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Buzz Cut:
• Trump towers over GOP, shrinks against Hillary
• Ohio, Texas close door on Trump indy run
• Who can pass the commander-in-chief test?
• Deadline highlights ObamaCare troubles
• The bro-ificiation of everything


TRUMP TOWERS OVER GOP, SHRINKS AGAINST HILLARY
Donald Trump
is not afraid to acknowledge his own accomplishments, from the height of his buildings to his “astonishingly excellent” blood work.

But if there is one thing about himself that Trump really loves to talk about it’s his polls. Real polls, fake polls, internet polls, telephone poles, barge poles – anything, as long as he is number one.

So, we might be expected to hear Trump talk tonight in the fifth GOP debate about the latest national poll of Republican primary voters. The survey from WaPo/ABC News has Trump in the lead by a tremendous 23 points. He is statistically tied with his next three closet competitors combined.

In the recent slew of polls released before the CNN debate tonight there seem to be two models nationally. One, which includes surveys from CNN and others, has Trump around 40 points rather than his usual mid-20s. The other, from WSJ/NBC News and others, has Trump in his normal range. Which model is correct? We’ll probably never know since polls are snapshots in time.

What the polls do agree on though is the shape of the race and the current trend: Trump remains way ahead, but that Ted Cruz is closing in fast and Marco Rubio is improved and showing some sturdiness in his support.

The new WaPo/CBS News poll will no doubt be especially attractive for Trump to tout given the newspaper’s owner’s taunting of the Republican frontrunner. Even Jeff Bezos’ poll says Trump is trumping.

Trump ought to be careful, however, when extolling this survey, because it also explains why he remains unlikely to be the Republican nominee.

In September, the WaPo/ABC News poll found Trump a scant 3 points behind Hillary Clinton. Now, it’s doubled to 6 points. Much of her gains come from the Obama coalition that Clinton is struggling to reconstitute. Clinton leads by 45 points by voters under the age of 30, 52 points among non-white voters, and 22 points among voters who say the economy is the number one issue.

If Election Day looked anything like this – a scenario that would involve Trump doing worse among white voters than Mitt Romney in 2012 – the electoral catastrophe would be enormous for Trump’s adopted party.

Trump must take seriously the threat Cruz poses and will predictably find ways to scare conservative voters away from Cruz. One would assume that will include shifting his attacks on his rival from being “a maniac” who refuses to compromise in the Senate to highlighting Cruz’s policy contradictions. Most of all, one assumes Trump will stoke the fires surrounding his proposed religious test for entry to the United States.

The things Trump is doing to solidify his stranglehold on the Republican lead is terrifying voters at large.

Trump has adopted many of the views and folkways of the conservative voters he seeks to woo. But his supporters assure skeptical Republicans that Trump will be able to reset the race and start appealing to moderates and non-white voters in a general election. But it is hard to imagine how that could succeed given what this and other polls say about the broader electorate’s view of Trump.

Parties have chosen unelectable nominees in the past, but never have done so knowingly.

Rush, Levin warn Trump on Cruz attacks - WashEx: “On Monday [Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin went] to Cruz’s aid, bashing Trump for tearing into a fellow anti-establishment candidate to their combined audiences of millions. Limbaugh fired first on his midday show, saying Trump has ‘decided to go after Cruz in the way the establishment Republican go after Cruz, in the way the media goes after Cruz, in the way Democrats go after Cruz … A genuine conservative, even in the Republican field, would not go after Cruz this way. So that just raised a red flag to me.’ Levin laid out three reasons Trump ‘really screwed up this weekend, big time, trifecta. He said Trump’s assertion that Cruz has been bought out by oil companies just because he opposes ethanol and is from the Lone Star State are ‘stupid.’”

OHIO, TEXAS CLOSE DOOR ON TRUMP INDY RUN
Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Donald Trump filed Friday to run as a Republican presidential candidate in Ohio, meaning that he now cannot run as an independent in the state next year, according to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office. However, an elections law expert questioned that assertion, pointing to a U.S. Supreme Court case upholding the right of an independent presidential candidate to appear on the Ohio ballot. Trump has repeatedly said he might run as an independent or third-party candidate if he's not treated ‘fairly’ by the Republican establishment. But under the Ohio Revised Code and case law, any independent presidential candidate running in the state must first disaffiliate with any political party ‘in good faith.’”

Texas Tribune: “[Monday was] the deadline for candidates to file for the 2016 elections [in Texas] — as Democrats, Republicans or independents. Trump already filed as a Republican, barring him from running a Texas race as an independent….And candidates who run in the party primaries are barred from becoming official write-in candidates (or at least the registered write-in candidates whose votes the state will count). It’s a win-or-go-home state, politically. Trump and all the others will have to get by with just one bite at this apple.”

WHO CAN PASS THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF TEST?
David Drucker
is in Vegas, baby, and he has a fine guide for what to watch tonight (before you flip back to the Fox News Channel for the best analysis in the business, of course.) WashEx: “Since the Republicans last met on the debate stage in Milwaukee to discuss pocketbook issues, jihadist radicals either directed or inspired by the Islamic State struck Paris, leaving 140 dead, and San Bernardino, Calif., leaving 14 dead and 21 wounded. The latter attack was the worst terrorist strike on the homeland since Sept.11, 2001, and new public opinion polls show that voters are now more concerned about national security than the economy, which is a marked shift.”

[Chris Stirewalt and Howard Kurtz gave their preview of tonight’s debate to Megyn Kelly on Monday’s “The Kelly File” Watch here.]

Pro-Cruz PACs ready to spend - WSJ: “Sen. Ted Cruz’s allies for months have questioned why his friendly super PACs appeared to be stockpiling their cash, running few television ads while his presidential rivals dominated the airwaves…Together, the four primary super PACs backing the senator have spent some $2.2 million, or less than 6% of the $38 million they raised in the first half of the year, according to Federal Election Commission records confirmed by a person familiar with the groups’ finances. That leaves them with more than $30 million to spend as the first nominating contest approaches Feb. 1.”

Pro-Rubio PAC new ad on national security - Fox News: “The super PAC supporting Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio is out with a new TV ad in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, FoxNews.com has learned. The commercial, issued by Conservative Solutions PAC, focuses on national security…Conservative Solutions PAC spokesman Jeff Sadosky did not reveal specifics of the major ad campaign, but said it is part of a major ad buy that started in December, and will run throughout the early state process.”

SOUND OFF: READER’S REACT TO 2016 POWER INDEX
“I’m betting you won’t publish this. Your ‘Power Index’ is less than accurate based on the polls and that determines what the people, actual voters, think. It is not just the Republican Party that is trying to sidetrack Trump. Fox News is guiltier of trying to derail him than the party at this point.” – Tom Cain

“Why are conservatives rejecting Fiorina? To me, she is the bright spot in the whole bunch, certainly more intelligent than most of them.” – Mary Hill

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
We all love the Christmas carol “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen.” Not even the hardest heart can resist the versions by The Barenaked Ladies and, most beautifully, Allison Krauss. But the song and its history come with something not much allowed in the modern understanding of Christmas: the presence of evil. The Atlantic: “‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ doesn’t need to be performed on the lute to feel authentic; as Annie Lennox showed, it can come packaged in a super-weird, partly animated music video and still feel cool. But nodding to the history helps. It’s a musical reminder of a time when Satan may have seemed closer by, when the threat of evil may have felt more imminent. It can be hard to sing about these things today, particularly in mainstream music. So when these old songs find their way into the right contemporary musicians’ hands, the moment feels rare, and precious: a portal into an old world, a reminder of a Christmas that’s not all sweet.”

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POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 43.9 percent//Disapprove – 51.8 percent
Directions of Country: Right Direction – 23.2 percent//Wrong Track – 67.2 percent

DEADLINE HIGHLIGHTS OBAMACARE TROUBLES
Under the specter of hefty fines, roughly doubled under ObamaCare next year for individuals who opt out, today is the enrollment deadline for coverage plans effective January 1. But while the administration tosses the carrot in favor of the stick to prod sign-ups, the biggest threat to the president’s health law is bailout-less insurers bolting from ObamaCare exchanges. Carriers, most losing money under ObamaCare, were expecting the so-called risk corridor payouts but have been denied under a provision of last year’s budget bill that caps the amount of taxpayer dollars the government can shell out. With the threat of insurers fleeing the exchanges, the White House administration is fighting tooth and nail to keep the provision from being renewed in the current omnibus spending measure and allow the corporate welfare to flow.

[Price spike - Vox details how ObamaCare premiums will rise significantly next year.]

Spending deal is close - ABC News: “White House and congressional negotiators moved toward wrapping up a tax and spending compromise Tuesday that would cap Congress’ year, a package expected to lift the ban on U.S. oil exports and provide legislative goodies for home-state interests. House Speaker Paul Ryan told GOP lawmakers he expected compromise legislation to be publicly released Tuesday — a measure that would deliver victories for to both sides. But the Wisconsin Republican provided few details.”

HILLARY TRIES GOLDILOCKS PLAY ON ISIS
NYT: “In a speech at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Mrs. Clinton is expected to propose a multifaceted plan that would address the Islamic State’s recruiting methods and to call for better monitoring and vetting of people in the United States who could become radicalized. The topic is filled with pitfalls. She must appear tougher on the Islamic State than President Obama, who has faced criticism for his response to the attacks in Paris and California, but she must also avoid turning off Democratic primary voters who view her as overly hawkish on foreign policy, or who have concerns about the government’s infringing on civil liberties in order to monitor would-be terrorism suspects.”

[Pro-GOP group America Rising Squared released a memo this morning highlighting what they call Clinton’s “failed leadership” on national security, including her initiative to combat terror online which experts reportedly called “embarrassing.”]

Hillary advocates lowering fees for citizenship - Daily Caller: “Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton said Monday that she supports lower fees for people seeking U.S. citizenship. Speaking in Brooklyn at the National Immigrant Integration Conference, Clinton railed against immigration policies that ‘can tear families apart’ and against Republican rivals… ‘I’ll work to ensure that every single refugee who seeks asylum in the United States has a fair chance to tell his or her story. This is the least we can offer people fleeing persecution and devastation,’ Clinton said.”

Jarrett heads up Muslim outreach effort - WashEx: “The White House on Monday began ‘staff-level’ meetings and calls with religious leaders to discuss how they could help combat growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, and Melissa Rogers, who leads the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, held a conference call with leaders of all religions from across the country. ‘Spoke with 890+ religious leaders to thank them for speaking up for every American’s right to be free from religious discrimination,’ Jarrett tweeted on Monday.’”

THE BRO-IFICIATION OF EVERYTHING
AdWeek: “Since the first department store mogul who dressed up like Santa Claus in 1890, retail Santas have been a trusty way to bring in the shoppers (even Walmart is trying to get in on the hustle), but they’re usually focused on the family crowd. Not so with Fashion Santa, aka Paul Mason, a chiseled male model who enjoys a following of giddy ladies ... many of whom are probably happy to say they’ve been naughty this year. Thankfully, his sex appeal is paired with a good cause: For every Fashion Santa selfie shared via the hashtag #YorkdaleFashionSanta, the Yorkdale Shopping Center [in Toronto] will donate $1 to the Sick Kids Foundation, up to a maximum of $10,000. We get the feeling they’ll hit that number. After a Fashion Santa photo shoot, it won't just be tiny tots with their eyes all aglow, finding it hard to sleep tonight.”

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“[President Obama announcing statistics of death tolls] is reminiscent of the strategy in the Vietnam war, where we would announce the body counts, the ratio of the dead Viet Cong to Americans. And it was always lopsided, and we lost the damn war, because that’s not how you gage who’s winning and losing in such a war.” – 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.