Are Mitt and Jeb getting ready to rumble?

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Buzz Cut:
• Are Mitt and Jeb getting ready to rumble?
• McConnell: W.H. downplaying threat from Islamist militants
• Boehner may pardon some coup plotters
• Immigration crowds out other issues for Obama
• Arch A. Moore, Jr., R.I.P.

When Jeb Bush jumped in the presidential pond, it was widely assumed that it would mean the end of speculation about a possible third run for Mitt Romney. But not only has Romney continued to entertain pleas from advisers to run again, according to two senior staffers from Romney’s 2012 campaign, Bush’s exploratory move hasn’t changed the landscape for Romney that much. Romney huddled with top advisers in California on Wednesday, a group that reportedly was to include big names like Ben Ginsberg, Andrea Saul and Lanhee Chen. While we can’t know exactly what was said, top aides who spoke to Fox News First prior to the conclave said that Bush’s build-out isn’t a factor. One said that Bush and Romney were “fishing in different pools” of donors and could both proceed with explorations. The other pointed out that not even Bush would be likely to equal Romney’s potential fundraising haul. By continuing to entertain the entreaties of an increasingly enthusiastic circle of advisers, though, Romney is putting himself on a collision course with Bush. There may be enough money for both of them, but not enough votes.

A shot across the bow? - Politico reports that former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., is preparing to release a decade or more of personal tax returns. While others say such a bold move is “grossly premature,” there’s no doubt that Bush will be expansive in his disclosures. If and when such a move happens it is seen by many as an early way to distance himself from 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney who came under fire for such a limited release of his own returns. Romney’s first release came in late January 2012 after the undisclosed returns helped cost him the South Carolina primary. Another release came in late September 2012, a few weeks after the Republican Convention. Romney refused to go further, but offered a summary of information from the previous 20 years as prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

“Outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry is making every move to suggest that he is running for president again. He’s hitting the trail hard in early primary states, but more importantly, Perry is touting the fact that he’s been shuttling in a broad array of policy experts to Austin to bone up. I traveled to Texas before Christmas to interview the governor and visit the southern border with him. We talked about his policy workshops, which Perry calls “listening sessions” but certainly sound like cramming for a presidential exam. Tonight on ‘Special Report,’ we’ll share that interview as part our series examining the ‘2016 Presidential Contenders.’ We’ll cover all aspects of a possible Perry run: recovering from the ‘oops’ moment, his confrontation with President Obama over immigration, his legal issues and his prescription for Texas-style prosperity for America.” - Bret Baier.

[Watch Fox: Special Report with Bret Baier” airs tonight at 6 p.m. ET]

First in the nation, y’all - WMUR: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry has scheduled a trip to the Granite State in another indication that he's planning another presidential run. Perry scheduled his trip to New Hampshire on Feb. 11 and 12. The Republican is said to be strongly considering another bid for the White House. Further details of the trip have not been revealed.”

[The Houston Chronicle looks at how Rick Perry transformed the governorship of Texas.]

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wasn’t just Twitter trolling his potential 2016 GOP presidential rivals on Wednesday. Walker has brought aboard one of the most sought-after presidential strategists for this cycle, Rick Wiley. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week, Walker suggested for his potential presidential run he would hire someone he knew but had not worked closely with. Wiley fits that bill. Wiley, who is based in Austin, Texas, served as the political director and later executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, and then went on to serve in a top position in Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign. From there, Wiley went to work for the Republican National Committee, eventually serving as political director. Most recently, as a consultant with Washington, D.C.-based Mercury Public Affairs, Wiley served as a liaison for the Republican Governors Association, helping Walker and other GOP candidates around the country in last fall's elections.”

Dallas Morning News: Jerry Jones was talking about Chris Christie’s mojo again on Wednesday. The Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager said he will do everything in his power to have the New Jersey governor with him Sunday in Green Bay. ‘Yes he will [be there], if I’ve got anything to do about it, and I’m going to try to have a lot to do about it,’ Jones said during an ESPN interview. ‘I want that orange sweater, and we want him there. We’ve had him in the locker room. It feels good to have him here. We do need all hands on deck to even come close to these Packers. If he’s got enough mojo to pull this thing off for this Cowboys team this year, I’m for him being the President of the United States.’”

[Christie is expected to be in attendance at Gov. Charlie Baker’s [R-Mass.] inauguration ceremonies today in Boston.]

Dirty tricks probe still dangling - WSJ: “Federal prosecutors in New Jersey have subpoenaed Gov. Chris Christie’s [R-N.J.] re-election campaign for documents relating to government meetings that were allegedly canceled with Jersey City’s mayor after he declined to endorse the governor, according to people familiar with the matter.”

No huddle offense? - WaPo: “Jeb Bush’s … aggressive entrance in the race has sped up the timing of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is preparing to make a public move toward running at the end of this month rather than waiting until February or March, according to a person familiar with discussions.”

National Journal: “Republican presidential candidates have already been on the hunt for millionaire political patrons for months. But many are also making quieter, serious investments in pursuit of small online donors, a group that, for the first time, could play a major role in deciding the GOP's presidential primary…The GOP has put a new emphasis on improving its digital game, especially its email fundraising, and more of the party's donors are giving online than ever before. Republicans have traditionally done a good job collecting small donations via direct mail, but email is many times cheaper. On top of that, an early start building an email list may be critical for whoever actually wins the nomination. None of this is lost on high-profile GOP hopefuls including Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who are already laying the groundwork to cash in on the growing pool of digital donations.”

Carson insider blames publisher for plagiarism - National Review: “Ben Carson was “blindsided” by the plagiarism allegations leveled against him on Wednesday by BuzzFeed, a source close to the neurosurgeon tells National Review Online. The source says that Carson and his wife, Candy, who worked with him on the 2012 book America the Beautiful, ‘did everything they needed to do to tell the publisher what needed to be attributed.’”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday’s attack in Paris by Islamist militants shows that terrorism is a “long-term problem” and that the administration’s “downplaying the significance of this whole terrorist threat against the Western world” doesn’t help. Asked on “The Kelly File” about White House’s initial ambivalence to call the onslaught a terrorist attack and whether there is a conscious decision not to link these types of attacks to Islam, McConnell told Megyn Kelly, “They refuse to call these attacks what they are.” “These are terrorist attacks invariably spawned by some perverted notion of Islam and to not call it what it is strikes me as not being forthcoming with the American people” Watch the interview here.

[Watch the second part of McConnell’s interview on “The Kelly File” tonight at 9 p.m. ET]

Unhappy precedent - David Harsanyi at The Federalist: “After the horrific and deadly terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, France, it’s worth remembering again that there is no conciliatory rhetoric or kowtowing that will stop attacks on our liberal values. They won’t stop even if we give in, which is something we’ve done. It’s something we do quite often. Surely you remember that the “Innocence of Muslims” fiasco didn’t end in Egypt. U.S. taxpayers paid for television ads in Pakistan featuring footage of Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during press a press conference – subtitled in Urdu – condemning the film. ‘We absolutely reject its content and message,’ Clinton explained. Bro-ster Tommy Vietor, then spokesman for the National Security Council, told the Washington Post that the White House has ‘reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use.’ And due to this pressure – what amounts to no less than de facto censorship – YouTube pulled the video. The man ended up in prison and the extremists won.”

A pox on media mice - Peter Beinart at The Atlantic: “But because these assaults aim to intimidate movie studios and journalists, their impact cannot be measured merely by how governments respond. Historically, terrorists and dictators have often used violence to blackmail democratic governments into changing policy. Now they are using violence to blackmail editors and studio heads into doing so. Which means that journalists and media executives, rather than merely politicians, must choose either appeasement or defiance. By first refusing to disseminate The Interview, and then agreeing to, Sony pivoted from the former to the latter. With most of its staff murdered, Charlie Hebdo itself may, tragically, not have the choice. But in deciding whether to show the images that seem to have gotten Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists and editors killed, countless other magazines, newspapers, websites, and television networks will be acting as either hawks or doves.”

Today would have been Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday and one might wonder what the King of Rock and Roll would be like today had he not died in August 1977 at age 42. Well, consider this: On December 4, 1956 there was an impromptu jam session at Sun Records Memphis studios included Elvis and three other rockabilly pioneers: Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. That session and the famous photo of the four would come to be known as the Million Dollar Quartet. So to guess where The King would be today we can look at what became of the other three, who shared similar backgrounds and sadly, similar demons. Perkins, with the help of Cash, eventually confronted his alcoholism and, after a career tailspin died at age 65, esteemed by all of rock and country music as a legend. Cash has one of the best known stories of loss, redemption and love, written with his beloved wife, June Carter Cash. The Man in Black, who died at 71 in 2003, was still recording and innovating up until the end. The last rockabilly still rocking though is The Killer. Jerry Lee Lewis is the subject of new book from Rick Bragg and the author makes it clear that Louis is still struggling with the same tempestuous soul that churned within him even on the day he stood with those three other giants. Some clues to which path Elvis might have taken may be found in his final performances

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 44.4 percent//Disapprove – 51.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 28.1 percent//Wrong Track – 64 percent

In a move that may prove magnanimous and savvy, House Speaker John Boehner might forego immediate or lasting retribution against some of the House conservatives who sought to oust the Republication leader, according to Politico: “Boehner is in a familiar jam: Many of his closest allies want him to pummel members who defy him. The rank and file think retribution is a step too far…Some lawmakers and aides close to Boehner say Rep. Richard Nugent [R-Fla.] might win back his prized seat on the elite, speaker-appointed Rules Committee, and Reps. Mark Meadows [R-N.C.] and Scott Garrett [R-N.J.] may even get to chair subcommittees on other panels, even though all three voted against Boehner…For now, Boehner has empowered his committee chairs to decide on the subcommittee gavels, and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz [R-Utah] sounds like he will allow Meadows to slide into a prized chairmanship, despite having voted for Rep. Daniel Webster [R-Fla.] for speaker. Chaffetz made clear to his subcommittee chairs before the vote that he expected them to be ‘team players.’…Similarly, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling [R-Texas] is likely to keep Garrett as chairman of the capital markets subcommittee, an aide said. Garrett voted for Webster, as well.”

While President Obama is in Phoenix today to unveil a plan benefiting potential low income home buyers that some industry insiders say tinkers around the edges of the lagging housing market, the hot topic in the southern border state is immigration. House Republican leaders huddled with rank and file Wednesday in Washington to develop strategies to block the president’s executive action granting temporary amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. The Hill: “Gathered in the Capitol office of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy [R-Calif.], the Republicans discussed a handful of different GOP proposals designed to prevent Obama’s order from taking effect. Emerging from that meeting, the lawmakers said they haven’t settled on a final design surrounding either the policy or the strategy for moving the language through the lower chamber. But they said they made enough progress that they hope to vote on the measure next week as part of a larger package funding the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] beyond February.”

[Byron York takes a look at the two GOP plans to put a stop to President Obama’s immigration actions.]

EPA delays coal war salvo - AP: “The Obama administration on Wednesday said it would delay for months a final rule to control carbon dioxide emissions at new coal-fired power plants, thwarting for now one way the Republican-controlled Congress could have blocked the administration’s plans on global warming. A final rule was due by law on Jan. 8, a year after it was first proposed. But the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it would wait until midsummer, and issue the new power plant rules with a separate regulation aimed at cutting the pollution blamed for global warming from the existing coal-fired power fleet. That would put the rule weeks past the deadline set by President Barack Obama when he announced his second-term plans for climate in June 2013…Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.] has vowed to overturn the emissions rules in short order to halt what he views as a war on coal, an industry important to his state but in decline there.”

States will be forced to comply - NYT: “The Environmental Protection Agency will force states to comply with a federal “model rule” to cut their carbon emissions if the states do not submit customized plans under the Obama administration’s new climate change regulations, a senior official said Wednesday.”

A.G. confirmation hearings set - Politico:“Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley [R-Iowa] plans to hold confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch in the last week of January or the beginning of February, an aide said Wednesday. ‘He has spoken with the White House Counsel about this goal, and the White House was agreeable to this timetable,’ Grassley’s spokeswoman, Beth Levine, said in an email.  The nomination of Lynch, who was chosen late last year to replace outgoing attorney general Eric Holder, will be one of the highest profile confirmations that the new GOP majority in the Senate will take up early this year.”

Reid ramps up for 2016 challenge - The Hill: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s [D-Nev.] chief of staff David Krone is stepping down although he will still advise Reid, according to a source familiar with the staff shakeup. The source said Krone will be replaced by Drew Willison, a longtime senior aide to Reid who recently served as Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. The source added that Krone ‘will have a major role’ on Reid’s re-election campaign. The move dovetails with Reid’s plans to run for re-election in 2016 because Willison oversaw important legislative projects for Nevada while serving as a senior aide on the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee…”

THE JUDGE’S RULING: Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano illustrates how over the past 100 years the country has been on a slow steady march toward the federal destruction of the presumption of liberty: “…on the transcendental issues of our day -- life, liberty, war and debt -- the leadership of both political parties and the behavior of all modern presidents have revealed a steadfast willingness to write any law and regulate any behavior or permit any evil, whether authorized by the Constitution or not.”

AP: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.] on Wednesday hammered Washington's leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, for failing to help middle-class workers since the 1980s. Left unsaid: That time period includes President Bill Clinton's administration. As Warren continues to insist she won't run for president, and all of politics is waiting for Hillary Rodham Clinton to announce her candidacy, it was a notable omission during Warren's speech at a conference sponsored by the AFL-CIO. Bill Clinton famously declared ‘the era of big government is over’ in 1996, and Warren's indictment of three decades of economic policy referenced complaints among liberals that the policies of Democrats contributed to Wall Street excess in the past decade…That sort of rhetoric has some liberals pining for Warren to enter the Democratic presidential contest, a move that would likely pit her against Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party's leading contender should she enter the campaign as is widely expected.”

Podesta gets ready for Hillary kick off - WaPo: “White House counselor John Podesta will leave the White House next month, according to a senior administration official, and will help Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential bid… Clinton is likely to announce her intention to seek the Oval Office this spring, according to her advisers and Democratic strategists.”

Ed. note: It was my great privilege, sometimes frustration and always fascination to cover former West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore. When I came to know and ultimately befriend the former three-term Republican governor, he was seeking the restoration of his law license following completion of his sentence for corruption charges. While I thought Moore’s admirers quite right that what he had done to keep his political machine going was less bad than many Democrats had gotten away with, I resented the argument that West Virginia should somehow accept a lower threshold for public corruption. But at least he did not steal from the public. His crimes were rooted in ambition, not greed or weakness – and there was no denying that his ambition was tied to a deep love for the state I adore. Arch was, like all of us, a complicated contradiction. What made us friends, though, was that he loved and understood politics more than almost anyone I had ever known. In hour after hour of phone calls, even at 75, he was scalpel-sharp and crackling with energy.

Arch lived to see his daughter elected in a landslide to the Senate and his beloved West Virginia awash in a sea of red in November, ending finally the New Deal Democrat coalition that ruled the state for four generations. It would have surely pleased him, but I doubt it would have surprised him. He could see around corners better than most of us. As to why I ultimately came to admire him, it was his refusal to be defeated. He was truly a brave man. So he should probably be best remembered not for what he did in office or politics but for what he did before he ever won his first vote:

Charleston Daily Mail: “In November 1944, during a battle near Aachen, Germany, a machine-gun bullet hit Moore, then an infantry sergeant, in the face. It broke his jaw and almost severed his tongue. ‘Moore lay on the soggy, wintry-cold German beet field, with his face torn apart and severe blood loss, for several hours that day,’ according to his biography. ‘At some point, his two decades of life flashed in front of him, as if he was going to die.’ That day, 33 of the 36 men in his platoon were killed. Several oral and facial surgeries later, Moore spent the better part of a year learning how to speak again.”

Rest in peace, Governor. Thank you for your service.

“[An] administration which for months refused to call Fort Hood shooter, who is sort of a closest equivalent to what happened today, actual terrorism…was hesitant to call it terrorism until it became so obvious, [President Obama] sort of had to.” – 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