Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Chips Are Down

Some Republicans are coming to the defense of GOP national committee chairman candidate Chip Saltsman, after he sent out a Christmas greeting to RNC members that included a CD with a song called "Barack the Magic Negro."

It was part of an album by conservative satirist Paul Shanklin and was first played on "The Rush Limbaugh Show" in May of 2007.

But Shanklin was drawing on a column from David Ehrenstein, a black gay columnist writing in The Los Angeles Times. He wrote the term "magic negro" was coined by sociologists to refer to a non-threatening African-American who "simply appears one day" to assuage white "guilt" over the role of slavery and racial segregation.

A number of Republicans are now coming to Saltsman's rescue. The chairman of the Maine Republican Party, Mark Ellis, told the Politico newspaper, "I had to ask, 'Boy, what's the big deal here?'"

Alabama Republican Committeeman Paul Reynolds says, "This is just people looking for something to make an issue of."

Ken Blackwell, who is seeking to become the first African-American GOP chairman, is also defending Saltsman. And, speaking on condition of anonymity, one RNC member says current Chairman Mike Duncan was wrong for condemning Saltsman's actions: "He screwed up big time by pandering to the national press on this."

Warning Signal

Congressional Democrats are warning the party could suffer heavy losses in the 2010 election.

The Politico newspaper reports Democratic House campaign chief Chris Van Hollen says in a year-end Web video: "We are looking at potentially... 70 threatened Democrats who will need our support." The nonpartisan Cook Political Report places 48 Democrats in prospectively competitive races in 2010.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is worried about his own reelection fight in 2010. Reid has already started interviewing campaign managers and has stepped up his fundraising efforts.

Media Backlash

Some Palestinian media are blaming Hamas and not Israel for the escalating violence in Gaza.

The Middle East Media Research Institute reports Bassem Abu-Sumayyah, the director of the Palestinian TV and Radio Authority, said, "Hamas blocked its ears... they should have had a little bit of political and security sense."

Hafez Al-Bargouthi, editor of the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, says, "Why hasn't Hamas prevented the aggression and the massacre? How many times have we written... that these missiles [are] ineffective and contrary to the supreme national interest?"

And, Muwaffaq Matar, columnist for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote, "Will we learn the lesson, or are our leaders going to run away from bearing responsibility, as they usually do?"

Rocking the Boat

The military blockade imposed by the Israeli Defense Force was not enough to deter former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney from trying to deliver aid to Gaza. McKinney was among 16 activists aboard a supply boat that collided with an Israeli naval ship off the Gaza coast.

As a result, the supply ship was forced to dock at a Lebanese port. The former Green Party presidential candidate said in a TV interview with CNN: "Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and one on the side... our mission was thwarted by the aggressiveness of the Israeli army."

But an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman says the naval vessel made physical contact only after the supply ship failed to respond to repeated radio transmissions.

— FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.