POLITICS
01/26/2016 05:50 pm ET

HUFFPOST HILL - Trump Remains Viable, America From Six Months Ago Saddened To Learn

It says a lot about our politics that some people actually thought a sumo wrestling militiaman was Chris Christie’s brother. With a week left until the Iowa Caucuses, we look back on what a wild and crazy primary it has been -- thank God that whole Trump thing fizzled out. And speaking of Trump, the GOP frontrunner received Jerry Falwell Jr.'s support, who cited one of our favorite psalms in his endorsement of The Donald, "Ted Cruz is a tool who I don't like one bit." Amen. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, January 26th, 2016:

RYAN COURTING CONSERVATIVES - Which presumably includes a lot of smiling, nodding and going, "yuh huh, yuh huh, yuh huh" as Steve King rambles about something he read on Newsmax. Scott Wong: "Ryan has spent his first couple months as Speaker aggressively courting some of the same Freedom Caucus conservatives who forced his predecessor, John Boehner, out of office last fall. The Wisconsin Republican ensured that conservative rebel Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), ostracized for years by Boehner and his allies, won a subcommittee gavel and a coveted spot on the powerful Speaker-aligned panel that picks committee chairmen. He’s invited Freedom members to weekly dinners he hosts in the Capitol. And Ryan has made Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a frequent thorn in Boehner’s side, a key member of his advisory team. So far, founders of the nearly 40-member Freedom Caucus have praised Ryan’s more inclusive leadership style and are willing to give him some breathing room to show what he can do in his new role. But Ryan knows he’s walking a perilous tightrope: A major misstep this year and the Freedom Caucus could send him packing, just like they did to Boehner." [The Hill]

TRUMP GETS SOME REAL BRIDGE-BUILDING ENDORSEMENTS - Maggie Haberman: "The evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Donald J. Trump for president on Tuesday, giving the Republican candidate another boost in the final days before the Iowa caucuses, in which religious voters usually play a crucial role. The endorsement had been anticipated for the last several days, especially after Mr. Falwell heaped praise on Mr. Trump when the candidate spoke at his school, Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va., last week. Mr. Trump’s campaign cut a radio ad featuring those warm words, which the campaign put on the air in Iowa over the weekend. But as Mr. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz compete aggressively to win the Iowa caucuses in six days, the Texas senator has been relying heavily on a network of pastors to help push him over the finish line. Mr. Falwell’s backing of Mr. Trump is the latest signal from a prominent party figure to Republican voters that the brash New Yorker is acceptable to the religious right." [NYT]

Will Sheriff Joe turn his wrath on Canada? "Controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio will endorse controversial real estate mogul Donald Trump's presidential bid in Iowa on Tuesday, according to the New York Times. Or, alternatively, an infamous Obama birther will endorse a fellow Obama birther who is now questioning the U.S. citizenship of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)." [HuffPost's Igor Bobic]

BERNIE SANDERS DOESN'T NEED YOU, IOWA - Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday that the notion that he must win Iowa's caucuses against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton is 'mythology' and appeared to lower expectations about the race." [AP]

Bernie Sanders endorses "rest and grandchildren" for America's retirees in a new ad.

DELANEY DOWNER - Brendan Pierson writes about how there's nobody to sue over the Flint water crisis, unlike when some company poisons a well or some landlord leaves lead paint in an apartment: "The water scandal in Flint, Michigan has many of the ingredients for a mass, class-action lawsuit: danger signs that may have been ignored, many thousands of potential victims, the possibility of lifelong health problems, and the alleged systemic failure of people in charge. Even consumer activist Erin Brockovich, the main subject of a 2000 movie named after her, has drawn attention to Flint’s plight on her Facebook page and in public appearances. But big-name, national plaintiffs’ firms have yet to jump into the fray in Flint, which has a population of about 100,000. What’s holding them back, several lawyers said, is not the facts or the victims, but the prospective targets: The State of Michigan, the city of Flint, and officials at various levels of government. Special legal protections make it difficult to hold governments liable for damages, they said." [Reuters]

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MEANWHILE IN OREGON... - "It's Day 24 of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff near Burns. Just how bored are the armed militants occupying the property's gift shop/office building? One of the more broad-in-the-beam 'patriots' has posted a YouTube video with a bizarro challenge to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Come to Oregon and battle him in 10 sumo rounds....In the three-minute video, Gneiting, dressed only in a sumo loincloth, calls Christie his "little brother" and slaps his bare, pink skin as a yellow 'Don't Tread on Me' flag dances in the cold eastern Oregon wind." [Oregon Live]

PAUL GETS SENATE CHALLENGER IN KENTUCKY - Adam Beam: "Lexington Mayor Jim Gray filed to run for Rand Paul's U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, giving Paul a viable challenger and complicating his bid for re-election as he lags in the polls in his presidential campaign. Gray, the wealthy former CEO of a construction company, made history in 2010 when he was elected Kentucky's first openly gay mayor. Since then, he has wrangled the city's pension funds and signed an ordinance raising the local minimum wage to $10.10 an hour...Gray was not the party's first choice to take on Paul, who has been out of the state for months campaigning for president in Iowa and the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina. Party leaders had planned for former auditor Adam Edelen, a dynamic speaker and seen as one of the state's future Democratic leaders, to begin putting pressure on Paul after the state elections in November." [AP]

There is an "unsanctioned debate" afoot, BuzzFeed's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports.

SNYDER FARES POORLY IN POST-FLINT POLL - Ariel Edwards-Levy: "Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is winning very few plaudits nationwide for his handling of the water crisis in Flint, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey shows. Among Americans who've been following the story, just 15 percent approve of the job that he's done, while 58 percent disapprove. Many think it's time for Snyder to resign, a step that Sen. Bernie Sanders and others have called for. Forty percent of those following the story agree that the governor should go; only 24 percent disagree. Not enough data exist yet to say whether that sentiment is widely shared by Michigan residents, who rated Snyder highly as recently as last summer." [HuffPost]

STRIKING - From the same poll: Black Americans are about half as likely as white Americans to say they're very confident in their local water and far more likely to think further regulation is needed. [HuffPost]

PAUL LEPAGE GOING FULL REPUBLICAN BULLWORTH - Do you ever wonder if Carl Paladino is watching Paul LePage's governorship and wondering what might have been? Amanda Terkel: "Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) believes drug traffickers shouldn't just get longer prison sentences, they should be subjected to the death penalty -- specifically, the guillotine. 'What I think we ought to do is bring the guillotine back. We should have public executions,' LePage said in a Tuesday interview with the radio station WVOM. Maine, like many other states, is struggling with a heroin epidemic, and LePage frequently talks about it at his public events. He recently made national news when he commented on traffickers coming from Connecticut and New York with names like 'D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" who "come up here, they sell their heroin and they go back home.' 'Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue that we've got to deal with down the road,' LePage added. After intense criticism, LePage said he never meant his comments to be about race." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a 360 degree view of the snow.

WHITE HOUSE ANTI-NUCLEAR PROTESTER PASSES AWAY - Caitlin Gibson: "Concepcion Picciotto, the protester who maintained a peace vigil outside the White House for more than three decades, a demonstration widely considered to be the longest-running act of political protest in U.S. history, died Jan. 25 at a housing facility operated by N Street Village, a nonprofit that supports homeless women in Washington. She was believed to be 80. She had recently suffered a fall, but the immediate cause of death was not known, said Schroeder Stribling, the shelter’s executive director. Ms. Picciotto -- a Spanish immigrant known to many as 'Connie' or 'Conchita' -- was the primary guardian of the anti-nuclear-proliferation vigil stationed along Pennsylvania Avenue. In a 2013 profile in The Washington Post, Ms. Picciotto said she spent more than 30 years of her life outside the White House 'to stop the world from being destroyed.'" [WaPo]

COMFORT FOOD

- How grocery stores are designed to wring the most from your wallet.

- Let this 1994 video of Vin Diesel playing with toys get you through your evening.

- Behold the rare white giraffe.

TWITTERAMA

@CarrieNBCNews: Things you could get for the $70m spent on '16 ads in IA:
Painting from Picasso's blue period
Most of Oprah's house
Star NFL receiver (5yrs)

@erikhinton: When a chai tea latte splashes in your eye it hurts but I'm brave and strong and now understand struggle.

@SimonMaloy: CRUZ: I'll win by mobilizing Christians to vote their values
FALWELL: we're going with the twice-divorced reality TV man from New Babylon

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