By Zeke J Miller
December 23, 2015

Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are on a collision course in New Hampshire, where they both must score wins or close second-place finishes. The pair are taking the gloves off, contrasting their records and temperaments with voters on long campaign swings through the Granite State. Polling about even (or with Christie a hair ahead), their new rivalry stands to be one of the more interesting subplots of 2016, as the establishment-friendly governor and former governor grapple for one spot to keep their candidacies alive. It also comes as both are taking swings at Marco Rubio, who is making a play for many of the same voters.

Donald Trump is standing by his use of a vulgarity to describe Hillary Clinton‘s loss to President Obama, saying the term was not in fact vulgar. But candidates are entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts. Meanwhile, Clinton took the high road, declining to respond to Trump, but grew emotional when a 10-year-old girl asked her about bullying on the campaign trail.

Campaigns and candidates are embracing the holiday season, with Ted Cruz campaigning with Santa Claus and releasing a Christmas-themed spoof ad. Now Mike Huckabee is getting in on the game, with his own version of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

A key Rubio line gets fact-checked. Super PACs meet their limits. And the quiet impact of Obama’s Christian faith.

(Ed. note: Barring breaking news of a political nature, this is the last TIME Politics newsletter and Morning Must Reads for 2015. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!]

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

As TV Ad Rates Soar, ‘Super PACs’ Pivot to Core Campaign Work
Unlimited donations doesn’t mean unlimited power [New York Times]

Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan Echoes the 30 Years’ War
Religious fervor could fuel wars for a long time, TIME’s Mark Thompson writes

Democrats Grapple With Trump Effect as Primary Draws Near
More aggressive effort planned to break through to voters [Associated Press]

Supporters Trust Ted Cruz, Even When the Tape Says Not To
Cruz’s ironclad brand boosts him with conservatives [Washington Post]

10-Year-Old Moves Clinton With Question About Bullying
Clinton addresses Trump insults without talking about Trump [CNN]

The Quiet Impact of Obama’s Christian Faith
Why the president’s convictions led him to believe he could unite a divided country — and why he failed [Washington Post]

Sound Off

“When people look at it, I’m a reform-minded conservative that got to do big things. He didn’t. He hasn’t. We were triple-A bond-rated. He’s had credit downgrades. We led the nation in job growth. New Jersey hasn’t done as well.” — Jeb Bush on Chris Christie in an interview with the Huffington Post

“If Jeb somehow thinks he’s tougher than I am … he’s entitled to his opinion” — Chris Christie on Bush’s claim that he’s the toughest candidate to stand up to Donald Trump in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper

Bits and Bites

Huckabee: ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas and Liberals Were Smiling… [YouTube]

Rick Santorum: The “Next in Line” That Never Was [National Review]

Donald Trump’s ‘Schlonged’: A Linguistic Investigation [Washington Post]

Only Six GOP Candidates Likely to Make Next Debate Stage [Politico]

Which Senators Were Busy, and Who Stayed Out of Sight? [New York Times]

2016 Candidates on the Front Lines of N.H. Drug Epidemic [CNN]

Ted Cruz Backers Plan $1 Million Push on Gold Standard [CNN]

Analysis of Donald Trump Tax Plan Sees a Boon for Wealthy and Trillions in Debt [New York Times]

Rubio’s Inaccurate Claim That He ‘Inserted’ a Provision Restricting Obamacare ‘Bailout’ Funds [Washington Post]

 

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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