The Note: The Debate Before The Debate


--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: Wait -- was Ted Cruz engaged in...Washington business as usual? The Texas senator's interview with Bret Baier on Fox News Wednesday night was a clarifying dissection of his actions during the Senate fight over immigration reform, a series of events Cruz himself holds up as a central part of his campaign. At issue is an amendment Cruz offered to bar undocumented immigrants from getting on a pathway to citizenship -- a classic legislative "poison pill," designed to kill the overall bill. Except here's what Cruz said at the time, in 2013: "I don't want immigration reform to fail. I want immigration reform to pass." Pressed on that apparent contradiction Wednesday night, Cruz was uncharacteristically flustered: "Of course I wanted the bill to pass -- my amendment to pass," he said. "You've been around Washington long enough, you know how to beat bad legislation," he told Baier. Of course Cruz was trying to kill the immigration bill; the only problem was he was saying the opposite, as one might do in Washington. It's easy enough to forget, with five senators in the GOP race and an ex-senator in the White House, that it was nearly half a century between Kennedy and Obama -- the last two sitting senators to be elected president. Episodes like this are part of the answer why.

TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: This evening, Hillary Clinton will hold her first fundraiser with daughter Chelsea. Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley are both off the trail ahead of Saturday's presidential debate. Ted Cruz is on his "Take off with Ted Cruz Country Christmas Tour" fly around to 12 states in one week. This afternoon he holds a rally in Las Vegas before an evening rally in St. Paul, Minnesota. Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, John Kasich, and Mike Huckabee are all in Iowa. Rubio has an afternoon town hall in Muscatine before a stop at a manufacturer in Knoxville. Carson has two town halls starting this morning in McGregor before an afternoon one in Mason City. This evening he holds a rally in Spencer. Kasich has an evening town hall in Waterloo. Huckabee has a tour and town hall in Rock Rapids this afternoon before making stops in Sioux City and Estherville. Huckabee's wife Janet is in Lexington, SC tonight campaigning for her husband. Jeb Bush is fundraising today behind closed doors in San Francisco and El Paso, Texas.

PRE-DEBATE SPEED READ: WHERE THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES AGREE AND DISAGREE ON GUN CONTROL. The tragedies in San Bernardino and Umpqua Community College in Oregon earlier this fall elevated the issue of gun control in the 2016 presidential race and all three Democratic candidates are calling for stricter measures to limit gun sales and tighten ownership requirements. At the top of the list, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders are calling for a sweeping ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and high capacity magazines. They also have had harsh words for Republicans who, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, blocked a bill that would have banned people on the FBI's terror watch list from purchasing guns. Compared to their GOP counterparts, the Democratic presidential contenders have a lot in common when it comes to gun control policy. But there are key differences in their proposals. Ahead of ABC News's Democrat debate this Saturday, ABC's MARYALICE PARKS looks at where they agree and where they don't.



TRUMP HINTS HE MAY DITCH HIS JET FOR AIR FORCE ONE IF ELECTED. "Trump Force One" -- you're fired. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump hinted that if he makes it to the White House, he might ditch his Boeing 757 in favor of an even bigger plane: Air Force One, he told ABC News in an interview aboard his private plane. "Well look there's something very special about Air Force One," Trump said yesterday. "Let's face it, it represents something very very special, like the White House represents something." "And I just hope, and I'm not talking about the perks because the last thing I need are perks," he added. "I just hope that we can get in, do the job and make America great again." ABC's JOHN SANTUCCI and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI have more.

NOTED: TRUMP SURPRISED ON 'KIMMEL' WITH DR. SEUSS-LIKE 'LOSERS' BOOK. If Donald Trump ran the zoo, there would be a lot fewer losers, that's true. During an appearance on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," host Jimmy Kimmel surprised the GOP frontrunner with a Dr. Seuss-like book using two of his most favorite words -- "Winners Aren't Losers They Are Winners Like Me!" Kimmel says he wrote the book, but put Trump's name on it to sell more copies. One of the lines the crowd loved was "Those losers are failures who get nothing done -- just do what I do and you'll be number one!" ABC's JOHN SANTUCCI has more.

HILLARY CLINTON JOKES 'I DON'T HAVE HORNS'. Hillary Clinton has a new message for Republicans: She's not ... a devil. During a campaign event Wednesday, the Democratic front-runner joked about her likability as she urged the crowd to talk to their Republican friends about her campaign. "First thing you can tell them, as best as you can tell looking under the lights, I don't have horns," Clinton quipped to an audience of roughly 800 people inside the Sokol Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ reports. "And the second thing that you can tell them is that, you know, our economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House," she added. Clinton's comment Wednesday came during a campaign event with billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

HOW BERNIE SANDERS GOT THE BIGGEST TWITTER BUMP FROM THE GOP DEBATE. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wasn't in Las Vegas for the Republican debate Tuesday night. He wasn't even mentioned once by any of the candidates on stage. But, by the end of the night, the U.S senator from Vermont managed to pick up the most Twitter followers of any of the 2016 presidential candidates. ABC's MERIDITH MCGRAW reports Sanders, who has a little over 1 million followers on Twitter -- almost double the population of the state of Vermont -- live tweeted the event using the hashtag #GOPDebate and gained 5,258 followers over course of CNN's GOP debate night coverage. Sanders wins for the most re-tweeted comment of the night: Repeat after me: We must combat anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of discrimination in our country and in our world. #GOPDebate.

THE BEST ATTACKS FROM THE LAS VEGAS GOP DEBATE. Before Tuesday's Republican debate began, the cameras showed the candidates backstage, cordially shaking hands. But once they walked on to that debate stage, the chumminess ended. Donald Trump and Jeb Bush went back-and-forth, attacking each other seven times. During the debate, Bush called Trump a "chaos candidate. And he'd be a chaos president." Trump hit back, saying Bush "has failed in this campaign. It's been a total disaster." ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI has more.


CARLY FIORINA DIGS IN ON CLAIM THAT GENERAL'S RETIREMENT WAS DUE TO OBAMA DISPUTE. GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said she did not misspeak during Tuesday night's debate when she said that Gen. Jack Keane retired early because he "told President Obama things that he didn't want to hear." But Keane, who served during the Bush administration, retired before Obama became president. According to ABC's JORDYN PHELPS, Keane, now a FOX News contributor, came forward to say that Fiorina got the facts wrong surrounding his retirement. "No, I have never spoken to the president," Keane said on FOX News. "That's not accurate, and I never served this administration. I served the previous administration." When asked Wednesday if she misspoke, Fiorina dug in on the accuracy of her statement. "No, I didn't misspeak," Fiorina told reporters Wednesday.


@EliStokols: Immigration was supposed to put Rubio on the defensive. Instead today, it's been Cruz. ...

@costareports: Today's A1 w/ @PhilipRucker @jdelreal: "Hawks now flying freely in GOP nomination fight"

@ByronYork: Link: Cruz-Rubio battle makes GOP immigration muddle worse, not better.

@sbg1: Your Brain Is Hard-Wired to Love Trump: on Stone Age psychology, lies and politics ...

@matthewjdowd: i just have to say amazing grassroots support for @BernieSanders 2 million contributors?!?! absolutely incredible.