By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: If the race for the presidency is the biggest reality show around, it helps to have a colorful backstory. That's one reason to pay attention to two smaller political stories popping among the very-early 2016 crowd. Gov. Chris Christie, fresh off the Letterman appearance that featured him chomping a doughnut, told reporters yesterday that he's got a "plan" to start controlling his weight. (As he pointed out, we'll be able to see whether it's successful or not.) Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio pronounced himself a fan of Tupac's lyrics, with all apologies to Biggie fans. (Yes, a United States senator conversant on the relative merits of '90s rappers, at a forum called "Buzzfeed Brews." Take that, Daniel Webster.) Christie and Rubio both have something that you can't buy with policy speeches or white papers: A touch of star power, slightly more lustrous in this celebrity-obsessed age.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may have been all jokes about his weight Monday night on the "Late Show with David Letterman," but yesterday at a press conference he showed a softer more serious side about his 30-year struggle with his weight. The usually tough-talking 50-year-old Republican governor openly acknowledged that he may have good health right now, but his "doctor continues to warn me that my luck is going to run out relatively soon, so believe it's something I'm very conscious of." What was almost as interesting as the answer was the fact that the reason anyone outside the local press corps or supporters at the event heard it was because his communications office filmed the event, as they always do, but then took the extra step of clipping that one answer and tweeting it from @GovChristie's official account. His press shop frequently tweets and sends out clips from events, but with Christie a likely 2016 presidential candidate, they seem to be trying to let the world know that like many Americans who struggle with their weight he knows it's serious and he has a "plan," although he added at the event that he's "not going to be overly self-consumed about this."
THE STATE OF THE UNION IS… BY PAUL KRUGMAN. Each day leading up to President Obama's State of the Union address, ABCNews.com will bring you a different newsmaker's thoughts on what "The State of the Union is …"
Paul Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times, told ABC News that the state of the union is "still pretty bad" but seems to be improving. "The state of the union is still pretty bad - very high unemployment, slower growth than we'd like and, obviously, a lot of troubles - but maybe making some progress. And I think there's a lot more good out there than a lot of us expected, so I think the president can say some pretty good things in his speech," Krugman, an economist and 2008 Nobel laureate, said. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/UyzKNX
WHAT WE'RE READING
- " MITCH MCCONNELL: 'WE NEED TO FIGHT,'" by Politico's Ginger Gibson. "Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Senate Republican in a private meeting on Tuesday that spending cuts the GOP seeks are going to require a fight. 'Nobody said cutting spending would be easy, we need to fight,' McConnell told Republicans on Tuesday, according to a source with knowledge of the statement. The rallying cry from McConnell came on the same day President Barack Obama laid out his plan to delay the sequester, which would involve new tax revenue coupled with spending cuts. The Republican leader is urging fellow Republicans to put up more of a fight on upcoming spending battles, including on sequestration."
-"BOB MENENDEZ SPENT UP TO 87 PERCENT OF WEALTH PAYING BACK DONOR," by the National Journal's Shane Goldmacher. "When Robert Menendez arrived in the U.S. Senate in 2006, he was a relative pauper in a chamber often called a millionaires' club. The New Jersey Democrat ranked 97th out of 100 senators in terms of his personal wealth, according to financial records filed that year and compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. So Menendez's decision last month to use his personal funds to reimburse a prominent political contributor $58,500 for two flights to the Dominican Republic came at a major cost. The repayment amounts to between 32 percent and 87 percent of the assets Menendez reported holding in bank accounts and stock, according to his latest financial-disclosure form, which was filed last year. Menendez repaid Florida eye doctor and political donor Salomon Melgen only after his free flights aboard Melgen's plane became public and the subject of a Senate ethics complaint. A local New Jersey Republican group filed a complaint last November, alleging the senator had broken Senate rules by 'repeatedly flying on a private jet to the Dominican Republic, and other locations.' Menendez reimbursed Melgen the $58,500 two months later, on Jan. 4, according to his office." http://bit.ly/WNjJBZ
MARCO RUBIO TALKS IMMIGRATION, CLIMATE CHANGE AND TUPAC. In a crowded Capitol Hill bar filled with well dressed twenty-somethings, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., shared thoughts on immigration reform and climate change along with life lessons he learned from Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. in a candid conversation at the inaugural "BuzzFeed Brews" event with BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith. ABC's Betsy Klein and Michael Conte report that on Tuesday night the junior senator from Florida spoke passionately on immigration, an issue that has become an important issue for the Republican Party following the 2012 election. "What I think will honor our legacy as a nation, is if we can do something that respects the rule of law, but also treats these people in a humane and respectful way," Rubio said. On the topic of global warming, Rubio voiced concern that tackling the issue would harm the economy. "Anything that we would do on [climate change] would have a real impact on our economy, but probably, if it was only us [the United States] doing it, a very negligible impact on the environment," he said. Rubio even discussed his musical leanings, and showed off his diverse knowledge of '90s rap music. "I think Tupac's lyrics were more insightful, my opinion, with all apologies to the Biggie fans," he said. http://abcn.ws/Wtiuby
WHITE HOUSE, GOP TUSSLE OVER DEFICIT-REDUCTION PACKAGE. Republicans criticized President Obama's call today for a short-term deficit reduction package of spending cuts and tax revenue to postpone the deep automatic cuts known as sequestration that would begin the first week of March if a deficit cutting deal is not reached. Though the president did offer not any specifics as he urged Congress to take action to postpone the automatic cuts for several months, Republicans said Obama wants to raise taxes, which they said is "the last thing America needs." Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte released an official statement on President Obama's remarks on budget sequestration, saying that Obama has failed to address the issue for more than a year and promising to introduce their own piece of legislation that will not increase taxes, as Obama's plan would. "Every time we have a crisis in this country, President Obama's solution is to raise taxes," the statement said. "With the economy still struggling and job growth very weak, the last thing America needs is a tax increase." Other Republicans used less official forums to speak out against the president's proposal. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania tweeted, "Sorry Mr Obama. No more tax hikes for more govt spending. Need to keep our word to the people & spending cuts you signed into law #sequester" http://abcn.ws/YBgwoi
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS DRONES. The White House today defended the use of targeted drone strikes against U.S. citizens abroad suspected of high-level terrorist activity, but declined to detail the criteria for ordering such an attack, notes ABC's Mary Bruce. "Sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. Administration lawyers found it is lawful to kill an American citizen if a "high-level" government official believes the target is an operational leader of al Qaeda who poses "an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States" and if capture is infeasible, according to a newly disclosed Justice Department document. The 16-page white paper, first obtained by NBC News, finds there "exists no appropriate judicial forum to evaluate these constitutional considerations" and that the administration does not need to present evidence to a court before or after ordering such an attack. http://abcn.ws/WsyomE
CALIFORNIA VS. TEXAS: GOVERNORS SPAR OVER JOBS. When it comes to keeping jobs in their states, the governors of California and Texas are ready to fight, ABC's Arlette Saenz notes. On Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a 30-second radio ad in California inviting Golden State businesses to enjoy the tax and regulatory benefits available to them in the Lone Star State. "Building a business is tough, but I hear building a business in California is next to impossible. This is Texas Governor Rick Perry, and I have a message for California businesses. Come check out Texas," Perry says in the ad. "There are plenty of reasons Texas has been named the best state for doing business for eight years running. Visit texaswideopenforbusiness.com and see why our low taxes, sensible regulations and fair legal system are just the thing to get your business moving to Texas." While Perry is trying to woo California companies to Texas, California Gov. Jerry Brown said the attempt didn't amount to much. "It's not a serious story guys…you take a little radio ad, all you guys run like lapdogs to report it," Brown said. "It's not a burp, it's barely a fart." http://abcn.ws/11ofoK0
CHRIS CHRISTIE WEIGHS IN ON HIS WEIGHT…AGAIN. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie revealed more about coping with his weight yesterday just after he joined in on the fat jokes Monday night during an appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman." ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports that the governor told constituents and reporters he has "a plan," but like other Americans who struggle with obesity it doesn't mean he's always successful. "If you talk to anybody in this room who has struggled with their weight what they will tell you is that every month, every year there's a plan, there's a plan and so the idea that somehow I don't care about this, of course I care about it and I'm making the best effort I can and sometimes I'm successful and other times I'm not and sometimes periods of great success are followed by periods of great failure," Christie said at a press conference Tuesday in Union Beach, N.J. The usually tough-talking 50-year-old Republican governor openly acknowledged that he may have good health right now, but his "doctor continues to warn me that my luck is going to run out relatively soon, so believe it's something I'm very conscious of." http://abcn.ws/XmiVAj
@FordOConnell: RT @CivicForumPAC: Embattled Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans $100M campaign vs. Turncoat Charlie Crist - http://www.politico.com/story/2013/02/embattled-scott-plots-100m-campaign-vs-crist-87236.html?hp=t2_3 … #FLGOV
@thecaucus: Obama to nominate REI CEO Sally Jewell to head Interior Department.
@ChadPergram: Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) to announce today he's running for Senate seat of retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).