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Buzz Cut:
• Press, left swoon for Warren
• Cruz makes his play
• Power Play: Sullivan looks to bring energy from Alaska
• Jeb readies docu dump, book launch
• Poking the scowly owl

PRESS, LEFT SWOON FOR WARREN
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is still using a strict present-tense “not running” as her answer to questions about her possible presidential ambitions. But that seems increasingly likely to change given the overwhelmingly positive (and generally overwhelming) coverage of her bid to harass the White House and Senate leaders over Wall Street carve outs stuffed in a fiscal-cliff spending bill. The Daily Beast called her the “most powerful Democrat in America.” The WaPo warned Warren’s moves may force 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton to alter her plans. And Warren got star treatment all up and down the major media corridor. Most remarkable is that in doing what was previously called reckless embitterment when Republican renegades did it, Warren is leading a movement in which “the Democratic Party debates its soul.” Oh dear. Somebody get the smelling salts.

[Howard Kurtz writes: “She’s been a press favorite roughly forever. But by standing up to a Democratic president and bringing the government to within hours of a shutdown, the freshman senator is being lionized like never before.”]

That escalated quickly - Whether or not Warren really can disrupt the multi-billion-dollar rock crusher of a campaign that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is putting together, we get a pretty good idea of what the party base and the political press would like to see. Right now, it seems that the fantasy scenario is for Warren to run, pushing (excusing) Hillary to reveal herself as the true liberal she was born to be. The happy story for Democrats ends as Hillary eradicates whomever the hapless Republican nominee happens to be. While Warren certainly speaks to the enormous political energy among those who believe the system is rigged against ordinary people, those cheering the Democrats’ turn toward ideological purity in the wake of an election loss ought to remember that such movements, once ignited, are nearly impossible to douse quickly. While it might be fun for journalists and liberal activists to watch Warren hot on Hillary’s heels, the party’s chances in 2016 are worse than the conventional wisdom suggests, and Hillary is a far weaker candidate than coverage would indicate. Democrats are embarking on a very dangerous flight of fancy.

[WaPo: “If the loss of the Senate intensified strains within the party, the $1.1 trillion spending bill that passed Saturday night raised two issues that acted as matches to gasoline.”]

Mmmhmm - How is President Obama – currently taking hits on the left for coziness with the CIA and his ties to Wall Street – doing with the new face of the American left? Hunky dory, claims the White House.

Wait. What? -“And Elizabeth Warren is -- even if people don’t agree with her, she’s constructive. She’s not like Ted Cruz and say, shut down the government or don’t fund things if I don’t get my way.” – Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Hillary as Dems’ Romney? - The Federalist’s Daryl Harsanyi writes that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is all but obliged to run for president:  “That’s because Hillary is the Democrats’ Mitt Romney. And Democrats would be engaging in a historic act of negligence if they allowed her to run unopposed for presidency.”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
It took Macy’s and Coca Cola to finish the job of turning a 4th century Greek presbyter and signatory of the Nicene Creed into a plump fellow in a red suit who became the international symbol of a certain kind of conditional, transactional love (“you’d better be good for goodness sake.”) But as Midcentury America and its Baby Boom children tired of the very Victorian, judgmental hero of secular Christmas, Kris Kringle needed a sidekick to lighten things up. It was General Electric and Montgomery Ward that brought the biggest update to the Santa Claus tradition since “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” in the 1820s. Last week saw the 50th airing of the television special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” But Americans first met the star of the show in 1939 when copywriter Robert L. May wrote the story for Montgomery Ward’s annual Christmas catalogue, originally naming the reindeer, Reginald. May had his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, write a song about the character which Gene Autry turned into the second-biggest-selling Christmas song of all time. General Electric worked with Marks to create the holiday special as a means of product promotion during the holiday season. And thus, America was gifted with an unlikely hero with a light bulb for a nose.

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POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.8 percent//Disapprove – 53.3 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 26.7 percent//Wrong Track – 65.7 percent

CRUZ MAKES HIS PLAY
With a $1.1 trillion spending bill headed for President Obama’s signature, the political reviews of Ted Cruz’s challenge to Republican leadership in the Senate over the weekend described anger within the party directed at Texas senator. Some GOP senators saw an echo of last year’s partial government shutdown in Cruz’s objection to the bill based on his opposition to Obama’s temporary amnesty edict. Others criticized the move as opening the door for Democrats to push through controversial Obama nominations.  While Cruz appears to have taken a hit amongst his colleagues, he is unapologetic and may in fact be working the long game with eye to a potential 2016 presidential bid.

[Fox News:  “[A]verting a partial government shutdown…[t]he Senate voted 56-40 for the long-term funding bill [late Saturday], the main item left on Congress’ year-end agenda. The measure provides money for nearly the entire government through the end of the current budget year Sept. 30. The sole exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27.”]

“The American people deserve to have us take a vote to signal how we feel about [President Obama’s executive action on immigration]. And I hope that this will be one of many votes moving forward in which we’ll have more of an opportunity to signal our disapproval of what the president did.” – Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on his vote with Sen. Ted Cruz to force immigration vote in Senate. Watch the full interview from “ANHQ” here.

[Bill of fare - Salty food, belching cows, tourist deals and health insurance companies are among the winners in the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed through Congress over the weekend.]

Senate cancels vote on Social Security head - AP: “President Barack Obama's pick to head the Social Security Administration has run into more trouble after Senate Democrats canceled a procedural vote on her nomination. Obama nominated Carolyn W. Colvin to a six-year term as commissioner in June… Colvin's nomination first ran into trouble when a group of Republican senators said they would try to block it while investigators look into a $300 million computer project at the agency.”

Cruz banking on base strategy - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is staking out a presidential campaign strategy that rejects the conventional wisdom about sprinting to the center. Eliana Johnson at NRO: “[Cruz’s]…strategists aren’t planning to make a big play for so-called independent voters in the general election if Cruz wins the Republican nomination. According to several of the senator’s top advisers, Cruz sees a path to victory that relies instead on increasing conservative turnout; attracting votes from groups — including Jews, Hispanics, and Millennials — that have tended to favor Democrats; and, in the words of one Cruz strategist, ‘not getting killed with independents.’… ‘He’s looking at the race very seriously,” says a senior adviser, who confirms that Cruz’s campaign headquarters would be based in Houston. Cruz strategists see a way to win both the nomination and the general election.”

Litmus testing - Bloomberg: “Of the 23 Republican senators up for re-election in 2016, 16 voted for Cruz’s parliamentary objection, known as a point of order, against what he called Obama’s “amnesty.” Two of them, Rand Paul [R-Ky.] and Marco Rubio [R-Fla.], are -- like Cruz -- considering presidential bids…”

POWER PLAY: SULLIVAN LOOKS TO BRING ENERGY FROM ALASKA
As the 113th Congress winds down, newly elected members are getting accustomed to life in Washington and their new job responsibilities. Senator-elect Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, joins Chris Stirewalt in a two-segment discussion to talk about his tumultuous race and eventual win over incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. WATCH HERE. Sullivan sees national security as one of the biggest issues facing the incoming members, saying that the country “needs to bring all instruments together” including military, diplomatic and economic means, something he says he has yet to see from the administration. Of his fellow freshman members, he says “there is a sense of energy” among them to move things forward and get things down. WATCH HERE.

JEB READIES DOCU DUMP,  BOOK LAUNCH
Jeb Bush
is showing so much ankle about a presidential run that he’s pretty much wearing clamdiggers at this point. WPLG-TV: “Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on Sunday he will release 250,000 emails from his two terms in office and write an eBook outlining his governing philosophy. The moves have set the political sphere atwitter with speculation he’s closer than ever to deciding to run for president in 2016. In what appears to be a move of classic political procedure -- getting ahead of the opposition -- Bush told WPLG-TV that his intention is to promote transparency. ‘Part of serving or running both of them is about transparency,’ he said. ‘I’ll let people make up their minds.’… Well aware he holds some positions out of step with the conservative wing of his party, Bush admits, ‘I am who I’ve been.’ … The released emails could cast light on an already controversial narrative beginning to form or, more likely, serve as a timely distraction.”

[Following his previous column about the five signs that former Gov. Jeb Bush is tossing his hat into the ring, Mark Caputo of the Miami Herald writes that the upcoming e-book is sign number six in the positioning for a presidential run, saying, “Jeb wants to define Jeb.”]

POKING THE SCOWLY OWL
If you feel underappreciated at work, check out Edurne Cornejo’s gig: Owl acupuncturist. AFP reports on Cornejo’s avian specialty, using acupuncture to help injured wild owls in Spain. The photos would seem to indicate that her patients are not enjoying the therapy. But whatever is flashing through those wide owl eyes when the needles are inserted, there may be some wisdom in the practice. The facility’s coordinator, Patricia Orejas, says they about 70 percent of the birds brought to their facility recover and return to the wild.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.