**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: Cory Booker’s one-note requiem - Biden, Bernie continue climb in Iowa - Pelosi tries to put on a happy face - Cheers mates

The Washington Post headline on the latest departure from the Democratic presidential race almost sounds like self-parody: “Sen. Cory Booker exits 2020 race, making the Democratic field less diverse.”

So here’s a guy who was a high-school football all-American, went to Stanford, earned a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, graduated from Yale law school, served two terms as the mayor of a medium-sized city (almost three times larger than South Bend, Ind.) and has twice been elected to the United States Senate.

But what the WaPo really wants you to take away here is that he’s a black guy. He did all those amazing things, and the Post’s response is to reduce Booker to his race.

No wonder he had to drop out.

Now, we don’t go in for much media criticism in these parts. Our standing joke is that media criticism is like asbestos abatement: it’s dangerous, tends to get all over you and should be left to the experts. We’re especially averse to it in matters political because journalists – shocker – tend to overstate their own significance to the process.

But we raise the issue of the Post’s coverage because it so neatly encapsulates why Democrats will most likely nominate an old, white male this year. The paper is part of a larger fixation in the political press not on biography but “identity” – race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

Booker also certainly helped paint himself into the corner where his candidacy expired. When his rival, Sen. Kamala Harris, dropped out of the race, it was Booker making the same lamentations being made about him now.

“I have to say that we started with one of the most diverse fields in our history, giving people pride,” Booker told MSNBC last month. “And it’s a damn shame … we’re spiraling towards a debate stage that potentially … could have six people with no diversity whatsoever.”


By a literal interpretation of identity politics, the debate ended up as quite diverse by any empirical standard when compared to recent history: two women, two men of Jewish ancestry, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and one Roman Catholic. But as the Post says of Booker and as Booker said of Harris and Julian Castro before him, some diversity is more diverse than others.

We know that 2008 might as well be the Bronze Age given the speed of the news cycle and the brevity of our attention spans, but think back to how Barack Obama became the first non-white person to ever become president.

Go back and read Obama’s speech on race from 12 years ago. As Hillary Clinton was drowning, she grabbed ahold of the incendiary rhetoric of Obama’s then-pastor Jeremiah Wright. Some of Wright’s lines, particularly “God damn America” gave Clinton the chance for the kind of culture war in which she and her husband had long excelled. Heading into primary elections in states with lots of working-class white voters, this was a chance for Clinton to brand Obama as a radical on race.

In his response, delivered in Philadelphia, Obama picked up the mantle of the same Founders now scorned by some mainstream Democrats, and talked – and, this being Obama, talked and talked – about how the discussion of race in our country was part of the ongoing work left to all Americans.

“For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past,” Obama said. “In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people.”

Try to imagine a Democratic contender saying that today.

Obama’s candidacy was repeatedly criticized in the activist world for being insufficiently about his own racial identity and insufficiently focused on racial injustice. As he put it: “At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either ‘too black’ or ‘not black enough.’”    

Obama was not running to be president of black America. He was not running to add “diversity” to the debate state. He wasn’t running to energize minority communities. He was running because he wanted to win it all.

Obama couldn’t have won as the “black” candidate as Booker tried to do. But he could win as a candidate who promised – albeit to little apparent result – to help move America past the kind of race-baiting politics Clinton was using and the kind of victimology Booker et. al. now express.

Booker let himself become a one-note candidate. The best politicians know how to play the whole symphony.
Monmouth University: “Former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren continue to top the leaderboard in Iowa, although their relative positions have shifted in the fourth Monmouth University Poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has also made gains from prior polls, but remains outside of the top tier of contenders for now. … Four candidates are currently vying for the top spot in next month’s Iowa caucuses – Biden (24%), Sanders (18%), Buttigieg (17%), and Warren (15%). Compared with Monmouth’s November poll, Biden has gained 5 points (up from 19%) and Sanders has gained 5 points (up from 13%), while Buttigieg has lost 5 points (down from 22%) and Warren has declined by 3 points (down from 18%).  Klobuchar is knocking on the door of the top tier with 8% support in the current poll (up from 5% in November).”

Buttigieg fading in Hawkeye State - Des Moines Register: “A new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows 20% of likely Democratic caucusgoers name Sanders as their first choice for president. … Pete Buttigieg … has faded, falling 9 percentage points to land behind both Sanders and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren is at 17%; Buttigieg, 16%; and former Vice President Joe Biden, 15%. … The caucus process makes those second choices crucial. After a first vote on caucus night, candidates who don't receive at least 15% in a precinct get dropped from contention there. The people who initially backed a candidate who failed to earn 15% then get to vote again for a final time. So Ireland is considering all her choices. … In the new poll, a slew of other contenders fell well below the 15% viability mark.”

Warren hits Bernie over his leaked campaign messaging - Fox News: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren hit back at Sen. Bernie Sanders after his campaign appeared to break the détente between the progressive presidential hopefuls by painting her as a candidate for the rich who won’t expand the party’s base. Speaking on Sunday in Iowa, Warren, D-Mass., said she was disappointed in the talking points from Sanders’ campaign and said it ultimately will divide voters at the Democrats’ peril. … Warren’s comments came in response to a Politico report on a series of talking points from the Sanders’ campaign that aimed to paint Warren as a candidate attracting ‘highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what.’ The script added, ‘She's bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party.’ Sanders, I-Vt., in a separate event in Iowa on Sunday, downplayed the story, calling it ‘a media blowup that wants conflict,’ and asked if anyone had ever heard him deride Warren publicly.”

Steyer claims success is his message, not his money - Politico: “Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer said on Sunday he made the cutoff for Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate because of his messaging — not the millions of dollars he's spent on advertising. ‘I think that the thing that has put me on this stage — and it is the same for every single person who's running for president — is message,’ Steyer said on CNN's ‘State of the Union.’ … Still, CNN host Jake Tapper pointed out: ‘The reason people can hear your message, of course, is because of the TV ads and the millions of dollars you've spent.’ Steyer has spent $106 million in advertising, especially in early-voting states like Nevada and South Carolina.”

Don’t mess with Texas this primary season - Texas Tribune: “Slowly but surely, Democratic presidential campaigns are taking breaks from the early state presidential primaries and are making their cases to Texans. The March 3 Texas primary will deliver 228 delegates on a proportional basis, the third-largest delegate count of the primary season. But for now, the top priorities are clearly Iowa, which will host its caucuses Feb. 3, and the succeeding contests in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Candidates who place well in those states will have an opportunity to ride a wave of positive press and increased attention that could boost their campaigns — momentum that could prove more precious than those early states' delegates. Still, Texas' large number of delegates could prove decisive, especially if the presidential campaign becomes a protracted race into the spring. And waiting until those first four states are done voting could be too late: Early voting in Texas begins Feb. 18…”

Politico: “A slate of endangered House Democrats is coalescing behind Joe Biden for president as the Iowa caucuses approach — a surge of support triggered by fears that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren at the top of the ticket would cost them their seats. More than a dozen swing-seat freshmen have taken part in at least one private call session with Biden, Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg in recent weeks. A handful have already gravitated toward the former vice president, and more are expected to follow before Democrats start voting on Feb. 3, according to interviews with 15 lawmakers, aides and campaign strategists. Others are still hearing out Klobuchar — who held her own call with a dozen members on Monday night — and Buttigieg.”

Biden: “Freshman Rep. Colin Allred endorsed Joe Biden on Monday, giving the former vice president his tenth endorsement from a black member of Congress and his fifth from Texas’ congressional delegation. … Allred, who represents a swing district including parts of Dallas and its suburbs, is the second Texas congressman to back Biden after initially supporting Julián Castro.”

Buttigieg: “Pete Buttigieg won the support of one of Iowa’s three Democratic members of Congress on Sunday, boosting his campaign weeks before the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Seven-term Rep. Dave Loebsack, who represents Iowa’s southeast and is retiring from office next year, lauded Buttigieg as ‘a new kind of leadership that we desperately need,’ according to a statement from the former South Bend, Ind., mayor’s campaign.”

Sanders: “Sen. Bernie Sanders has picked up the endorsement of one of New Hampshire’s largest and most influential unions, POLITICO has learned, dealing a blow to other Democratic presidential campaigns that have spent months fighting for it. The decision, as related by several people with knowledge of it, comes one month before the state’s primary contest and ends a long battle — both public and behind-the-scenes — to get the state employees union on board with a campaign.”

“The idea of restraining the legislative authority, in the means of providing for the national defense, is one of those refinements which owe their origin to a zeal for liberty more ardent than enlightened.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 26

History: “In the midst of depression and a steep decline in his musical career, legendary country singer Johnny Cash arrives to play for inmates at California's Folsom Prison on January 13, 1968. The concert and the subsequent live album launched him back into the charts and re-defined his career. Despite his outlaw image, Cash never went to prison, save for a few nights drying out in various jails. It was not his own experience but rather the crime film Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison that inspired him to pen ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ which was a modest hit for Cash in 1956. … Cash felt a personal responsibility to put on a good show at Folsom. … Despite the presence of armed guards on the walkways above them, and the warden's prohibition against standing during the show, Cash's audience was raucous, invigorating the performers and lending a unique verve to the live recording.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Biden: 26.2 points (no change from last wk.)
Sanders: 18.6 points (no change from last wk.)
Warren: 16.2 points (no change from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 9.4 points (no change from last wk.)
Bloomberg: 5.2 points (no change from last wk.)
[Averages include: NBC News/WSJ, CNN, Quinnipiac University, USA Today/Suffolk University and NPR/PBS/Marist.]

Average approval: 43.8 percent
Average disapproval: 51.4 percent
Net Score: -7.6 percent
Change from one week ago: no change
[Average includes: NBC/WSJ: 44% approve - 54% disapprove; CNBC: 40% approve - 49% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 48% approve - 50% disapprove.]

You can join Chris and Brianna every day on Fox Nation. Go behind-the-scenes of your favorite political note as they go through the must-read headlines of the day right from their office – with plenty of personality. Click here to sign up and watch!

Fox News: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Sunday that she and fellow Democrats will soon discuss sending articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate for a trial, and defended her decision to wait weeks to do so. Pelosi has faced criticism from Republicans for not allowing the impeachment process to move forward, and even some Democrats have expressed impatience. Still, she insists it has been an effective strategy. ‘No, no, no -- we feel that it has produced a very positive result,’ Pelosi said on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ pointing to new information that has surfaced former National Security Adviser John Bolton's announcement that he is now willing to testify in the Senate under subpoena. ‘We wanted the public to see the need for witnesses,’ Pelosi said, defending the tactic. During the delay, Senate Republicans introduced a resolution allowing for dismissal of the impeachment case if Pelosi failed to send the articles within 25 days. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was among those who backed the measure, leading Pelosi to accuse him of being potentially complicit in wrongdoing.”

Pergram: What will happen now - Fox News: “Tuesday is a pivotal day. The House Democratic Caucus huddles in the morning. It’s possible the speaker could announce her plan immediately after the caucus meeting and the debate/vote could happen that same day. It’s also possible the House may not tangle with the measure until later in the week. But Tuesday is the earliest anything will now come to the floor. … Pelosi decides when to put the measure on the floor. One story unto itself will be the announcement of the impeachment managers. … Republicans tapped 13 white men as impeachment managers for President Clinton’s 1999 trial. Pelosi is likely to select a smaller and more diverse group to represent the House before the Senate. The House then holds a short 10-minute debate on sending the impeachment measure plus the managers to the Senate. This will require a simple majority vote. Once the House approves that measure, the articles are ready to be walked across the Capitol to the Senate.”

McConnell uses impeachment as strategy for re-election - WaPo: “It is not easy these days to lose as a Republican running in ruby-red Kentucky. But that is what happened here in November in the governor's race, when the caustic incumbent managed to alienate enough of his base to fall just short. … But Mitch McConnell has at least one key advantage that former governor Matt Bevin did not: As perhaps the most powerful man on Capitol Hill, he is positioned to drive a stake through efforts to oust a Republican who remains indisputably admired among Kentucky voters: President Trump. The Senate majority leader’s insistence that he will coordinate Trump’s impeachment trial with the White House … has provoked howls of protest from Democrats. … But here in Kentucky, it just looks like savvy politics. … Analysts say his impeachment strategy is just more evidence that he is playing to win. ‘It’s the safest move he could make,’ said Ryan Salzman, a politics professor at Northern Kentucky University.”

Schumer’s backup plan - Politico: “Chuck Schumer lost the first impeachment trial battle to Mitch McConnell. But the Democratic leader and his party insist they can still win the war. While Senate Majority Leader McConnell has locked up enough Republican votes to ignore demands for a bipartisan framework for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, his Democratic counterpart is readying a counteroffensive. Schumer will force a series of votes designed to squeeze vulnerable Republicans and harm them on the campaign trail if they side with Trump. Democrats argue the half-dozen at-risk GOP senators will need some daylight between them and Trump to get reelected. And if they vote against Schumer’s motions to hear new evidence and witness testimony, they’ll be seen as Trump sycophants — undermining their bids and boosting Schumer’s odds of becoming majority leader. Support for obtaining new documents at the trial is ‘even stronger than we thought, with large numbers of Republicans supporting it,’ Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview.”

Michigan Republicans working to return Justin Amash’s seat to GOP - Roll Call

“No comment. ... And I don't want ‘no comment’ to be my answer. No answer.” – David Richter, a Republican running in NJ-02, when asked if Trump has stuck to his principles per the NYT.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WGN9: “A looming beer crisis has been avoided in a fire-stricken Australian town, thanks to some help from the country’s navy. Mallacoota, a small coastal town in the state of Victoria, was isolated from the rest of the country when a devastating bushfire ripped through it on New Year’s Eve, destroying homes and cars, and cutting off the one road in and out. Due to the lack of road access, residents have been receiving supplies through emergency shipments from the Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Choules — and beer is no exception. When the Melbourne-based Carlton & United Breweries heard that the local pub was running out of beer, it arranged a special delivery to be sent over with the navy. A total of 3,000 liters (almost 800 gallons) of beer was loaded onto the HMAS Choules on Thursday morning. … Locals rejoiced at the news of the incoming shipment…”

“True human rights were concrete and material — the right to sustenance, to work, to shelter, to physical protection. Note that these were not freedoms from the state, but benefits that could only be conferred by the state. The resulting dependency is the very antithesis of freedom.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) in an excerpt from a 2017 essay “The Authoritarian Temptation,” published in his posthumous book, “The Point of It All.” 

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.