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Wake Up To Politics - December 15, 2015

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015
48 Days until the Iowa Caucuses
229 Days Until Election Day 2016 I'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!
To send me questions, comments, tips, new subscribers, and more: email me at wakeuptopolitics@gmail.com. To learn more about WUTP and subscribe, visit the site: wakeuptopolitics.com, or like me on Twitter and Facebook. More ways to engage with WUTP at the bottom.Cast your vote for Event of the Year at the botttom    2016 Central

  • Debate Night: Round Five For the fifth and final time in 2015, the Republican candidates for President will meet to debate tonight. Here’s the details:
  • WHERE is it? Tonight’s debate will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada (the third state to vote in the presidential primary process), at The Venetian, the second-largest hotel in the world. The hotel’s owner? Casino mogul and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who poured over $100 million into the 2012 elections, but has not yet endorsed a GOP presidential candidate this cycle.
  • WHEN is it? The field is once again split into two debates: the undercard will begin at 6pm ET (5pm CT, 4pm MT, 3pm PT) and the main event will begin at 8:30pm ET (7:30pm CT, 6:30pm MT, 5:30pm PT).
  • WHO is moderating? This is the second of three GOP debates this cycle co-sponsored by CNN and Salem Radio. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer will be the principal moderator, with CNN’s Dana Bash and Salem’s Hugh Hewitt contributing questions (just as they did at the last CNN/Salem debate). Blitzer, a seasoned presidential primary debate moderator (this is his ninth), shared tonight’s focus Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources: “We’re going to focus on the #1 issue facing the American people right now, and all the polls suggest that it is the fear of terrorism, ISIS,” he said.
  • HOW will the stage be set up? The criteria for dividing the 14-candidate field into two events was different for this debate than the cycle’s past four. While the other debates have taken just national polling into consideration, for this debate, there were three ways to qualify for the primetime stage: averaging 3.5% in national polling OR average 4% in Iowa polling OR average 4% in New Hampshire polling.
  • For this criteria, CNN only used liver interview surveys conducted between October 29 and December 13 by 21 specific polling organizations (ABC, Fox, Gallup, NBC, The New York Times, etc.)
  • The only problem? Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul didn’t really meet the criteria. But, it’s OK: just like they did for Carly Fiorina in September, CNN made a little tweak to let Paul on the main stage. The difference? In Fiorina’s case, the network made a formal change, altering the dates of polling they considered. For Paul, however, it was more of an exception, with no real reason given.
  • Including Paul, nine candidates made the primetime stage. As befitting his frontrunner status, Donald Trump will stand center stage. Flanking him will be Ben Carson (to his right) and Ted Cruz (to his left), the 2nd and 3rd place contenders by national average, respectively. The next tier is Marco Rubio (on Carson’s right) and Jeb Bush (on Cruz’s left); then Carly Fiorina (to Rubio’s right) and Chris Christie (to Bush’s left). Finally, John Kasich will stand on the right end of the stage, with Rand Paul on the left end.
  • Meanwhile, just four candidates will make up the undercard stage: Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki.
  • WHAT are the stakes? As the GOP contenders meet for the last time this year, tonight’s debate has the real potential to shake things up going into Iowa, with just two more debate before the first-in-the-nation caucuses – and the next one a month away.
  • Donald Trump In the past debates, Trump has tried different methods of sinking back into the shadows or roaring back and attacking those who go after him. The questions tonight: have Trump’s Republican rivals given up attacking him? Even as many put out statements condemning his proposed ban on Muslim immigration last week, will any call him out on it in primetime? And how will Trump respond? As with any thing Donald J. Trump is involved with, there’s certainly an air of unpredictability in tonight’s debate.
  • Ted Cruz Unlike Trump, Cruz will certainly be Target #1 tonight. With his poll numbers nationally and in Iowa rocketing him to the top tier of the race, Cruz has momentum on his side going into the debate. The downside of being the big dog? Everyone goes after you. All eyes will be on Cruz defends himself and whether he can maintain his newfound success.
  • Marco Rubio The Florida senator has also gone up in polling recently, but not at the rate his Texas colleague has – setting up the most-awaited fight of the night: Cruz vs. Rubio. As he has campaigned around the country, Rubio has been sharpening his attacks on Cruz, and going after Cruz is likely the strategy Rubio will employ in attempting to steal the Texan’s momentum going into the new year.
  • Ben Carson With tonight’s debate expected to focus on national security, that spells BAD news for Ben Carson. The political outsider has been seriously slipping in recent days, a byproduct of the race’s change in emphasis to national security and foreign policy, an area of weakness for him. If Carson can’t turn around the narrative that he is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief, his embarrassing downturn will only continue.
  • Jeb Bush The debate format has not been good to Jeb Bush the past few months. He has repeatedly walked away from these debates battered and bruised, and taken a hit in the polls as a result. Will tonight be any different? Probably not, but if Bush wants to become relevant in Iowa or New Hampshire – and have any momentum in the next few months of the race, he better bring a side of him to tonight’s debate that we haven’t seen at any of the previous four.
  • Carly Fiorina/Chris Christie/John Kasich All three have impressed at previous debates, and been successful attacking Trump and other candidates. Yet, they barely make it onto the primetime stage tonight, failing to meet the required national average, instead requiring on their New Hampshire strength. This is a do-or-die time for this trio, and they will all be fighting to emerge as the tough, but commonsense, alternative to Donald Trump. If tonight’s performance can’t turn around worrying poll numbers and fundraising, their campaigns might be nearing the end.
  • Rand Paul This is doubly crucial for the Kentucky senator, who barely made it into tonight’s debate – and shouldn’t have, some say. There was rampant speculation that if he had been blocked from the primetime stage, Paul would have dropped out of the presidential race. Now that he was able to stay in the main debate, Paul has to take advantage of his last opportunity to reshape his bid before the New Year. If Paul doesn’t see a breakout moment tonight, the likelihood of him every breaking out is rapidly dwindling.
  • A Changing Field As the 2015 debate season comes to a close, a Wake Up To Politics chart explores the changes in the Republican primary field since August:
  • Above, you can see where each candidate ranked in polling on the eve of the GOP debates and which debate they participated in: the main debate, undercard, or if they were not invited to either.
  • Takeaways:
  • BUSH has taken a sharp turn, from #2 in August to #5 now
  • CARSON, who started at #5 and then stayed at #2 for a number of months, is falling back to earth (he’s back down to #4 now)
  • HUCKABEE’s had, perhaps, the worst drop, from #4 in August, and then quickly down to #8 to #7 in the second and third debates, before dipping to the undercard event the past two debates.
  • CRUZ’s and RUBIO’s meteoric increases have mirrored each other, with Cruz starting at #6 in August and Rubio starting at #7. They’re now #2 and #3.
  • Finally – TRUMP has consistently stayed on top since August.

Capitol Hill News

  • “Omnibender” Package Expected to be Unveiled Today With government funding set to run out at midnight Wednesday, House and Senate leaders are entering crunch time to arrive at a deal for the $1.1 trillion omnibus and package to extend a number of expiring tax breaks for individuals and business that are being negotiated together.
  • Over the weekend, many lawmakers pointed to Monday as the date for a deal to be unveiled: another deadline that came and went. Since no “omnibender" (omnibus + tax extender) package was introduced Monday, meaning even if the measure is filed today, the House will not vote on the package until Thursday – if House Speaker Paul Ryan follows the internal House GOP three-day rule between a bill's introduction and final vote, which he has pledged to do.
  • These logistics make it increasingly likely that another stopgap CR will have to be passed to fund the government for a few more days and avoid a shutdown. President Obama has signaled that he would sign a short-term funding measure into law, but only if there is a framework agreed to for an omnibus.
  • How far off is that framework from reality? The omnibus package remains mired in negotiations over a number of policy riders both parties want to add to the appropriations bill, covering Wall Street reform, environmental policy, labor regulations, refugees, gun violence, health care for 9/11 first responders, and many other issues.
  • “Members and staff in both parties are continuing their work on appropriations and on the tax relief measure. As we all know, they made a lot of progress in recent days,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday. “We will continue to consult and engage with colleagues as we make further progress on these last two significant items we must complete this year.”
  • Some compromises have been made. For example, Democrats have accepted a GOP proposal lifting the embargo on exporting U.S. oil, but Democratic proposals for tax credits to wind and solar energy, as well as child care, will likely make it into the tax extender package.
  • Meanwhile, Republicans riders on abortion and unions are not expected to be in the final omnibus package; and a proposal making it harder for Syrians and Iraqis to obtain visas for travel in the United States has been put aside.
  • These losses on the riders may cause many congressional Republicans to vote against the omnibus measure, although large majorities of Democrats are expected to pick up the slack. Meanwhile, Democrats angry over the tax breaks may force Republicans to pull their weight in passing that package.
  • When asked about their progress on the budget negotiations, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member, answered “we’re almost 95% there”.
  • But “nothing is done until everything is done,” Mikulski noted.

White House Watch

  • The President’s Schedule At 11:25am, President Barack Obama will head to the National Archives in Washington to speak at a Naturalization Ceremony, where 31 individuals from 25 countries (including Iran) will become American citizens. The President’s remarks are expected to center around his efforts to allow Iraqi and Syrian refugees to enter the United States.
  • At 12:30pm, President Obama will sit down for lunch with Vice President Joe Biden.

Question of the Day

  • Monday’s Answer When Terry Branstad came to work Monday, it was his 7,642nd day on the job as Iowa Governor – thereby making him the longest-serving governor in American history.
  • In honor of Branstad’s record-setting day, the WUTP trivia question Monday asked whose record he broke – who the longest-serving governor was until yesterday.
  • The answer? George Clinton, who served as Governor of New York from 1777 to 1795 and from 1801 to 1804, a total of 10 years, 11 months, and 26 days, or 7,641 days.
  • CONGRATULATIONS: Jordan “JBurg” Burger, Carol Lister, Steve Gitnik, Andrew Arkills, and @JaredParker – who all answered correctly!
  • Other answers: South Dakota’s Bill Janklow (Janice Goodman and @ChrisDevineMA), the 2nd longest-serving governor under the U.S. Constitution (most of Clinton’s gubernatorial service predated the Constitution ). While this mistake is understandable, the reason Janklow does not qualify for my answer is the record Branstad eclipsed Monday was Clinton’s, having already surpassed Janklow almost five years ago.
  • More: Texas’ Rick Perry (Christopher Darken), who is the 10th longest-serving governor under the Constitution, and New York’s Mario Cuomo (William Laverty) who places a respectable #26 on the list of longest-serving governors.
  • Thanks to everyone for answering! Nice job all!

Event of the year 2015

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For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation, the Political Junkie podcast, and St. Louis Public Radio; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki, and read about Gabe in Politico, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light