Kamala Harris, Democratic frontrunner

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On the roster: Kamala Harris, Democratic frontrunner - Gillibrand-ed as a flip flopper - Pompeo gets serious about possible Senate run - Dems under pressure to make a deal - ‘Fines levied for insults to the felt hat’

You can’t have a horserace without a frontrunner, and now the Democrats have both.

Kamala Harris has been running for president perhaps since even before her 2016 Senate win. Like 2005’s favorite freshman, Barack Obama, she arrived in Washington with great expectations.

Back then, Harris handily won the Democratic primary for what initially promised to be a hyper-competitive race to replace the retiring Barbara Boxer. Harris breezed in (thanks in part to her long, highly successful alliance with then-Mayor now California Gov. Gavin Newsome.)

As state attorney general and previously a longtime San Francisco district attorney, Harris had the right credentials. But most of all, she was well suited to the new political realities of a one-party Golden State.

Hers was the first statewide contest that featured no Republican in the general election under a new jungle primary system. Harris ran as an unapologetic liberal but one who would maintain her tough-on-crime credibility earned as a prosecutor.

Harris’ real advantage, though, was she meant to be there. While as many as a dozen members of Congress, state lawmakers, mayors and others mulled a run, Harris got in early and did so with enough economic and institutional support to make her the frontrunner from the start.

And like Obama, she drew national attention for her Senate run from the start. Young (yes, 54 is young by the standards of the Senate), attractive, media savvy, ambitious and of multi-ethnic origins, the Obama comparisons were instantaneous.

Now, right on schedule and with an increasingly large number of backers, Harris is officially making her move. Her choice of Martin Luther King Day for the launch doubly emphasizes who she aims to be in the race: the candidate for an increasingly diverse party and one where women increasingly dominate.

Along with a similar path to power, Harris has also already inherited much of Obama’s base within the party, particularly among the donor class and political professionals. Joe Biden could certainly change that with the flip of a switch, but as for today, Harris is the Obama legacy candidate. And given the depth of love Democrats again feel for Obama, that’s a good place to be.

The other senators running, particularly Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, boast robust fundraising and scores of devoted supporters. But they are also candidates of limited spectrum and will be stuck much of the campaign duking it out over and over again for the same activist voters. Harris has appeal among a broader swath.

Kristen Gillibrand is also a legacy candidate, but it’s more baggage than blessing. She seems a great deal like an updated version of the woman she succeeded in the Senate, Hillary Clinton. Gillibrand has lots of love from Wall Street, fungible views on policy and is evidently worried about her relatability. That all sounds pretty familiar.

And Cory Booker? Maybe Beto O’Rourke needs someone to ride shotgun as he LiveJournals his way across the hinterland.

It’s extremely early, and there will be changes on a near-daily basis. But Harris’ candidacy has the most important hallmark of a frontrunner: She’s making other candidates think and act differently. 
“…for upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or fatally defeated.” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22

TIME OUT: ‘ONLY IN THE DARKNESS CAN YOU SEE THE STARS’  AP: “A collection of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s papers on display in Atlanta provides insight into the slain civil rights leader’s thought processes as he drafted some of his most well-known speeches and notable sermons. ‘The Meaning of Hope: The Best of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection’ is set to open Saturday at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. It is timed to commemorate what would have been King’s 90th birthday on Jan. 15 and to attract people visiting Atlanta for the Super Bowl next month. The Voice to the Voiceless gallery at the center plays host to exhibits of King’s papers from the Morehouse collection that rotate every four months. Organizers intended this particular exhibit to showcase the ‘best of the best,’ papers that people would instantly recognize without much explanation.”

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Trump job performance
Average approval: 39.8 percent
Average disapproval: 55.6 percent
Net Score: -15.8 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.4 points
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 40% approve – 54% disapprove; Pew: 39% approve - 58% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 37% approve - 57% disapprove; IBD: 42% approve - 54% disapprove.]                   

WaPo: “[Kirsten Gillibrand] … The moderate Democrat from Upstate New York had just been appointed to the Senate and liberals were in an uproar. Then a congresswoman, Gillibrand had an A-rating from the National Rifle Association. She co-sponsored bills to roll back restrictions on firearms in the District of Columbia and to limit disclosure of gun trace information by law enforcement. Gun control advocates were stunned that she was chosen to fill the seat. But Gillibrand’s transformation had already begun. … Gillibrand overhauled her political identity during this period, abandoning the conservative positions that made her popular upstate and embracing or even moving further left than the liberal consensus on guns, immigration, Wall Street and same-sex marriage. As the Democratic Party itself moved left, she staked out positions popular with the party’s swelling base of liberals, a posture most evident when she called for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. She has voted against President Trump’s agenda more than any other senator.”

Biden leans on Obama legacy at Sharpton’s King Day breakfast - Washington Examiner: “Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday touted his relationship with former President Barack Obama in a meeting with black voters in New York and assured them that he is close friends with Obama. ‘He's my buddy,’ Biden said at a breakfast hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network. ‘All those memes are true, except he did the first friendship bracelet, not me.’ Biden name-checked Obama multiple times during his speech by referring to him as his friend ‘Barack,’ as he pitched the Obama administration’s record on the topics such as criminal justice reform. Biden made no specific reference to 2020, although he has hinted he'll be a candidate in the coming months. He appeared with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hinted that both he and Biden might be running.”

Laments support for Clinton-era sentencing laws - NBC News: “Former Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged Monday that his record on criminal justice issues hasn’t always been perfect, addressing, albeit briefly, a key aspect of his long career in public office that could be a liability if he runs for president. ‘You know I’ve been in this fight for a long time,’ Biden said in remarks to a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast in Washington. ‘I haven’t always been right, I know we haven’t always done things the right way. But I’ve always tried.’ Biden made no mention of the 1994 crime bill he authored, a law that's sparked criticism from progressive activists for its strict sentencing requirements. Biden had long touted his work on the issue, even recently as vice president since the legislation included gun control measures that have since expired.”

Bloomberg looks to ditch centrist label - Politico: “Bloomberg’s top boosters insist he hasn’t made up his mind yet about running. He’ll make an official announcement within a month. If he decides to run, Bloomberg told reporters in Iowa last month, he would make climate change ‘the issue.’ Guns won’t be far behind. … At first glance, Michael Bloomberg would seem to have zero appeal in a Democratic Party where progressive populism is on the rise and activists and elites say it’s time for a woman or a person of color to win the White House. But unlike any of the other presidential hopefuls, Bloomberg plays a dominant leadership role on two of the top issues on the minds of progressives heading into the 2020 cycle: climate change and gun control. He’s spent a decade as the nation’s preeminent financier on those issues, buying considerable goodwill in progressive circles.”

Texas-sized showdown shaping up between Castro and Beto - Dallas News: “It's likely that former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso will joust for the Democratic nomination for president, along with numerous contenders from across the country. Some analysts have dismissed Castro's chances. They point out that since his keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, his star has slipped…. Until he got into the presidential sweepstakes this month, Castro had been somewhat obscure since serving as Housing secretary in President Barack Obama's last term. Despite his low name recognition, Castro has strengths. He's currently the only major Latino in the contest. In the era of Donald Trump, where issues like building a wall along the nation's southern border with Mexico are dominant, Castro is a clear contrast to the sitting president.”

The Post and Courier Palmetto: “The annual King Day at the Dome in South Carolina served as a jumpstart to the 2020 presidential contest, featuring U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders telling voters they deserve better. The two are among a host of potential contenders to challenge President Donald Trump. … The event has become a staple for Democrats — or, in Sanders’ case, an independent — seeking the nation’s top job, as a way to appeal to voters in the first-in-the-South presidential primary. South Carolina is the first contest with a significant portion of black voters. … Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, broadly challenged the audience to honor King by getting involved and working for change.”   

Warren up next - The State: “The U.S. senator from Massachusetts announced in an email Sunday she will hold an event in South Carolina’s capital this week. It is the latest step in Warren’s potential 2020 presidential campaign, following ‘the launch of her exploratory committee,’ according to the email. Warren will attend a ‘Columbia Organizing Event,’ on Wednesday, her press office said in the email. The event will be held at Columbia College, and ‘is open to the public,’ the email stated. Tickets for Warren’s event can be reserved online. In addition to making tickets available, Warren’s press office said it is also looking for volunteers to ‘help’ at the event, per the website. … Warren has already visited New Hampshire and Iowa since launching her exploratory committee, the Associated Press reported.”   

Politico: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is slated to meet with veteran Republican strategist Ward Baker on Sunday afternoon to discuss a possible 2020 run for the vacant Kansas Senate seat, according to two people familiar with the plans. Pompeo, a former congressman and ex-CIA director who in April 2018 was confirmed as secretary of State, is considering a Senate bid, though he has yet to make a final decision. Yet party leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are aggressively wooing him. McConnell (R-Ky.) and Pompeo spoke shortly after Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts announced his retirement. Pompeo and Baker are expected to talk about what a Senate campaign would entail.”

Fox News: “Democrats once said the so-called BRIDGE Act was urgently needed to protect young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. But now that President Trump has offered to essentially include it as part of a compromise to re-open shuttered government agencies, those same Democrats are rejecting it -- unwilling to trade border wall funding for the immigrant protections they have long sought. … While the Democratic leadership in Congress has come out against the compromise, they are facing some pressure to deal. The editorial board of the Washington Post over the weekend called on Democrats to come back to the table. In an editorial titled ‘Make a deal. Save the dreamers,’ the paper argued Trump ‘should not be rewarded for having taken the government hostage’ but said Trump’s offer to compromise ‘should be welcomed.’”

McConnell ready to run the rapids - AP: “[T]he issue passed to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to bring Trump’s proposal to the floor this week. Democrats say there’s little chance the measure will reach the 60-vote threshold usually required to advance legislation in the Senate. Republicans have a 53-47 majority, which means they need at least some Democrats to vote in favor.”

GOPers frustrated with White House dysfunction - NYT: “Republicans had hoped his plan would put Democrats in a corner, but Democrats called it a nonstarter, prompting attacks from the president on the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. And her relationship with her counterpart in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who presumably would need to make a deal with her, is fraught. … While Mr. Trump has projected confidence in public, he has expressed private frustration over what he views as negative coverage. Many Republicans concede, also in private, that he has made strategic errors and allowed dysfunction to continue.”

Consequences piling up across the country - Albuquerque Journal: “The longest shutdown in history has left nine of the 15 major federal agencies without funding since Dec. 22, throwing government workers into furlough status, cutting pay to contractors and canceling previously scheduled projects. ADC, which provides security and conducts background checks for a variety of government agencies, has 350 employees in Albuquerque but it supports more than 2,600 workers nationwide.”                                   

Effort to oust King with primary challenge gets funds, key backers - Des Moines Register   

Julie Irwin Zimmerman: ‘I Failed the Covington Catholic Test’ - The Atlantic

Democrats paint target on DeVos - AP                     

AUDIBLE: ABOUT THAT… “I’m not thinking about politics right now.” – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who announced her presidential candidacy 10 days ago, deflecting a question in an interview with CNN.

FROM THE BLEACHERS  “Thank you for bringing some semblance of looking at all sides of an issue. I feel very upset and disappointed with all politics lately. It has left me feeling like I don’t belong anywhere politically. Basically I’d like all the elected officials to do their jobs and stop acting like they are afraid to stand up to leaders in their party. I wonder if we would be better off if we didn’t have parties - just elect individuals and make them responsible for working together to get things done.” - Mary Anne Kenerson, Clarkston, Michigan 

[Ed. note: Take heart, Ms. Kenerson! You are far from alone. In fact, you are part of the largest segment of our electorate: unaffiliated voters. Like tens of millions of your fellow Americans, you’re weighing your options and making your own choices. I am a longtime defender of our two party system, but given what we’re seeing now, I can’t blame anyone for opting for “none of the above.”]

“Many years ago I volunteered at my Son's elementary school (K-6) as what they called a ‘Yard Teacher’. We were, quite simply, an adult presence on the playground during recess and lunch break to give the teachers a break and help keep mayhem to a minimum. The children would have their spats, they would come to us for a solution, we would help them work things out and they would quickly get back to business. In light of the present situation, I think the Executive and Legislative branches of our government are badly in need of a ‘Yard Teacher’. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, ‘Never have so few done so little for so many’.” Nancy Barnes, Moreno Valley, Calif.

[Ed. note: I nominate you, Ms. Barnes! You sound like a most sensible human being, indeed.]                   

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AFP: “Kyrgyzstan is gearing up to introduce legislation that would oblige its president to wear a national pointed hat on diplomatic trips following a national uproar. On Monday a parliamentary committee supported the proposal -- which will also see fines levied for insults to the felt hat -- the first step towards the legislation's introduction for a general parliamentary vote. The bill is a result of a furore that erupted in late 2017 when a dog was photographed wearing an Ak-Kalpak hat at a dog show. The headpiece, which is usually white, has a special place in the Central Asian country, revered so much that it has its own national day. The four-panelled hat symbolises ‘the peaks of the magnificent Kyrgyz mountains, forever snow-capped,’ a former presidential advisor, Topchubek Turgunaliyev, told AFP last year.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES… “But remember: Enforcement followed by legalization is not just the political thing to do. It is the right thing to do — an act both of national generosity and national interest. It has long been the best answer to the immigration conundrum. It remains so.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) wrote in the Washington Post January 31, 2013                                                                                                                            
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Liz Friden contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.