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Buzz Cut:
·        2016 GOP Power Index: Jeb jolted from top spot
·        Huckabee snags big names for SEC Primary
·        Rubio dares Dems on Planned Parenthood funding
·        Hillary shifts back to blame shifting
·        When ‘kill it with fire’ is the wrong choice


GOP 2016 POWER INDEX: JEB JOLTED FROM TOP SPOT
There’s been a seismic shakeup this week, knocking Jeb Bush from the top spot for the first time since the race began and putting Sen. Ted Cruz at the top.

The latest WSJ/NBC News poll has Donald Trump and Ben Carson tied for the lead with Sen. Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina tied for third place. But few would imagine that those rankings will be predictive. Bush and Cruz in are farther behind, but the Fox News First Power Index is about more than just the latest polls. It’s about who has the best path to their party’s nomination.

What put Bush at the top of the list from the start was that his superior organization, enormous cash reserves and united support from the GOP establishment would allow him to do what the last two GOP nominees did and outlast and outspend insurgent rivals in the springtime.

But now it’s clear that Bush has some serious problems and seriously doesn’t seem to know how to fix them.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” Bush acknowledged his struggles saying, “Candidates have to get better, and that’s what I intend to do.” But, as he has done before, Bush said that his deep financial resources would keep him in the race and help deliver a victory.

But if Bush is at the point of reassuring jittery donors that he can make it for the long haul at the very moment that his former protégé Rubio is having his second moment in the sun, it’s not a good thing. While Ohio Gov. John Kasich can rustle some Bush money on Wall Street and K Street and poses a serious threat for a New Hampshire win, it is Rubio who could actually knock Bush out nationally.

The Bushies call Rubio “Judas,” so at least they get how big a threat he is.

Fox News First still believes that the race will still come down to two candidates by March 15 or immediately afterward. Maybe it will be a five-way brawl all the way to the convention, but we’ve heard that before.

And as of today, the best bet for the insurgent side, Cruz, looks like a stronger choice than the establishment favorite, Bush.

Money matters for Cruz, too. The super-duper PACs backing Cruz guarantee he will be in the game well into March, but his campaign is also raising well online.

Although Cruz trails Bush in the RCP average, but as we often discuss, at this point, we care as much (or more) about voters’ net favorable views of candidates as we do actual ballot preferences. And in that measure, Bush is a disaster.

Among all voters in the latest Fox News poll, Bush turns in a net favorable score of negative 21 points. That’s nearly as bad as Donald Trump who sits at -25 points and worse than Hillary Clinton, who registered at -18 points.

With Republican voters Cruz isn’t the top of the class, but shows his strength with +21 points. It’s better than Trump’s +12 and soars over Bush’s meager +1 point.

Ben Carson has the highest favorability at +52 points, far and away the most popular guy in the field. Other top spots for favorability go to Rubio (+35 points) and Carly Fiorina (+30 points).

But here we go back to fundamentals. Can these candidates, particularly Carson, endure as top-tier contenders? Are they gifted enough politicians and do they have the operational wherewithal and fundraising depth to fight in what will be the fastest-moving GOP primary cycle in memory.

When you have a candidate that has both favorability and money though, that’s when you have a viable challenger.

Cruz, as we discussed earlier, has the money but he also his self-described “grassroots army,” including a stable niche among evangelical groups. He took the top spot in the straw poll at this weekend’s Value Voters Summit in Washington for the third year in a row.

Now, all that sounds good at the end September, but will it sound so good at the end of the year?

The stakes are higher for Cruz in the coming congressional showdowns over spending, abortion and leadership, then any other candidate. If Cruz finds a way of keeping the faith of his core supporters, but not acting like a “false prophet” then it could be the start of something big.

But if the 2013 Cruz-centric showdown and shutdown is the model for what’s coming, Cruz won’t hold the top spot for very long.

1) Ted Cruz; 2) Jeb Bush [-1]; 3) Carly Fiorina [+1]; 4) Marco Rubio [+1]; 5) Donald Trump [-2]; 6) Ben Carson; 7) John Kasich [+2]; 8) Chris Christie [+2]; 9) Mike Huckabee [previously unranked]; 10) Rand Paul [-1]

On the radar: Rick SantorumBobby JindalLindsey GrahamGeorge PatakiJim Gilmore

What would you say? -
 Give us your take on the 2016 Power Index we will share the best and brightest with the whole class. Send your thoughts to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM

[Watch Fox: Chris Stirewalt joins “The Real Story” in the 2 p.m. ET hour with the latest on who’s up and who’s down in the 2016 Power Index.]

Trump to release tax plan today - The Hill: “Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump will release a policy proposal outlining his ideas on tax reform on Monday. Trump will announce the proposed reforms at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York City. ‘Essentially, the plan is a major tax reduction for almost all citizens and corporations, in particular, those in the middle and lower income classes,’ the Trump campaign said in a statement.”

[In a CBS News interview that aired Sunday, Trump laid out an ObamaCare replacement plan that would pump up the federal role.]

Huckabee snags big names for SEC Primary - Mike Huckabee’s campaign has already touted ground game in Iowa and South Carolina but will today roll out some clout in key states for the so-called “SEC primary” on March 1.

The list of supporters includes two of the top Republicans from Huckabee’s native Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. John Boozman, as well as Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and a roster of state leaders from North Carolina.

Rubio dares Dems on Planned Parenthood funding - NPR: “I don’t prefer to see it shut down. In fact, I think that if it does shut down it will be because the Democrats and the President have shut it down because they insist that one organization receive federal funding. I don’t think there is any single organization in the country that’s worth shutting the government down over, and that’s what the President is threatening to do. But here’s the bigger problem among the base and the conservatives in the Republican Party, it’s that they never even tried.”

[In an interview on CBS News, Russian boss Vladimir Putin responded to Rubio’s previous criticism of him as a “gangster” saying, “How can I be a gangster if I worked for the KGB? Come on.”]

Carly quips on curtain collapse - USA Today: “[Carly Fiorina] was addressing a conference for women business owners when the swaying curtain came crashing down amid screams from the crowd…Fiorina was calm and collected as the stage fell apart around her. She quickly picked up the mic to ask the crowd if anyone was injured. According to [reporter Patrick Svitek] someone in the crowd shouted ‘Trump!’ after the curtain fell. ‘Trump, Hillary — it could’ve been lots of people,’ Fiorina quipped in reply. Luckily, no one was injured by the tumbling tapestry.

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
Many have mused over how history would have been different if someone had killed Adolf Hitler before World War II began. But one man lived the final 40 years of his live believing he had the chance to do it, and chose not to. On this day in 1918 British Pvt. Henry Tandey most certainly did not shoot injured German Cpl. Hitler at the fifth Battle of Ypres. Twenty years later, Hitler would credit Tandey, a highly decorated soldier, with sparing his life. And Tandrey seemed to have believed it, saying after his own home was bombed by Hitler’s Luftwaffe in 1940, "When I saw all the people and women and children he had killed and wounded I was sorry to God I let him go." But BBC has the story that seems to prove that Hitler was, as often, lying to enhance his own cult of personality.

2016 Democratic Power Index: Flagging frontrunner - 1) Hillary Clinton; 2) Joe Biden; 3) Bernie Sanders; 4) Martin O’Malley; 5) Jim Webb; 6) Elizabeth Warren; 7) Lincoln Chafee

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

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval:
 Approve – 46.0 percent//Disapprove – 49.6 percent
Directions of Country: Right Direction – 26.2 percent//Wrong Track – 64.0 percent

HILLARY SHIFTS BACK TO BLAME SHIFTING
To what do we attribute Hillary Clinton’s reversal from her defiance and taking of responsibility for her email debacle of mid-August to Sunday’s cringy, legalistic evasion? Evidence that badly uncut her prior claims for one thing and for another, she now knows that there’s a pretty decent chance that the emails she ordered destroyed may be recovered.

USA Today: “Asked [on NBC News] about her written statement under oath that she had turned over all of her work-related State Department emails, only to have some turn up that were sent to then-commander of the U.S. Central Command David Petraeus, Clinton insisted that a ‘very thorough review process’  had been conducted by her lawyers. When asked about the ‘discrepancy’ between her statement that her email system began in March 2009 and the existence of emails between her and Petraeus from January of that year, Clinton said ‘there was a transition period’ and added that she wasn’t ‘focused’ on her email account. ‘I can’t control the technical aspects of it,’ she said. ‘I’m not by any means a technical expert. I relied on people who were.’

Bubba says Hillary is the victim -
 Fox News: “‘I have never seen so much expended on so little,’ [President Bill Clinton] said in an interview aired Sunday on CNN…Bill Clinton likened the email controversy to questions over the Whitewater land deal that he faced during his 1992 presidential campaign…‘She said she was sorry that her personal email caused all this confusion,’ he said. ‘And she’d like to give the election back to the American people. And I trust the people. I think it will be all right.’”

State staff shared classified info with family foundation - Free Beacon: “A member of Hillary Clinton’s staff at the Department of State emailed classified information about the government in Congo to a staffer at the Clinton Foundation in 2012, according to a copy of the correspondence obtained by the Washington Free BeaconCheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, sent the email to the Clinton Foundation’s foreign policy director, Amitabh Desai, on July 12, 2012. The message, which was originally obtained by the group Citizens United through a public records request, is partially redacted because it includes ‘foreign government information’ that has been classified as ‘Confidential’ by the State Department. Although the information was not marked classified by the State Department until this past summer, intelligence sources tell the Free Beacon that it would have been classified at the time Mills sent it because ‘foreign government information’ is considered classified from inception.”

Hillary left State Department digital security ‘weakened’ -
 Daily Caller: “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official diplomatic business created many national security problems, but they may pale by comparison with the wreckage she left behind in her department’s main digital information security office. Harold W. Geisel, the State Department’s acting Inspector General, issued eight scathing audits and investigation reports during Clinton’s tenure, repeatedly warning about worsening problems and growing security weaknesses within the Bureau of Information Resource Management, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.”

SPEAKERSHIP SPRINT UNDERWAY
National Journal: “Conservatives had vowed to hold a vote to take away [Speaker John Boehner’s] gavel if he forced a vote on a clean bill, but with that point now moot, conservatives are shifting their focus to the upcoming leadership elections and their next opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood—another spending bill in December. A few dozen conservative members are still expected to oppose the CR, but even members of the House Freedom Caucus admit there will not be enough votes to take down the bill and force a shut­down. ‘It’s not going to happen,’ Rep. Matt Salmon said Fri­day. The real action in the House will come in the form of phone calls and whip lists clutched to the chests of the next would-be speaker and other members looking for a seat at the new leadership table. Though the election for speaker won’t occur until late October, several members are already taking a look at the race, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the clear frontrunner for the job, could face competition. A host of other members are looking to move up if McCarthy wins.”

[Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., confirmed to a local station that he plans to run for House Majority Leader.]

WHEN ‘KILL IT WITH FIRE’ IS THE WRONG CHOICE
WJBK: “A man tried to kill a spider at a gas station using a lighter causing a dangerous fire. Using a lighter to kill the bug, he started a blaze that quickly engulfed the gas pump. He somehow escaped serious injury and the gas station's damage was contained to one pump, which was destroyed. The incident was recorded at a Center Line [Mich.] gas station. Employee Susan Adams kept calm and hit the gas automatic stop button and quickly called the Center Line fire department. The man grabbed a nearby extinguisher and put out the flames before firefighters arrived. Later he admitted what he did, saying he spotted a spider on his gas tank and because he's deathly afraid of the critters. He pulled out his lighter and decided to burn it. … ‘He was sorry,’ Susan said. ‘He was sorry, he said he didn't know. It is just one of those things that happen - stupidity.’

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.