. He went to prison in 1918 for violating the Espionage Act by urging resistance to the draft during World War I. Debs led his 1920 campaign from a federal penitentiary in Atlanta.

— If you’re a political junkie, or an opposition researcher, the 1979 record is revelatory. Sanders read Debs’ quotes in his own distinct voice. In an accompanying booklet, he excitedly noted that Debs drew bigger crowds when he ran in 1908 than the Republican candidate who was soon to be president: “In New York City, Debs spoke before ten thousand people … In San Diego, 15,000 workers paid their way to a Socialist Party meeting to hear him speak, and in Cincinnati more people came to hear Debs than to hear William Howard Taft.” Sanders, of course, is known for drawing some of the biggest crowds of the 2016 campaign.

— Debs never believed he had a chance to be president, but he thought he could foment a political revolution by running.

In the 1979 audio tribute, Sanders said: “Throughout his life Debs was hailed by many as a prophet, a Moses—a man who would lead the American working class out of the desert of capitalism, and into the promised land of socialism. But Debs rejected that role. He said that if the workers were dependent upon some famous leader … then some other famous leader would come along a few years later and lead them right back into capitalist slavery.”

In his stump speech now, Sanders echoes this sentiment: “This campaign really is not about Bernie Sanders. It’s about transforming America.”

— Sanders, though leading in polls by single digits in Iowa and double digits in New Hampshire, is still widely perceived as a Debs-like candidate, a vessel to express anger about the status quo more than a plausible Commander-in-Chief. For his campaign to have staying power beyond the early states, the self-described “democratic socialist” must combat the deeply-ingrained mindset—endemic in media coverage and ever-present during interviews with Democratic voters—that he does not actually want to win.

— The Debs Problem is less about Sanders’ ideas being radical – which many are – and more about the perception that he’s running to make a point, to pull the Democratic Party leftward and to force Hillary Clinton to make concessions to the base. Ron Paul had a similar challenge in the 2012 Republican primaries. Donald Trump has struggled to a lesser degree with the same perception, though that has subsided in recent weeks as Republican elites come to terms with his frontrunner status. (More on that below.)

— Don’t forget: Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats. It’s an obscure chapter in a life defined by radicalism, but he nearly cost Pat Leahy his Senate seat in 1974. Bernie, running on the Liberty Union ticket, received 4.1 percent of the vote. Leahy, the Democratic nominee, only defeated the Republican by 4,000 votes and prevailed with a plurality. Needless to say, the senior senator has never forgotten. He supports Clinton.

— Ahead of the 2012 reelection campaign, Sanders suggested several times that it would be healthy for someone to challenge Barack Obama in the primary. Again, it was not to topple him, but to force the president to pay attention to the base. “If a progressive Democrat wants to run, I think it would enliven the debate, raise some issues, and people have a right to do that,” he told WNYC in March 2011. “There are a lot of smart, honest progressive people who I think can be good presidents,” he added in October of that year. “And I think one of the reasons President Obama has moved as far to the right as he has, is he thinks he can go all the way and no one will stand up to him.” Clinton attacked Sanders for these statements during last weekend’s debate. (Matea Gold explores the comments in today’s paper.)

— Sanders has made some strides in reassuring skeptical Democrats that he wants to be more than a Don Quixote swinging at windmills.

  • He aggressively touts his “electability.” Bernie now talks almost as much as Trump about polling on the hustings, making the explicit case that he’d fare better than Clinton in a general election because he lacks her baggage and could galvanize otherwise unenthusiastic voters. The campaign constantly cites polls that show Sanders performing better in head-to-head matchups against the leading Republicans. While technically accurate, these results are misleading because Sanders has not faced millions in attack ads highlighting his views. Hillary has been on the national stage for a quarter-of-a-century and faced near-daily criticism. Bernie’s negatives would surely rise as voters are exposed to his more controversial stances.
  • He has begun to talk about – and become more hawkish on – foreign policy. Initially, after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, Bernie tried to avoid talking about ISIS. That’s not why he is running, after all. He memorably blew off questions about the issue during a visit to Baltimore, raising questions about his seriousness. Now he pledges to destroy the Islamic State, and this week he is running an ad in Iowa called “Defend this Nation.
  • Bernie is also trying to position himself as inside the mainstream, backed up by a diverse array of folks from all walks of life. The campaign released this minute-long commercial, set to Simon and Garfunkel’s “America,” yesterday:

— The Clinton campaign argues that Sanders is doing well precisely because many of his supporters do not think he’s in it to win it. “They didn’t take him seriously enough because they thought they had a gadfly,” Florida attorney John Morgan, a Clinton donor, complained to the AP. “The gadfly wasn’t a gadfly — he was a lightning bug. And people have been following that lightning bug all over America.”

— Clinton now wants voters to take Sanders’ candidacy seriously. Her allies have begun describing him as a “socialist” with gusto over the past week. Reading from a Teleprompter in Iowa yesterday, the candidate tried to frame the election as a choice between theory and reality. “Theory isn’t enough. A president has to deliver in reality,” she said. “I am not interested in ideas that sound good on paper but will never make it in the real world. I care about making a real difference in your life.” Clinton then argued, dubiously, that Sanders is actually more of an establishment candidate than she is because he has served in Congress more years than she was a senator. A Clinton adviser told CNN that Hillary was trying to “shake some sense into Iowans.”


— Trump is launching his first negative ad against Cruz, slamming him as a flip-flopper on immigration. The 60-second spot relies on the Texan’s own words, opening with footage from that disastrous interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier last month. Then it shows a 2013 clip of Cruz on the Senate floor: “I want immigration reform to pass … and that allows those who are here illegally to come out of the shadows.” The screen says, “Pro Amnesty,” and “What is he talking about?” Then the final 20 seconds includes footage of Trump talking about ending illegal immigration by building a wall. Watch below (Listen to a separate radio spot featuring Jerry Falwell, Jr. here):

— The RNC has dropped National Review as a sponsor of its Feb. 25 debate after the magazine published a special issue listing reasons why conservatives should not vote for Trump. The magazine’s publisher, Jack Fowler, called the RNC severing ties a “small price to pay for speaking the truth about Donald.” Executive Editor Rich Lowry told David Weigel in an interview early this morning: “We wanted to push back against this notion that it was just the establishment that was opposed to Trump, so we assembled this group of people who nobody can accuse of being the establishment.” Weigel notes the precedents: “In 1962, Buckley devoted 5000 words to the John Birch Society, attempting to write it out of the movement … Twenty-nine years later, Buckley wrote 40,000 words — an entire issue of the magazine — to condemn what he saw as anti-Semitism festering on the right, personified in Pat Buchanan, who was then mounting the first of three unsuccessful presidential bids.” Read the full N.R. edition here. 

— THE NARRATIVE: The GOP establishment is warming to Trump over Cruz, if forced to choose. “In private, some veteran conservative Republicans have been reaching out to Trump. And Trump himself called the ultimate establishment figure in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for a talk late last year,” Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and David A. Fahrentold write on the front page of today’s Post. “Many have decided that Trump — for all his faults — is better. For one thing, many Republicans in Congress especially despise Cruz, who has a history of picking long-shot fights and blaming other Republicans when [he] is unsuccessful. Beyond that personal hostility, there’s a political calculation. If Cruz is nominated, they say, he could alienate swing voters with his brand of scorched-earth conservatism. If he’s elected, they fear, Cruz would shut Republican moderates out of power.” Says Rudy Giuliani: “If it came down to Trump or Cruz, there is no question I’d vote for Trump. As a party, we’d have a better chance of winning with him, and I think a lot of Republicans look at it that way.”

— Trump nodded to the traditionalists yesterday: “We’ve got to be a little establishment,” he said. “We’ve got to get things done. We’ve got to get along with people.”

— Two Iowa polls published yesterday underscore that the caucuses could go either way. A Loras College poll had Cruz up 7 points over Trump (30-23) among likely caucus-goers, with Ben Carson and Marco Rubio each getting 11 points. A CNN-ORC poll released put Trump up 9 points (37-26), with Rubio at 14 percent and Carson at 6 percent. The CNN poll had Sanders up 8 points over Clinton (51 percent to 43 percent). Just last month, the same poll had Clinton up 18 points (54-36).

— Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) reportedly told donors he would vote for Sanders over Cruz in a general election. The AP says he did not appear to be joking. The Intelligence Committee chairman denies making the comment and his reelection campaign asked the AP for a retraction. The wire service stands by its story, per the Charlotte Observer.

— Said Lindsey Graham, who now backs Bush: “If you nominate Trump and Cruz, I think you get the same outcome. Whether it’s death by being shot or poisoning, does it really matter?” (Karoun Demirjian)

— Not all the establishment would pick Trump over Cruz. Katie Packer, deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012, has founded an anti-Trump super PAC that spent $45,000 this week to send mailers to Iowans, per Politico.

— A reality show divided: Yesterday, “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson endorsed Trump in Las Vegas. His father Phil, another star of the show, supports Cruz and recorded an ad for him.

Not a drill: “CONFIDENCE IS QUITE HIGH FOR A CRIPPLING SNOWSTORM,” The Capital Weather Gang reportsThe blizzard warning starts at 3 p.m. today, and most of us will likely be immobile through at least Sunday and perhaps into early next week.

Here is the latest:

  • Federal offices in D.C. will close at noon today. Other important closures include Alexandria, Arlington, D.C. and Fairfax public schools.
  • Metro, Metrobus and MetroAccess will be shut down for the whole weekend. Bus routes will end at 5 p.m. today and trains will stop at 11 p.m. (Julie Zauzmer and Paul Duggan)
  • Politicians, they’re just like us: President Obama’s usual 10-minute motorcade from Andrews to the White House took 1 hour and 14 minutes the night before last because of the snow. (David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin)

Another head rolls for Flint: An  EPA regional director, Susan Hedman, resigned over her handling of the water crisis. She and her staff are accused of not responding quickly enough to warnings. Administrator Gina McCarthy, accepting the resignation, announced last night the agency will begin testing the city’s water and said she ordered an independent review of what happened. (Detroit Free Press; Mark Berman)

Post reporter Jason Rezaian is flying to the United States after completing medical examinations at a military hospital in Germany. The 39-year-old said he is “feeling well” despite an ordeal that included 49 days in solitary confinement and health complications such as periodic infections and acute weight loss while in Tehran’s Evin prison. (Andrew Roth)

— North Korean authorities arrested a University of Virginia student who was part of a tourist group organized by Young Pioneers, which labels itself as the first company to offer discount tours of the country. (Anna Fifield)


  1. The D.C. Circuit denied a petition to block the EPA from implementing the Clean Power Plan, a win for environmentalists. (AP)
  2. Planned Parenthood Action Fund spent more than twice as much on lobbying in 2015 as it did in 2014, and the NRA spent just over $3 million — a 9 percent increase from the prior year. (Catherine Ho)
  3. In another unintended consequence of Obamacare, many companies are now excluding outpatient surgery from their list of covered medical procedures. (Jay Hancock)
  4. An F-16 from Arizona’s Luke Air Force Base crashed. The pilot’s condition is not known. (ABC News)
  5. A bill aimed at removing a Confederate general as Florida’s representative in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall made it through a key committee in the state legislature. (Florida Politics)
  6. That Oklahoma City cop convicted of four counts of first-degree rape was sentenced to 263 years in prison. (Sarah Larimer)
  7. Alabama executed its first inmate since 2013 after the Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal. (Mark Berman)
  8. Authorities in Tajikistan shaved the beards of 13,000 men and shut down 160 stores that sell traditional Islamic attire in an attempt to curb radicalization. (Ishaan Tharoor)
  9. The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab attacked a restaurant in Somalia and killed more than 20 people. (AP)
  10. At least 21 refugees drowned after two boats sunk off the Greek Isles. (AP)
  11. Al-Jazeera said three of its journalists were probably kidnapped while on assignment in Yemen. (AP)


  1. George W. Bush might soon campaign for Jeb. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see 43 on the trail in South Carolina,” said Dorothy Bush Koch, Jeb and George W.’s sister, on a call for administration alums. (New York Times)
  2. Rubio cut his Iowa television spending by $860,000. (Politico)
  3. Bob Gates, who was Defense Secretary when Clinton was at State, said “the odds are high” that the Russians, Chinese or Iranians compromised Hillary’s homebrew email server, despite her insistence they did not. He said he never used email when he was SecDef or DCI. (Hugh Hewitt)
  4. John Kerry, in Davos, expressed confidence that Iran having access to billions of dollars now that some sanctions have been lifted will not increase the danger to American allies in the Middle East. (Carol Morello)


  1. Chelsea shared concerns about her mom’s campaign at a private meeting in New York this week, per the AP.
  2. Bill is also getting nervous. Politico says he’s “been phoning campaign manager Robby Mook almost daily to express concerns about the campaign’s organization in the March voting states.”
  3. David Brock, spearheading another day of ugly attacks, continues to become a bigger liability for Clinton. Citing the white faces in Sanders’ latest commercial, he told the AP: “From this ad, it seems black lives don’t matter much to Bernie Sanders.” In fact, some minorities do appear in the spot. The Sanders campaign also pointed out that Brock, when he used to be a conservative hatchet man, went after “distinguished African-American law professor” Anita Hill when she accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, John Wagner reports.
  4. The Burlington Free Press reports that Correct the Record, a group founded by Brock, has sought to pitch it negative stories about Sanders “off the record.” But that it will not agree to such ground rules.
  5. EMILY’s List attacked Sanders for not caring enough about social issues. The pro-Clinton women’s group seized on a Rolling Stone interview in which Sanders said: “Once you get off of the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues […] there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand.”
  6. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis will campaign in Iowa for Hillary starting Sunday. (KCCI)


— Rubio’s summer of ’90: An arrest, then newfound purpose,” by Manuel Roig-Franzia and Scott Higham: “Marco Rubio’s first year of college at a small school in Missouri ended badly. His grades were awful. A neck injury dashed any hopes of achieving greatness on the football field. He was hurting for money. He resolved to go back to Florida and get his life on a path to success. Instead the 18-year-old added to his troubles after returning to Miami for summer break. He was arrested one night in May 1990 for being in a crime-plagued public park after closing time, according to police records and an interview with a friend who was cited with Rubio that night. The previously unreported misdemeanor, which eventually was dismissed, tugged Rubio into the criminal-justice system just one year after the conviction of his brother-in-law in a major drug-trafficking case had exacted a devastating toll on his family. But that summer also marks a turning point for Rubio, the moment when a somewhat aimless young man found a direction and purpose … There’s no indication that Rubio was involved in any illegal activity other than drinking beer and being in a public park after closing.”

— How Trump got religion — and why his legendary minister’s son now rejects him,” by Paul Schwartzman:” “Trump likes to cite an exalted force when he’s asked about his religious convictions: Norman Vincent Peale, the Christian minister whose book ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ was a pillar of American self-help culture during the 1950s and beyond. Or ‘the great Norman Vincent Peale,’ as the Republican front-runner refers to the preacher, who ministered to Trump and his parents before his 1993 death. The feeling toward Trump is not exactly mutual among Peale’s offspring. John Peale, 79, the minister’s son, said he winces when Trump invokes his father’s name, as the candidate has several times since launching his presidential campaign. ‘I cringe,’ Peale said in a phone interview. ‘I don’t respect Mr. Trump very much. I don’t take him very seriously. I regret the publicity of the connection. This is a problem for the Peale family.’”


— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Thursday offers another important lesson in how Twitter sees the world … and how TV sees the world. Via our analytics partners at Zignal Labs, here is a chart tracking mentions of the candidates on Twitter:

And this chart tracks mentions on television:

— Pictures of the day:

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) posted this photo of a new polar bear cub from the Columbus Zoo. If you want to help name it, Stivers invited followers to click here and submit suggestions:

Ted Cruz found himself holding a lightsaber while chatting about campaign finance with New Hampshire voters:

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) with members of the 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama National Guard:

Here’s a new one. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) celebrated her bird Oliver’s 26th birthday with a party and birdseed cupcakes. “Unfortunately for Oliver, this is the last year he’ll be covered under his parent’s health policy … #thanksObama,” Ellmers tweeted:

In WaPo news, demolition has begun on our old 15th Street building:

We gathered in front of our new building yesterday to celebrate Jason Rezaian being a free man (his mother and wife recount their torturous final hours in Iran here):

–Tweets of the day:

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) documented this conversation about Social Security between Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and his son:

ABC chief political analyst Matthew Dowd, the chief strategist for George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, made a bold prediction:

In case you missed it, allies of Kasich and Bush are trading attack ads.

Here’s the spot from Right to Rise:

And the response from Kasich’s super PAC:

And Kasich’s chief strategist:

Christie will stay in New Hampshire, and not return home to New Jersey, for the coming storm. It’s a calculated political risk. He’s already deeply unpopular back home, but if things go poorly it could definitely undercut his core message of competent leadership:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) marked the anniversary of the Citizens United decision:

The RNC’s digital director joked about this comment from Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail:

–Instagrams of the day:

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) celebrated National Hug Day by posting this old photo from 2009:

Christie recalled this moment with his wife Mary Pat at an Adele concert for Throwback Thursday:


Congressional Republicans are preparing for today’s March for Life (we’ll forgive Scalise for the misspelling):

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) snapped a photo of Star Wars sleeping bags coming off the assembly line:


— Wall Street Journal, “Cruz’s career in private practice complicates his legal record,” by Brent Kendall and Heather Haddon: “For four years leading up to his Senate election, his work in private practice provided a steady diet of corporate work and a few conservative legal causes—but also a handful of cases that complicate (his) image as a conservative purist. Among them, Mr. Cruz helped defend a Chinese tire company facing a $26 million jury verdict for copying technology stolen from a U.S. businessman … He also participated in two New Mexico personal-injury cases that sought to preserve historically large punitive damages, despite supporting sharp limits on such payouts elsewhere.”


— “Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street animate her opponents,” from the front page of today’s New York Times: “For a fee of $275,000, [Hillary] had agreed to appear before the clients of GoldenTree Asset Management, the capstone of a lucrative speechmaking sprint through Wall Street that earned her more than $2 million in less than seven months. … Together, Mrs. Clinton and her husband … have earned in excess of $125 million in speech income since leaving the White House in 2001, one-fifth of it in the last two years. … Mrs. Clinton’s own speechmaking was a veritable tour through high finance. She gave paid speeches at GTCR, the Chicago private equity firm that the Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, helped found; Deutsche Bank, the German financial services conglomerate; and the investment bank Morgan Stanley, among other companies. Goldman Sachs alone paid Mrs. Clinton $675,000 for three speeches in three different states, a fact Mr. Sanders has highlighted repeatedly.”


Cruz says he doesn’t have health insurance. From Politico: “I’ll tell you, you know who one of those millions of Americans is who’s lost their health care because of Obamacare? That would be me,” Cruz told a New Hampshire audience. “I don’t have health care right now.” Cruz explained he purchased an individual policy and that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas had canceled all of its individual policies in Texas, effective Dec. 31. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, who is on temporary leave from her job with Goldman Sachs, purchased an individual plan last year after previously receiving coverage through the Wall Street firm.”


–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: The Iowa caucuses are in 10 days. The New Hampshire primary is in 18 days. Most of the Republicans are in New Hampshire ahead of a big state GOP cattle call last night.

  • Trump flies into Iowa.
  • Cruz is on his bus tour in New Hampshire.
  • Hillary makes stops in Rochester, Concord and Manchester, N.H.
  • Bill is in Reno.
  • Sanders speaks in North Conway, Concord, Bedford, Hudson and Manchester, N.H.
  • Rubio, also in the Granite State, hosts town halls in Manchester and and Merrimack.
  • Bush stops in Stratham, Exeter and Rochester.
  • Christie meets with police chiefs in Sandwich before heading to Littleton, Lancaster and Lebanon, N.H.
  • Kasich visits a veterans’ home in Hilton and then goes to Franklin, Dover and Rye, N.H.
  • O’Malley hosts a town hall in Portsmouth followed by a meet and greet in Tilton.
  • Paul is in Manchester and Nashua, and then hosts a town hall in New Boston.
  • Fiorina will be joined by Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannelfelser and others who oppose abortions in the March for Life’s walk on the National Mall all the way to the Supreme Court building. They say it will go on despite the snow.
  • Carson stops in Creston, Iowa, before headlining a BET Twitter town hall in Des Moines.
  • Huckabee, in Iowa, heads to Spencer, Spirit Lake, Thompson and Garner.
  • Santorum appears at a forum in Manchester before hosting a town hall in Wolfeboro.

–On the Hill: There will be no voting for the House on Monday because of the storm. The first votes of next week will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

–At the White House: President Obama attends various meetings in the afternoon. Due to the snowstorm, the ceremony to recognize the winners of the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology was postponed.


The drummer from “The Doors” John Densmore, wrote an op-ed for today’s Des Moines Register explaining why he supports Sanders: “Several years ago I thought, ‘Wow, in my lifetime I might see an African-American man and a woman become president of the United States!’ Then several months ago I thought, ‘I’m really not that excited about Hillary Clinton. What’s wrong? I love smart women. What’s the problem?’”


— The Capitals’ game versus the Anaheim Ducks today has been moved up to 5 p.m. (Staff report)

— The Maryland General Assembly overrode five of Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2015 vetoes. The resurrected measures include dealing with public marijuana smoking and pot paraphernalia; police seizures of criminal assets; taxation of online hotel-booking services; and funding to renovate an arts center in Annapolis. (Josh Hicks)

— A Northern Virginia man accused of trying to fly to Syria to join ISIS will be held without bond until a court appearance in February. (Matt Zapotosky)

— Montgomery County’s Democratic Central Committee nominated Del. Craig J. Zucker to fill a vacant seat in the state Senate. (Ovetta Wiggins and Antonio Olivo)

— Political Twitter still has plenty to say about the coming storm:

And finally, for those who have not experienced the run on the super markets, check out this video of what our stores looked like last night:

This is the scene at the Whole Foods on P Street:


Funny or Die cut the funniest bits together from Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement:

Stephen Colbert did a bit on Sarah Palin’s return to the spotlight:

Jimmy Fallon poked fun at Rubio’s attempts at telling jokes:

Jimmy Kimmel gave Jeb Bush his very own Freedom Kids, featuring a cameo from Vanessa Hudgens:

Watch folks who are enrolled in “Camp Cruz:”

Check out the hover test for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon:

Finally, please stay safe and warm this weekend! And thank you for reading.