Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders trade dueling accounts of a December 2018 conversation on her presidential aspirations; Ellison Barber reports from Des Moines.
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On the roster: Warren heads into crucial debate on the attack – Poll shows sanders surging in Nevada – Trump’s top lawyers tapped for Senate trial – The nichest niche
WARREN HEADS INTO CRUCIAL DEBATE ON THE ATTACK
NYT: “Six Democrats will debate in Des Moines tonight — the smallest stage yet — as the 2020 presidential race remains fluid, with Iowa, in particular, up for grabs less than three weeks before the caucuses. Here are the dynamics to watch in the final debate before voting begins: A day before the debate, CNN reported an explosive story: That Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont had told Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in a private meeting in December 2018 that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency. Mr. Sanders denied this on Monday, only to have Ms. Warren come forward and say that he did make the remark. … Will the national front-runner finally get a front-runner’s scrutiny? For months, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been on center stage, but not the center of attention… Since the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, foreign policy has dominated the news… Mr. Sanders has unsuccessfully tried to nudge Mr. Biden’s past vote for the war in Iraq into the 2020 conversation, but with the new international backdrop, that history could receive more attention.”
Iowa stakes high – WSJ: “With three weeks remaining until Iowa’s leadoff presidential caucuses, four Democrats are locked in a tight race for the top spot in a contest that is notoriously difficult to predict and known for late surges. The jump-ball situation has yielded a fluid competition in which candidates are trying to win over undecided voters as well as those backing lower-tier Democrats with little shot at winning. The uncertainty surrounding the large presidential field is being amplified by Tuesday’s Democratic debate in Iowa and a Senate impeachment trial that could start as soon as this week and take four candidates off the field for extended periods ahead of the Feb. 3 caucuses. Iowa Democrats are starting to believe the outcome may not be decisive enough to anoint a front-runner for the presidential nomination if someone doesn’t break out of the pack soon.”
Arnon Mishkin: Last Democratic debate before Iowa – Here’s the secret calculus candidates are making – Fox News: “While most watching the debate will try to determine ‘who’s first,’ I want to know ‘what’s on second?’ That’s because of the peculiar rules of the caucus system – combined with the sheer number of candidates – not just on the debate stage but especially those excluded from the debate, who are still campaigning in Iowa. Under the rules, in any precinct, if candidates do not have enough support to elect a delegate (typically 15 percent of the caucus), then their supporters move to one of the leading candidates – and help them win delegates. With so many candidates still running, plenty of supporters will walk into those caucuses in support of one and walk out having supported their second, or even third, choice. Indeed, in recent polls, over 30 percent of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers appear to support a candidate who is unlikely to be above the threshold for winning delegates. In other words, during the course of the evening, 30 percent of people – more than support any of the top four candidates – will wind up caucusing for their ‘second choice.’ And so for the leading candidates – the ones on the debate stage on Tuesday – the goal is not just to win the audience over, but to make sure voters find them an acceptable ‘second choice.’”
POLL SHOWS SANDERS SURGING IN NEVADA
USA Today: “An exclusive Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll of Nevada finds another early-voting state where the Democratic presidential race is tightening, former Vice President Joe Biden is struggling to hold front-runner status and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is showing strength. As Democratic contenders prepare to debate Tuesday in Des Moines … the field is shrinking and the race may be heading toward a showdown between a familiar centrist and a firebrand liberal who represent starkly different choices for the party. In Nevada, the third state on the calendar, the new survey shows Biden leading Sanders by a single percentage point, 19%-18%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is third at 11%. … In Nevada, Biden has dropped by 9 points and Warren by 7 points from the average of recent statewide polls calculated by RealClearPolitics.com. Sanders’ support has proven steadier, dipping by 2 points. No other candidate has broken into double digits in the Silver State.”
Biden maintains lead, but dips in Q Poll – Quinnipiac University: “Former Vice President Joe Biden is down slightly but continues to lead the Democratic primary for president. Biden gets 25 percent of the vote among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, followed by Senator Bernie Sanders who gets 19 percent and Elizabeth Warren who receives 16 percent. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg receives 8 percent, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg receives 6 percent, businessman Andrew Yang gets 5 percent, and Senator Amy Klobuchar gets 4 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent. In a December 16, 2019 poll, Biden had 30 percent of the vote, Warren got 17 percent, Sanders received 16 percent, Buttigieg had 9 percent, and Bloomberg got 7 percent.”
Biden super PAC makes huge Iowa ad buy – Politico: “The Unite the Country super PAC is accelerating its support for Joe Biden in Iowa with a new TV ad buy targeting President Donald Trump for his controversial handling of Iran. The new statewide commercial is part of $2 million statewide ad buy scheduled to run through the state’s caucus day, Feb. 3, where polls show a tight race. Unite the Country has already spent about $2.2 million on TV to help Biden. Called ‘Consequences,’ the ad features Biden’s recent criticisms of Trump’s controversial decision to order a missile strike in Iraq that killed an Iranian general accused of terrorism. … The independent super PAC, which can’t coordinate with Biden’s campaign, is on pace to spend a total of $5 million and was founded in late October.”
Dem Super PAC makes $150 million anti-Trump ad buy – NYT: “One of the leading Democratic super PACs, Priorities USA, will spend $50 million more than previously announced against President Trump before the Democratic National Convention, with plans to make nearly $30 million in TV ad reservations in the coming days. The super PAC, which had announced a $100 million campaign in early 2019, has increased its preconvention budget to $150 million, according to Guy Cecil, the committee’s chairman. ‘Donors are stepping up earlier than they have before,’ he said. The group will begin booking $30 million in television ads across four battleground states — Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — later this week, as well as $40 million on digital platforms like YouTube, Hulu and Pandora. The first television ads are slated to appear in Wisconsin at the end of February, with ads in the other three states beginning to air in the middle or end of March. The Democratic convention will be held July 13 to 16 in Milwaukee.”
Bloomy gets first congressional endorsement – WSJ: “U.S. Rep. Max Rose of Staten Island announced his endorsement of Michael Bloomberg’s presidential bid, making Mr. Rose the first member of Congress to back the former New York City mayor’s campaign. Mr. Rose, a Democrat, specifically cited Mr. Bloomberg’s management of the city in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Mr. Bloomberg was elected to the first of his three terms as mayor that year.”
Big-spending Bloomberg campaign now has 1,000 staffers – Fox News: “Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg may be a latecomer to the 2020 Democratic primary race, but he is looking to catch up quickly with a coast-to-coast hiring spree. His campaign’s staff has now grown to more than 1,000 people, aides confirm to Fox News. The former New York City mayor’s operation now includes 300 staffers in its Manhattan headquarters, as well as more than 700 others on the ground, giving Bloomberg a presence in 33 states. ‘Mike said from the beginning that he is going to build the biggest national organization to take on Donald Trump and win — and that’s exactly what we’re doing,’ a campaign source said.”
THE RULEBOOK: GOT ‘EM
“An active commerce, an extensive navigation, and a flourishing marine would then be the offspring of moral and physical necessity. We might defy the little arts of the little politicians to control or vary the irresistible and unchangeable course of nature.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 11
TIME OUT: OH GEE, READ MORE
Atlantic: “In 1858, a year after the founding of The Atlantic, 26-year-old Louisa May Alcott’s literary confidence was growing. ‘I even think of trying the ‘Atlantic,’’ she wrote in her journal. ‘There’s ambition for you!’ The magazine ‘of Literature, Art, and Politics’ had staked out an enthusiastic commitment to publishing fiction: Four stories—one of them by Harriet Beecher Stowe—appeared in the first issue. In a rapidly expanding magazine market, The Atlantic was soon a major force in shaping the American literary canon. … Now we’re setting out to publish fiction with far greater frequency than we’ve managed in the past decade… Contemplative reading might be viewed as a minor act of rebellion in the internet age. At a time when every available surface is saturated in information, it sometimes seems as though facts are absorbed osmotically, even accidentally, just by moving through space and time. And although the internet is not the perfect opposite of the novel, as some people have argued, it makes fairly efficient work of splintering attention and devouring time.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 25.6 points (↓ 0.6 points from last wk.)
Sanders: 17.8 points (↓ 0.8 points from last wk.)
Warren: 16.6 points (↑ 0.4 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 8.4 points (↓ 1 point from last wk.)
Bloomberg: 5.6 points (↑ 0.4 points from last wk.)
[Averages include: Quinnipiac University, IBD, NBC News/WSJ, CNN and USA Today/Suffolk University.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 44.4 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -7.4 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 43% approve – 52% disapprove; IBD: 43% approve – 51% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve – 52% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 48% approve – 50% disapprove.]
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TRUMP’S TOP LAWYERS TAPPED FOR SENATE TRIAL
Fox News: “Several top White House lawyers are slated to serve as the defense team in President Trump’s looming impeachment trial, Fox News has learned, as the House prepares to send the official articles to the Senate as early as Wednesday. In a Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not announce which lawmakers will be tapped as impeachment managers – who serve as prosecutors – in the case. Fox News is told a House vote on sending the two articles of impeachment to the Senate is expected Wednesday, at which point more details will emerge on Democrats’ plans. But the president’s defense team has essentially formed. A White House official told Fox News on Tuesday that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone will take the lead on the president’s defense team in the Senate trial. The official said that Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow will also serve on the president’s defense, as well as Cipollone deputies Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin.”
Senate Republicans rule out dismissing impeachment charges – NYT: “Senate Republicans indicated on Monday that they would not seek to summarily dismiss the impeachment charges against President Trump, proceeding instead to a trial with arguments and the possibility of calling witnesses that could begin as soon as Wednesday. Dismissal was always a long shot given Republicans’ narrow control of the Senate, but it was the subject of renewed discussion after Mr. Trump said on Sunday that he liked the idea put forward by some conservatives as a way to deny the House’s case the legitimacy of a trial. Other Republicans had signed on to a resolution that would have dismissed the House’s impeachment articles if they were not promptly brought to trial.In interviews, rank-and-file senators and party leaders made clear on Monday that even if they wanted to pursue dismissal, the votes simply were not there to succeed — at least not at the outset of the trial.”
Report: Russian spies hacked Ukrainian gas company – WaPo: “Russian military spies have hacked a Ukrainian gas company that is at the heart of an impeachment trial of President Trump, who sought last year to pressure Ukraine to investigate the company and its links to Joe Biden’s son, according to a cybersecurity firm. Beginning in early November, the Russian spy agency known as the GRU launched a cyber ‘phishing’ campaign against Burisma Holdings to trick unsuspecting employees into giving up their email credentials so the hackers could gain access to their email accounts — once again entangling Moscow in domestic U.S. politics, according to Area 1 Security, a Redwood City, Calif., company. The operation’s launch coincided with a congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump and whether he abused his office by seeking to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing a probe of Burisma and Hunter Biden — an action that conceivably would aid Trump’s reelection bid.”
Trump to use additional $7.2 billion from Pentagon funds for border wall – WaPo
Arizona liberal activists are coming for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema – Arizona Republic
Former NH Republican party boss running for Congress – WMUR9
AUDIBLE: THE CLASH
“I fought the dog and the dog won.” – Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., explained how he fractured his shoulder while ‘wrangling’ the family puppy, 6-month-old poodle Tex.
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THE NICHEST NICHE
BBC: “When Scott Wood realised the ethical minefield vegans face wearing Scotland’s national dress, he decided to create an alternative. A kiltmaker for more than 10 years, he switched to vegan-friendly kilts after adopting veganism three years ago. The made-to-order garment avoids animal-based products such as wool and leather, making it suitable for vegans. His kilts cater to the diet and beliefs that are becoming more and more popular in Scotland. ‘I still wanted to wear my kilt but it collided with my new beliefs, so I made a vegan one for myself,’ Mr Wood told BBC Scotland’s The Nine programme. ‘Then I had a light bulb idea that there may be other people in my situation.’ Based in Torry, Aberdeen, he uses cotton and polyester viscose instead of traditional materials to craft world-famous garment.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Are we credible still? Are we even prepared to make the same threat to whoever would commit an American genocide? If we are not prepared to wage total war in response to total war, we risk disaster on a scale we have never seen and can barely imagine.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on Oct. 28, 2001.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.