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GOP establishment forgets power of party’s right

Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee, speaks during the Republican National Committee's winter meeting aboard the USS Midway Museum Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in San Diego.

Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee, speaks during the Republican National Committee's winter meeting aboard the USS Midway Museum Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in San Diego.  (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• GOP establishment forgets power of party’s right
• Is Walker the bridge builder?
• Troll hard: Obama to pitch tax hikes
• House to move on late term abortion ban
• Just imagine the size of the brisket!

GOP ESTABLISHMENT FORGETS POWER OF PARTY’S RIGHT
The 2012 election has had a searing effect on the Republican Party. The 126-electoral-vote defeat of its nominee by an incumbent thought to be highly vulnerable may have altered the trajectory of the GOP even more than the similar, though narrower, defeat Democrats suffered in 2004. The question is: To what end? The 35-vote loss John Kerry suffered in 2004 left many Democrats, as James Taylor might say, “down and troubled,” and looking for the way forward (or back) to success. The party eventually decided to sprint farther leftward and reject triangulation, with the surprise selection of Barack Obama as its nominee in 2008. Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat left Republicans stunned and searching for answers, a quest that very much continues today. But one thing seems clear: Most don’t seem to blame Romney.

[Power Play - Democrat Liz Chadderdon and Republican Pete Snyder and anchor Chris Stirewalt are ringside as potential 2016 GOP heavyweight contenders Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney square off. WATCH HERE.]

Who wants sea bass? - A CBS News poll that showed 59% of Republicans would like to see Romney run compared to just 26 percent who thought he should stay out. This, combined with Romney’s return to the campaign trail has kept the two-time candidate aloft in a great gust of buzz. Yes, and it shows that the Romney “yuck” from the conservative intelligentsia is not reflective of the broader GOP electorate. Buuuuut…The poll asks whether the candidate should run, not whether a voter would support him or her. As a result, apparent support for Romney (and everyone else in at least the top 5) looks overstated by perhaps 30 points or more. If you asked diners at a restaurant whether the chef should offer sea bass that night, only serious fish haters or hardcore conservationists might say no. The rest would probably say, ‘Fillet away!” But that doesn’t mean that’s what they’re going to order.

[Ouch - CBS News: “Only 29 percent say they’d like to see [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie] launch a bid, while 44 percent say otherwise.”]

Two primaries in one - Romney is definitely pack leader right now, but the pack is dense and his advantage is vanishingly small. The CBS poll, though, at least shows Romney is not widely blamed for the 2012 defeat. So would the Republican Party like a do-over, or will its members follow the example of Democrats a decade ago and move in a dramatically different direction. Romney is, of course, not the only back-to-the-future candidate on offer. Jeb Bush invites Republicans to imagine a perfected version of his brother’s and his father’s presidency. And the presence of two nostalgic, establishmentarian candidates greatly increases the chance that Republicans may shake things up in 2016. While Romney and Bush are out on the fundraising circuit, conservatives are getting busy picking their candidate. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, brought the house down at a big Tea Party gathering in South Carolina on Sunday and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., rocked ‘em in Reno on Saturday.

“If we nominate another candidate in that mold the same people who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home in 2016 and the Democrats will win again…there is a better way.” – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at Tea Party Convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Trap game - If Bush and Romney spend the next two months trading paint and seeking the same staffers and donors, the GOP establishment will have surrendered a major advantage. We know Cruz, Paul and others will be in an all-out fight for the love of the right, losing valuable time needed to face the onslaught from the eventual establishment nominee. But if the establishment remains divided in its own loyalties, the onslaught may never arrive. While the GOP money men and women bicker over the question of who should take on Hillary Clinton, they are forgetting a more pressing and difficult question: Who is best suited to face down what may be the most intense challenge for party dominance from the right in 50 years. Perhaps the establishment’s success in the 2014 Senate primaries has made previously mortified Mandarins complacent.

[The Hill: “Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee [R] on Sunday said there is a ‘very strong likelihood’ that he will ‘clearly state [his] intentions’ about a possible White House run in the spring.”]

Iowa conservative conclave up next - The GOP campaign in Iowa kicks off in earnest at the upcoming Iowa Freedom Summit, Jan.24. The Des Moines Register analyzes the meeting, who’s in, who’s out and 9 other things we’ll learn.

 
IS WALKER THE BRIDGE BUILDER?
Dan Balz
at WaPo looks at the candidate trying to bridge the gap between the warring wings of the GOP: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t light up rooms when he enters. He is unassuming in that way, a proud cheesehead who wears a battery-powered electric jacket to keep warm at Packers and Badgers football games. He appears a Midwestern everyman, belied only by his burning ambition to be president…The Republican National Committee keeps a list of prospective candidates, names of those who have been mentioned as possibilities to run in 2016. It totals an astonishing 24 people. The eventual field almost certainly won’t be that big, but right now, at least among those with even an outside chance of being competitive, no one seems intimidated by the candidacy of anyone else. Candidates fill predictable lanes…

“There are many questions about a Walker candidacy that go beyond whether he can break through in a field with bigger names and flashier personalities. Is he too much a stolid Midwesterner, too narrow in his Wisconsin grounding. Would he be able to marshal the necessary forces for a national campaign and to let go some of the strategic micromanagement of his own candidacy? Would he be able to withstand the rough-and-tumble ahead? Walker has focus and determination. His hope may be that he will be long underestimated, a candidate ready to surprise at the moments it counts most.”

RUBIO OUT FRONT ON CALL FOR IRAN CRACKDOWN
The Hill: “Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) on Sunday argued for additional sanctions on Iran amid a veto threat from President Obama. The Florida lawmaker said that the only reason Iran is at the negotiating table is because of existing sanctions. On Friday, the president said he would veto any plan produced by Congress to expand sanctions on Iran. He argued that piling on sanctions would derail the steady work done to craft an agreement to limit Iran's nuclear capability. But Rubio expressed doubts that any agreement will come out of the discussions. ‘These negotiations that are going on now are really not going to bear fruit,’ he said on CBS's ‘Face the Nation.’ He argued that the proposed sanctions could go into place if talks fail.”

“We’re not polling, but we set up a testing the waters committee under the IRS code that would allow me to look beyond South Carolina as to whether or not a guy like Lindsey Graham has a viable path…but I don’t know where this will go, but I’m definitely going to look at it. I think the world is falling apart and I've been more right than wrong when it comes to foreign policy. But we’ll see.” –Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

FORMER CLINTON ADVISER PREDICTS 'TOUGH ROAD' FOR HILLARY
The Hill: “[Top] Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said President Obama won't let the Clintons retake control of the Democratic Party because ‘no one likes to get off the stage,’ in an interview on ‘The Cats Roundtable,’ host John Catsimatidis’s Sunday radio show on New York AM 970. ‘For the last eight years it's been the Obama Party, it hasn't been the Clinton Party for quite sometime and there's certainly a rivalry between the Clintons and the Obamas. The question is does Obama give it up and allow Hillary to be elected president? Likely not.’…Sheinkopf predicted that Clinton would likely face off against Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida governor Jeb Bush for the 2016 ticket, who recently announced he's actively exploring a 2016 run. ‘You have to give Bush and edge, and he’s not going to be a pushover.’”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
“At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. In struggling for human dignity the oppressed people of the world must not allow themselves to become bitter or indulge in hate campaigns. To retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives... it means understanding, redeeming good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. It is the love of God working in the lives of men. When we love on the agape level we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but because God loves them. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed he does.” – Martin Luther King in his 1957 article “Nonviolence and Racial Justice.”

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POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 44.8 percent//Disapprove – 50.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 31.7 percent//Wrong Track – 59 percent

OBAMA TAX HIKES DESIGNED TO TROLL GOP
President Obama
is staying on offense with a campaign-speech-style State of Union message that has appeal to the liberal Democratic base. The proposals have even less chance in a Republican-controlled Senate than they did when Democrats let similar ideas languish, but the message matters. As conservative columnist John Podhoretz, observes: “Tuesday night’s State of the Union address could be the first one in history deliberately designed solely to generate a Pavlovian rage response in members of the opposing party….Obama and his team have clearly decided that one of the metrics by which they will measure their success is by just how wild he drives his Republican opposition in Washington and conservatives across the country.”

What’s in the plan - AP: “The centerpiece of the president’s tax proposal is an increase in the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 per year to 28 percent…The top capital gains rate has already been raised from 15 percent to 23.8 percent during Obama’s presidency. Obama also wants to close what the administration is calling the ‘trust fund loophole,’ a change that would require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they're inherited.…Raising the capital gains rate, ending the inheritance loophole and tacking a fee on financial firms would generate $320 billion in revenue over a decade, according to administration estimates. Obama wants to put the bulk of that money into a series of measures aimed at helping middle-class Americans. Among them:

* A credit of up to $500 for families in which both spouses work.
* Expanding the child care tax credit to up to $3,000 per child under age 5.
* Overhauling the education tax system by consolidating six provisions into two”

[The latest WSJ/NBC News poll finds the American public to be less pessimistic. 38 percent of voters chose descriptions such as “recovering” or “hopeful” up slightly from a year ago…. 48% chose negative descriptions of the nation, such as “troubled’’ and “deteriorating.’’ Fewer people chose those terms than a year ago.]

“And it is the simple proposition that, now that the economy is in a stronger place than it has been in a very long time, we need to double down on our efforts to deal with wage stagnation and declining economic mobility, and so the simple proposition that we should ask the wealthy to pay a little more and invest more in the middle class, give the middle class a raise.” – White House Adviser Dan Pfeiffer, CBS’s “Face the Nation”

GOP pounces on Obama’s tax plan - “We lift families up & grow the economy with a simpler, flatter tax code, not big tax increases to pay for more spending.”Brendan Buck, Communication Director for House Ways and Means Chair, Rep. Paul Ryan [R-Wisc.] in a Twitter statement .

Power Play: SOTU soothsayers - It’s State of the Union time and Power Play host Chris Stirewalt is joined by Democratic strategist Liz Chadderdon and Republican strategist Pete Snyder to discuss what we can expect from the president.  Obama says he’s going on offense, rolling out a wish list that is highly partisan and unlikely to pass.  And then there’s the legacy imperative. The president may be concerned about his place in the history books, but his party is worried the next election. WATCH HERE.

Trolling where the fish are - The day after his State of the Union address President Obama travels to a bright red state to plug the themes laid out in his speech. It’s a longstanding trend. Daily Caller: “With his scheduled trip to Idaho on Wednesday, President Obama will have visited 47 U.S. states. Along with the Gem State, the remaining three, South Dakota, Utah and South Carolina, have something in common: they voted for Republicans by significant margins in 2008 and 2012…Seventeen of the 20 states visited most often by Obama during his presidency all supported him in the 2012 election, according to an analysis conducted by NPR in June. Likewise, out of Obama’s 20 least-visited states, 17 voted for [Mitt Romney] in 2012.”

HOUSE TO MOVE ON LATE TERM ABORTION BAN
U.S. News: “Abortion foes, encouraged by GOP control of the House and now also the Senate, are rallying behind a bill they believe will be the first step in a new campaign against the procedure. Congressional Republicans are fast-tracking legislation that would prohibit abortion 20 weeks after fertilization, with the House likely to bring the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act up for a vote on Jan. 22 to coincide with the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision….‘It is a starting point. There is a direct route to very quickly -- it involves a presidential election -- to pass this legislation,’ Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion advocacy group Susan B. Anthony List, said at a National Press Club event Thursday. “When that happens, it will be the first time in 40 years that we have drawn a line and said, “After this point, no more.” A majority of Americans -- 60 percent in a November Quinnipiac University poll -- support banning abortion after 20 weeks. With President Barack Obama signaling his opposition, proponents compare the proposal’s path to that of the partial-birth abortion ban, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush after President Bill Clinton vetoed it twice before. They hope to make it an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Keystone votes continue - National Journal: “The Senate will enter into its second week of debate on the Keystone XL pipeline having taken exactly one vote on the issue. That vote was last Monday and, ironically, it was supposed to allow members to get to the business of amending and voting on the bill.….”

HIGH COURT TO REVIEW JUDICIAL ELECTION RESTRICTIONS
In a clash of free speech and judicial fairness – five years after the landmark Citizen’s United ruling – the Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday on the issue of campaign solicitation in judicial elections. Case file here.

JUST IMAGINE THE SIZE OF THE BRISKET!
Daniel
LaPoint had never run into anything quite like this in his years as a contractor. The Lansing [Mich.] State Journal explains: as LaPoint was excavating his neighbor’s yard to construct a pond, he uncovered a massive rib bone in a pile of dirt. The four-foot long piece of bone was gray with age, but this wasn’t a dinosaur, rather part of a mastodon skeleton. Together with his neighbor Eric Witzke, the pair continued digging discovering additional rib bones, leg, shoulder and hip bones as well as vertebrae and part of a tusk. The pair brought in paleontologist Daniel Fisher of the University of Michigan to examine their discovery, “Preliminary examination indicates that the animal may have been butchered by humans,” he said. Once donated to the museum a more exact age can be determined, but Fisher’s preliminary assessment puts the bones between 10,000 and 14,000 years old. The experience was the most fun LaPoint has had at work in a long time, “Digging and finding the bones for the first time, it's not something that can be replicated. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

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 politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.