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On the roster: Dems concur on Iraq strike… for now - Klobuchar fundraising booms - McConnell: Trial can’t begin ‘til House sends articles - Audible: Better call Saul - Frickin’ laser beams
DEMS CONCUR ON IRAQ STRIKE… FOR NOW
NYT: “The American military strike in Baghdad that killed the Iranian general Qassim Suleimani rippled instantly through the Democratic presidential primary on Friday… The party’s presidential candidates reacted to the strike with a measure of unity, at least on the surface level, with expressions of concern about what they called the Trump administration’s penchant for reckless action and the possibility of all-out war. While several deplored Suleimani’s role in directing violence against Americans, the Democrats expressed anxiety rather than jubilation over the circumstances of his demise. … But there were also distinctions in how the leading Democrats responded, pointing the way toward a larger debate in the party about foreign wars and the American presence in the Middle East. [Sen. Bernie Sanders], for instance, notably used the word ‘assassination’ to describe the killing of the Iranian commander — a term with serious legal and diplomatic implications — and pointed out that he had opposed the 2002 resolution authorizing war in Iraq, leaving unsaid that [former Vice President Joe Biden] had supported it.”
Dems in Congress left out of the loop - WaPo: “Top Democratic leaders in Congress received no advance notification of the strike, according to aides. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper after the attack for about 13 minutes, said an aide who was not authorized to speak publicly. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also was not told of the upcoming military action, an aide to the senator said. But Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally who called the strike a ‘blow to [an] Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands,’ said Friday morning on Fox News that he was ‘briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida’ and appreciated ‘being brought into the orbit.’”
THE RULEBOOK: SO FAR, SO GOOD
“There is something so far-fetched and so extravagant in the idea of danger to liberty from the militia, that one is at a loss whether to treat it with gravity or with raillery; whether to consider it as a mere trial of skill, like the paradoxes of rhetoricians; as a disingenuous artifice to instil prejudices at any price; or as the serious offspring of political fanaticism.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29
TIME OUT: GET YOUR GOATS
NatGeo: “[Redonda, a] tiny, secluded island in the Caribbean West Indies, an imposing piece of old volcano ringed by hundred-foot cliffs, is covered with bushes and knee-high grass… It wasn’t always this way. In fact, if you’d visited Redonda even five years ago … you’d have seen a place that locals from nearby Antigua (of which Redonda is technically part) had written off as a dying island falling into the sea. For a half century in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Redonda bustled with activity as the site of a mine… But the mine shut down following the outbreak of World War I, and two critical things were left behind: goats and rats. For the next hundred years, these foreign species would team up to eat everything in sight until there was nothing left but dust and scraps of old machinery. In recent years, however, a stunning ecological turnaround has taken place on Redonda…”
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DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
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.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
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.]
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KLOBUCHAR FUNDRAISING BOOMS
AP: “Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said Friday that she raised $21.2 million from October through December, with more than $1.5 million coming on the last day of the year. But the Massachusetts senator still trailed a trio of other top rivals in fundraising and fell short of her total from the three previous months. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she took in $11.4 million for her White House bid to close out the year. It was her campaign’s best fundraising quarter. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the strongest progressive voice along with Warren, said he raised more than 34.5 million in the same quarter, proving that his heart attack in October hasn’t slowed his fundraising prowess. Sanders and Warren both rely heavily on small donations from donors that primarily come online. … [L]ately, Warren’s support has plateaued as Buttigieg has vaulted among the front-runners.”
Biden announces biggest fundraising haul to date - Fox News: “Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday announced his campaign raised $22.7 million in the last three months of 2019, making it the best quarterly fundraising report of his campaign. Still, the former vice president trails two other top-tier Democratic competitors in the October-December fourth quarter fundraising battle: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont hauled in $34.5 million and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg brought in $24.7 million. Asked about Sanders' eye-popping haul, Biden - campaigning in Iowa - told Fox News ‘I think we're closing just fine. We feel good.’ In a video posted to Twitter, Biden celebrated the number, thanking his contributors and saying, ‘You are the energy, so I just wanted to thank you for putting yourself on the line, vouching for me, vouching for the family. I appreciate it a great deal, so thank you.’”
Bernie tries to draw Biden into a game of one on one - WaPo: “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — who has reignited his presidential campaign in the weeks since a heart attack put his political future in doubt — is now making a direct and sharpened case against former vice president Joe Biden in the final stretch before next month's Iowa caucuses. In an interview between events here this week, Sanders said Biden’s record and ties to the political establishment make him ill-suited to defeat Trump in November — and urged Democrats to value voters’ appetite for sweeping change over Biden’s perceived electability. ‘It’s just a lot of baggage that Joe takes into a campaign, which isn’t going to create energy and excitement,’ Sanders said. ‘He brings into this campaign a record which is so weak that it just cannot create the kind of excitement and energy that is going to be needed to defeat Donald Trump.’”
Blue Hens chicken out on Biden Senate records - HuffPo: “Joe Biden’s papers from his Senate days could have gone online on Dec. 31. But they didn’t. And it doesn’t seem like the documents, which could offer valuable information on his record, are going to be available to the public before the 2020 election. Biden donated his senatorial papers, which cover the period from 1973 to 2009, to the University of Delaware in 2011. More than 1,850 boxes of archival records arrived at the school in June 2012. Initially, the university said that the papers would go online no sooner than two years after Biden retired from ‘public office’ or Dec. 31, 2019 ― with the possibility that it would be even later if processing took more time.”
MCCONNELL: TRIAL CAN’T BEGIN ‘TIL HOUSE SENDS ARTICLES
CBS News: “[Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] slammed the impeachment inquiry spearheaded by House Democrats. ‘Democrats have let Trump Derangement Syndrome develop into a kind of partisan fever,’ McConnell said. He argued that senators have a right to think politically during an impeachment trial, despite swearing an oath of impartiality. Although the House voted to impeach Mr. [Donald] Trump in December, the Senate is still waiting for the House to send the articles of impeachment. … Speaking on the Senate floor Friday, McConnell said it's a ‘non-starter’ for [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] ‘to hand design’ the Senate trial. He also called out [Minority Leader Chuck Schumer] for campaigning in 1998 on opposition to President [Bill] Clinton's impeachment, responding to the accusation that McConnell has prejudged Mr. Trump's case. ‘One symptom of Trump derangement syndrome is a bad case of amnesia,’ McConnell said with a small grin. He also noted that Senate rules do not allow an impeachment trial to begin until the House sends the articles.”
David Drucker: McConnell’s biggest problem isn’t Dems, it’s Trump - Vanity Fair: “In a decade-plus covering Congress, I have never encountered a politician who could ignore a sea of Capitol Hill correspondents with the ease of Mitch McConnell. Human reflex is to look up when your name is called—to feel compelled to at least listen to, if not answer, a direct question. Most lawmakers do, even if all they offer is ‘no comment.’ Not McConnell. His single-mindedness is legendary. And aside from an intense interest in Washington Nationals baseball and University of Louisville football, the Senate majority leader is focused on two overriding objectives: preserving his party’s control of the Senate, and maintaining his own control of that majority. ... ‘He’s not rattled by the noise,’ a veteran McConnell adviser told me. ‘And, this is the ultimate noise exercise in politics.’”
Tennessee GOP Rep. Phil Roe announces retirement - WCYB
Pergram: Debt disregard is a bipartisan - Fox News
AUDIBLE: BETTER CALL SAUL
“He does not need another lawyer added to his team. He needs the trial to begin and end.” – Former Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy said in an email to McClatchy on Thursday clarifying that he will not be joining President Trump’s legal team.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Seems to me that Minnesota is a better target for Republicans in 2020 based upon the 2016 results – & a higher electoral vote swing than your identification of a possible pickup in New Hampshire. What say you?” – Glenn Fuller, Laurel, Md.
[Ed. note: It merits repeating from time to time, Mr. Fuller, that much of what we’re sharing with readers was written by others. We do our own analysis but also pass on the reporting and analyses of our colleagues here at Fox and journalists at other outlets. The analysis you mentioned was from Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. I see the point author Seth Moskowitz was making since New Hampshire is an easier lift in some ways than Minnesota. Trump won the state’s 2016 primary and has a population less than a quarter than that of Minnesota’s. It may be a safer and cheaper bet. But Minnesota benefits from some other things as a choice. It’s in between wo states that will both be in play – Iowa and Wisconsin – so there might be some economies of scale in both media and messaging.]
“It seems to me that, absent a debilitating crisis that negatively affects the incoming president, a strong economy, growing 401k’s, fuller wallets, and historically low unemployment are three critical elements for re-election of the incumbent. Is there a historical precedent that argues against my assumption?” – John Barr, Pittsford, N.Y.
[Ed. note: If those factors are all the same ten months hence, I’d say an incumbent defeat would be unprecedented in the modern era. But then again, much about Trump is unprecedented! Straight line projections are dangerous things, so we’ll just keep watching the game for now.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
FRICKIN’ LASER BEAMS
Edinburgh Evening News: “Contractors claim they are managing to cut the number of pigeons plaguing the Scottish Parliament by using not only hawks but also hand-held lasers to scare them away. Animal protection groups criticised the use of lasers when they were first tried at the parliament five years ago, claiming they could blind birds. Parliament officials insisted it was a ‘humane’ method to deter the pigeons but would not say why it had been decided to reintroduce the lasers after apparently abandoning their use following the criticisms. … The firm reported: ‘In addition to the hawks and falcons we have been using hand-held laser lights in the roosting areas to disrupt and dissuade them from viewing the parliament campus as a preferred site.’
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The fact is that the world hates us for our wealth, our success, our power. They hate us into incoherence.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on Nov. 9, 2003.
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.