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Buzz Cut:
• Rubio: Rand ‘has no idea what he is talking about’
• Power Play: ‘Holy cats, we’re off to the races’
• Can Hillary keep up the fiction?
• Obama to hold year-end press conference
• Er, right, the pie lad had a mix up

RUBIO: RAND ‘HAS NO IDEA WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT’
Has the 2016 race accelerated this week? How about this for faster: In a local radio interview, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., backed President Obama’s decision to restore normal relations with the Cuban government, saying that “opening up Cuba is probably a good idea.” Offered the chance to respond on “The Kelly File,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said this: “Like many people who are opining here, he has no idea what he is talking about.” A broadside like that from one sitting senator against another tells us very clearly that Republican power brokers’ hopes of delaying and condensing the process may have been in vain. The announcement from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday looks like it was the green flag for a high-speed race. You can watch the whole segment here.

POWER PLAY: ‘HOLY CATS, WE’RE OFF TO THE RACES’
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean and radio host Garland Nixon join Chris Stirewalt to look at how Jeb Bush’s announcement changed the pace and maybe the composition of the 2016 campaign. WATCH HERE.

[A second hit of Power Play - Congress crushed District of Columbia voter’s decision to legalize pot. Why did they harsh the District’s mellow? How long will it last? It’s a fun discussion. WATCH HERE.]

Jeb hits Chicago on donor outreach - The Chicago Sun Times reports that Jeb Bush will be in Chicago today to meet with major donors and fundraisers. While the invite did not specify an agenda, following his intent to “actively explore” a 2016 bid, there is clearly one now. Events include a breakfast with close family acquaintances.

Stepping down from British bank post - AP: “Taking another step toward a presidential run, Jeb Bush is resigning his advisory role with British banking giant Barclays. A Bush spokesman said Thursday that the former Florida governor would leave his senior adviser position at the end of the year. Bush has been with the banking and financial services firm since 2009…”

Well, him and like 110 million other people - “Obviously I have a lot of disagreements with Jeb and his brother on policy. But I think they have every right to do what they think is best.”  – President Obama to ABC News.

Mitt-ness protection - Byron York reports that Jeb Bush’s entry into the 2016 fray has not quelled the hopes of Mitt Romney’s advisers for a potential third presidential run. “People in Romney’s circle realize that some of his standing in the polls reflects nothing more than name recognition; everybody knows the guy who ran for president in 2012. But they believe there’s more to it than that.”

Perry jokes about job hunt - Texas Tribune: “Quips were as close as [Texas Gov. Rick Perry], who’s considering a 2016 presidential run, came to shedding more light on his intentions during a speech at a convocation of Texas A&M graduates. ‘I got started early on my resume,’ said Perry. ‘Under objective I wrote: Highly motivated professional, seeking a position as chief executive of a large enterprise with good benefits and a really large personal jet.’ He also told the crowd he had experience overseeing ‘people who bicker a lot, otherwise known as legislators’ and had a ‘well-worn veto pen.’”

Jindal prayer rally will turn a timely spotlight on his faith - New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally at [Louisiana State University] in January may be just the first in a series of similar events with governors this year. The American Family Association [AFA], the conservative Christian organization paying for Jindal’s prayer rally, has already approached governors in other states about hosting their own versions of the event, officially called The Response. But those prayer rallies haven’t been finalized or announced yet.”

[With a glut of former and current governors toying with the idea of making a 2016 bid, WaPo reports on some strategic campaign coverage planning by the Associated Press.]

Fiorina ready to upload campaign staff - National Journal reports that Carly Fiorina has begun hiring for an “imminent” presidential run with an announcement as early as next month and that fellow American Conservative Union board member Amy Noone Frederick is leading the talent search.

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Seemingly all sides of the debate over how to fix America’s broken higher education system (and labor force) herald community colleges as a key part of the solution. Affordable, accessible and able to focus on job training for growing sectors of the economy, the schools are often at the top of state and federal lawmakers’ plans for making repairs to a higher-ed system that costs too much and delivers too little. Accordingly, the last decade has seen a huge boom in open-enrollment programs at community colleges, now awash in taxpayer dollars. But, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, concerns are growing about what all that money is buying: “Many students come to community colleges with jobs, families, and academic skills so low that they struggle even in remedial classes, the skeptics say. For such students, compressed remedial sequences and full-time structured pathways could be overwhelming. Colleges, meanwhile, might be tempted to lower standards to get more students through when their budgets are at stake.”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 42 percent//Disapprove – 52.8 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 25.9 percent//Wrong Track – 66.5 percent

CAN HILLARY KEEP UP THE FICTION?
While Jeb Bush has aggressively taken the GOP’s 2016 center stage, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton continues her slow-walk fiction of “will she or won’t she” and her campaign machinery expands its the massive web.  Her latest maneuver is a meeting between a Clinton advisor and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal group closely affiliated with potential rival Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Politico: “Clinton’s team is trying to build a bridge with those who are actively supporting Warren…the PCCC has not joined the ‘Draft Warren’ efforts being led by MoveOn.org.” Dancing around campaign laws, Clinton has interviewed potential campaign managers, courted big-time donors and cozied up to Wall Street. Her shadow campaign reaches back years. But now, with Bush upfront and accelerating the race, the question is: How long can Clinton keep her coy guessing game up? Answer: as long as the press lets her.

Flashback - On the this day in 1998, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton stood by her man, making a plea to Democratic congressmen on the Hill prior to the House of Representatives’ vote to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about his assignations with a 21-year-old White House intern. The Daily News details its Dec. 19, 1998 report on what Hillary said.

New plan: Be relatable to humans - NYT: “During the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized her strength and experience over her softer, more relatable side. Today, she gushes about having ‘that grandmother glow.’ As she lost the nomination to President Obama, Mrs. Clinton was accused of being wooden and overly shielded by staff members. Last month, she mingled casually at an Upper West Side apartment, greeting donors and shunning a podium and rope line.”

As court ruling looms, voters still back pipeline - With a state court decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline project expected as soon as today, the latest Fox News poll says 68 percent of voters back the plan, about the same number as last year.

OBAMA TO HOLD YEAR-END PRESS CONFERENCE
The Hill: “President Obama will hold a press conference Friday before departing on a 17-day Hawaiian winter vacation. “You can put on your calendar that the president will convene his traditional end-of-year news conference," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday…It will be Obama's first White House press conference since he addressed reporters a day after the November midterm elections. The president is likely to face questions on a range of issues, including his recently announced effort to normalize relations with Cuba, as well as the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment…Obama could also face questions on the recently passed $1.1 trillion government funding bill, which he supported despite opposition from prominent Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The president could also get asked about Russia's ongoing financial crisis.”

[Watch Fox: President Obama’s press conference live at 1:30 p.m. ET]

Sea change - “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” welcomes two members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., to discuss the administration’s dramatic shift in policy with Cuba. “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News. Check local listings for air times in your area.

#mediabuzz: This week, Howard Kurtz welcomes guests including National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi and investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson with the news about the news from a very big week. Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.

ER, RIGHT, THE PIE LAD HAD A MIX UP
You can never have too much pie or so they say. Manchester [England] Evening News reports that organizers of the World Pie Eating Championships were forced to deliver a large slice of humble pie. Competitors at the annual event try to eat a meat and potato pie in the fastest time. Barry Rigby had won the competition with a time of 42.6 seconds but official rules provide proper dimensions for “competition pies.” The results of this year’s event were declared void after it was discovered that the pies were double the regulation size. Tony Callaghan, owner of venue Harry’s Bar on Wallgate, said, “The work experience lad was tasked with providing 24 competition pies, but mixed up the order and sent them to a divorce party up the road. By the time we realized, it was too late.” Hordes of spectators gather to see the competition every year at “Pie noon” in Wigan, a town near Manchester. “It was a shame, because these lads practice long and often. You can see how seriously they take it,” Callaghan added.

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“You put it [“The Interview”] out on the internet for free so it’s a gesture, but also it doubly screws over Pyongyang…Well, now the world would see it in far larger numbers than it ever would if it were a paying proposition in the theaters so I think it would have been punishment for the North Korea regime.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Watch here.

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.