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Buzz Cut:
• The Edge: Debate droughts good for Trump, Carson
• Trump praises Putin, equivocates on journalist killings
• Power Play: What’s the future for the Cruz-Trump pact?
• Hillary’s Death Star fully operational, but rebels persist
• **Slowly backs away from internet and shuts computer**


THE EDGE: DEBATE DROUGHTS GOOD FOR TRUMP, CARSON
The Republican Party successfully clamped down on the number of presidential debates in 2015 and the verdict is in: that was good for Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

This week’s installment of The Edge from the New Analytics Company repeats a refrain from the samples following the previous debates. Sen Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was the winner in terms of whose media profile increased the most following the debate. Rubio saw the biggest increase in media mentions following the previous two debates, and this time was no different.

The only two candidates who saw their share of the discussion shrink were Trump and Carson.

Others who prospered, at least in terms of media mentions post-debate, were former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. Compare that to last week when Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States so dominated the media discussion that he had 25 times more media mentions than the rest of the field combined.

But the New Year will bring a new pace for debates, with five debates set for January and February, the same number held so far. While coverage does not guarantee success with voters, it is the essential element for success. And debates will help other candidates level the field against Trump.

The Edge “scrubs” television, radio, print, internet and social media for mentions of the 2016 candidates. The team at New Analytics has built unique tool to measure which candidates are being talked about the most and the data are compiled into a single score and provided to Fox News First.

Here are their rankings for media mentions this week, with their gain or decline from last week in brackets. You can view the full results here.

Donald Trump, 25.65 [+.01]; Jeb Bush, 18.30 [+6.20]; Marco Rubio, 17.64 [+6.49]; Ben Carson, 14.94 [-.52]; Ted Cruz, 14.22 [+.77]; Rand Paul, 12.59 [+5.59]; Chris Christie, 12.17 [+5.25]; Carly Fiorina, 9.56 [+2.91]; John Kasich, 7.26 [+1.85]; Mike Huckabee, 6.37 [+1.85]

Trump praises Putin, equivocates on journalist killings - Today on MSNBC, Donald Trump reiterated his praise for Russian ruler Vladimir Putin after Putin gave a near endorsement of Trump on Thursday. When pressed on Putin’s authoritarian rule, including killing journalists, Trump responded that, “our country does a lot of killing too.” Trump also cited high poll numbers as a reason he likes Putin saying, “I think that he’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader…He’s actually got a popularity within his country. They respect him as a leader.”

Stone starts pro-Trump super PAC to bash Rubio - The Hill: “Controversial political consultant Roger Stone, who left Donald Trump’s campaign in August, has launched a super-PAC to support the GOP front-runner’s bid by taking aim at his rivals — Marco Rubio in particular.”

[Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski called the PAC a ‘big league scam’.]

Jeb hits Trump for praising Obama, Hillary - In a new video, Jeb Bush’s campaign wishes Trump a happy anniversary for praising President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on their policies and strategy.

[#mediabuzz - Watch Howie with Donald Trump for a second sit-down interview from Trump Tower on “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.]

POWER PLAY: WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR THE CRUZ-TRUMP PACT?
Donald Trump
and Ted Cruz have been out in the open talking up their polls and their game plans. Will this unique twist of transparent strategizing bring voters aboard? HuffPo’s Paige Lavender and The Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper weigh-in. WATCH HERE.

Rubio, Cruz make gains in New Hampshire - Boston Herald: “A pack of more proven GOP contenders led by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz is surging closer to Donald Trump in New Hampshire…a new Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald New Hampshire poll reveals. Trump continues to hold a double-digit lead over the GOP field but Rubio, Cruz and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have made big gains while onetime phenom Ben Carson has plummeted to near the back of the pack, the poll shows.”

[But does Marco Rubio have enough of a ground game to be competitive in Iowa? FiveThirtyEight considers.]

Cruz tries to turn tables after allegations of duplicity - NPR: “Ted Cruz has coined a new term in the fight over immigration: ‘undocumented Democrats.’ Speaking in Las Vegas on Thursday, the Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate portrayed the idea of a path to citizenship as a ploy to beef up Democratic voter rolls… ‘Proponents of the Gang of Eight were being hypocrites. They were not telling the truth,’ he said. ‘What they claimed they were interested in was not in fact what they were interested in. What they were interested in, what Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama wanted, was very simple: They wanted millions of new Democratic voters. There's a reason why I think the new politically correct term is no longer illegal aliens; it's undocumented Democrats.’”

Dobson blesses Cruz candidacy - The Hill: “The founder of the social conservative advocacy group Focus on the Family has endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for president. Christian radio host James Dobson said on Thursday that Cruz is the best candidate in the Republican primary field when it comes to religious liberty and preserving the traditional definition of marriage.”

Fox News Sunday: Fiorina joins the discussion - Mr. Sunday sits down with Carly Fiorina. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will be on hand to discuss measures against domestic terror attacks. And Morrill Worcester describes his mission to put wreaths on every veteran’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel. Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

Power Play: Christie’s big bet - Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., is betting all of his chips on New Hampshire. The Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper and HuffPo’s Paige Lavender of the weigh-in on whether the New Jersey governor's gamble in the Granite State will pay off. WATCH HERE.

[Watch Fox: New Fox News Poll numbers on the presidential primaries and head to head matchups release on “Special Report with Bret Baier” 6 p.m. ET]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
Many people remember Mother Teresa as a nun who helped the poorest of poor by fully immersing herself in their lives, living as they did in the slums of Calcutta, India begging for food to get by. So news that she will be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church comes no surprise. What may be surprising, however, is that a woman of seemingly unshakable faith had doubts about her ability to fulfill what she felt was her calling. As she once described: “The change was extremely difficult. In the convent I had lived without knowing what difficulties were. I had lacked nothing. Now everything was different. I slept where I happened to be, on the ground, often in hovels infested by rats. I ate what the people I was serving ate, and only when there was a little food.” Mother Teresa contemplated leaving Calcutta and returning to a convent life, but her faith in her mission compelled her to continue on, as she describes: “Among the poorest of the poor of Calcutta, I loved Jesus. When I love like that, I don’t feel suffering or fatigue.”

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

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Republican Nomination
Trump 33 percent; Cruz 16.1 percent; Rubio 12.6 percent; Carson 12 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump – Clinton +5.8 points
Generic Congressional Vote – Republicans +0.7

RYAN BUDGET DEAL SAILS THROUGH HOUSE
AP: “The House on Friday easily passed a $1.14 trillion spending bill to fund the government through next September, capping a peaceful end to a yearlong struggle over the budget, taxes, and Republican demands of President Barack Obama. The 316-113 vote exceeded expectations and sent the legislation to the Senate for action later Friday. Senators planned to vote on the spending measure in combination with a year-end tax plan that would give breaks to working families and a wide variety of business interests. With the series of votes, lawmakers were on track to conclude a surprisingly productive, bipartisan burst of late-session legislation in a divided Congress. Obama has promised to sign the legislation, which includes many of the spending increases he has demanded all year. Among the Republican victories are a big boost for the military and an end to the four-decade ban of exporting U.S. crude oil.”

HILLARY’S DEATH STAR FULLY OPERATIONAL, BUT REBELS PERSIST
As Democrats assemble to debate Saturday in New Hampshire, look no further than today’s ABC News/Washington Post national poll to prove that Hillary Clinton’s death star is fully operational and has eclipsed her rivals. Pockets of the rebellion may have given Bernie Sanders a brief boost this week, but Clinton’s 31 point lead over Sanders in the poll zaps any notion that the force has shifted.

USA Today: “[T]here’s a growing sense of inevitability about Clinton’s candidacy. According to a recent CNN/WMUR survey of New Hampshire Democrats, about 60% said they think Clinton is most likely to win the primary there, up from 42% saying so in September….At the debate, her challenge is to maintain some distance from President Obama amid heightened concerns over terrorism without alienating the party’s base voters, for whom the president remains popular.”

Dems not ready for primetime? -  With the apt question: “If a presidential debate is held and nobody watches, does it really happen?” NYT delivers a take on how the Sanders and O’Malley camps have been bristling over the fact that half of the six Democratic presidential debates were scheduled for weekends: “A spokeswoman for Mr. O’Malley’s campaign said that avoiding prime-time debate slots was a way for the Democratic Party to ‘protect’ Mrs. Clinton…‘We’re playing the hand we were dealt,’ said Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Mr. Sanders. ‘I guess Christmas Eve was booked.’”

[Get on Team Bream - Watch the Fox News Channel after Saturday’s Democratic debate for the best analysis in the business, hosted by noted excellence purveyor Shannon Bream.]

Sanders camp punished for tapping Clinton voter data - WaPo: “Officials with the Democratic National Committee have accused the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders of improperly accessing confidential voter information gathered by the rival campaign of Hillary Clinton, according to several party officials. Jeff Weaver, the Vermont senator’s campaign manager, acknowledged that a low-level staffer had viewed the information but blamed a software vendor hired by the DNC for a glitch that allowed access. Weaver said one Sanders staffer was fired over the incident….The DNC has told the Sanders campaign that it will not be allowed access to the data again until it provides an explanation as well as assurances that all Clinton data has been destroyed.”

**SLOWLY BACKS AWAY FROM INTERNET AND SHUTS COMPUTER**
UPI: “Residents in the Boston area can employ the help of a ‘Living Elf on the Shelf’ to watch over their homes this holiday season. A Massachusetts man posted a listing on Craigslist offering to attend Holiday parties dressed as an Elf on the Shelf and ‘stare emptily at your guests’ for $100 an hour. ‘I specialize in holiday themed events, either yours or an un-expecting friend’s, but I also offer contracted private investigation and babysitting services,’ the man who identified himself only as ‘whatever you want my name to be’ wrote. The man also states that, due to high demand, an advance notice of 48 hours is required for those seeking his services.”

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“If you define amnesty as he does, as citizenship. Yes, he fought that. If you define it as allowing people who came here illegally not to suffer the consequences of illegal entry, which by law should be deportation, he did not oppose that. It is very clear that he supported that.” Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.

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.