POLITICO Playbook: EXCLUSIVE: Tape of Cruz responding to gay-marriage supporter at Manhattan fundraiser

Good Wednesday morning. It’s Christmas Eve EVE.

BEHIND THE CURTAIN — “What Ted Cruz said behind closed doors: A secret tape from a New York fundraiser could mean trouble for a candidate selling authenticity”: In June, Cruz promised on NPR that opposition to gay marriage would be “front and center” in his campaign. In July, he said the Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage was the ‘very definition of tyranny’ and urged states to ignore the ruling. But earlier this month, behind closed doors at a big-dollar Manhattan fundraiser, the quickly ascending candidate assured a gay-rights supporter that a Cruz administration would not make fighting same-sex marriage a top priority.

In a recording provided to Playbook, Cruz answers “No” when asked whether fighting gay marriage is a “top-three priority,” an answer that pleased his socially moderate hosts but could surprise some of his evangelical backers. While Cruz’s private comments to a more moderate GOP audience do not contradict what the senator has said elsewhere, they demonstrate an adeptness at nuance in tone and emphasis that befits his Ivy League background. The claim about Cruz by rival campaigns isn’t so much that he changes his message to different audiences, but that the prioritization of his agenda changes.

The recording was provided by an attendee at the fundraiser, held Dec. 9 at the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm on Madison Avenue. The donors were generally moderate to liberal on social issues, and largely conservative on fiscal and national-security issues. During the question period, one of the donors told Cruz that gay marriage was one of the few issues on which the two disagreed. Then the donor asked: “So would you say it’s like a top-three priority for you — fighting gay marriage?”

“No,” Cruz replied. “I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority. And that cuts across the whole spectrum — whether it’s defending [the] First Amendment, defending religious liberty, stopping courts from making public policy issues that are left to the people. … I also think the 10th Amendment of the Constitution cuts across a whole lot of issues and can bring people together. People of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio. … That’s why we have 50 states — to allow a diversity of views. And so that is a core commitment.” The donor was satisfied, ending his colloquy with Cruz with a friendly: “Thanks. Good luck.”

Catherine Frazier, Cruz’s national press secretary, said his answer in New York was consistent with his past statements: “These comments are nothing new. … This is nothing different from what he says all the time.” In September, for instance, Cruz told Stephen Colbert: “The 10th Amendment says: ‘If it doesn’t mention it, it’s a question for the states.’” Talking to Jay Leno in 2013, Cruz said: “I support marriage between one man and one woman. … But I also think it’s a question for the states.” Hear the tape, read the exchange.http://politi.co/1Ong3nu

— CATHERINE ADDS in an email: “Cruz said his priority is to defend the Constitution. Of course marriage is a part of that, as well as free speech, gun rights, religious liberty, and the issues he discusses every day on the campaign trail. This is exactly what he said in New York and those trying to misconstrue his words are clearly desperate for something to stop his momentum. So they are resorting to dishonest attacks.”

By Mike Allen (@mikeallen; mallen@politico.com) and Daniel Lippman (@dlippman; dlippman@politico.com)

— Dallas Morning News front page, “CAMPAIGN JOURNAL: Tennesseans get a gander at Cruz — The deeply conservative turn out as tea party favorite courts the South,” by Todd Gillman in Farragut, Tenn.: “Cruz started his 45th birthday Tuesday with 2,000 cheering Tennesseans packed into a gym in suburban Knoxville. He’s drawn solid crowds across the South, where March 1 primaries offer a huge cache of convention delegates for a candidate who invests the face time. … Local schools let out last week for the holidays, so parents brought kids to give them a taste of big-time politics.” http://bit.ly/1OiPqtv

GROUNDHOG DAY — “Trump dominates GOP field heading into 2016,” by CNN Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta: “Trump tops the field with 39% … That’s more than double the share backing [#2] Cruz … 18%.” http://cnn.it/1QLdDiM

— HAROLD FORD Jr., on “Morning Joe”: “People just don’t believe Trump can be overtaken unless there’s a big stumble.”

— MICHAEL STEELE, former RNC chair, moments later: “Ted Cruz is in the catbird seat.”

OVERHEARD IN D.C. — Eli Yokley @eyokley : “At a DuPont Circle barber shop, a man asked for a haircut like @marcorubio’s. Barber yelled, ‘him? He’s balding. You like him? Be yourself!’”

TOP TALKER — “Gov. [Susana] Martinez ‘inebriated,’ police sergeant says on belt recording during hotel incident,” by Albuquerque Journal’s Edmundo Carrillo: “A police officer’s belt recording shows the officer and a hotel security guard discussing whether Gov. Susana Martinez is intoxicated after she talked with them about a report of loud noise and bottles being thrown from a fourth-floor room at Eldorado Hotel & Spa the night of Dec. 12.” With the 4-min. audio http://bit.ly/1V5tAiQ

PLAY OF THE YEAR: Help us pick the most clever or innovative 2016 campaign maneuvers, articles or online content of the past year. Nominations are confidential, so feel free to point out your own best work. Send nominations to dlippman@politico.com, or tweet @MikeAllen #Playbook.

** A message from Abbott: We asked a million people what it looks like to really live life fully. What we found is as interesting and diverse as the world itself. Come see what the world thinks. http://abbo.tt/PL01 **

TWEETS DU JOUR — @EliStokols: “’I promise not to mention Donald Trump again,’ Bush said three minutes ago. Promise broken in less than three minutes.”

@davidaxelrod: “.@realDonaldTrump inserts Yiddish crudity into rant v. @HillaryClinton. Could be the start of a schlong campaign!”

@bethreinhard: “’You’re a good man’ said Jeb Bush to @EliStokols as he ate a chicken finger off his plate at the Northland Restaurant & Dairy Bar in NH.”

CHARLIE ROSE rendition of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” — 5-min. video http://cbsn.ws/1mzk2B8

STATE OF THE ART — N.Y. Times A1, above fold, “’Super PACs’ Now Hit Road, Not Airwaves,” by Nick Corasaniti and Matt Flegenheimer, with Nick Confessore: “The shift away from TV commercials comes after summer advertising blitzes by groups backing Jeb Bush and … Kasich … failed to give them much of a lift and exposed an important weakness: While candidates are guaranteed by law access to the lowest unit advertising rates, super PACs must pay whatever the market will bear. There are also more super PACs than ever, each competing for time slots and driving prices higher. In some parts of Iowa and New Hampshire, super PACs are paying almost nine times what a campaign would pay …

“Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting Mr. Bush, is … starting to pour more money into online messaging, where … its dollars go just as far as the candidate’s.” http://nyti.ms/1PjVtkY

WORTH THE CLICK: NYT’s 2015 in 20 political pictures, “Before the First Votes Were Ever Cast,” by Patrick Healy http://nyti.ms/1OKAyor

WHAT NEW HAMPSHIoRE IS READING — Union Leader front page, below fold, “Christie raps Rubio in Port City — Bus tour: Republican says he’s spent more time in NH than anyone else in race,” by Dan Tuohy in Portsmouth: “Christie, in an interview on his campaign bus, … said[:] ‘I think that Marco Rubio, who has spent the same amount of time in New Hampshire as Jim Gilmore, should tell the people of New Hampshire that he’s really not serious about wanting to get your vote and your support.’” http://bit.ly/1OKxrwJ

HOW THEY SEE US — “US stops British Muslim family from boarding flight to visit Disneyland: [Prime Minister] David Cameron to examine case amid heightened terror concerns,” by Esther Addley in London and Amanda Holpuch in N.Y.: “A British Muslim family heading for Disneyland was barred from boarding a flight to Los Angeles by US authorities at London’s Gatwick airport … Senior politicians have been drawn into the case, warning that a growing number of British Muslims are being barred from the US without being told the reason for their exclusion.” http://bit.ly/1U4b4X8

— Nathan Martin in London (@nathanmart): “Sad pairing of images @realDonaldTrump rallies w/story of British Muslim family kept from visiting Disneyland w/out explanation.”

DATA DU JOUR — “Over 1 million refugees, migrants enter Europe in 2015,” by AP’s Jamey Keaten: “[T]he Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said 1,005,504 people had entered Europe as of Monday, more than four times as many as last year. Almost all came by sea, while 3,692 others drowned trying to make the crossing. … Most people entered Europe via Greece, which took in 820,000 people this year … Another 150,000 came into Italy across the Mediterranean from north Africa.” http://yhoo.it/1Mvc2WB

THE FINAL YEAR — WashPost, top of front page, with a large Obama portrait, “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,” by Greg Jaffe: “In his final year in office, Obama hopes to work with Republicans and evangelical Christians on criminal justice reform. He will make a renewed push on gun control and the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay … ‘He’s trying to figure out how to get a lot of these big things he cares about out of the box of political opportunism and into a more humanistic space,’ said a senior administration official.” http://wapo.st/1J46SG8

FEELING THE BERN — “Clinton donors say Sanders is raising more than the front-runner [in Q4],” by Politico’s Annie Karni: “a testament to the underdog’s online cash juggernaut and a harbinger of donor fatigue among the front-runner’s backers. Clinton campaign officials said she remains on track to reach her goal of $100 million for the primary by the end of the year … [S]ources on Clinton’s team … [said] they expect the Vermont senator to beat her when the next financial disclosures are filed on Jan. 30, just before the Iowa caucuses. ‘People are feeling very complacent — and more reluctant to contribute — because they don’t take Bernie Sanders that seriously,’ [said] top Clinton donor Alan Patricof.” http://politi.co/1Sa5dB8

CLICKER — “Photo Gallery: The Second 100 Days of the Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign,” by Arun Chaudhary, Sanders’ digital creative director and an Obama alum, on Medium — 54 pix on one page http://bit.ly/1NBH2YW

COMING ATTRACTIONS — “Only six GOP candidates likely to make next debate stage,” by Politico’s Hadas Gold with Steve Shepard: “The next Republican debate criteria will possibly shrink the debate stage to just six candidates, potentially pushing John Kasich and Rand Paul off the main debate stage … Fox Business Network will consider both early-state and national poll results in deciding which candidates make the primetime forum. … According to POLITICO calculations based on only the national polling available as of Tuesday, the primetime debate stage would include Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Chris Christie.” http://politi.co/1TgrF9Z

VIDEO DU JOUR — “Pitch ‘n strut: Barack Obama sinks 40ft chip shot during Hawaii golf game” — The Guardian: http://bit.ly/1QGtlfx

@juliehdavis: “First @POTUS sighting of Hawaii vacation. Sunk a 40' chip on 18th hole & pointed triumphantly at press looking on”. http://bit.ly/1O8nbC5

MONEY HONEYS — “The other Koch brother [Bill] to host Marco Rubio fundraiser in Palm Beach,” by Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett: “Billionaire Palm Beach philanthropist Bill Koch will host a fundraiser for Sen. Marco Rubio … next month at Koch’s home on South Ocean Boulevard — less than half a mile up the road from Republican front runner Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club. Koch is president of Oxbow Corporation, founder of the Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach and the 1992 America’s Cup yachting champion. In political circles, however, he’s not as famous as his brothers Charles and David Koch.” http://pbpo.st/1Pjuq9p

WASHPOST RETRACTS CRUZ CARTOON — Politico’s Eliza Collins: “’Classy. @washingtonpost makes fun of my girls. Stick w/ attacking me — Caroline & Catherine are out of your league,’ Cruz tweeted. The Texas senator was responding to a cartoon from Washington Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes that said ‘Ted Cruz uses his kids as political props.’ The cartoon portrayed Cruz in a Santa outfit and cowboy boots cranking a box to make two Christmas-clad monkeys dance.” http://politi.co/1OiJtga … The original cartoon http://bit.ly/1OmJRAF

— FRED HIATT editor’s note: “It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it. I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree.”

RIGHT TO RISE mail piece that hit a New Hampshire house yesterday — One shows an aircraft carrier flanked by “A Serious leader for Serious Times — Jeb Bush U.S.” See the mailing. http://bit.ly/1V5sC67

— Also from Right to Rise: “Jeb Bush — Tough: Presented a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS … Smart: Demanded we reverse the Reckless Obama defense cuts … Ready: Endorsed by 27 flag officers and 12 Medal of Honor recipients … JEB Ready to Lead and Destroy ISIS — Learn more at JebFightsISIS.com.” See the mailing.http://bit.ly/1JtElEV

OK, WE GET IT! Bloomberg, Monday, “Marco Rubio Chooses Untravelled Road to Republican Nomination” http://bloom.bg/1m63DUJ … WashPost, Sunday, “Smart strategy or overconfidence? Rubio plays hard-to-get with voters” http://wapo.st/1TYfpej … Salon, Dec. 18, “Marco Rubio is pretty bad at this whole ‘campaigning’ thing” http://bit.ly/1S7MA0z … MSNBC.com, Dec. 14, “Rubio faces pressure over nontraditional schedule” http://on.msnbc.com/1NJc5zX … Commentary Magazine, Dec. 14, “Rubio’s Weirdly Lazy Campaign for President” http://bit.ly/1U28l0e … Vox, Dec. 12, “Marco Rubio’s strategy is utterly baffling” http://bit.ly/1NAeDm3 …

NH Union Leader editorial board, Dec. 3, “Marco? Marco? Where’s Rubio?” http://bit.ly/1OkWyMm … Politico, Dec. 1, “Marco Rubio pivots to his next stage” … http://politi.co/1m63Ib7 … AP, Nov. 12, “Rubio’s low-budget campaign looks to ramp up as voting nears” http://bit.ly/1kRxf7b … Politico, Nov. 2, “Rubio to ratchet up campaigning” http://politi.co/1ImMboQ … AP, Sept. 26, “Rubio ramping up campaign with more time in early states” http://apne.ws/22nbRbC

SNEAK PEEKS — In the new year-end double issue of Bloomberg Businessweek on stands tomorrow, the entire politics section is devoted to one graphic, annotated story — “China Will Be The Foreign Policy Test of 2016. How do the candidates stack up?” by Peter Coy http://bloom.bg/1Yx7paH

— “Senator Mitch McConnell and the Coal Industry’s Last Stand,” by Paul M. Barrett and James Rowley http://bloom.bg/1Ip0jy6

2016 SENATORS’ FLOOR TIME this year — Per C-SPAN : “ Bernie Sanders (I-VT): 37 times … Ted Cruz (R-TX): 19 times … Lindsey Graham (R-SC): 16 times … Rand Paul (R-KY): 13 times … Marco Rubio (R-FL): 8 times.”

RECORDED ROLL CALL VOTES — “Out of total of 339 recorded Senate roll call votes in 2015: Rand Paul: 319 (94%) … Bernie Sanders: 311 (91%) … Ted Cruz: 259 (76%) … Lindsey Graham: 243 (71%) … Marco Rubio: 219 (64%).”

PLAYBOOK IN-BOX — From Trump campaign: “Phyllis Schlafly’s Support to Make America Great Again.”

LIFE ONLINE — “’Hamilton’ on Broadway generates 1M tweets this year,” by AP’s Mark Kennedy : “The sheer number of tweets was fueled by a young tech-savvy cast and audience and its cross-over popularity in hip-hop circles, as well as fresh material in the form of impromptu video performances that occur periodically on the front steps of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the Broadway home of ‘Hamilton.’ By comparison, there were 266,000 tweets about the current Tony-winning best new musical ‘Fun Home’ and Nielsen data found there were 323,000 tweets about the Tony Awards during this year’s telecast. … Twitter said the show reached a million tweets thanks to users using the groupings #HamiltonMusical, @HamiltonMusical, #Ham4Ham, #Hamiltunes and @Lin_Manuel.” http://apne.ws/1ZoswJn

BUSH ALUMNI — TEVI TROY in WSJ, “Ghosts of Presidential Christmases Past”:

“Nixon owned a colorful smoking jacket he donned for Christmas festivities, but the season did little to mute his raging insecurities. According to Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘The Last of the President’s Men,’ during Nixon’s first Christmas Eve as president he walked through the White House and was depressed by the abundance of John F. Kennedy pictures displayed. Nixon demanded that they all come down.” http://on.wsj.com/1QWC2QY

THIS TOWN — WashPost A1, below fold, “Federal gig makes ‘Revenant’ author a ghost writer,” by Ben Terris (online: “Meet the author of ‘The Revenant’ — except you can’t because of his federal job”): “It was a D.C. lawyer’s dream come true, a Hollywood premiere for a movie based on the novel he wrote in his spare time. But when ‘The Revenant,’ … adapted from Michael Punke’s book, had its big opening in L.A. [with] Leonardo DiCaprio … the author … was 10,000 miles away in Nairobi, putting the finishing touches on an international trade agreement … Punke, 51 … [is] deputy U.S. trade representative and ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Switzerland.” http://wapo.st/1NKOSNW … Trailer http://bit.ly/1TgxLqL

FUTURECAST — “Ford in talks with Google to build self-driving cars,” by Automotive News’ Richard Truett and Gabe Nelson: “It isn’t clear whether Ford would design a purpose-built vehicle for Google or supply a standard production car fitted with the sensors and computers that the car needs to guide itself down the road. … Having Ford build Google’s test fleet would save the Silicon Valley tech giant years and billions in development costs.” http://bit.ly/1U3GfBP

BUSINESS BURST — “Expect less and buy antacid: 2016 investment forecasts,” by AP’s Stan Choe: “Analysts, mutual-fund managers and other forecasters are telling investors to expect lower returns from stocks and bonds in 2016 than in past years. They’re also predicting more severe swings in prices.” http://apne.ws/1TgsSOp

— “A game of Yuan-upmanship: How a change in China’s currency regime could put Beijing at odds with the US and Europe,” by Francesco Guerrera in London, Politico Europe’s new associate editor and chief financial correspondent: “As the Federal Reserve prepared for a landmark rise in U.S. interest rates earlier this month, China realized it could not stand still. Beijing’s move to change the way it controls the yuan … will have repercussions on trade relations between China, the U.S. and Europe and could lead to significant changes in the way investors trade the currencies of those three big economic blocks.” http://politi.co/1NBGUZD

WEEKEND WEDDING: On Saturday night, Jon Otto, Politico’s director of business development, wed Brittany Lambert, human resource manager at L’Oreal. The couple met in D.C. in 2008 and logged 65,000+ miles traveling between D.C. and NYC during the first 4 years of their long distance relationship. The two exchanged vows in front of 200+ family and friends at the Ashford Estate in Allentown, N.J., and celebrated well into the night with great dance moves and even better hair. Pics http://bit.ly/1OmDtt8 … With Peter Cherukuri and Cally Stolbach Bautehttp://bit.ly/1Ip0M3d

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Matt Kaplan

BIRTHDAYS: Steve Thomma of McClatchy, former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, and the pride of Chicago … Gen. Wes Clark is 71 … WashPost President and General Manager Steve Hills … Chris Peacock, former aide to Lloyd Bentsen and Robert Rubin at Treasury, as well as volunteer at the 2012 presidential debates, is 55 (h/ts David Jackson) … John Russell IV, principal at SNR Denton (h/t Katie) … Politico’s Claire Kennedy … Julio Negron, creative director at WashPost (h/t Sobo) … Adam Milakofsky of the Pritzker Group … Meghan Stabler … Patrick Burgwinkle, press secretary at Hillary for Iowa and a DNC alum … Tom Epstein, VP of public affairs at Blue Shield of California (h/t Jon Haber) … Kelley Moore, the pride of Penn, of Sen. Capito’s press office (h/t Jeff Grappone) …

… Zina Bash, bilingual deputy policy director for Cruz campaign — former Supreme Court clerk for Alito, former Senate Judiciary staffer, former Gibson Dunn lawyer, who went to Harvard for college and law school, and Wharton for her MBA (h/t Stephen Cox) … Sophia Boyer, quarterback of the NFL DC office (h/t Madeline Curtis) … Melissa Ann Merz … Karenna Keane, Hillary Clinton’s “#1 10-year old supporter,” becomes her “#1 11 year old supporter” — eldest child of Perkins-Coie Law Group’s Kate Keane and SmartPower president Brian Keane’s 5 children … Audrey Kubetin, software engineer at Mariana Tek and an American Bridge alum …

… Fatima Noor, policy assistant for immigration policy and rural affairs at the WH’s Domestic Policy Council… Brennan Foley … Allison Dobson … Lauren Corbut … Lee Feinstein is 56 … Eddie Vedder … Rich Tarplin, head of lobbying firm Tarplin Strategies, a Chris Dodd and Leon Panetta alum … Todd Boulanger … Carter Snead … Lucina Guinn … Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa.) … David Smith … Mari Culver … Anna Hudek … Roy Behr … Maya Kumar … Irma Gonzalez … Doug Vilsack … Nicole Vance (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … actor Ronnie Schell is 84 … Emperor Akihito of Japan is 82 … actor-comedian Harry Shearer is 72 … Susan Lucci is 69 … Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) is 51 … former first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is 48 … actor Spencer Daniels (“Mom”) is 23 (h/ts AP)

** A message from Abbott: At Abbott, we’re all about helping you live the best life you can. From keeping your heart healthy to nourishing your body at every stage of life; from helping you see clearly to giving you information and medicines to manage your health. Every day and around the world, we’re discovering new ways to make life better. http://abbo.tt/PL01 **

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