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Buzz Cut:
• Panicky Hillary starts shouting
• NYT dumps on Heidi Cruz
• Rubio touts pistol purchase
• GOP Power Index: Christie fades
• Driven by destiny

PANICKY HILLARY STARTS SHOUTING
You can turn the volume back up on your televisions, the Democratic debate is done and the shouting has ended.

Apparently believing that commitment and sincerity can be measured in decibels, Hillary Clinton turned up the volume in Sunday night’s showdown with rival Bernie Sanders.

She also matched her louder volume with sharper attacks on Sanders. But the Vermont socialist came ready to fight, counterpunching and even landing a few blows. You’d have to give him the win, if only narrowly, on the grounds that not only did he dominate the discussion but that she was strangely treating him as the frontrunner.

Or maybe it was just that she was trying to fight on Sanders’ turf. He’s been shouting since before it was cool. Clinton seems to be abandoning the mantra of her campaign – “I’m a fighter” – for an effort to approximate the anger that candidates on both sides of the aisle have been trying, with varying degrees of success, to ape.

But it’s hard to believe that Clinton is angry, or at least that she is angry about something other than the fact that her party seems to delight in spurning her. Life has been very good to the Clintons over the past 16 years, to say the least. Except for the politics part.

Clinton and her crew could assuage themselves after her 2008 primary loss that they were victims of history – the sudden ascendance of a gifted, African-American candidate was more of a force of nature than a reflection of her political weakness.

But what if she were struggling with a guy who was deeply white and five years older than her? What if the guy this time was not a gifted speechmaker but one who gave shout-y campaign boilerplate in a Brooklyn honk? What if he had been honking around Washington for 25 years and was generally written off as a crank?

It has apparently all been enough to rattle Clinton, whose onetime indulgence of Sanders has turned into attacks and who seems to be on the verge of yet another campaign reboot.

Tied or trailing Sanders in the first two nominating contests, it’s hard to say she’s wrong. A huge lead in South Carolina and what, last month at least, was a wide advantage in Nevada still suggest that Clinton isn’t yet in danger of being toppled a second time – and that her strategy of aggressively pursuing black voters and other parts of the Obama coalition is paying off.

But would those leads look so stout if Clinton were to lose the first two contests? Certainly not. Just ask South Carolina Democratic powerbroker Rep. Jim Clyburn, who told the NYT, “The reality is, if Mrs. Clinton loses Iowa and New Hampshire, that could create new and real problems for her here.”

As of now, you can still call Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee, but we are now seeing a scenario in which she might have to waste several damaging months on a fight that will harm her general election chances and distract public attention from the bazooka blasts on the GOP side.

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
America seems to owe an awful lot to high-living French noblemen. And if you like the idea of separation of power between branches of government, then say ‘Joyeux anniversaire’ to Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, born on this date in 1689. Montesquieu led something of a dissipated life as a young nobleman at court in Paris, but became increasingly serious about his political writing and philosophizing. A visit to England would open his mind further and give birth to a riot of political thought. But perhaps chief among his insights was the value of divided government. Britannica explains: “Dividing political authority into the legislative, executive, and judicial powers, [Montesquieu] asserted that, in the state that most effectively promotes liberty, these three powers must be confided to different individuals or bodies, acting independently… Though its accuracy has in more recent times been disputed, in its own century it was admired and held authoritative, even in England; it inspired the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Constitution of the United States.”

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POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Republican Nomination –
Trump 34.5 percent; Cruz 19.3 percent; Rubio 11.8 percent; Carson 9.0 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump – Clinton +2.5 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Republicans +0.5

NYT DUMPS ON HEIDI CRUZ
The NYT digs deep into the life of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, with a focus on an incident 11 years ago in which a police officer found her, head in hands, sitting beside an expressway onramp. The article, which revisits the incident twice and at length, casts her as an unstable woman who has thrown away a promising career to support her husband. It is some really ugly stuff.

Trump in free fire zone with Cruz attacks - ABC News: “With two weeks left before voters in Iowa cast the very first votes in the 2016 presidential election, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is turning up the heat on his fiercest rival in the Hawkeye State -– Sen. Ted Cruz. ‘I don't think Ted Cruz has a great chance, to be honest with you,’ Trump told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on “This Week” Sunday. ‘Look, the truth is, he's a nasty guy. He was so nice to me. I mean, I knew it. I was watching. I kept saying, ‘Come on Ted. Let’s go, okay.’ But he’s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him. He’s a very –- he's got an edge that’s not good. You can't make deals with people like that and it's not a good thing. It's not a good thing for the country. Very nasty guy.’”

[In a new digital ad, a pro-Cruz PAC uses Trump’s past praise of Cruz as narration for their spot.]

Trump’s faith - Weekly Standard does a dive into the faith background of Donald Trump and whether or not his lack of an active membership in any faith will give pause to evangelicals with other options this cycle.

Cruz begins aggressive campaign schedule in N.H. - Dallas Morning News: “U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is trying to beat the odds and pull out victories in both [Iowa and New Hampshire]…On Sunday he started a five-day New Hampshire tour packed with 17 events in all 10 of the state’s counties.”

RUBIO TOUTS PISTOL PURCHASE
Tampa Bay Times: “Marco Rubio went shopping for a handgun on Christmas Eve, tying it to the threat of ISIS. ‘I have a right to protect my family if someone were to come after us,’ he said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. ‘In fact, if ISIS were to visit us, or our communities, at any moment, the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability that I have to protect my family from them, or from a criminal, or anyone else who seeks to do us harm. Millions of Americans feel that way.’ Rubio first disclosed the gun purchase on Friday while visiting Sturm, Ruger & Co. in New Hampshire. He linked guns and ISIS again while in Iowa on Saturday.”

Kasich lands endorsement of three N.H. papers - AP: “Three New Hampshire newspapers are endorsing Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president as the Republican aspires to a top-tier primary finish there. The Nashua Telegraph, Foster’s Daily Democrat and Portsmouth Herald all threw their support behind Kasich in Sunday editions.”

What if it’s a two-man race? - What happens if Jeb Bush or Chris Christie can succeed in crippling Marco Rubio and leaves the Republicans with only two choices? One might assume that establishment support would flow to Cruz, a lifelong Republican and sitting senator. Not necessarily, says Molly Ball in a dispatch from the trail: “Some Republicans who have moved through the stages of grief from denial to bargaining, if not yet acceptance, have begun to suggest that Trump might be preferable to Cruz. Trump is, if you squint, a sort of moderate Republican; he’s a dealmaker; and surely he’s craven enough to reverse his most alienating positions and say what people want to hear if he gets to the general election. Cruz, on the other hand, is an ideologue. The scariest prospect of all is that he really means what he says, and might, if elected, take it upon himself to actually upend the establishment’s cherished status quo.”

GOP POWER INDEX: CHRISTIE FADES
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has painted himself a straight-talker since he was elected to the governorship in 2009, and has made it a cornerstone of his presidential campaign’s “Telling It Like It Is” slogan.

Town hall videos of his early days as governor hit the Internet, and people around the country were drawn to this frank, no nonsense guy. When he took on the teacher’s unions, and was asked about his own children’s private education, he responded, “It’s none of your business,” which resonated with people tired of hearing exhaustive explanations from politicians.

But his straight-talk attitude hasn’t quite delivered on is message of late. As Christie tries to find a path from the middle of the pack in New Hampshire to national viability, he’s come under increasing scrutiny. And voters are hearing a lot more run-on sentences than they were used to from Christie.

In the Fox Business Network Debate last week, Christie claimed that he never supported Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court, but his statement at the time reads: “I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination. Qualified appointees should be confirmed and deserve bi-partisan support.”

It’s been the same of gun control. Although he has vetoed limits on clip-size and photo IDs for gun owners, Christie’s record on guns is scattered. National Review’s Jim Geraghty points out that in a 1993 race for New Jersey Senate, Christie issued a statement asserting that “we already have too many firearms in our communities. The issue which has energized me to get into this race is the recent attempt by certain Republican legislators to repeal New Jersey’s ban on assault weapons. In today’s society, no one needs a semi-automatic assault weapon.” In November 2015, Christie told Bret Baier in an interview for “Special Report” that he didn’t remember making that statement.

1) Ted Cruz; 2) Marco Rubio; 3) Donald Trump; 4) Jeb Bush; 5) John Kasich [+1]; 6) Chris Christie [-1]

On the radar - Carly FiorinaBen Carson and Rand Paul

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

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

DRIVEN BY DESTINY
On a day when we remember the legendary figure of Martin Luther King Jr., NPR shares the reminiscence of Tom Houk, King’s driver and body man at the peak of the Civil Rights movement. Houck headed to Atlanta to join the movement and was surprised at being picked up by Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King, with the reverend at the wheel. After lunch that day, she asked Houck if he might drive the children to school the following day: “[J]ust like that, Houck began his stint as the Kings' family driver. For nine months, Houck drove Martin Luther King Jr. around Atlanta, though King liked to drive himself often, too. ‘But he was a terrible driver,’ Houck says. ‘And he turned WAOK radio in Atlanta on full blast.’

That wasn't the only puzzle presented to Houck. There were also the cigarettes. ‘Dr. King was a chain smoker, all right? But Coretta did not like the cigarettes,’ Houck says. ‘So when we would come back to the house, first thing Coretta would do, she would check Dr. King's pockets. So he started giving me his cigarettes.’ In the midst of the struggle, Houck found himself a co-conspirator in King’s vice. And with good reason: Houck idolized the reverend for his virtues.”

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.