Dems ponder late entry: White knight or Don Quixote?


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On the roster: Dems ponder late entry: White knight or Don Quixote? - South Carolina priest refused Biden communion - Army colonel corroborates quid pro quo claims - Sessions said to be considering Senate return bid - Dirty birds

DEMS PONDER LATE ENTRY: WHITE KNIGHT OR DON QUIXOTE?

How late is too late?

That’s the question some anxious Democrats are asking as they look beyond the existing field of 2020 candidates for potential nominees to face President Trump.

In the week since a NYT report about Democratic donors looking for new candidates to enter the race was published, there’s been quite a bit of huffing and puffing over the possibility. It’s a fun Washington parlor game, no doubt. But is it anything more than that?

From a practical perspective, it’s probably already too late for all but the most famous, best-liked political figures in the nation to build a campaign that could compete. And that’s a very short list indeed – one that, by our thinking, currently comprises just one person: Michelle Obama.

But what if someone other than the former first lady wanted to launch a bid at this late date?

Names mentioned for a late launch include former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and former Vice President Al Gore. Candidates like those would certainly make a splash upon entry, but it’s hard to imagine that any of those microwaved leftovers would be more than yet another second-tier contender in a crowded field.

This is already a group in which well-known sitting senators are struggling to get to 3 percent of the vote after months of campaigning and millions of dollars spent. It just doesn’t stand to reason that the aforementioned – especially those only begrudgingly accepted by Democrats in the past – would be doing much better.

As Nate Silver points out, while some Democratic elites may be unsatisfied with their choices, the party as a whole is quite happy with what’s on offer. Polls show very high levels of satisfaction among Democratic voters. And the only place to start would be in attacking the frontrunner, Joe Biden, a move that would only further alienate voters.

Maybe the party insiders are right that the field is actually weak, but if voters don’t agree, a late entrant looks like Don Quixote, not a white knight. And if a candidate like that did want to run, it’s not just the constraints of politics that would be challenging, but the electoral calendar itself.

Democrats have frontloaded their primary schedule for this cycle in hopes of a swift decision. That means that the filing deadlines for key contests are now just weeks away, including New Hampshire on Nov. 15.

More ominously for potential late entrants, Democrats will allocate more than a third of all delegates on Super Tuesday in the first week of March, which means major filing deadlines are fast approaching. The biggest prize of them all, California, requires candidates to file by Nov. 26 for its Super Tuesday contests, with other delegate-rich states like Texas and Massachusetts following soon thereafter.

It may not technically be too late for a candidate with deep pockets and a well-known name to launch a candidacy, but it will be soon. And practically speaking, it’s probably already past time given the demands of fundraising and organizing.

If Democrats do end up with a split decision and a contested convention this summer, it’s possible that delegates could turn to a party elder not already on the ballot. But barring a meltdown in Milwaukee, Democrats will almost certainly have to choose from among those already running. 

The musings of donors at dinner parties will more likely slip from memory more quickly than their last bottle of Beaujolais. 

SOUTH CAROLINA PRIEST REFUSED BIDEN COMMUNION
Florence [S.C.] Morning News: “Former Vice President Joe Biden, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential race, was denied Holy Communion on Sunday morning at a Florence church. Father Robert E. Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church confirmed Monday afternoon that he had denied the presidential candidate Holy Communion because of his stance on abortion. Biden, a lifelong Catholic, had attended the church’s 9 a.m. Mass. … ‘Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden,’ Morey told the Morning News via email. … Morey said that as a priest, it is his responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to his care and that he must do so in even the most difficult situations. ‘I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers,’ Morey added.”

The storm of Biden media coverage seems to have passed - FiveThirtyEight: “When news about President Trump’s call to Ukraine first broke in late September, it seemed like former Vice President Joe Biden would be inextricably linked to the story. Biden was mentioned in more cable news clips and online news stories that week than every other 2020 Democratic candidate combined, according to data from the TV News Archive, which chops up cable news across the three networks we monitor — CNN, MSNBC and Fox News — into 15-second clips and Media Cloud, a database of online news. That week, Biden was mentioned in 74 percent of cable news clips, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the next most-mentioned candidate, was only in 16 percent of clips. In the past two weeks, however, as the initial flood of impeachment coverage has ebbed, so has the extra attention for Biden.”

Bernie gains ground in New Hampshire - CNN: “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (21%) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (18%) are in a close race among likely voters in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential primary, according to a new CNN poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire. Former Vice President Joe Biden stands a shade behind at 15%, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounds out the field of four who reach double-digits with 10%. Behind that group, three candidates land at 5% in the poll -- Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Andrew Yang. California Sen. Kamala Harris, who stood at 9% in a July New Hampshire poll, now holds just 3% support.”

Harris blames her ethnicity, gender for poor performance - National Review: “Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris described electability as the ‘elephant in the room’ of her campaign and pondered whether America is ready for a woman of color to be commander in chief. ‘Essentially, is America ready for a woman and a woman of color to be president of the United States?’ Harris said in an interview with Axios on HBO. ‘There is a lack of ability or a difficulty in imagining that someone whom we have never seen can do a job that has been done 45 times by someone who is not that person.’ The same conversation happened when Barack Obama ran for president, the California senator added. Harris has been especially vocal about both racial justice and women’s rights during her 2020 campaign.”

Harrop: Amy, what’cha wanna do? - Real Clear Politics: “A new piece in The Economist, ‘Amy Klobuchar for sanity,’ urges Democrats to give the senator ‘a look.’ It portrays her as an exemplar of Midwest pragmatism who could become a moderate alternative to Joe Biden. Mayor Pete's ace is his fine intellect and military service in Afghanistan. … His support for extending health coverage to undocumented immigrants has political strategists slapping their heads. Democrats don't like talking about this, but Buttigieg's outwardly gay identity, as well as his tender age of 37, could work against him in a national election. That leaves Klobuchar as one of the more plausible Democrats to beat Trump. Her momentum follows a frontal assault on Elizabeth Warren's ‘Medicare for All’ plan during the debate. Klobuchar called it a ‘pipe dream’ that would require a significant tax increase on the middle class.”

THE RULEBOOK: TRICKLE DOWN
“Civil power, properly organized and exerted, is capable of diffusing its force to a very great extent; and can, in a manner, reproduce itself in every part of a great empire by a judicious arrangement of subordinate institutions.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 13

TIME OUT: UNDER PONTIUS PILATE 
NatGeo: “Pontius Pilate is a man many Jews and Christians love to hate. For Christians, the Roman governor of Judaea played a central role in the execution of Jesus around A.D. 30, while for Jews he was a callous ruler who set the stage for the rebellion that led to the destruction of Jerusalem four decades later. But a new discovery suggests that Pilate also spent a good deal of time and money embellishing the famous city that drew Jewish pilgrims as well as visitors from around the Roman Empire. Archaeologists tunneling beneath a Palestinian neighborhood just south of Jerusalem’s walls are uncovering a monumental stepped street that led to the foot of the Temple Mount, the sacred platform that once held the Jewish Temple and now is home to some of Islam’s holiest sites. The impressive walkway stretched more than a third of a mile, was 26 feet wide, and required some ten thousand tons of limestone slabs.”

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SCOREBOARD
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 27.6 points (↓ 0.6 from last wk.)
Warren: 24.8 points (↓ 1.6 from last wk.)
Sanders: 14.6 points (↑ 1.2 from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 6.4 points (↑ 0.2 from last wk.)
Harris: 4.8 points (↑ 0.4 from last wk.)
[Averages include: Quinnipiac University, CNN, Fox News, IBD and Monmouth University.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 41 percent
Average disapproval: 55.6 percent
Net Score: -14.6 percent
Change from one week ago: ↓ 1.8 points
[Average includes: Grinnell/Selzer: 43% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 58% disapprove; CNN: 42% approve - 57% disapprove; Fox News: 43% approve - 55% disapprove; Gallup: 39% approve - 57% disapprove.] 

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ARMY COLONEL CORROBORATES QUID PRO QUO CLAIMS
WaPo: “National Security Council Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony in the House impeachment probe Tuesday is shedding new light on how Trump administration officials pressured Ukrainian leaders into investigations that could benefit the president, corroborating other witnesses with a firsthand account of the alleged attempt at a quid pro quo. Vindman’s prepared remarks directly challenge the testimony of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who defended the president’s actions and told House investigators that no one had raised concerns about them. Sondland told the top American diplomat in Ukraine, Ambassador William B. Taylor Jr., in September text messages saying [Donald] Trump had not engaged in a quid pro quo; those text messages were provided to investigators by former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker earlier this month.”

House to vote Thursday on impeachment procedures - Fox News: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday the House will vote this week on a resolution to formalize -- and establish the parameters -- of the Trump impeachment inquiry. In a letter sent to Democratic House lawmakers, Pelosi, D-Calif., said the resolution ‘affirms the ongoing, existing investigation’ and ‘establishes the procedure’ for future investigative steps. ‘We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives,’ Pelosi said. Fox News has learned the vote will take place Thursday on the House floor. It is not an actual article of impeachment, but rather a resolution that sets process ground rules. … The White House argued Monday that the move proves Democrats have been conducting an ‘unauthorized’ inquiry.”

Pelosi looks to keep pressure on GOP with vote - The Atlantic: “The House will be on recess next week, and Democratic members will have to address the impeachment inquiry when they meet with their constituents. For lawmakers in swing districts, the fear of having to take a vote on impeachment—which drove Pelosi’s initial decision not to have one—may have given way to anxiety that the GOP’s accusation of railroading has been resonating with the public. And for most of the party, a vote shouldn’t be difficult: All but a handful of House Democrats have already come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry… Polls have shown a significant bump in support for impeachment since Pelosi announced the start of the inquiry, and it’s less of a vulnerability for Democrats. The pressure will now be on Republicans: Will those like Representatives Francis Rooney of Florida, Will Hurd of Texas, and Mark Amodei of Nevada, who have voiced concerns about Trump’s actions, back the formal opening of an inquiry?”

SESSIONS SAID TO BE CONSIDERING SENATE RETURN BID
Politico: “Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is strongly considering jumping into the race for his old Senate seat in Alabama, according to multiple Republican sources familiar with the matter. Sessions would scramble the already crowded field of Republicans seeking to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who won a 2017 special election to fill the remainder of Sessions' term and is widely viewed as the most vulnerable senator on the ballot next year. … Sessions, 72, must decide within days whether to run: Candidates have until Nov. 8 to qualify for the ballot. Five Republicans are already in the race: Rep. Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Secretary of State John Merrill, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and Roy Moore, the former state Supreme Court judge who lost the special election in 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct.”

North Carolina to toss GOP-drawn House map - The [Raleigh, N.C.] News & Observer: “North Carolina’s 2020 congressional elections must happen under new maps, a panel of judges ruled Monday evening, saying that the current Republican-drawn maps are unfair to many voters. The legislature must now redraw the state’s 13 U.S. House districts. The judges — two Democrats and one Republican from different parts of North Carolina — wrote that the maps show signs of ‘extreme partisan gerrymandering’ which ‘is contrary to the fundamental right of North Carolina citizens to have elections conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the people.’ Monday’s ruling, a preliminary injunction, said the state may not hold any elections for Congress using the current maps passed in 2016. … The judges ruled that if there aren’t new maps in time for the primary elections on March 3 then they could delay all or some of the primaries until later in 2020.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
U.K. heading toward an early general election to break Brexit deadlock - NBC News

Ross Douthat: The overstated collapse of American Christianity NYT

America’s largest private coal producer, Murray Energy, bankrupt after failed Trump rescue bid - Bloomberg

AUDIBLE: NAH 
“I'm not missing anything. I prefer happiness. Look how happy I am.” – Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema explaining to Politico why she has not watched any of her party’s presidential debates.

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

DIRTY BIRDS
Anchorage [Alaska] Daily News: “Alaska’s ravens and crows are shiny black pranksters… Rock-dropping black birds — maybe ravens, maybe crows — are accused of smashing out glass in a half-dozen vehicles parked at Soldotna’s Central Peninsula Hospital last week. Keith Randall, the hospital’s security manager, heard about the spate of broken windshields, rear windows and sunroofs and figured he was dealing with a vandalism problem. Randall quickly realized he was. But it wasn’t humans doing the damage. The evidence pointed to black birds… Off-duty nurse Cathy McDaniel was killing time in her pickup … when she heard a giant boom… McDaniel saw a rock. She saw her shattered sunroof. She tossed the rock on the ground -- and saw a black bird fly down, pick it up, and fly off with it. … The hospital posted a Facebook story about the rock-wielding birds. Several commenters shared stories of their own encounters with ravens.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The lovable old guy [Bernie Sanders] with the big crowds and no chance at the nomination is hardly taken seriously (except by Hillary Clinton, whose inability to put him away reveals daily her profound political weakness).” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Chicago Tribune on June 2, 2016.

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.