The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger weighs in after 2020 hopefuls pile on Michael Bloomberg in Nevada.

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On the roster: Bloom and doom – I’ll Tell You What: Democrats, choose your fighter – Q Poll: Trump rolling in Wisc., struggling in Pa. – Trump pal Stone sentenced to more than three years – The chief has been briefed    

BLOOM AND DOOM
How do you like them apples, mister mayor?

Michael Bloomberg didn’t really have any choice whether he would participate in NBC News’ Democratic presidential debate in Nevada. Once he qualified, the billionaire bigfoot, hardly could have refused to face his competitors.

But he sure must wish he could’ve.

Elizabeth Warren was on Bloomberg like a howler monkey on a panther. Bernie Sanders treated the former New York mayor like bag of garbage on a curb. The Bickersons, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, found time outside of their own nastiness to work in some scripted digs against Bloomberg.

Even poor Joe Biden roused himself to insult the guy who has been eating his lunch for the past month. The attacks didn’t particularly make sense, but as with everything else with the Biden campaign these days, the important thing is to look like you’re still trying.

Bloomberg rallied in the second half and seemed to get over the dunning he took in the beginning and even did some of the necessary work his fellow mainstreamers refused to do in tackling Sanders.

“The best-known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses,” Bloomberg said. “What did I miss here?”

Otherwise, Sanders was unimpeded in his long, slow march to Milwaukee.

In less than two weeks, nearly 40 percent of all pledged Democratic delegates will have been awarded. They’re at less than 2 percent today. This is going to go really fast until mid-March and then will slow down into, based on what we saw Wednesday night, a grueling slog.

It will be as the philosopher Norm Peterson said when asked “How’s life?”: “Taking forever.”

Bloomberg will not be on the ballot in the contests this week and next. His plan has been to wait for the suckers to knock each other out, and come in and snatch the mainstream title to face Sanders like a distressed property in foreclosure.

He had some good news on that front Thursday. Buttigieg and Klobuchar were perfectly ridiculous. Anybody looking to them as sensible-sounding, adult alternatives to Sanders were treated to the kind of pointless, gotcha, personal attacks they’re supposed to be above. It was a fatefully bad time for them to go off brand. If Nevada voters punish either of them with worse than a fourth-place finish, they might be out by Super Tuesday.

But what about Biden? While he certainly didn’t impress – weirdly taking credit for ending “stop and frisk,” etc. – he didn’t fall off the stage. And since Bloomberg isn’t on the ballot in Nevada or South Carolina, Biden still might be the preferred vessel for mainstream voters in those places. And that could give him a dead-cat bounce going into Super Tuesday.

Sanders had some similarly bad news. Warren’s angry, acid performance did not sound presidential, but she may have won some admirers among Democrats fantasizing about tearing down President Trump at a general election debate. Sanders’ delegate blob strategy – steady, slow growth until he oozes right into the nomination – could be badly complicated by even a modest Warren renaissance.

One thing the Democrats other than Bloomberg seemed to agree on – beyond their loathing for the new guy – is that they’re fine with the idea of a contested convention that would keep the race unresolved for another five months. It’s also a process that would seem most likely to end with either socialist Sanders as the nominee or someone else grabbing the crown and forcing a nasty schism in the party.

So while Bloomberg didn’t disqualify himself, his puny performance denied Democrats, yet again, of the thing they want and need the most: Clarity. 

THE RULEBOOK: OUT OF COUNTRY FEE
“The difference between a direct importation from abroad, and an indirect importation through the channel of a neighboring State, in small parcels, according to time and opportunity, with the additional facilities of inland communication, must be palpable to every man of discernment.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 12

TIME OUT: KRAMER ADOPTS A HIGHWAY
History: “An episode of the hit TV sitcom ‘Seinfeld’ titled ‘The Pothole’ airs for the first time on February 20, 1997; it includes a story line in which the character Kramer adopts a stretch of the fictional Arthur Burghardt Expressway through the real-life Adopt-a-Highway program. The roots of the Adopt-a-Highway program date back to 1984, when James Evans, an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, noticed litter blowing out of the back of a pickup truck he was driving behind in Tyler, Texas. Concerned about the growing cost to the government of keeping roadways clean, Evans soon began asking community groups to volunteer to pick up trash along sections of local highways they could ‘adopt.’ Though Evans got no takers for his idea, Billy Black, the public information officer for the Tyler District of the Texas Department of Transportation, took up the cause and organized the first official Adopt-a-Highway program, which included training and equipment for volunteers. The first group to participate in the program was the Tyler Civitan Club, and on March 9, 1985…”

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SCOREBOARD
ESTIMATED DELEGATES FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION
Buttigieg: 23
Sanders: 21
Warren: 8
Klobuchar: 7
Biden: 6
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 46 percent
Average disapproval: 50.4 percent
Net Score: -4.4 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 3 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 49% approve – 48% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 47% approve – 50% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve – 51% disapprove; Monmouth University: 44% approve – 51% disapprove.]

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I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: DEMOCRATS, CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the state of the Democratic field ahead of Wednesday night’s presidential debate, how the candidates are responding to opposition research and the controversy surrounding President Trump’s recent pardons. Plus, Jason Bonewald leaves some tough trivia for Chris to answer. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

Q POLL: TRUMP ROLLING IN WISC., STRUGGLING IN PA. 
Quinnipiac University: “In three critical Rust Belt states that delivered a victory to President Trump in 2016 by narrow margins, President Trump leads in head to head matchups against the top Democratic candidates in Wisconsin, but loses or trails within the margin of error in Pennsylvania matchups, and is locked in close races in Michigan, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today.”

Trump breaks into positive territory on Gallup approval – Gallup: “President Donald Trump’s job approval remains elevated at 49% in the latest Gallup poll… As in the prior poll, conducted Jan. 16-29, the approval rating from the Feb. 3-16 poll reflects record polarization for a single Gallup poll, with 87 percentage points separating the ratings of Republicans (93%) and Democrats (6%). Forty-three percent of independents approve of Trump, the highest rating for him among the group to date. Trump’s elevated job approval rating comes at a time when Americans are increasingly positive about the state of the nation. The percentage who are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. had already improved from 36% to 41% in a Jan. 3-16 poll, before the rise in Trump’s job approval rating in late January.”

Drucker: The Republicans’ 2020 plan to turn every Democrat into a ‘Bernie Bro’ – WashEx: “The Republican Party is putting Bernie Sanders at the center of every 2020 campaign, with senior GOP strategists confident the socialist front-runner for the Democratic nomination is the ticket to a November sweep, whether he is the nominee or not. More than eight months before Election Day, vulnerable Republican Sen. Martha McSally is up with an advertisement on Arizona television tarring Democratic challenger Mark Kelly as a ‘Bernie Bro.’ It’s a message that Republican strategists are busy replicating in tough contests across the country. … Voters typically ignore the warnings, as they did in the 2018 midterm elections that saw Democrats flip the House and pick up two competitive Senate seats. But Republicans say they have reams of polling data and information from focus groups with independent voters proving the message could be unusually potent up and down the ballot this fall.”

Team Trump launches election litigation effort – Politico: “President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee are pumping more than $10 million into a legal campaign challenging Democratic voting-related lawsuits and building a massive Election Day operation. The multi-million-dollar effort pits the two parties against each other on the issue of voting rights, with Democrats contending that they’re trying to make it easier for more people to cast ballots — and Republicans arguing that they must guard against potential fraud. The new endeavor includes a legal challenge in Michigan, a key battleground state that Trump won by an extremely narrow margin over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. The RNC and Michigan Republican Party filed a motion to intervene Wednesday night in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division to join a lawsuit as defendants against Priorities USA.”

After rallying base in Phoenix, Trump joins Dems in piling on Bloomy – Fox News: “As the Democratic presidential candidates targeted debate stage newcomer Michael Bloomberg in a ferocious clash over who will get to challenge President Trump in November, the president on Wednesday night stoked his base in a raucous ‘Keep America Great’ rally in Phoenix… To loud cheers in a crowded venue filled with red hats and campaign signs, Trump railed against previous FBI leadership as ‘dirty cops,’ touted his signing of the USMCA as a victory for farmers, called the media ‘fake news,’ bragged about killing terrorists and crowed over his success appointing federal judges and Supreme Court justices. Later in the evening, Trump joined the chorus of attacks against Bloomberg, who has spent over $400 million on his campaign, over how the Democrat performed in the biggest moment of his quest for the White House so far.”

TRUMP PAL STONE SENTENCED TO MORE THAN THREE YEARS 
AP: “Trump loyalist and ally Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in federal prison, following an extraordinary move by Attorney General William Barr to back off his Justice Department’s original sentencing recommendation. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone’s crimes demanded a significant time behind bars, but she said the seven to nine years originally recommended by the Justice Department were excessive. Stone’s lawyers had asked for a sentence of probation, citing his age of 67 years, his health and his lack of criminal history. Stone was convicted in November on all seven counts of an indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.”

Senators try to get Trump back on track with Justice Department – Politico: “Senate Republicans are mounting an urgent campaign to save Attorney General William Barr’s job — fearful that his dismissal or resignation would deprive President Donald Trump of an effective enforcer of his agenda and hand the Senate a vacancy that’s nearly impossible to fill. The effort to keep Barr in place through at least the 2020 election comes at a high point of tension between Trump and Barr, fueled by Trump’s efforts to influence the Justice Department’s handling of Roger Stone’s sentencing. Barr has said Trump’s tweets make doing his job ‘impossible,’ and he has reportedly considered resigning. In interviews and a series of statements for this story, Trump’s allies on the Hill say they sympathize with Trump’s frustration with the department after being investigated and impeached. But they warned any move to force Barr out would be a major mistake.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Dems won’t commit to same-day release of Nevada results – AP

Trump draws heat for putting a partisan hardliner in charge of intelligence – WaPo

Hundreds camp out overnight ahead of Trump rally in Colorado Thursday – Fox News

AUDIBLE: IT’S DELICIOUS WITH A NICE RYE TOAST
“What am I, chicken liver?” – Mike Bloomberg said during Wednesday night’s debate when the moderators didn’t return to him on health care.

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THE CHIEF HAS BEEN BRIEFED
WMTW: “A New Hampshire community no longer has its one man police department after the board of selectmen disbanded it. … [Richard Lee, the now-former chief] was the only one on the force, part-time, joining the department in 2000. … Lee said he turned his cruiser keys and uniform. ‘Well, my cruiser is my way home cause it’s a take home cruiser and I don’t keep any spare clothes in the office so I did what I was ordered to do by the selectboard to turn that stuff over immediately, so I disrobed and I left my office in my underwear, my boots and a hat,’ Lee said. ‘Some citizens offered to give me a ride home and I said, ‘Nope it’s not your responsibility to do that….’ Lee said. The former chief said his wife picked him up ‘probably about three quarters a mile away from my office.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Reality has a way of turning heroism to tragedy, even pathos.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 24, 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.

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