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CNN Nightcap…

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Welcome to the CNN Politics Nightcap and good Tuesday night from Washington. Donald Trump’s remark that Hillary Clinton “got schlonged” in 2008 dominated headlines — and forced a new insult into the lexicon of the 2016 campaign. Clinton and Bernie Sanders are lowering fundraising expectations. And Martin O’Malley will spend some time in Texas right before Iowa votes. Your bartender is Eric Bradner. The tip jar: nightcap@cnn.com.

Clinton camp takes a rare pass on Trump’s ‘schlonged’ remark
Hillary Clinton loves to clobber Donald Trump on the campaign trail — but when it came to Trump’s Monday night remark that Clinton “got schlonged” in losing to Barack Obama in 2008, the Democratic front-runner was content to let Trump stew in his own juice. The campaign’s response came from Jennifer Palmieri, who tweeted: “We are not responding to Trump but everyone who understands the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should.” From CNN’s Tal Kopan.

Trump defended himself on Twitter Tuesday night, writing that media portrayals of “schlonged” as a vulgar word have been “dishonest.” “‘Schlonged’ is not vulgar. When I said Hillary got ‘schlonged’ that meant beaten badly,” he tweeted.

Chris Christie repeatedly declined to discuss the matter with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” Jeb Bush focused on how the remark helps Clinton. “You know this will enhance her ‘victimology’ status. This is what she loves doing,” he said.

‘Tis the season of political insults. “For crying out loud, we’re two days before Christmas. Lighten up man,” Bush said Tuesday. But the insults are only getting more personal in the season of joy. My story.

Strategy session: Rubio’s long road vs. Cruz’s narrowed field
Marco Rubio is playing a long game — eschewing a major presence in early-voting states in order to spend his time lining up the Republican establishment against Ted Cruz. The big question: If it’s too late for him to win New Hampshire, can Rubio buck modern history and win the nomination without winning an early state? Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur has a great look at Rubio’s strategy. Said Kevin Madden: “Is there a path without a win in one of those states? Possibly, but it’s a path with longer odds.”

Cruz is trying to knock Rubio out early. He said Donald Trump might be right: This might become a two-person race. “I did think it was interesting (what) Donald said a couple of days ago, that he thought that the Republican race could come down to just him and me,” Cruz said Tuesday. “And I think he may well be right.”

A six-candidate main stage? Fox Business eyes stricter debate cut-off
When Republicans meet for their next debate on January 14, the main event could be limited to just six candidates — with John Kasich and Rand Paul bumped into the early portion, CNN’s Dylan Byers reports. Fox Business is eyeing a set of rules that would require candidates to qualify for the main stage by polling in the top six nationally or the top five in Iowa or New Hampshire.

Not-so-great expectations: Clinton, Sanders and fundraising
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are jockeying to lower year-end fundraising expectations — with each working to weather stories about coming in second place in the financial race just ahead of the Iowa caucuses. First came a story from Politico’s Annie Karni, who reported that Clinton’s fundraising team expects that while it’ll still hit its $100 million goal for 2015, she’ll be outraised by Sanders in the fourth quarter — a result of donor fatigue and Sanders’ ability to generate huge numbers of online, small-dollar contributions.

Then came a statement from Sanders’ campaign, which said: “We have no idea if we will raise more money this quarter than the Clinton campaign. Probably not.”

Five days before Iowa votes, Martin O’Malley will be in Texas
Martin O’Malley’s long-shot Democratic 2016 run once depended on a stronger-than-expected showing in Iowa. But any last-minute sprint to the February 1 caucuses will be tempered by a visit to Texas, his campaign announced. “I’ll be in Houston on January 26th and Dallas on January 27th, just a few days before the first contest in this Democratic primary,” O’Malley said in an email to supporters.

O’Malley has struggled to raise money. So far he’s the only candidate to accept public financing, but even that requires a significant number of contributions to be matched to keep him in the race.

Donald Trump will spend his New Year’s Eve with Fox News, going live from Florida in the 11 p.m. ET hour. … Jon Huntsman says he has no interest in the “suicide mission” of a third-party presidential run. … Ben Carson’s campaign is burning through almost all of its cash to reach new donors

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