--MARCO RUBIO -- ‘OBAMA HAS STOOD IDLY BY’: "I have been warning throughout this campaign that North Korea is run by a lunatic who has been expanding his nuclear arsenal while President Obama has stood idly by. If this test is confirmed, it will be just the latest example of the failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy. Our enemies around the world are taking advantage of Obama's weakness. We need new leadership that will stand up to people like Kim Jong-un and ensure our country has the capabilities necessary to keep America safe."
--CARLY FIORINA -- ‘ANOTHER HILLARY CLINTON FOREIGN POLICY FAILURE’: "Of course North Korea would conduct a nuclear test after watching Iran willfully violate an agreement they just made without consequence of any kind from this administration. North Korea is yet another Hillary Clinton foreign policy failure. America cannot lead from behind."
--BERNIE SANDERS -- ‘A THREAT TO CHINA AS WELL’: "We'll have to lean on China," Sanders said of the U.S. strategy in an interview on “Good Morning America” today. "China is North Korea's closest ally. They'll have to push North Korea to start adhering to international agreements. … When you have a hydrogen bomb, if that's true, you are a threat to China, as well.”
--SANDERS SAYS HE CAN DO BETTER AGAINST DONALD TRUMP THAN HILLARY CLINTON: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says he would do better against Donald Trump in a general election than Hillary Clinton, ABC’s RYAN STRUYK reports. “I believe that our campaign is generating the kind of grassroots excitement that will result in a high voter turnout," the Vermont senator told ABC’s GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS on “Good Morning America” today. "Democrats need a high voter turnout to win. I think we can do that." Sanders pointed to a recent Quinnipiac University poll that showed Clinton leading Trump by 7 percentage points nationally, 47 vs. 40 percent. But in the same poll, Sanders leads by a broader 13 points, 51 vs. 38 percent. When asked whether he would win the Iowa caucuses, he said, "I think we’ve got a real good shot at it." Recent polling shows Clinton maintaining a slim lead in the state. http://abcn.ws/1IQvl1P
--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Are two of the GOP finalist slots already chalked? That’s how it looks like the candidates are thinking about it, with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz the clear frontrunners, in Iowa and nationally, yet barely taking incoming from those farther down in the polls. While Trump questions Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency, the real fight among their rivals is … among their rivals. Jeb Bush is attacking Chris Christie, who is swinging back at Bush and also tangling with Marco Rubio, who is targeting Christie himself, and so on. It suggests that the battle that matters most will not be in Iowa but in New Hampshire, where the chance remains for an establishment candidate to break out of the pack. If that’s how it happens, it means that person is probably dealing with both Trump and Cruz, and almost certainly others. But add this to the list of oddities: In this uncertain year, it appears increasingly certain that two of the last men standing have already been determined.
TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC’s RYAN STRUYK: Iowa and New Hampshire may be on everyone’s minds, but it’s the third-in-the-nation Democratic contest of Nevada that will be drawing all three remaining Democratic candidates today. The three contenders will be in the Silver State for a “first in the west” caucus dinner tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET. Hillary Clinton, declining to respond to Trump’s attacks, will hold an organizing event there this afternoon, followed by a tour of a culinary academy. Bernie Sanders will hold a rally there right before the dinner. On the Republican side, Trump is locked in a spat with Cruz over his eligibility to be president because Cruz was born in Canada. Donald Trump is slated for just a CNN interview late this afternoon. But Ted Cruz will be holding a whopping five events over the course of the day in Iowa, where he’s the favorite to win the caucus less than four weeks from now. Chris Christie, gaining steam in New Hampshire, is meeting there with the New England chiefs of police association trying to jumpstart their chances there. Marco Rubio has a town hall in Iowa today, followed by a rally in Dallas. Meanwhile, Ben Carson will be trying to revive his campaign in Iowa today. Mike Huckabee is plugging away in Iowa. Carly Fiorina and John Kasich are in New Hampshire with three appearances each. And Rand Paul will be on the Colbert Show tonight.
YESTERDAY ON THE TRAIL
JEB BUSH CONFRONTED ABOUT TRAYVON MARTIN AND STAND YOUR GROUND LAW. As President Obama unveiled his executive actions on gun control Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was having his own firefight, ABC’s CANDACE SMITH notes. Bush was participating in a primary series hosted by the Greater Derry Chamber of Commerce when a female attendee asked what he would do about gun proliferation and how he would reduce gun violence. Bush began by repeating an oft-said line, that he reduced gun violence as governor of Florida. “To this day we continue to see a dramatic reduction in gun violence because people that commit violence with guns--” he began, but was cut off by his questioner. “Trayvon Martin would disagree,” the questioner interrupted. She continued, amidst Bush’s claims that “facts are facts.” “When you have an asinine law that allows people to shoot other people and go, 'I was afraid of him because, guess what, he was dark,’” she said, referring to George Zimmerman, the then-neighborhood watch captain that shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, in 2012. The woman was referring to the Stand Your Ground Law, that famous Florida law that enables citizens to use deadly force if they feel threatened, a legal defense that was used in Zimmerman’s defense. Zimmerman was eventually acquitted. http://abcn.ws/1O4yMB8
BERNIE SANDERS ON THE STATE OF THE RACE. Bernie Sanders is still trailing Clinton in the polls in Iowa, but he is leading in New Hampshire. The Vermont Senator told ABC’s CECILIA VEGA that if he pulls off victories in both of these two early voting states -- the first to cast primary votes -- he will be able to swing in his favor, according to ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS. “If we can win in Iowa, if we can win in New Hampshire, we’ll overcome one of the obstacles that we have and that is people say, ‘Well I like what Bernie Sanders stands for, but I don’t know that he can win.' We win in Iowa; we win in New Hampshire; we overcome that obstacle big time.” He also said that if he doesn't win in New Hampshire, it's not over. “Absolutely not, no we are in this until the end,” Sanders replied. http://abcn.ws/1O4olNV
MEET THE MEN TASKED WITH PUTTING BEN CARSON'S CAMPAIGN BACK ON TRACK. Retired Army Major Gen. Robert F. Dees and long-time Republican operative Ed Brookover sit in an Arlington, Virginia office building with one clear task: getting Ben Carson’s presidential campaign back on track. After a holiday staff shakeup resulting in the departure of three top advisers, Brookover and Dees have been promoted into leading positions -- campaign manager and campaign chairman, respectively. The decision to make changes to the Republican candidate’s staff came after a “deep dive” into Carson’s operation, which showed serious flaws, the candidate ABC’S KATHERINE FAULDERS reports. http://abcn.ws/1TCQhdk
2016 CANDIDATES REACT TO OBAMA'S GUN CONTROL MEASURES. In a lengthy and emotional speech Tuesday, President Obama announced executive actions for “common sense” gun control. The measures include clarification of an existing law on background checks and gun dealer registration as well as new investments in mental health and gun safety research. ABC’S JENNIFER HANSLER and PAOLA CHAVEZ have more on the presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle reacting strongly to Obama’s demands. http://abcn.ws/22JsUVw
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
UK Parliament to Debate Petition Banning Donald Trump. The United Kingdom Parliament is set to debate barring Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump from entry. The debate, which will be live-streamed, is scheduled to take place on Jan. 18. Parliamentary consideration will occur in response to an online petition submitted to the Parliament's page last month calling for Trump's prohibition from the country. "If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the 'unacceptable behaviour' criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful," the petition reads. ABC’S EVAN MCMURRY notes the petition has garnered almost 600,000 signatures, well past the 10,000 signature threshold to elicit a response and the 100,000 threshold to trigger parliamentary debate. http://abcn.ws/1Sy9YEO
@nytpolitics: Though he would like to be seen as an underdog, Ted Cruz has clearly become the candidate to beat in Iowa. http://nyti.ms/1mFMzEG
@EWErickson: The One Thing We Know About The GOP’s Response to Obama on Guns http://theresurgent.com/the-one-thing-we-know-about-the-gops-response-to-obama-on-guns/ …
@amyewalter: Can we please just have people vote now? I can't take another 4 wks of 'Trump voters won't show up' vs 'yes they will" fights