ICYMI: January Set Another Record For Gun Sales

Last December, we saw 3.3 million background checks being conducted by the FBI on firearm purchases. That’s a record number. In all, 23.1 million total checks were run through the National Instant Criminal Background Checks (NICS) system, making 2015 a record year for gun sales. Again, the reasons for the dramatic increase are straightforward. We have a pro-gun control Democratic president; we’ve seen a rash of horrific terrorist attacks; and said president has enacted a series of executive actions on gun control.

For January, it was yet another record year, as Stephen Gutowksi of the Free Beacon wrote earlier this month:

With 2,545,802 checks processed through the National Instant Background Check System, January 2016 beat the previous record, set in January 2013, by 50,326 checks. Though January’s number represents a drop from the all-time single month record set in December 2015, it is also marks the ninth month in a row that has set a record. It is also the third month in a row with more than two million background checks.

The number of background checks conducted by the FBI is widely considered the most reliable estimate for gun sales in the country since all sales conducted through federally licensed gun dealers and some sales conducted by private parties are required by law to obtain a check.

However, the number is not a one-to-one representation of gun sales. Many private sales are not included in the system. Also, in some cases a single background check can apply to the sale of multiple guns. Some states use background checks for their gun carry permitting process, which does not involve the sale of a gun.

So, Americans are buying guns, going through the process to obtain a carry permit to exercise their rights in public, or obtaining a carry permit before they eventually buy a gun. These are all good things. In fact, the surge in sales has led the NICS system to become overloaded, with appeals being forced to the side due to lack of staff. Citizens who may share the same name with a known felon and were denied a transfer file such appeals. This could be denying Americans of their Second Amendment rights. The NICS system has no more than 100 analysts, while other employees for the database have been denied leave since Thanksgiving to process all the background requests. Congress maybe mulling approving additional staff to help with the workflow, with the National Rifle Association not opposing such an initiative, as long as the additional funds and NICS employees are used to fix the processing delays and not harass law-abiding Americans.

Lastly, the January sales report continues to reinforce the notion that President Obama, the Democratic Party, the anti-gun wing of America, and the media are members of an elite squad of gun salesmen, who have encouraged Americans to buy over 100 million firearms since the beginning of Obama’s presidency. Take a bow, folks!

Oh Yeah: Gun Permits Are Surging In Minnesota

Minnesota residents are lining up to obtain gun permits, with an uptick of 6,000 permits last month. Fears over terrorism and President Obama’s recent executive actions on gun control are responsible for the rush, though the Star Tribune added that some of their numbers might be permit renewals. Regardless, there still was a drastic increase in Minnesotans who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights:

Since the beginning of the new year, there have been at least 221,712 active permit holders — a 6,189 increase from December 2015, according to a monthly data report from the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The largest spike was in March 2013 with 7,213 active permit holders, a few months after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and subsequent calls for national gun control measures.

A similar pattern of jumps in permit holders and applications are typically seen after prominent mass shootings, including the November Paris terrorist attacks and the December killings in San Bernardino, Calif.

[…]

Almost in reflex, there’s a run on ammunition, gun sale background checks increase, interest in and enrollment in permit classes go up, and more people get their permits, said Andrew Rothman, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance (GOCRA), which released the report Thursday.

“It’s not always a reaction to mass shootings, although there is some of that,” Rothman said. “But probably the bigger part is the reaction when people hear about the political rhetoric following a horrible murder … that’s what gets people very interested in exercising their rights.”

The number of active carry permits in the state has grown by more than 20,000 in six months. Now, about one in 19 eligible Minnesota adults have a permit to carry, according to GOCRA.

In neighboring Iowa, fellow Hawkeye residents are also applying for permits and buying firearms. For some dealers, it’s at a rate where they cannot keep up with demand.

Surprise: Hillary Campaign Balks At Releasing Wall Street Speech Transcripts


Vintage Hillary. As she fashions herself as a hardcore anti-Wall Street progressive in the midst of a surprisingly competitive Democratic primary, she's trying to explain away her six-figure speeches to major financial institutions, who also happen to be her generous campaign benefactors. At Thursday's (very low-rated) debate against Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton claimed that when she delivered these lucrative addresses, she spoke truth to power -- bravely warning about the subprime mortgage collapse prior to the 2008 financial crisis:


Given this alleged, evidence-free prescience, one might think that Mrs. Clinton would be eager to release video and transcripts of these speeches -- to showcase how right she was, and to highlight her fierce independence. When she was asked about producing these records prior to the debate, she laughed out loud:


When MSNBC's moderators pressed her on the same question on the debate stage, she served up a quintessentially Clintonesque punt. She'd...look into it:


Again, if she's the paragon of transparency that she claims to be (snicker), and if her Wall Street speeches were as prophetic and civic-minded as she says, her campaign should be turning them into ads. Instead, surprise:

In response to a question at Thursday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton said she would “look into” the possibility of releasing transcripts of her paid remarks to banking, corporate and financial services companies like Goldman Sachs. But by Friday morning, it did not appear that much looking was underway. Joel Benenson, Mrs. Clinton’s pollster, gave little indication at a Wall Street Journal breakfast with reporters that the transcripts would be forthcoming. “I don’t think voters are interested in the transcripts of her speeches,” he said. Whether they are made public is up to the Clinton campaign. Speaking contracts typically give the speaker the right to decide whether any material from a particular speech can be shared beyond the room. Goldman Sachs, for one, declined to make an on-the-record statement...Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, has accused Mrs. Clinton of being in the pocket of Wall Street and big business by noting that she has received major donations from them and was paid more than $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year. She has struggled to explain why she took that money, saying at a CNN forum on Wednesday night: “Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered.”

Fact check on that last point:


She's so bad at this. But remember, Hillary wants you to know that the Clintons can't be bought. Alas, the public record raises serious questions on that front, and who knows that the FBI has dug up in those 32,000 deleted emails. Might their discoveries have anything to do with their reported decision to expand their criminal investigation to entail public corruption?

Bernie Sanders Appears on SNL; Speaks Against The One Percent

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made a cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live last night, playing a character named "Bernie Sanderswitzky" who was upset at a passenger on a sinking ship was attempting to hop the line for a lifeboat due to his higher economic status. "Sanderswitzky" said that he was not a socialist, rather that the policy was "democratic socialism," and that the difference between the two was "yuge."

Watch here, and it's actually pretty funny:

The episode was hosted by comedian Larry David, and word of Sanders' cameo had leaked in the days before the episode aired.

Earlier in the night, SNL aired a skit titled "Bern Your Enthusiasm" that purportedly showed how Sanders (played by David) lost the Iowa caucuses by upsetting five potential supporters:

During the episode, Sanders changed the avatar on his official campaign Twitter account to a picture of David playing Sanders on the show.

Sanders is the third 2016 presidential candidate to appear on SNL this season.

Rubio Ran Into Some Granite, Had Shaky Defense Against Christie in New Hampshire Debate

First, please go read Guy’s analysis about last night’s debate, which was hosted by ABC News and IJ Review. Voters will decide in New Hampshire on February 9. The whole event got off to a rocky start with moderators Martha Raddatz and David Muir botching the candidate announcements, but the debate moved forward. Hot Air's Mary Katharine Ham was also present to ask questions, which some are were the best of the night. As for Rubio, he had a rough night, especially when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pressed him on his record and experience. 

The introduction of the candidates at the Republican debate got awkward.

Posted by POLITICO on Saturday, February 6, 2016

From ht outset, Trump made something absolutely clear to the voters; the GOP is going to win with Trump. The Iowa Caucuses drama between Sen. Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson was also addressed, with the Texas senator apologizing to Carson over the mishap that seems to be blown way out of proportion.

It didn’t take long for Rubio to become the target of  Gov. Chris Christie. Rubio said that President Obama is taking drastic steps to change America for the worse, and that if elected; he is going to re-embrace what makes this country great.

It’s here that Gov. Christie said that he wakes up every morning thinking about ways to make New Jersey residents' lives better, and that he’s held accountable for his actions. Se. Rubio, who he said he likes, doesn’t have that same level of accountability, being able to spin his way out of such standards through talking points. He also hit the freshman Florida senator over his absence in the Senate, especially concerning the Hezbollah sanctions act, calling it truancy not leadership. 

Rubio hit back by saying that Christie presides over a state whose credit rating has been downgraded nine times. Still, Rubio kept repeating most of his opening remarks; the optics of which were not so good.

When immigration was brought up, Sen. Cruz propose building a wall and tripling the amount of border patrol agents. He noted that once you’ve secured the border, we could tackle our illegal immigration problem. On the wall Cruz added, “I’ve got someone in mind to build it,” while looking at Trump.

Rubio wants to expand the border patrol, have an entry/exit system to track the number of visa overstays, and have mandatory e-verify for businesses. Yet, the ghosts of the 2013 “Gang of 8” bill reared its head, with Christie chiming in pushing the senator if he fought for his bill. Again, Christie noted that this is a difference between a governor and a legislator, touting his record in taking on the teachers unions–and winning the fight over tenure. When Jersey Democrats wanted a tax increase and threatened a government shutdown, Christie took pride in the fact that he told them that he would go to Drumthwacket (the governor’s mansion) order a pizza and watch the Mets and wait for the government to reopen because he wasn’t signing an increase. The Democrats didn’t shut down the government, and the tax increase wasn’t passed, because they knew, according to Christie, that he would fight for what he thinks is right for the state.

Hot Air’s Mary Katharine Ham asked Donald Trump whether he was closer to Bernie Sanders than the conservative movement regarding health care policy, quoting the billionaire magnate for saying that everyone’s got to be covered. Oh, and the government is going to pay for it.

Trump said, “I’m closer to common sense,�� while saying there are so many examples of something that we could do to fix our health care system. It was a garrulous, rambling answer that said the insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare (they’re not), and that we’re not going to let people die.

Cruz added that socialized medicine would hurt the American people, while adding that he would allow Americans to buy insurance across state lines. This would drive down prices since competition and choice would be expanded concerning shopping for plans in this market. Carson said he wants to establish health empowerment accounts, which would allow families to function as their own insurance provider; there would be no middlemen.

Another spat highlighted by Leah occurred between Bush and Trump over eminent domain. Trump said that it’s key to provide the many services we have, and sometimes take for granted, in this country. Bush hit Trump for trying to seize a woman’s home to build a parking lot for limousines.

The rest of the night was dotted with questions about what it means to be a conservative, how to fight ISIS, the possibility of redeploying forces to Libya, the selective service, bringing back waterboarding, and whether the party’s positions on social issues might be too extreme.

You can re-watch the debate below since ABC News live streamed it over YouTube [debate begins at 1:17:10 mark]:

Over at RedState, Leon Wolf offers his won analysis, while saying that we should stop having Martha Raddatz moderating GOP debates; he’s right.

Oh, and what about Carly Fiorina. Well, she had a date night with her husband.

Parting Thought: For those you worried about Rubio's performance, there's this from Allahpundit.

Analysis: Governors Soar, Rubio Stumbles Early On in Crucial NH Debate


MANCHESTER, NH-- In desperate need of a strong showing in New Hampshire, three Republican governors stepped up and won tonight's debate. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich all turned in outstanding performances, which may disrupt the state of play ahead of Tuesday's votes.  In a cycle that has been notably unkind to governors, these chief executives finally broke through.  Marco Rubiosurging out of Iowa, endured a brutal opening segment, getting sliced and diced by Christie. The New Jerseyan attacked Rubio as scripted and untested, which Rubio parried well at first, but then proceeded to repeat almost the same verbatim defense of himself as Christie poked and prodded. With each similar Rubio response, Christie urged the audience to take note of how the Floridian was confirming the knock the governor was advancing.  This was Christie the prosecutor, puncturing a reluctant witness on the stand:


A cringeworthy stretch for Rubio. Let's see if he suffers because of it. I should add that Rubio rebounded quite well later in the program, offering excellent and detailed answers on a host of questions -- particularly in exchanges on ISIS and abortion. But the fact that Rubio wasn't prepared to go several rounds with Christie, after a week of Christie telegraphing those very attacks, is mystifying.  It was as if Rubio was ready to go toe-to-toe with Bush (over attacks that never came), and hadn't anticipated Christie's intense barrage.  A big miscalculation. The Florida Senator can be very agile on his feet as a politician; in those opening minutes, he was not.  Ted Cruz also started off a bit shaky, but recovered with a string of characteristically detailed answers across a spectrum of issues. Overall, he felt like less of a factor in this debate than he did in recent forums.  His victory dance on beating the ethanol lobby in Iowa was a sweet moment for fans of the free market. Donald Trumpleading in the polls, had a decent night. He offered several good answers (negotiating with terrorists comes to mind), and a few bad ones (he lost the eminent domain battle to Jeb, and was incoherent on foreign policy).  If the polls are accurate, Trump remains the odds-on frontrunner heading into Tuesday; a good night for him.  Ben Carson overcame the awkward snafu during candidate introductions and did a nice job, connecting with voters on a personal level several times.  His response to the Cruz 'rumor' story was handled almost flawlessly -- leading to one of his best moments, and one of Cruz's toughest.  Overall, this was an informative and substantive debate, with a special home-team shout-out to Mary Katharine Ham for her superb questioning on healthcare, executive power and abortion.  I'll leave you with one X-factor that I believe impacted this debate's "intangibles" and optics:


ABC News reported after the debate that Democrats who were worried about Rubio's post-Iowa ascension were "relieved" by his early struggles. Instead of solidifying his standing with a sharp, poised performance, Rubio stumbled in the opening minutes of the debate. That may be a "teachable moment," but how much will it cost him?  And how much did his recovery negate his ugly start?  Bottom line: After tonight, Trump's position as the leader in the clubhouse is unchanged -- and the fight over finishing in New Hampshire's top tier may have gotten a lot more interesting.


UPDATE
-- Since I gave you video of Rubio getting totally overmatched rhetorically by Christie, here's his A+ answer on the pro-life question:


He also followed-up by stating that although he views all life as sacred, he would sign pro-life legislation with exceptions as president. Also, this analysis might be vindicated in the coming days, but that's not how I watched that back-and-forth in real time. I saw Christie draw political blood:



Gloves Come Off Between Bush, Trump Over Eminent Domain

Donald Trump’s history of using, and many would argue abusing, eminent domain in his business life has surfaced time and again on the campaign trail, with Saturday night’s GOP debate as no exception. 

ABC News’ David Muir asked the real estate mogul about a project in New Hampshire that would bring hydroelectric power from Canada into the Northeastern grid. "Do you see eminent domain as an appropriate tool to get that project done?” he asked, pointing to Trump’s past business endeavors and his support for its use for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Trump was defensive from the start, knocking the number of people who have hit him over the issue.

“Eminent domain is an absolute necessity for a country, for our country—without it you wouldn’t have roads, you wouldn’t have hospitals, you wouldn’t have anything, you wouldn’t have schools, you wouldn’t have bridges, you need eminent domain,” he argued.

Trump also used it as a platform to attack ‘big conservatives,’ suggesting that their criticisms of him for his support of it are hypocritical, given how much they support the Keystone Pipeline.

“The Keystone Pipeline without eminent domain—it wouldn’t go 10 feet, OK? You need eminent domain, and eminent domain is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he said, adding that it’s fair because when it’s used to take someone’s property, that person is given at least market value if not ‘two or three times’ what it’s worth.

Gov. Jeb Bush didn’t let him have the last word on the issue, however, as he interjected that the “difference between eminent domain for public purpose as Donald said, roads and infrastructure … but what Donald Trump did was use eminent domain to try take the property of an elderly woman on the strip in Atlantic City—that is not public purpose, that is downright wrong.”

Trump attempted to argue that he didn’t take the property, failing to mention (as Jeb rightly pointed out) that that was because he lost in court. 

Their exchange really heated up at the 2:10 mark when Trump said Bush was just trying to ‘be a tough guy.’ The Florida governor kept slamming him on the issue, however: "how tough is it to take property from an elderly woman?” 

Check out the clip below and decide who you think performed best: 

Trump: I Would Bring Back Worse Than Waterboarding

At Saturday night's GOP debate, Sen. Ted Cruz lamented how we have failed to fully support our troops.

"Our soldiers are going into combat with their arms tied behind their backs," he said. "Allow our soldiers to do their jobs."

Our military prowess came up later in the night when the ABC News moderators brought up the always controversial enhanced interrogation process known as waterboarding, which many people have defined as torture. President Obama ended the procedure by executive order. Would the candidates bring it back? the moderators wondered.

While Cruz didn't say he would revive it, he did say he would do "whatever was necessary" to combat terrorism.

Donald Trump was a little more blunt. 

"I would bring it back, he said. "We have people chopping heads off people," he continued. Not since the Medieval Times, he said, have we seen such barbarism.

"I would bring back waterboarding," he repeated. "I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding."

LIVE: 2016 Republican Granite State Rumble

We’re about an hour into the Republican debate in New Hampshire. The IJ Review/ABC News debate is being live streamed here:

Ted Cruz: "Ben, I'm Sorry"

In Saturday night's republican debate, Ben Carson was asked to respond to the fact that Ted Cruz's campaign workers misinformed the public that Carson was dropping out of the race just moments before the Iowa caucus.  

Carson expressed that he was upset and referenced that similar tactics are often used in Washington, D.C.  

Ted Cruz responded by saying, "Ben, I'm sorry."

What is Carly Fiorina Doing For Debate Night?

As you know by now, despite beating John Kasich and Chris Christie in Iowa, after pressure from a number of high-profile politicians and evidence of voter support in New Hampshire, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will not be on the ABC News GOP presidential debate stage tonight. After the final decision was made to leave her off stage, Fiorina called the game "rigged." 

So, what will she be doing? According to an email sent out by her campaign, Mrs. Fiorina will enjoy date night with husband, Frank Fiorina.

"Despite the efforts of the media and professional political class to stand in her way, Carly will not stop fighting to take our country back," the campaign released in a statement. Instead of the debate, Carly and Frank will be having a date night of dinner and a movie in Room 306."

As GOP Debate Begins, North Korea Conducts Missile Test

The Republican candidates are literally about to take their spots on the debate stage in Manchester, New Hampshire–and North Korea has launched a long-range missile (via CNN):

North Korea has launched a long-range "missile," a South Korean defense ministry official told CNN Sunday.

North Korea has moved up the launch window for a rocket by one day, the South Korean Defense Ministry said Saturday.

The new window, which was also narrowed, is February 7-14; the old window was February 8-25. The areas where debris would fall remain unchanged.

The announcement comes just days after the reclusive country's initial launch plans came to light, which drew condemnation from South Korea and Japan. And it means blastoff could come as early as 7 a.m. Sunday in North Korea (5:30 p.m. ET Saturday).

Though North Korea says it's putting a satellite into orbit, the launch is viewed by others as a front for a ballistic missile test.

Last week, South Korea warned against the launch, with North Korea they’re launching a rocket containing an observational satellite.

Behold: The Most Tone-Deaf Tweet in the History of Twitter

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose "maximize exposure" debate schedule was so bad unauthorized debates were scheduled, has sent out what is quite possibly the most tone-deaf tweet in the history of Twitter:

*headdesk*

Let's compare, shall we?

The Republicans have had eight debates (including tonight's, in Manchester, NH) this election season, dating back to August. Exactly one of those (tonight's) has been held on a weekend, and the lowest-rated debate still had more viewers than three of the four Democratic debates.

Conversely, the DNC has hosted five debates: Three were on weekends (one on a Saturday night, one the weekend before Christmas, and another was on another holiday weekend), and one, February 4th's debate in New Hampshire, was a last-second addition and was initially unsanctioned by the party.

New Hampshire has a primary on Tuesday, so it makes sense to host a debate in the area immediately prior to the election, even if it may be the eve of Super Bowl Sunday. (To this author's knowledge, "Super Bowl Eve" is not an event that people celebrate, plus, with the Patriots not in the game, many New Hampshirites will not be watching.) Now, if the RNC had decided to hold the debate during the Super Bowl, I'd say Wasserman Schultz was on to something. However, holding debates during football games is more of a Democrat thing, anyways.

You're projecting, Debbie. It's not a good look.

Tonight's debate will be hosted by ABC and IJ Review, and will feature Hot Air's Mary Katharine Ham as one of the panelists questioning the candidates.

LIVE FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE: Republicans' Saturday Night Brawl on ABC News

UPDATE (Matt): You can watch the fireworks here:

***Original Post***


MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Ted Cruz has a small delegate lead and a big win under his belt. Marco Rubio is riding major momentum, both in New Hampshire and nationally. Donald Trump owns a double-digit polling lead in this first-in-the-nation primary. The three remaining governors all need big results on Tuesday, or risk suffering a fatal blow to their campaigns. And two other Republican hopefuls may be on the brink of ending their candidacies. The stage is set for tonight's high-stakes GOP debate on the campus of Saint Anselm College, where the remaining field of eight candidates has been (controversially) whittled down to seven, following Carly Fiorina's exclusion under ABC News' participation threshold formula.  Three storylines to keep an eye on:


(1) Get Rubio.  On the heels of an unexpectedly strong finish in Iowa and a flurry of endorsements, the Florida Senator is surging.  His campaign has been framing the nominating contest as a three-man race among Rubio, Trump and Cruz -- a narrative that several other candidates are heavily invested in exploding.  Jeb Bush and Chris Christie have been hammering Rubio as inexperienced, unaccomplished, and too conservative to win, with reports circulating that the two governors' aides have informally colluded to bring down the younger Senator.  For what it's worth, Ohio Governor John Kasich has effectively lived in this state for weeks, has largely eschewed attacks, and has been polling well.  He's openly conceded that a swing-and-miss here on Tuesday will doom his candidacy.  Ted Cruz also senses Rubio coming on strong, and will be eager to cement himself as the most conservative man in the race.  Rubio has earned the spotlight, which is a blessing and a curse.  He'll be the target of intense criticism tonight, under the brightest of lights: A primetime debate on a national broadcast network in the thick of a high-interest primary battle.  Team Rubio knows this is coming.  But when the red light flips on, will he be ready?

(2) "Fraud" and Trump's temperament.  Billionaire Donald Trump, the heavy frontrunner in New Hampshire according to the polls, has been all over the map over recent days.  Literally.  He's spent surprisingly little time in the Granite State, evidently betting that his polling cushion and the state's more primary voting system (which, to his advantage, includes independent voters) will carry the day on Tuesday.  He's also swung wildly from accepting his Iowa loss graciously, to accusing Ted Cruz of "stealing" the election through "fraud," to shrugging off that incendiary allegation, to reiterating it:


The Texas Senator has argued that this turbulent sore-loser "Trumper tantrum" underscores Trump's erratic behavior, directly suggesting that he's too unstable to be trusted with the presidency.  So who will show up tonight?  The Donald Trump who was furiously demanding a re-do in Iowa and branding Cruz a "total liar," or the Donald Trump who's putting the Hawkeye State in the rearview mirror and hailing Cruz as a possible running mate?   Expect questions based on both Trump's cries of "fraud," and Cruz's "nuke Denmark" retort -- probably right out of the gate.

(3) Nearing the end of the line for Carson and Carly?  Given the flare-up over the false rumors over Carson's next moves after Iowa (which I've concluded basically amounted to the Cruz campaign ruthlessly and perhaps underhandedly exploiting an odd decision by Team Carson, but that didn't significantly impact the outcome), it may be risky to raise the specter of Carson leaving the race.  Then again, his campaign has undergone significant layoffs, with more to come after New Hampshire, we're told.  Hmm.  And though I understand and mostly share Team Fiorina's frustration over Carly being the only candidate left off the debate stage this evening, her strong debating skills have not translated into growing support for whatever reason.  A poor showing on what should theoretically be favorable terrain for her may push her out of the race.

Finally, on a more personal note, our Townhall Media colleague Mary Katharine Ham -- my close friend and co-author -- will serve as tonight's conservative moderator.  I know firsthand how diligently and thoughtfully she's honed and refined her questions (I'm sworn to secrecy) and cannot wait to see her in action.  We'll see you post-debate for instant analysis.  In the meantime, follow our team's live tweets throughout the debate, and feel free to add your running thoughts in the comments section  And away we go...



Survey: Voters Still Believe American Dream Is 'Alive and Well'

Eureka College, the alma mater of President Ronald Reagan, released its first annual “American Opportunity Index,” this week, which measured how much freedom and opportunity Americans feel they have to pursue their dreams.

Based on respondents’ views, American opportunity stands at 66 percent of its full potential. These findings, carried out in partnership with national research and polling firm McLaughlin & Associates, are based on seven metrics: personal access, equality of access, compared to past generations, compared to other nations, attitude about the future, belief in the future of American Opportunity and leadership.          

“As the smallest college to graduate a President of the United States and as a college that provides opportunities for all our students, we believe it is essential to assess the general perspectives of the American people on opportunity,” said Eureka College President, Dr. J. David Arnold. “The results from the 2016 American Opportunity Index are also a litmus test whether index respondents share President Reagan’s optimism about the future—do they, like President Reagan, view America as a ‘shining city on a hill.'”

A random sampling of 1,000 adults were asked seven questions, which were then collectively scored to create the Index. Here are the findings:

-91 percent agree that America gives them the freedoms & opportunities to use their talents and skills to pursue their dreams

-2:1 agree that every American today has the same freedom and opportunity to use their talents and skills to pursue their dreams.

-54 percent agree that they have the same freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams today that their parents and grandparents had.

-50 percent agree that future generations will have the same freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams compared to today.

-90 percent agree that Americans have greater freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams compared to people living in other countries.

-73 percent believe the concept of the overall promise of freedom and opportunity will exist in America’s future.

-57 percent believe that leaders are working to make sure Americans have the freedom and opportunity to use their talents and skills to pursue their dreams.

The Index results varied across sub-groups, however, such as political party affiliation, race and ethnicity, and generations.

“The idea of freedom and opportunity in America is alive and well, but skepticism exists when voters are asked in a more personal fashion,” the report states, noting the lower Index score among younger voters is not surprising given the current economic and societal conditions.

“Will this translate into political disillusionment for younger voters or perhaps motivate them to turnout? The American Opportunity Index will help to answer these questions and gauge these sentiments from year to year and it will be quite instructive to see how the Index is affected one year from now, on the heels of the inauguration of our next President,” it concludes. 

You can take a sample version of the poll here and see how your answers stack up to the other respondents. 

Bernie Sanders Will Be on SNL Tonight

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who effectively tied Hillary Clinton in Monday's Iowa caucuses, will appear on Saturday Night Live tonight in a special cameo appearance. The episode is hosted by comedian Larry David, who did a hilarious impersonation of the candidate on the show in October.

A Sanders official confirmed that the appearance was happening:

Hillary Clinton appeared on the show in October, and Donald Trump was the host of the November 7, 2015 episode.

Iowa Democratic Party Capitulates, Will Review Caucus Results

After the Iowa Democratic Party rejected calls for an audit of last Monday night’s results, they have finally agreed to look at the tallies, following concerns that some precincts had irregular numbers.

Allegations of voter fraud have also been hurled. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said during the Democrats’ New Hampshire debate that he would welcome an audit, but he doesn’t want to blow this out of proportion; noting that both he or Hillary need 2,382 delegates to clinch the nomination.

The Iowa Caucuses allocated 23 delegates to Clinton and 21 to Sanders. This isn’t the end of the world for the Sanders camp. The self-described democratic socialist also mentioned that if an audit would occur, it would probably break even between him and Mrs. Clinton.

And that appears to be what they’re doing (via Des Moines Register):

Iowa Democratic Party officials are reviewing results from the Iowa caucuses and making updates where discrepancies have been found.

Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire the day after Monday's caucuses said no review would be conducted, and that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s narrow victory over Bernie Sanders was final.

But as errors are being discovered, the final tally is being changed, party officials confirmed to the Des Moines Register on Friday.

"Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have flagged a very small number of concerns for us, and we are looking at them all on a case-by-case basis," Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Sam Lau told the Register.

The latest development follows widespread questions among Iowa Democrats and national media about the accuracy of the counts reported on caucus night, which saw the second-highest number of participants and closest result in Democrats' caucus history.

The Register had previously called the Democratic Iowa Caucus a “debacle,” and implored the state party to conduct an audit, including a list of each precinct that executed a coin flip to break a tie and the results.

Pro-abortion Group Uses Zika Virus to Pressure 2016 Frontrunners to Support Their Agenda

NARAL Pro-Choice America apparently thinks the Zika virus epidemic gives them the right to shame Republican presidential candidates into promoting their abortion rights agenda. The president of the organization, Ilyse Hogue, sent a letter to the three top contenders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, asking them to change their “dangerous” positions on women’s health.

"As the clear frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, you each have a responsibility to help advance a nationwide dialogue on how best to respond to this global health emergency," Hogue wrote in the letter. "This response must acknowledge that women across America ... are rightfully concerned about the safety and advisability of becoming pregnant during a viral pandemic."

The group urged the GOP candidates to not block access to Planned Parenthood because Zika has been linked to birth defects.

NARAL, a staunchly pro-abortion group, is blind to abortion’s dangerous consequences. Perhaps if they'd stop thinking about the revenue that comes from the procedure, they'd realize that using one tragedy to promote another is a despicable end.

Trump, Rubio and Cruz have all indicated they are pro-life. I doubt they’ll be swayed otherwise by a misleading piece of paper. 

FBI, Intelligence Sources: Hillary's Debate Answer On Email Scandal Was Nonsense


Yesterday, we meticulously exposed several misleading assertions Hillary Clinton offered up to deflect concerns over her email scandal at this week's Democratic debate. We cited evidence proving that she was wrong on several central facts, and that the equivalence she attempted to draw between the actions of previous Secretaries of State and her own misconduct is deeply flawed. Now, a former Assistant Director of the FBI and several additional intelligence sources familiar with the Clinton investigation are filling in more blanks -- splashing ice cold water on Hillary's deceptive spin. Fox News' Catherine Herridge, who's been dogged in her coverage, reports:

Clinton told moderator Chuck Todd that nothing would come of the FBI probe, “I am 100 percent confident. This is a security review that was requested. It is being carried out.” Not true says Steve Pomerantz, who spent 28 years at the FBI, and rose from field investigative special agent to the rank of assistant director, the third highest position in the Bureau. “They (the FBI) do not do security reviews,” Pomerantz said. “What they primarily do and what they are clearly doing in this instance is a criminal investigation.” Pomerantz emphasized to Fox News, “There is no mechanism for her to be briefed and to have information about the conduct, the substance, the direction or the result of any FBI investigation.

Clinton and her team have tried to pretend that this federal probe is not criminal in nature, but it "clearly" is, Pomerantz says. He also spells out why Hillary is bluffing when she comments on the status of the investigation, which is why flat denials on reports like this are wishful guessing, no matter how assertive they may sound. In case you were curious, here's the seasoned FBI agent running point on the expanding Clinton email affair:

Fox recently learned that one of the FBI's senior agents responsible for counterintelligence matters, Charles H. Kable IV, is working the Clinton case, another indicator the intelligence source said that the FBI probe is “extremely serious, and the A-team is handling.” Kable, known as "Sandy," was appointed special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the Washington field office by Director James Comey in December. He had recently served as the chief of the counterespionage section at FBI headquarters. In that capacity, a bureau press releases says the 15-year, well-respected FBI veteran, "provided leadership and oversight to the field offices engaged in espionage, economic espionage, and insider threat investigations." While his responsibilities are not publicly known, Kable was described to Fox as "tough and no-nonsense FBI." The intelligence source said analysts and agents are exploring whether the mishandling of classified information was "intentional" and who may have benefited.

Herridge also quotes sources with knowledge of the case. A few significant quotes:

Separately, an intelligence source familiar with the two prongs of the ongoing FBI probe, stressed to Fox that the criminal and national security elements remain “inseparable.” The source, not authorized to speak on the record, characterized Clinton’s statement “as a typical Clinton diversion… and what is she going to say, “I’m 95 percent sure that I am going to get away with it?” ... A separate source told Fox, "it is no less of a violation of espionage statutes if any material was classified secret or top secret....All the statute requires is national defense information or NDI,” adding "this is way past accidental spillage…(it) is being investigated as intentional mishandling…in this kind of high profile investigation, the most damaging information takes primacy.” Investigations into the compromise of classified information include damage assessments. In the recent case of former CIA Director David Petraeus, the damage was deemed to be limited, discreet, and knowable because the highly classified information was shared with his biographer, who also had a security clearance. In Hillary Clinton's case, if the private server was compromised by a third party, the extent of the damage maybe unknowable.

That's what makes Hillary's actions so much more grave than what Petraeus did -- and Petraeus was charged. Hillary Clinton operated a private, improper, unsecure email server, on which she conducted all of her official business, in violation of federal rules. Despite her claims to the contrary, that server was not set up "for convenience," and it has been revealed to have contained at least 1,600 classified emails, including dozens at the very highest levels of secrecy. Clinton's excuse that they weren't "marked at the time" is irrelevant according to the binding nondisclosure agreement she herself signed in 2009.  Plus, she carried forward with her reckless scheme even after a specific and dire 2011 warning about foreign hackers attacking top US officials' private emails.  Several high-level intelligence and national security officials say her emails were almost certainly penetrated by hostile governments.  The FBI's criminal probe has reportedly expanded twice, examining possible obstruction of justice and public corruption angles to the scandal, in addition to its national security pillar. At Thursday's debate, Clinton said she has "100 percent confidence" that there will be no repercussions from this scandal, and that she isn't concerned about it all. In a string of lies regarding this imbroglio, that last one may be her most brazen.

Rubio Scores Endorsement From Bobby Jindal

After gaining the support of Sen. Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio has earned another endorsement from a former 2016 presidential candidate. On Fox News Friday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced he is rooting for Rubio. 

Unlike his fellow governors, Jindal sees leadership potential in the Florida senator. Earlier this week, both Govs. Christie and Bush questioned Rubio's youth and inexperience, suggesting he was unqualified to be commander-in-chief. 

Rubio has also earned recent endorsements from popular conservatives like Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).

Update: Rubio responded to Jindal with some high praise of his own:

CDC: Ladies, Don't Drink Unless You're On Birth Control

In a rare show of bipartisanship, women of all political persuasions are furious after the Center for Disease Control released an infographic and report that suggested that women of childbearing age avoid all alcohol unless they are using some form of contraception. While the goal of preventing fetal alcohol syndrome is laudable, many are criticizing the "scare tactics," "Puritanical attitude," and condescending nature of the CDC's suggestion.

Now, I know I'm not a biologist, but I feel like there's a missing step between "drinking alcohol" and "getting pregnant." I had a glass of wine with dinner last night, and I'm pretty sure I didn't spontaneously get pregnant or an STD as a result. Rather than belittle women and try to scare new moms that the glass of wine they had in the early weeks of pregnancy is going to deform their baby (it in all likelihood won't), the CDC should be using real facts and better techniques than creepy faceless women to help prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.

While alcohol certainly can lower a person's inhibitions, it definitely doesn't make a person pregnant by itself.

Christie Doubles Down on 'Boy in the Bubble' Comment, Hammers Rubio on Youth, Inexperience

A few days ago in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Christie called his presidential rival Marco Rubio the “boy in the bubble.” He was referring to Rubio’s supposed lack of face time with voters, instead relying on manufactured town halls and scripted answers. Yet, pundits can’t help thinking the New Jersey governor was also targeting Rubio’s youth. Judge for yourself:

"We know who the boy in the bubble is up here who never answers your questions, who's constantly scripted and controlled because he can't answer your questions," Christie said. "So when Senator Rubio gets here, when the boy in the bubble gets here, I hope you ask him some questions."

The New Jersey governor had no intention of backtracking on the controversial comment in an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren:

"The reason it applies to him is because he is not ready to be president of the United States. He is not ready because of the way he – not only his lack of accomplishment in his Senate career but also because he lives a very protected life as a candidate. He doesn't answer questions in gaggles." 

Rubio, who has enjoyed a surge in New Hampshire as of late, surpassing Ted Cruz to get to second place, dismissed Christie’s dis as a simple knee jerk reaction to his own slipping poll numbers.

"When people are having a tough time in a campaign, especially near the end, you see some desperation set in they start saying things," Rubio told reporters Thursday.

Christie has company in attacking the increasingly popular Florida senator. In an appearance on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe” Friday, Gov. Jeb Bush said Rubio had accomplished “nothing” in the Senate.

The timing of the two governors’ attacks against Rubio led to a New York Times report suggesting the two had a secret deal to jeopardize Rubio’s campaign. Christie denied that allegation.

Donald Trump is still well in front in New Hampshire polls, but with Rubio steadily gaining, the businessman may again find himself in a frustrating second place.

Trump: Actually, I Don't Care About That Fraudulently 'Stolen' Election Anymore


Oh:


In case you're struggling to keep up, Trump has gone from (a) "congrats, Ted, you earned it," to (b) "THIS IS FRAUD, THE ELECTION WAS STOLEN, AND I DEMAND A DO-OVER!" to (c) "meh, whatever, I don't care anymore" in the span of 48 hours or so.  From graciousness, to leveling the most serious electoral charges that exist, to a shrug.  Seriously, please try to imagine the potential consequences of electing Moodswings McGee to the most powerful office in the world. This is precisely what Cruz was getting at with his "nuke Denmark" dig at Trump: The man is erratic and unstable. Speaking of Cruz, as Mark Steyn and Ben Carson go nuclear on him for being 'dishonorable' like Hillary on Benghazi (!), it appears as though his stock is temporarily up in Trump's book. He's no longer a universally-disliked "total liar," it seems:

In a striking reversal of rhetoric, Donald Trump would not rule out Ted Cruz as his hypothetical vice-presidential pick. “Well, I don’t know. Look, I have nothing against him. It was sort of a sad thing that happened, but I’ve always liked him,” Trump told Hugh Hewitt on his radio show Thursday, after weeks of trashing his primary rival as nasty, hypocritical and disliked. Trump added that he has “always gotten along well” with Cruz, but that “I’m so much now focused on New Hampshire.”

"My fellow Americans, meet my running mate, the 'very nasty' and widely-loathed liar, Ted Cruz!" A ridiculous man. For what it's worth, Trump now says he's no longer going to sue Cruz over Iowa, but no word on whether a spurrious eligibility lawsuit is still on the table. Question: How long until Trump drops the Cruz feud and starts pummeling Marco Rubio with every insult and conspiracy that pops into his head? Per three new polls, "Marcomentum" in New Hampshire is real, which is why the collective beating is underway.  And like clockwork, Jeb's gasping campaign is about to drop even more money attacking Rubio:


I'll leave you with two additional polling notes:



Charitable: CNN Produces and Airs Hit Piece on Rubio

In what amounts to an independent expenditure on behalf of the other Presidential candidates, CNN decided to hit Marco Rubio for the high crime of having a stump speech.
If you were waiting for the video to end with "I'm (insert Rubio opponent here) and I approve this message," you were disappointed.

The intent of the piece is to leave the viewer with the impression that Rubio is a big fat phony.

I don't know if Rubio is a phony or not. However, every candidate gives virtually the same carefully crafted, poll tested speech at each location they visit on the campaign trail.

Not only is this not news, it's electioneering on the part of CNN. The only explanation seems to be that there's a producer on the show who just cannot abide a Rubio V Democrat general election.

German Spy Agency: Yes, ISIS Is Sending Fighters Disguised as Refugees

One day after hundreds of police in Germany carried out raids on suspected ISIS terrorists across the country, the head of the nation’s domestic intelligence agency, BfV, confirmed that the terror group is sending militants into Europe disguised as refugees.

"We have repeatedly seen that terrorists ... have slipped in camouflaged or disguised as refugees. This is a fact that the security agencies are facing," Hans-Georg Maassen told ZDF television.

"We are trying to recognize and identify whether there are still more IS fighters or terrorists from IS that have slipped in," he added.

According to local media reports, Maassen said the BfV had received more than 100 tip-offs that ISIS militants were disguised among the refugees staying in Germany.

Two men and a woman were arrested during Thursday's police raids, all three of whom had existing warrants out for their arrest. One man, whose wife was also detained, was wanted by Algerian authorities for belonging to ISIS. He had been trained in Syria. The other man had fake ID documents.

Police had been searching for four Algerians linked to ISIS in Syria who they said are “under investigation over suspicions that they are planning a serious act threatening the security of the state.”

Maassen warned against alarm, however.

"We are in a serious situation and there is a high risk that there could be an attack,” he said. “But the security agencies, the intelligence services and the police authorities are very alert and our goal is to minimize the risk as best we can.”