Knives out as Dems gather for third debate


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On the roster: Knives out as Dems gather for third debate - I’ll Tell You What: A very special episode - Warren and Obama had beef, too - House Dems lurch through impeachment probe launch - Bad case of the jitters

KNIVES OUT AS DEMS GATHER FOR THIRD DEBATE 
Bloomberg: “The event in Houston will be the first time the top 10 candidates will appear on the same debate stage. … Joe Biden will take center stage, flanked by Elizabeth Warren to his left and Bernie Sanders to his right. It will be the first time Biden and Warren have appeared together at a debate. And the context has changed in the six weeks since the Democratic debate in Detroit: Two major mass shootings, a televised town hall on climate change and more hints of a recession on the horizon. …[M]any of the candidates have already telegraphed their strategies: Biden expects to defend the record of the Obama administration… Warren says her strategy remains the same as ever: lay out detailed policy plans… Sanders has honed his democratic socialist message over three decades and hasn’t changed it much as a candidate for president. … ‘Kamala will take on Donald Trump directly,’ said Press Secretary Ian Sams. … A campaign aide said he expects [PeteButtigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to be more aggressive in drawing contrasts with the other candidates…”

Some questions tonight’s debate could answer - USA Today: “Is Biden a fragile front-runner? … How will mass shootings shape the debate? … How long can Warren and Sanders be friends? … That nonaggression pact presumably will be strained by the need to differentiate themselves from one another. … Does lightning strike? In the first debate, in June, California Sen. Kamala Harris scored the evening's viral moment in an emotional exchange with Biden over his political record… She'll have competition for the spotlight. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Buttigieg and [Beto] O'Rourke also hope for a breakthrough moment that helps propel them from the second tier to the first. Who is Andrew Yang? … He seems to be the candidate having the most fun.”

O’Rourke, Castro at home, but away from relevancy - Politico: “Two of Texas’ biggest Democratic stars will take the debate stage Thursday in their home state but they’ll be far from the center of attention. Literally. Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman, and Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, will stand side by side in Houston on the far end of the debate stage, a reflection of their low standing in presidential polls. It’s a bit of a muted homecoming for the state’s prized Democratic prospects, both of whom entered the primary accompanied by high expectations but have since failed to build momentum. … The Houston debate will mark the first time the two Texans will share a stage since Castro memorably castigated O’Rourke over immigration policy… That confrontation came on the heels of several other passive-aggressive moves between the hopefuls that have captured attention.”

THE RULEBOOK: THANKS FOR HANDLING THAT   
“Not less arduous must have been the task of marking the proper line of partition between the authority of the general and that of the State governments.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 37

TIME OUT: *AHEM* A SHOCKING DISCOVERY 
Atlantic: “Throughout the animal’s storied history—as Alessandro Volta designed the first synthetic battery based on its body … as the physicist Michael Faraday placed his bare hands on it in his quest to understand electricity, and as modern researchers carried out an array of studies to show just how amazing (and sinister) its abilities are—Electrophorus electricus has always been regarded as a single species. The electric eel. Carlos David de Santana, a Brazilian researcher at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, thinks differently. By comparing 107 specimens pulled from museum drawers and the Amazon basin, he and his team of mostly Brazilian scientists have found that the infamous electric eel is actually three distinct species. …Tellingly, the eels’ DNA suggests that they last shared a common ancestor 7 million years ago, which means that they started to diverge well before brown bears and polar bears, lions and tigers, and even humans and chimpanzees.”

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SCOREBOARD
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 29 points 
Warren: 18.6 points
Sanders: 15 points
Harris: 6.8 points
Buttigieg: 5.2 points
[Averages include: CNN, ABC News/WaPo, IBD, Quinnipiac University and USA Today/Suffolk University.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 40 percent
Average disapproval: 54.8 percent
Net Score: -14.8 percent
Change from one week ago: down 1.8 points 
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 56% disapprove.]

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I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: A VERY SPECIAL ELECTION
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the Special Election in North Carolina, the upcoming Democratic debate and Dana takes issue with the new Monopoly game as Chris answers trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

WARREN AND OBAMA HAD BEEF, TOO
Politico: “But interviews with more than 50 top officials in the Obama White House and Treasury Department, members of Warren’s inner circle at the time, and Warren herself, reveal a far more combative relationship between her and the administration than she usually discusses on the campaign trail. Tensions between Warren and Obama were palpable to White House aides… The acrimonious differences between Warren and her allies, and members of the Obama team, led in part to her decision, with prodding from Obama himself, to leave the administration to run for the Senate rather than continue pursuing the leadership of the consumer-protection bureau. But they never fully abated, and now represent dueling approaches to Democratic economic policy-making, presenting the possibility that the next Democratic president will have ascended to the height of Democratic Party politics in part by bashing the previous one.”

‘How do you do, fellow kids?’: Ryan debuts platform ‘album’ on Spotify - The Hill: “White House hopeful Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) ‘dropped an album’ Wednesday, outlining platform on issues ranging from health care to climate change and gun control. ‘I dropped an album. Really. Listen to my #NewAndBetter Agenda on @Spotify,’ the lawmaker tweeted Wednesday, sharing a link to his ‘album’ on the streaming app. The agenda contains 7 tracks targeting individual issues, in addition to an intro and outro. For example, on his ‘Education’ track, Ryan explains that he believes American schools should focus on healthy food, vocational training, financial literacy and addressing ‘the trauma that our kids come to school with.’”

HOUSE DEMS LURCH THROUGH IMPEACHMENT PROBE LAUNCH
Fox News: “House Judiciary Democrats on Thursday took a big step in their Trump impeachment push as they set the ground rules for a formal committee inquiry -- but Republicans laughed it off as a ‘giant Instagram filter’ to hide how divided Democrats truly are on the question. The committee voted 24-17 to define the rules for future committee impeachment hearings. The committee is not writing articles of impeachment, and nothing is going to the floor of the House right now, but the session still holds political consequences for both sides of the aisle. ‘The resolution before us represents the necessary next step in our investigation of corruption, obstruction, and abuse of power,’ committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in his opening statement. The vote allows members to show the impeachment-eager base they are moving forward. But the push has also rattled some Democrats from more moderate districts.”

THE JUDGE’S RULING: FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THE NRA
This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why the government has the freedom of speech: “We know from the plain language in and the history of the First Amendment that all persons have the freedom of speech. But what about the government? … The short answer to it is: Under the theory of the Declaration of Independence – that our rights come to us from the Creator and are inalienable – and consistent with Madison's understanding, the government has no freedom of speech. … Whatever one thinks of the NRA, the government has no business condemning it. Can it condemn McDonald's as a health menace for selling fatty foods? … Can it condemn the free press as a public enemy when the press criticizes it? The answer to all these hypotheticals … is: No. The First Amendment was written to keep the government out of the business of influencing the free market of ideas.” More here.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
SupCo backs administration on asylum denials - WaPo

Amid economy worries Trump delays some China tariffs Fox News

Bipartisan boos for Trump judicial nominee - Politico

Trump prepares ban flavored vape juice Fox News

AUDIBLE: BALL SO HARD
“Sorry. You gotta poll at 5 percent or more to play on my court.” – Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted in response to our Fox News colleague Pat Ward’s suggestion of a Cruz v. Andrew Yang basketball game. Yang responded to the senator saying, “Ted I would be delighted to beat you in basketball,” with a screen shot of the recent The Hill poll showing Yang at 5 percent.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“While I am not a fan of liberal thinking, I greatly admire the quote you included from Justice Ginsberg on Wednesday. I recall, as a boy growing up in northern MI in the 50’s & 60’s with all four grandparents alive and how that generation absolutely abhorred any racial minority and all non-Protestant religions…and were quite vocal about it, often in front of us 4 kids.  We (the kids) thought mostly nothing of those utterances b/c we were growing up in the age of the television and could see for ourselves what was happening in our country relative to the quest for tolerance.  Our parents were less vocal, but, none-the-less had a detectable level of intolerance in the same vein as the family elders. As the 4 of us matriculated in the late 60’s & very early 70’s, me to a long Navy career where I was in all parts of the world, my brother to law school then a long legal career where he saw just about everything & my sisters to other parts of the country with their families where things were very ethnically & religiously diverse. I’m not saying specifically that we had a part in ‘getting together to help bring about change,’ but I think the Boomer Generation (including us 4) had a huge role in working in a like-minded fashion to make change over the past 6 decades or so. I guess my point is, I don’t see much credit given to the Boomers as a Generation for pushing the tolerance envelope. What say you?” – Rick Randell, Bradenton, Fla.

[Ed. note: Very much so, Mr. Randell! We’ve had a lot to say over the years about the political costs and consequences from your generation, but that in no way diminishes our gratitude for the fact that in your time, Americans did so much to achieve the vision of the Founders of a republic centered on the rights and sovereignty of individuals rather than as members of classes or groups. That was groovy indeed!]

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BAD CASE OF THE JITTERS
KSWB: “A man named Winter has visited at least 15,061 Starbucks locations on four continents since 1997, he claims. And what started as a quest for espresso became his ticket to the world. ‘I call it an extreme hobby,’ he told CNN of the quest to reach them all. Winter kicked off his mission 22 years ago at a Starbucks in Plano, Texas. There were only about 1,500 locations in the US at the time, and he thought he could visit each and every one of them. As the company grows, so has the length of Winter’s quest: The 30,000th Starbucks just opened in Shenzhen, China. It’s gotten tougher for Winter to keep up with new stores… But at this point he’s committed. He’s got to keep going. … After drinking Pike Place and Verona roasts for 22 years, he’s understandably grown bored with their offerings. He hasn’t even tried everything on the menu, he said.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“American students may not know their math, but they have evidently absorbed the lessons of the newly fashionable self-esteem curriculum wherein kids are taught to feel good about themselves.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing for Time magazine on Feb. 5, 1990.

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.