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On the roster: For Biden, it’s always Iowa - How Harris drove Democrats off a cliff - Boffo jobs report boosts GOP hopes - Trump faces deadline today on hearings - Honked off


It’s always Iowa.

Joe Biden has thrice sought the presidency and each time, Iowa has been a rocky shoal. In 1988 it was at the Iowa State Fair where he plagiarized the lines of a British politician and it was a fifth-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 that drove Biden from the race.

This time it is Biden’s “No Malarkey” tour of the Hawkeye State that threatens to at last strip him of front-runner status.

We are not here talking about Biden chomping on his wife’s digits or even his bouts of confusion. Those things are status quo for Biden who is unquestionably a weird dude. Whether you find them endearing or disturbing, Biden’s penchants for unusual physical contact and ginormous gaffes are well known.

Biden’s real boo-boo in Iowa this time was lashing out at a voter who was trying to troll the former vice president at a campaign event in New Hampton.

When the man accused Biden of corruption related to the lucrative contract with a Ukrainian energy company his son, Hunter, won by trading on his family name, Biden blew his top. “You’re a damn liar, man,” Biden said.

But Biden, 77, took particular umbrage at his questioner’s suggestion that he was too old. “You want to check my shape?” Biden demanded. “Let's do push-ups together, man. Let's run. Let's do whatever you want to do. Let's take an IQ test.”

A little bit of righteous anger is a good thing for a candidate. South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg does well, for example, when he lets his goody-two-shoes shtick drop a bit. Nobody wants a president who’s that Episcopalian. But Biden has a different set of problems.

In 1987 Biden had a similar run-in with a voter who asked him how he had placed in his law school class. “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect. I went to law school on a full academic scholarship,” Biden snapped. “I'd be delighted to sit down and compare my IQ to yours if you'd like.”

Almost no voter alive today would remember much, if anything, about Biden’s woe-begotten past presidential runs. They’re more likely to remember the kindly, folksy, avuncular character that the Obama campaign and administration helped create.

The Joe Biden America knew before 2008, insofar as it knew him at all, was a quick-tempered, vain politician. They remembered the guy from the Anita Hill hearings.

Biden has worked hard in his 2020 run to maintain his “Uncle Joe” persona. He is Barack Obama’s friend, and your friend too, America. But as we draw closer to the election and as threats to his candidacy multiply – first from Buttigieg and now from former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg – Biden has had to leave the bubble a bit.

And now Biden faces the additional threat from potentially being one of six on this month’s debate stage rather than part of the cast of thousands that have appeared in what have passed for debates so far this cycle.

If Biden finally does founder it would be fitting that it would, as ever, be because of Iowa.

Politico: “Kamala Harris was hosting a town hall in her hometown of Oakland, Calif., two years ago when she made an announcement that set off a mad scramble in the U.S. Senate. ‘Here, I’ll break some news,’ Harris told hundreds of people packed into the sanctuary at Beebe Memorial Church on Aug. 30. ‘I intend to co-sponsor the ‘[Medicare] for All’ bill because it’s just the right thing to do,’ she said… By Sept. 13 – just two weeks after Harris’ town hall – all of them… surrounded Sanders at a Capitol Hill news conference and talked about how ‘proud’ they were to co-sponsor his legislation to upend the health care industry. … Harris equivocated after her initial declaration, reinforcing nagging questions about her core beliefs. She dropped out of the race on Tuesday. The only person who hasn’t budged is Sanders himself. The story of the embrace and then retreat from single-payer closely tracks the arc of the Democratic Party since Donald Trump’s election.”

Continetti: Medicare for All, the campaign killer - Free Beacon: “Once thought to be the fulfillment of the age-old dream of universal health care, Medicare for All is more like one of those ingenious Acme devices Wile E. Coyote uses to catch the Road Runner. It's a catapult that launches you into the stratosphere. And right into a wall.”

Booker, Castro complain about not being in debate - Politico: “Cory Booker and Julián Castro are taking aim at the Democratic National Committee over a primary process they say is excluding them from debates but allowing a billionaire to buy his way on to the stage. California Sen. Kamala Harris’ abrupt departure from the 2020 race Tuesday has exposed the lack of diversity among the remaining group of top candidates. Despite falling from the top tier, Harris was the leading candidate of color and the only minority candidate to qualify for the Dec. 19 debate in Los Angeles. … The Booker and Castro campaigns say Harris’ announcement triggered an outpouring of financial support for them. ... But that momentum is unlikely to earn them a lectern at the upcoming debate, as both candidates have little chance of reaching the 4 percent threshold in four approved polls before next Thursday’s deadline.”

Dems face impeachment balancing act - WaPo: “Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker are considering tele-town halls so they can beam into early-voting state campaign events. Advisers to Bernie Sanders hope his star supporter, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), will stand in for him in Iowa. And Amy Klobuchar is preparing to scramble onto late-night flights while sending a small army of supporters to campaign in her stead. The likely Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, expected to dominate the first half of January, is scrambling plans for the sizable number of Democratic presidential candidates who, as senators, will be required to sit as jurors — taking them away from the final sprint of campaigning before voting begins Feb. 3 in Iowa. The convergence of impeachment proceedings and presidential politics is without precedent, with five of the 15 contenders for the Democratic nomination looking for creative ways to remain in the mix in early-voting states while spending most of their time back in Washington.”

“Those who can best discern the intrinsic difficulty of the thing, will be least hasty in condemning that opinion, and will be most inclined to allow due weight to the arguments which may be supposed to have produced it.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 65

Psychologist Adelia Moore on what parents can learn from Fred RogersThe Atlantic: “Children’s demands for attention can be grating, especially in the middle of the night or as a work deadline nears. … But as Mister Rogers knew, attention is at the heart of human relationships. Children benefit from the attention grown-ups give them in ordinary, everyday ways as well as harder moments when they are struggling. … The ubiquity of screens has made attention scarcer than ever, but children need it just as much as they always have. When parents pay attention to their children as Mister Rogers did — with genuine curiosity — they tend to focus more on what is happening between them and their children, and less on their own stresses and to-do lists. If they can establish a pattern of responsiveness, they can do what Mister Rogers did with his sweater, shoes, and song, and build up the sense of security that kids need to thrive.”

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Biden: 26 points (no change in points)
Warren: 19.4 points (no change in points)
Sanders: 17.2 points (no change in points)
Buttigieg: 10.2 points (no change in points)
[Averages include: Quinnipiac University, CNN, Monmouth University, NBC News/WSJ and ABC News/WaPo.]

Average approval: 43 percent
Average disapproval: 52.8 percent
Net Score: -9.8 percent
Change from one week ago: no change in points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; Monmouth University: 45% approve - 52% disapprove.]

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WaPo: “The United States added 266,000 jobs in November as the jobless rate decreased to 3.5 percent, reflecting a surge of strength in the labor market that has muscled through recession fears that flared over the summer. The data, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, beat expectations. Analysts had forecast roughly 180,000 new jobs for the month. The 3.5 percent unemployment rate is back at a 50-year low. The jobs data offer the latest snapshot into an economy that appears to have lost some steam from 2018 but continues to grow. Heading into President Trump’s fourth year in office, the labor market remains one of the economy’s biggest engines, and Trump regularly touts the low unemployment rate as one of his top achievements. ‘Looking at the high number of jobs that were added in November, you might forget that the story for most of this year was that the economy was slowing down,’ Indeed Hiring Lab research director Nick Bunker wrote in an analysis of the data Friday.”

Politico: “Senate Republicans are beginning to deliver a reality check to the president and House Republicans that there are limits to what they can do. ‘You got two different bodies here,’ [Lindsey Graham], a stalwart Trump ally, told reporters on Thursday. ‘Are we going to start calling House members over here when we don’t like what they say or do? I don’t think so.’ Senate GOP leaders have signaled they intend to defend Trump wholeheartedly, but they’re also loath to let the upper chamber descend into chaos or divide their caucus ahead of a tough 2020 cycle. And even if Senate Republicans wanted to embrace the hard-line posture of the House, the party’s narrow majority makes that all but impossible under Senate rules. Calling controversial witnesses will require near lockstep party unity from 51 of the 53 Senate Republicans to make any procedural maneuvers, a tough task given the diverse views in the GOP, according to senators and aides.”

Trump faces deadline today on hearings - WaPo: “President Trump faces a 5 p.m. deadline Friday to announce whether he intends to have a lawyer participate in the remaining impeachment proceedings before the House Judiciary Committee, as Democrats accelerate their attempt to remove him from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) directed committee chairmen Thursday to begin the process of drafting articles of impeachment against Trump, with many Democrats anticipating that a full House vote could come before Christmas. At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine in the face of Russian military aggression, to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden… In a bid to bolster the argument that Trump is facing a ‘partisan impeachment,’ his campaign manager, Brade Parscale, tweeted a two-decade-old video of Biden protesting Republican efforts to oust then-President Bill Clinton.”

Pelosi’s impeachment leap - NYT: “For months, Ms. [Nancy] Pelosi had resisted calls for impeachment. … People close to the speaker say that she has said privately what she often says publicly: She has never been eager to impeach the president. She worried that vulnerable moderates would lose their seats, that it would tear the country apart. And it was a distraction from the poll-tested agenda Democrats had campaigned on: lowering the cost of prescription drugs, raising the minimum wage, fighting corruption and gun violence. … How Ms. Pelosi got to ‘where we are today’ is in part the story of her sense of timing, her methodical approach to decision making and her ability to read the sensibilities and political needs of her fractious and often unruly caucus. As Washington’s most powerful Democrat, she is the only lawmaker in the Capitol who can, and routinely does, go toe to toe with the president.”

Politico: “Washington Democrats are no longer pining for Beto O’Rourke. They’re far more infatuated with another ousted presidential candidate: Steve Bullock. O’Rourke has just three days before the Texas filing deadline to decide whether he wants to run against incumbent GOP Sen. John Cornyn. Yet many Senate Democrats aren’t sure O’Rourke would even be the strongest Senate candidate at this point after running to the left in his presidential run… Instead, Democrats are all about Bullock, even though the Montana governor has tried to squash talk of a Senate run every chance he gets — the latest on Wednesday when he said in Montana, ‘that’s just not what I want to do.’ But even as party officials are desperate for Bullock to run, they’re taking a soft approach for fear going too hard would backfire. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he hasn’t talked to Bullock or O'Rourke… Still, Democratic senators are publicly encouraging Bullock to join their club.”

“Let me be more blunt: When your caller ID says it's a pollster calling, pick up.” – Cory Booker said to supporters in Iowa, per Politico. Booker still hasn’t qualified for the next Democratic debate.

This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., live from the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California. 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. 

“Is it possible the Dem’s rush to impeach has as much to do with Biden as Trump? Could it be they know he is a weak, tainted candidate and exposure is better before early primaries than later - leaving space for a more viable candidate to gain ground?  Locking in to Biden could be very damaging to their 2020 prospects.” – Sheila Willis, Toronto, Canada

[Ed. note: Without delving into the particulars of your accusation, Ms. Willis, let me offer this general advice for political observers: We all, regardless of party or sect, tend to attribute excessive wickedness and competency to our rivals. The misperception of wickedness is understandable since we would like to always think of ourselves and our fellows as the most virtuous. But the misperception of excessive cunning is because we never would like to think of our team losing in a fair fight. It is true that sometimes politicians pull off complicated, strategic maneuvers informed by great foresight. But that almost never happens. Almost everything you see in politics and government is the result of short-term thinking born of necessity.]

“…yesterday you wrote the word 'allegation' when referring to Dems impeachment push, but wrote 'unfounded theory' (not that I myself am a believer) when it comes to the Ukraine interference possibility. That is the definition of an allegation. Unsubstantiated yes, but an allegation. My God, with the absence of an actual witness, it is the impeachment accusations that are unfounded theories. … By this time last election cycle Halftime was providing updates on the various races for house and senate. Although I skimmed these then, where are they now?” – Anthony LoRe, Whitestone, N.Y.

[Ed. note: Oh how we would rather be doing Senate race ratings, Mr. LoRe! We love maps and charts and lists. It’s kind of our jam. But a couple of things: First, impeachment is just a huge, massively consequential story. We don’t have any idea what the near or long-term political ramifications will be (and neither does anyone else), so we have to stay on the story. Second, in a quadrennial presidential election, down-ballot races tend to be much more dependent on the national political climate. It’s almost impossible to say with useful exactitude which races will be competitive – beyond a few obvious ones – until we know the shape of the presidential contest. We will soon enough be doling out plenty for you to skim, though. As for the word choices you find objectionable, those were from the WaPo. When you’re trying to lead with breaking news, sometimes you have to accept imprecision from sources. I wouldn’t have used the loaded ‘unfounded theory,’ but c’est la vie.]     

“I haven’t seen you discuss Sturgill's new record that just came out. ‘Sound and Fury’ is by far his most rock-n-roll album to date. I can't stop listening to it. I remember you discussing ‘A Sailor's Guide to Earth,’ a few years ago. I thought your readers may want to check out this amazing record to take their collective minds off of the absolute sh*t-show that is happening in Washington right now. Right or Left, it's just depressing to see what's going on in our Capital. However, we're Americans and this too shall pass. Merry Christmas.” – Patrick Wittbrodt II, Flint, Mich. 

[Ed. note: A battlefield commission for the Army of the Level-Headed for you, Brevet Col. Wittbrodt of the Old Northwest Division. Tippecanoe would be proud. As for Sturgill Simpson’s roadhouse rockabilly turn, I am a fan! “Sing Along” kicks ass. But I also thing he’s making a point. Listen to “Make Art Not Friends.” He sings, “Think I'm gonna just stay home and make art, not friends. I love saying ‘No’ to all the ‘Yes’ men just to see the look on their face.” Great artists sometimes have to defy expectations and conventions in order to retain their creative power. I think of David Bowie, the Coen brothers and Dave Chappelle and so many other great creators who were willing to blow up their brands rather than seek commercial success by replicating past successes. There’s a lot to be said for giving the people what they want, but for a handful of truly gifted artists, the quest for creativity outstrips the need to please. My hat is off to Mr. Simpson in a big way.]    

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

KSL: “Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason had never seen anything like it. A video taken on I-15 in Lehi shows a man playing a trumpet while he’s behind the wheel, with both of his hands on the instrument and both eyes looking at the sheet music in his lap, with the car speeding forward the entire time. The video is only a few seconds long but has gone viral on social media. … Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said there is technically no law against what the man was doing, but officers do have discretion to pull over unsafe drivers and would most likely advise him not to do it. Street also said there is a way the driver could have been arrested. ‘If they commit one or two moving violations while playing the trumpet with two hands going down the roadway, they would be in violation of the careless driving statute,’ Street says.”

“But there is a problem with a clone. It is not really you. It is but a twin, a perfect John Doe Jr., but still a junior. With its own independent consciousness, it is, alas, just a facsimile of you.” – 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.