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On the roster: Pete or re-peat - Bernie gains among Democrats - I’ll Tell You What: How to survive an impeachment trial - Bolton book blows a hole in Trump claims - Florida traffic things

DES MOINES, Iowa – Everything is true… until it isn’t.

Iowa has successfully chosen every Democratic nominee since 1996 and has only picked wrong four times in its history. Unlike for the Republicans, this is a big deal. But Iowa Democrats are quite confused right now.

The most recent USA Today poll has former Vice President Joe Biden in the lead with the backing of a quarter of Iowa Democratic voters, but right behind him are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg with the support of about a fifth of caucus goers. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is still running for president and garners a little bit more than a tenth of support from Iowa Democrats. After that the numbers get small, so small that candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar and meme enthusiast Andrew Yang fall well below the line for viability, which is set at 15 percent.

If either Biden or Sanders win in Iowa – if there is a clear winner – it would be par for the course and would set up the kind of nomination contest with which Democrats are familiar. Sanders chasing Biden from here to Milwaukee would look a great deal like the races for the Blue Team 4, 12 and 16 years ago.

But Iowans are ornery. And the orneriest thing they could do this cycle is make Buttigieg a contender.

There are a lot of reasons that Buttigieg is an unlikely major party nominee. He’s 38, he’s the former mayor of (as Chris Wallace observed) the 306th largest city in the country, he’s gay and from a relatively small state. And yet, as he demonstrated in his Fox News town hall here on Sunday, he is a real player in this game.

Barack Obama would have never been president if Iowa Democrats hadn’t taken a chance on him. His win here gave Obama, nearly as unlikely of a nominee as Buttigieg, the credibility he needed with voters in other states.

But 2020 is not 2008. There is an incumbent in the White House and Democrats watching the process unfold are deeply worried that they will not be able to beat President Trump. Like Howard Dean before him, Buttigieg may seem like too much of a risk at a moment when his party is in such a state of alarm.

But talking to Democrats here, it’s also clear that they really like this guy. He’s agile, organized, enthusiastic, indefatigable and relentlessly cheerful. Like Perino-level cheerful. And he also would give the Hawkeye State the best chance to make the biggest difference.

But as Iowa Democrats go to caucus, probably in the largest numbers ever, they will go aware not only of the difficulty of their party’s task in November, but also of the precarious condition of their contest.

National Democrats who are primarily concerned with issues of race are angry about exceptionally white Iowa’s privileged position at the front of the line. While it would be unfair to blame Iowa for having the same group of front-runners that are leading in every other state and nationally, social justice Democrats will partly blame the folks here if the eventual nominee is a white dude. It is a freighted choice for caucus goers this time around.

Buttigieg’s sexuality does offer him some intersectionality bonus points, but the intra-party focus on the process might tend to make Iowa Democrats even more risk averse.

But this is why we love the Hawkeye State. We would not be surprised if any of the top three won here or if Warren or Klobuchar even staged a late-game rally.

When people ask why Iowa should go first the answer, for Democrats at least, is pretty obvious: They take it seriously, they care about their country and party and nobody makes a better pork cutlet sandwich.

Fox News: “The Democratic nomination race has tightened at the top. According to a new Fox Poll, Bernie Sanders has pulled within three percentage points of frontrunner Joe Biden, who appears to have lost support to billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Biden receives 26 percent support among Democratic primary voters and Sanders 23 percent. They are followed by Elizabeth Warren at 14 percent, Bloomberg 10 percent, Pete Buttigieg 7 percent, Andrew Yang 5 percent, and Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer are at 3 percent apiece. All others receive 1 percent or less. The former vice president’s 3-point advantage is his narrowest to date. He’s down 4 points since last month, while Bloomberg (+5) and Sanders (+3) have made gains. In December, Biden was up 10 points over Sanders. His largest lead was 19 points in June.”

Bernie pulls ahead in New Hampshire - CNN: “Bernie Sanders leads the race for the Democratic nomination in New Hampshire, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire. Overall, 25% of likely Democratic primary voters back the Vermont senator, with former Vice President Joe Biden (16%), former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (15%) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (12%) battling for second place. Behind these four, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (6%), Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (5%) and businessman Andrew Yang (5%) make up a third tier of candidates. … In New Hampshire, he has edged up 4 points since the last CNN/UNH poll there in October. Warren has slid 6 points in that time. Biden holds about even with his October support and Buttigieg has gained 5 points.”

Buttigieg moves up in the Granite State - NBC News: “Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg lead the Democratic presidential race in New Hampshire, while the top four Democratic candidates all enjoy early advantages against President Donald Trump in hypothetical general-election matchups in the Granite State. In the initial NBC News/Marist state poll of the 2020 presidential race, Sanders gets the support of 22 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, with Buttigieg at 17 percent. Former Vice President Joe Biden follows at 15 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at 13 percent and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., at 10 percent.”

Yang earns spot in New Hampshire primary debate - Politico: “Andrew Yang will be back on the debate stage. After failing to qualify for a debate in Iowa earlier this month, Yang has earned a spot at the next Democratic primary debate, in New Hampshire on Feb. 7. Yang is the seventh candidate to qualify for the debate — which will be hosted by ABC News, WMUR-TV and Apple News — joining Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren, according to POLITICO’s tracking of public polling and donor data. To qualify, candidates need to hit 5 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee (or 7 percent in two polls in New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina) and receive donations from at least 225,000 individuals.”

Biden still best against Trump - Fox News: “Each Democratic candidate tested bests Trump in hypothetical head-to-heads. Trump lags behind Biden by 9 points (50-41 percent) and Bloomberg by 8 (49-41). Those leads are outside the poll’s margin of error. Biden leads Trump by 17 points among women, while the two tie among men. And Trump is up by 14 points among white men, while Biden leads by 52 points among non-white men. Trump trails Sanders by 6 points (48-42 percent), Warren by 5 (47-42), Buttigieg by 4 (45-41), and Klobuchar by 1 (43-42). These matchups are within the error margin. In all cases, there are enough undecided/third-party voters to swing the race either way (10-14 percent). In counties where the 2016 vote for president was within 10 points, Biden tops Trump by just 2 points.”

But Trump is more competitive this time around - WaPo: “The national Post-ABC poll tested Trump in six potential general election matchups and finds that registered voters nationwide are roughly split between supporting the president and backing the Democratic candidates. Neither Trump nor Democrats hold a statistically significant advantage in any matchup. Former vice president Joe Biden is currently favored by 50 percent of registered voters while 46 percent support Trump. Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has 49 percent support to Trump’s 46 percent, also virtually even given the poll’s four-point margin of sampling error among registered voters. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) receives 49 percent to Trump’s 47 percent, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) stands at 48 percent to Trump’s 47 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is tied with Trump at 48 percent. Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 45 percent to Trump’s 48 percent.”

“War between the States, in the first period of their separate existence, would be accompanied with much greater distresses than it commonly is in those countries where regular military establishments have long obtained.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 8

Popular Science: “In the waters surrounding Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, there lives a very unusual kind of shark. Known as walking sharks, the nine species of the genus Hemiscyllium have the ability to crawl across the seafloor. ‘They’ll stand up on their very muscular pectoral fins and they’ll kind of wiggle along and walk instead of swimming,’ says Shannon Corrigan, an evolutionary biologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. Walking sharks can even tolerate short stints in open air as they scramble between tidal pools in their shallow coral reef habitats during low tide. But they’re also noteworthy for another reason: Walking sharks are one of the newest groups of sharks on the planet, appearing on the animals’ evolutionary tree around 44 million years ago, Corrigan and her colleagues reported January 21 in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. And they suspect that the group may not be done splintering into new species yet.”

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Biden: 27.8 points (↑ 2.2 points from last wk.)
Sanders: 22.8 points (↑ 5 points from last wk.)
Warren: 14.4 points (↓ 2.2 points from last wk.)
Bloomberg: 7.4 points (↑ 1.8 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 7.2 points (↓ 1.2 points from last wk.)
[Averages include: ABC News/WaPo, Fox News, CNN, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University.]

Average approval: 44.6 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -7.2 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 2.4 points
[Average includes: ABC/WaPo: 47% approve - 50% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 45% approve - 51% disapprove; Monmouth University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove.]

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This week Chris Stirewalt explains the changes to this year’s Iowa caucuses, Dana Perino explains how she stays occupied during the impeachment hearings and the dynamic duo discuss the curious candidacy of Michael Bloomberg. Plus, Chris answers election related trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

USA Today: “In his upcoming book, former national security adviser John Bolton writes that President Donald Trump told him he did not wish to release military aid to Ukraine until that country helped with investigations that could be damaging to Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, according to media reports. ... Bolton wrote that he, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper unsuccessfully tried to persuade Trump to release the aid on several occasions, according to the Times.  ... White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News on Monday that ‘the timing of all this is very, very suspect.’ ‘The president did nothing wrong, and we stand by exactly what we've been saying all along,’ Grisham said.”

Romney, Collins think Bolton could end witness fight - Politico: “It’s ‘increasingly likely’ that more Republicans will join calls to seek testimony from John Bolton in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Sen. Mitt Romney said on Monday, with Bolton's new revelations throwing into doubt how Trump’s trial will proceed. And Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — who has signaled that she is open to supporting witnesses, as she did in former President Bill Clinton's 1999 trial — said it will ‘strengthen the case’ for witnesses. Still, members of GOP leadership immediately sought to downplay the Bolton news. Just days ago, the Senate GOP appeared ready to defeat a vote to hear more witnesses sought by Democrats.”

Record economy ratings, as half say Senate should remove Trump - Fox News: “Voters give the economy its best ratings in nearly two decades in the latest Fox News Poll -- and credit President Trump. And yet as his impeachment trial begins, Trump’s job approval holds steady, while half say the Senate should remove him from office. The poll, released Sunday, finds 55 percent give the economy positive ratings (excellent or good).  It’s been 19 years since this many felt as positively (59 percent in January 2001). In addition, a new high of 20 percent say the economy is in “excellent” shape, up from 14 percent in October 2019.  It was 3 percent “excellent” in the final month of the Obama administration (December 2016). Moreover, the bulk of voters credit Trump for the economy.  When asked to say who or what they think is most responsible for the current economy, without the aid of a list, the top answer is Trump and Republicans (42 percent).  Next, mentioned by far fewer, is former President Obama and Democrats (9 percent) and big business (7 percent).”

Pergram: What Saturday's impeachment session could mean for future of Trump trial - Fox News

Bloomy grabs fifth congressional endorsement - Politico

Seth Moulton endorses Biden - WSJ

“When you’re young and you’re running for president, you get patted on the head a lot.” – Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg during Sunday’s Fox News Channel town hall moderated by Chris Wallace.

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

WBBH: “A TikTok video filmed at the intersection of Del Prado Boulevard and Pine Island Road in Cape Coral has now gone viral with over 8,000,000 views. A group of Southwest Florida friends decided to shed some light on an ongoing issue during the wintertime - the traffic. ‘I had the Uno cards just laying around. I saw them and said why not. It would be easy. Just get a little table and chairs. Sit around. Throw them down. Act like you’re playing Uno,’ says Paxten Sester, who was one of the guys in the middle of the road playing Uno Thursday afternoon. ‘For about a minute or so we were actually playing and then after we shot about a minute of footage we had him splice it and then we got back in the car and we actually got to sit there for about two minutes and watch the footage back and just chill and wait for the light to go green again.’ Dylan Kjos was behind the camera, capturing the viral moment. ‘They were probably out there for a good 45 seconds, a minute. And then we rushed back into the truck, thinking that the light was about to change. And we still sat in the truck for about another minute.’”

“In retrospect, the populist panic may have been overblown. Regarding Brexit, for example, the shock exaggerated its meaning.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on April 27, 2017.

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.