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Buzz Cut:
Cruz can’t flinch in Trump fight
Haley shows veepstakes strength in rebuttal
Hillary gets cold shoulder from Iowans
How would a Hillary prosecution work?
Road hog

CRUZ CAN’T FLINCH IN TRUMP FIGHT 
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – When Ted Cruz says that Donald Trumphas “New York values,” most Republicans know he means that Trump is not a conservative: personally, socially, fiscally or ideologically.

The question is whether Cruz is ready to say that to Trump’s face when they stand next to each other on stage here for the Fox Business Network Debate on Thursday. And it will be a pass/fail test for the Texas senator.

After months of giving Cruz belly scratches when he rolled over for him, Trump started kicking his chief rival in national and early-state polls. And Trump is really kicking now. The celebrity businessman started with classic Trumpian concern trolling about Cruz’s Canadian nativity. He was worried, Trump said, that his good friend, Ted, could run intro trouble from nasty Democrats.

But as with Trump’s attacks on Ben Carson, what began as concern trolling – in that case, for his friend Ben’s mental health – turned into lengthy diatribes and full-blown eruptions. Carson wouldn’t respond to Trump, blamed the media and limped out of the fray and is now said to be “retooling his campaign,” politics talk for “losing badly.”

And so it was for Jeb Bush, whose exclamation point began to wilt at once in the harsh orange sun of Trump. Trump would say how much he liked Jeb, and then savagely maul him for 20 minute stretches. It took Bush months to get to the point of saying he didn’t like Trump. He is now promising to use his position at the far edge of the stage to try again to assault Trump.

Like George Costanza, Bush has thought of his comeback too late. “Well, the jerk store called, and they’re running out of you” can be the theme for Bush’s campaign denouement.

Rather than delaying his response, Cruz wisely delayed the moment of first conflict. But after the start of the New Year, sensing that he was being had and with Cruz continuing to be the stud duck in Iowa, Trump started hammering, and hammering and hammering.

Cruz, to his credit, didn’t seize up. He has started the response but now has the unhappy task of seeing it through. Trump will not let up and, before he is done, will bring in everything he can, likely including Cruz’s wife’s work for Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs. Most candidates won’t attack your spouse. Trump is not most candidates.

So Cruz has to be ready to fight on the same terms. And that’s why the “New York values” attack is a good one (sorry NYC) because it covers the waterfront on Trump: his personal life, his business busts, his social views, his version of Christianity, his insults, his temperament – total package. 

But if Cruz tries to flinch from his new path when they get to South Carolina on Thursday it will be his undoing. Think of that moment when Tim Pawlenty wouldn’t repeat even his lame “O’RomneyCare” jab against GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney. Cue the bugler for “Taps.”

Making Cruz’s task trickier is that Trump tends to dial back in debates. He knows that the crowd-pleasing attacks from his rallies don’t play well in these forums and holds back. That means Cruz has to take the extra step of trying to draw Trump out and risk looking like the bully himself. But he’s got to get Trump, as Cruz called it, “rattled.” Otherwise, Trump will grin under the mindful gaze of the moderators and then go back to shivs, shanks and brickbats as soon as the debate ends.

Cruz has to own it and be prepared to go punch for punch with Trump to the end. Cruz might lose if he fights. But if he follows the path of Bush and Carson, Cruz will lose. 

Not just a river in Egypt - 
On Tuesday’s “The Kelly File,” Sen. Ted Cruzknocked the president’s speech calling it a “state of denial” and knocking the president on a weak foreign policy in wake of the ten U.S. seamen being captured, and now released, in Iran. Watch here.

Pro-Cruz PAC puts the amnesty bull’s-eye on Rubio - NYT: “Late Tuesday, a ‘super PAC’ supporting Senator Ted Cruz released a long-awaited ad yoking Mr. Rubio to Mr. Schumer and Mr. Obama, citing Mr. Rubio’s work on the so-called Gang of Eight effort at comprehensive immigration legislation in 2013. And on Monday, the group Right to Rise USA, the super PAC supporting Jeb Bush, released an ad criticizing Mr. Rubio for having gone from promising to ‘oppose amnesty’ in his 2010 United States Senate campaign to working on the immigration bill.”

Christie says Planned Parenthood donation a ‘misquote’ - In an interview with WaPo Gov. Chris Christie explains the report about him saying he donated to Planned Parenthood: “What about a report in 1994 that quoted him as saying he personally gave to Planned Parenthood? ‘Listen, this is a quote from 21 years ago. I’m convinced it was a misquote. Understand what was going on. In 1994-95, I was fighting against county funding of Planned Parenthood even though I was pro-choice.’ He said he was making the case then that people could spend their own money on a cause they believed in, just as he did. He is emphatic he was not referencing Planned Parenthood specifically as the kind of cause he gave money to.”

Haley shows veepstakes strength in rebuttal - David Drucker writes that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union should put her in the top spot for a vice presidential pick. Drucker says, “Haley was praised for her delivery and her eloquent and sharp rhetoric. She displayed an ability to marry an aggressive pitch for conservative values, such as stating that illegal immigration must be stopped, with calls for inclusiveness and respect for people with which Republicans disagree. For a party that is simultaneously looking for strong leadership and a messenger that can help the GOP appeal to an increasingly diverse electorate that has increasingly sided with the Democratic Party in presidential elections. The performance should immediately elevate the second-term Indian American governor, who is just 43 years old, into top consideration for her party's vice presidential nod.”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
The Oxford English Dictionary, the most comprehensive, most authoritative of them all owes a great deal to the work of a madman. Atlas Obscura has theweird, wonderful tale of editor James Murray and William Chester Minor: “Murray and Minor wrote each other often, but Murray didn’t learn that his most prolific contributor lived in a psychiatric hospital until he traveled 50 miles to see him in 1896, nearly two decades after they first got in touch. This fact helped to explain why Minor had been strangely absent from society parties and talks, despite seeming so engaged with the literary scene of the day.”

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POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Republican Nomination –
 Trump 34.0 percent; Cruz 20.0 percent; Rubio11.0 percent; Carson 9.5 percent
General ElectionClinton vs. Trump – Clinton +2.0 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Republicans +0.5

HILLARY GETS COLD SHOULDER FROM IOWANS
NYT: “Iowa Democrats are displaying far less passion for Hillary Clinton than for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont three weeks before the presidential caucuses, creating anxiety inside the Clinton campaign as she scrambles to energize supporters and to court wavering voters. The enthusiasm gap spilled abundantly into view in recent days, from the cheering crowds and emotional outpourings that greeted Mr. Sanders, and in interviews with more than 50 Iowans at campaign stops for both candidates. Voters have mobbed Mr. Sanders at events since Friday, some jumping over chairs to shake his hand or snap a selfie…With a new poll showing Mr. Sanders surging ahead in Iowa, Mrs. Clinton and her aides have dropped any pretense that they can ignore Mr. Sanders or treat him like a gadfly. They have become zealous and combative as they try new ways to undercut his high favorability ratings.”

Keeps attacking on guns - Time: “For a week now, Hillary Clinton and her allies have been hammering Sanders on the vote, making the case that he is a failed progressive champion on the crucial issue of gun control…To this, Sanders has not had a clear reply. On the one hand, Sanders has stood by the controversial 2005 law, saying that it was intended to protect mom-and-pop gun shop owners from legal liability. On the other, Sanders has said he might reverse himself in the future, with spokesman Michael Briggs explaining to TIME he would likely support legislation holding large manufacturers liable—all while still shielding the local dealers in Vermont Sanders wants to protect.”

Chelsea joins fray as mom’s attack dog - CBS News: “[Campaigning in New Hampshire, Chelsea Clinton said:] said Sanders would ‘dismantle’ Obamacare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Medicare -- along with private insurance programs. Clinton went even further, arguing that Sanders' plan would ‘empower’ Republican governors to eliminate health insurance for low-income and middle-income Americans.”

Holder endorses Hillary - AP: “As she works to maintain an advantage among African-American voters in her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has secured an endorsement from the nation's first black attorney general. The Clinton campaign announced Eric Holder's support in a statement to the Associated Press. Holder, who served as President Barack Obama’s top law enforcement appointee for more than five years, said Clinton ‘is the candidate that we need in the White House’ to continue ‘the progress of President Obama.’”

How would a Hillary prosecution work? - RCP’s Charles Lipson gives thepossible outcomes of the FBI’s long investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email. Indictment or not, Lispon says this scandal will cause more problems for the presumed Democratic nominee, and President Obama, than it has so far.

ROAD HOG
The Guardian: “Russia has detained a senior prison service official on suspicion of stealing a 30-mile (50km) stretch of public road, investigators said. Alexander Protopopov oversaw the dismantling of a concrete highway and sold off the slabs while prison service chief in the far-northern Komi region, the Investigative Committee said in a statement. The road, which was made up of more than 7,000 reinforced concrete slabs, was ‘dismantled and driven away’ over more than a year, between 2014 and 2015. The slabs were subsequently used by a company that sold them on for a profit, investigators said. Protopopov, now acting deputy chief of the national prison service, faces charges of misappropriating state property while using his official position, which could lead to 10 years in jail.”

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.