According to a primary forecast from FiveThirtyEight the morning before Thursday's Republican debate, Ted Cruz has a 51 percent chance of winning the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. Donald Trump sits behind Cruz with a 29 percent chance, and Rubio, Carson, and Bush trail from there at 14, 3, and 1 percent respectively.
But if Trump was looking to take back the odds on Iowa Thursday night, he found a formidable opponent in his former buddy, Cruz:
Mr. Cruz did not just dominate much of the Republican debate, he slashed, he mocked, he charmed and he outmaneuvered everybody else onstage — but none as devastatingly and as thoroughly as this campaign's most commanding performer, Donald J. Trump.
The Texas senator sought to dismiss Trump's questions about his "natural-born" status as ridiculous by introducing questions about Trump's own eligibility given the billionaire's Scottish-born mother. And he pointed out that he, a lawyer who's argued constitutional cases before the Supreme Court, would not be taking any legal advice from Trump, who has no legal training.
"Cruz started strong and set himself apart from Trump on issue of his own citizenship," said one Iowa Republican — who, like all the insiders, completed the survey anonymously. "Cruz hit predictable touchpoints for hard-right voters."
...What is new from after Thursday night's debate is the possibility of a Trump/Cruz alliance as we move through the primaries. Indeed, for the first time Trump floated the idea of taking Cruz as his vice president. Cruz didn't say no. And when Cruz suggested that Trump could be his vice president, Trump said “I don't think so” which turned into a laugh and they moved on.
A Cruz/Trump ticket would combine a lot of what GOP voters are looking for — and they would condense much of the vote.
The Iowa caucuses are 17 days away. Jeva Lange
Calling it the "hardest decision I've ever made," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key surprised his country Monday by announcing he is resigning.
After eight years on the job, he cited family reasons for his decision; The New Zealand Herald reports his wife, Bronagh, requested that he step down, and during his announcement, he said his children have had to deal with an "extraordinary level of intrusion." He won his third term in 2014, and said he doesn't know what he will do next. Now, the National Party has to hold a caucus to select a new prime minister, with Bill English, deputy prime minister, likely to take over in the meantime. Catherine Garcia
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced early Monday that he will turn in his formal resignation to President Sergio Mattarella later in the day, following a heavy defeat in his referendum on constitutional reforms.
Renzi said he took "full responsibility" for the loss, adding, "We gave the Italians an opportunity to change, but we didn't succeed." Renzi took office two-and-a-half-years ago promising to be an anti-establishment "demolition man," and the referendum was designed to reduce the powers of the upper house Senate and regional authorities in order to quicken the legislative process.
Renzi was up against every major opposition party, and early projections showed him only having slightly more than 40 percent of the vote. Mattarella will select a new prime minister, Italy's fifth in as many years, with elections not scheduled until 2018. As Renzi made his resignation announcement, the euro fell to a 20-month low. Catherine Garcia
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday announced it will not grant an easement permitting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under North Dakota's Lake Oahe, the Missouri River reservoir which has led to months of protests organized by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
"Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," said Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."
The federal government also ordered the protesters to leave their main camp by Monday, though authorities do not plan to forcibly remove the protesters if they refuse to go voluntarily. The Corps will now conduct an environmental impact review to determine if the proposed pipeline can be rerouted so it does not cross the Missouri. Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the oil pipeline, did not immediately comment on the news. Bonnie Kristian
Once in office, President-elect Donald Trump will decide whether to interfere with companies considering outsourcing 'on a day-by-day basis," Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday. "He is going to put on the table all the tools that are going to take away the advantages of companies that for far too long have been pulling up stakes, leaving American workers behind," Pence explained while speaking with ABC News. "We're going to create trade policies that take away the advantages that these multinational corporations have had in moving jobs overseas now for decades."
Trump himself sent out a series of tweets on the issue Sunday morning, promising a 35 percent tax to discourage would-be outsourcers. "Please be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake!" Trump concluded. "THE UNITED STATES IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS" — you know, like the Hotel California.
Watch Pence's comments in context beginning around the 4:40 mark in the video below. Bonnie Kristian
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 4, 2016
Leon Panetta — former defense secretary, CIA director, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and White House chief of staff — said in an interview on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday that President-elect Donald Trump needs to be better informed. Responding to reports that Trump is skipping most intelligence briefings, Panetta said he is concerned Trump does not have the knowledge he needs to make wise decisions once in office.
As president, "you can have a lot of bright people and they can present you a lot of options. But unless you've taken the time as president to understand those issues, to read into those issues, to understand the consequences of those issues, you cannot just rely on others to tell you what you should or shouldn't do," Panetta said. "Every president I know, and I worked under nine presidents, every one has taken their intelligence daily brief because that sets the agenda for what you have to focus on as president of the United States."
Also on Face the Nation, Trump's chief of staff pick, Reince Priebus, said the new president is "certainly informed." "He's getting briefed and it feels like every day," Priebus said. "I'm not sure if it is every day, but it's a lot. Bonnie Kristian
The death toll of a fire at a warehouse dance party in Oakland, California, late Friday night has reached 24 people, officials said Sunday, up from an initial count of nine bodies. About 15 people believed to have been in the building remain missing, and fire crews are slowly searching the rest of the badly damaged structure.
Many people who were killed or injured in the blaze had difficulty escaping the warehouse, described as a labyrinth of artists' workspaces and illegal dwellings. The main staircase to the upper floor, where the party was held, was flimsy and unreliable, while another staircase ended at a boarded-up door.
"If you were not familiar with the building and the way that it was," said Danielle Boudreaux, a former friend of the building's owner, "if you were going there for a party, you wouldn't be aware of the maze that you have to go through to get out." Only about 20 percent of the building has been explored by rescue workers so far, and more bodies are expected to be discovered soon. Bonnie Kristian
In an interview with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd Sunday morning, Vice President-elect Mike Pence evaded questions about whether President-elect Donald Trump's deal with Carrier should be considered crony capitalism. "On Carrier, why isn't this pay-to-play politics?" Todd asked. "Some people would say you gave a tax break to Carrier so that they would only send 700 jobs overseas. Sarah Palin called it crony capitalism. Why isn't it?"
Pence's initial response contrasted his own unsuccessful attempts as governor of Indiana to convince Carrier to keep production in the United States with Trump's effective negotiations. Then, as Todd pushed him to explain how the deal is not an example of "government intervening in the private sector," Pence shifted the conversation elsewhere, first to an expression of happiness about the American jobs that were saved in time for Christmas and then to complaints about negative media coverage. Watch the full exchange below. Bonnie Kristian