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On the roster: Trump, Bloomberg fight heats up - Trump and Dems hold their breath on GOP moderates - Palestinian president warns against Trump’s peace plan - A spill to wine about
TRUMP, BLOOMBERG FIGHT HEATS UP
AP: “On Thursday, [Michael Bloomberg] started running a new nationwide ad that condemns Trump’s treatment of decorated military leaders, and his campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, went on Fox News to highlight it. Their fight will be a test of the power of television and digital ads versus the impact of Twitter and the megaphone of the presidency. A key question is whether Bloomberg’s attacks on Trump will do damage to an incumbent who does not have a serious primary challenger. The president and his campaign team have been warily watching Bloomberg’s spending spree since the former mayor’s late entry into the presidential race. Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, recently told staffers he would not worry about Bloomberg until he cracked double digits (Bloomberg had 9% support in a Monmouth poll this week) while mocking the amount of money the former mayor was spending, according to two Republicans close to the White House who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.”
Is Bloomy worth the stress for Trump? - NYT: “For weeks, President Trump’s advisers have urged him to ignore Michael R. Bloomberg’s nationally televised needling… Mr. Trump heeded the counsel for a while… The president’s focus on Mr. Bloomberg is not commensurate with the former mayor’s standing in the polls so far. Mr. Bloomberg is still below double digits in nearly every survey after spending more than $256 million on ads in less than two months. Mr. Bloomberg has benefited, however, from being mostly ignored by his primary rivals, some of whom don’t want to elevate him in the race, but also don’t want to alienate him and his ability to support the Democratic nominee in the general election. And most Democratic strategists remain skeptical that a candidate who once supported aggressive policing policies, who has switched parties three times and who endorsed President George W. Bush in 2004 will be able to win the nomination.”
Drucker: Trump focuses on GOP contest in bid to run up the score - WashEx: “The Trump campaign is quietly accelerating robust field and data programs across Iowa to generate a show of force in the Feb. 3 caucuses by crushing his opponents while working the kinks out of its state political operation. President Trump faces marginal opposition, and the outcome is not in doubt. But Trump is heading to Des Moines for a Jan. 30 rally, and Vice President Mike Pence is being deployed to conservative western Iowa to energize Republican turnout. ‘The caucuses will be a good workout for our ground game as we prepare to win Iowa in November,’ Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told the Washington Examiner on Thursday. With Democrats hogging the Iowa spotlight, the campaign's Iowa activities also represent an effort to seize some attention away from Trump's rivals.”
Warren confronted by Iowa dad over student loan plan - Fox News: “An angry father confronted Sen. Elizabeth Warren saying those who responsibly saved to pay for student loans themselves would get ‘screwed’ under her student debt cancellation plan. ‘I just wanted to ask one question. My daughter is getting out of school. I've saved all my money. She doesn't have any student loans. Am I going to get my money back?’ the father asked Warren in a photo line after a presidential campaign town hall in Grimes, Iowa, on Monday. ‘Of course not,’ Warren answered, without hesitation. … Warren as a campaign platform has introduced not only universal free public college but also a cancellation of federal student loan debt for up to $50,000 for those making under $100,000 per year. She even said she'd do so on her first day in the White House, and bypass Congress if necessary. She claimed this policy would ‘cancel debt for more than 95 percent of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt.’”
Local unions come out strong for Bernie - Politico: “Most national unions haven’t picked a favorite yet in the Democratic presidential primary. It’s been a boon for Bernie Sanders. Rather than harming Sanders, a longtime labor ally who has promised to work to double union membership as president, the reluctance to offer endorsements at the national level has enabled more progressive-minded local unions and labor groups to come out in force for the Vermont senator. Sanders has already racked up 11 labor endorsements, more than any of his Democratic rivals, most of which are from local, regional and statewide unions. And some are among the most powerful labor organizations in early-voting and Super Tuesday states.”
Biden leans in to electability argument - ABC News: “With the Iowa Caucuses just 10 days away, Former Vice President Joe Biden is hitting the airwaves with a new campaign ad that claims he’s the safest choice when it comes to defeating President Donald Trump in November. The campaign’s latest ad, obtained first by ABC News, focuses on a potential general election match-up between Trump and the former vice president, and makes the starkest argument to date about Biden’s electability. ‘Every day he is president, Donald Trump poses a threat to America and the world. We have to beat him. Joe Biden is the strongest candidate to do it,’ says the 30-second ad… The ad suggesting Biden is the Democrats' safest choice in 2020 comes as Iowa caucus-goers are making their final decisions about who to support in the ‘first in the nation’ contest on February 3, and as the Senate impeachment trial is underway in Washington, D.C.”
Harris reportedly weighing a Biden endorsement - NYT: “Senator Kamala Harris is weighing an endorsement of Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to multiple Democratic officials familiar with her deliberations. Such a move could lift Mr. Biden’s campaign and perhaps do even more to enhance Ms. Harris’s chances of becoming vice president, but it could also anger her liberal base in California. An endorsement by Ms. Harris, if she wades into the primary race at all, would be unlikely to happen until after the Senate impeachment trial, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Yet she and Mr. Biden, the former vice president, have remained in contact since she exited the race and had a long conversation in the immediate aftermath of her departure.”
Former Obama finance director backs Biden - Politico: “Rufus Gifford, one of the Democratic Party’s best-connected fundraisers, is throwing his support behind Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race, just before Biden and his rivals dive into an expensive stretch of early primaries and caucuses. There are few Democratic donors or operatives with fundraising networks as vast as Gifford’s, and his connections could help Biden compete with fellow frontrunners who have tapped online small-dollar donors to outraise the former vice president so far. Gifford served as finance director for former President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, leading the record-setting push to raise $1 billion to win a second term for Obama in 2012.”
[Ed. note: Fox News Channel will host a town hall with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in Iowa on Sunday, Jan. 26, moderated by Chris Wallace. Make sure to tune in Sunday at 7 pm ET.]
THE RULEBOOK: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be, that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 55
TIME OUT: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE STARS
Atlantic: “Supernovas are nearly impossible to predict. But astronomers have recently started discussing the rare possibility with a bit more enthusiasm than usual, thanks to some odd behavior elsewhere in the Milky Way. … In the night sky, the constellation Orion is most well-known for his belt, a row of three luminous stars. For the last few months, though, astronomers around the world have been particularly interested in his right shoulder, the home of a star called Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars in the sky. Betelgeuse—which, yes, is pronounced like Beetlejuice—has been dimming more than it ever had before. Astronomers have long known that Betelgeuse is aging and, like many old stars, is bound to explode sooner or later. Could this mystery dimming mean that a supernova might be imminent? The view would be mind-boggling, day or night. The Orion constellation can be seen from nearly everywhere on Earth, which means nearly everyone could see the exploding star.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 25.6 points (↑ 1 point from last wk.)
Sanders: 17.8 points (↑ 3.2 points from last wk.)
Warren: 16.6 points (↓ 0.2 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 8.4 points (↑ 0.2 points from last wk.)
Bloomberg: 5.6 points (↑ 0.6 points from last wk.)
[Averages include: CNN, Monmouth University, Quinnipiac University, IBD and NBC News/WSJ.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 43.4 percent
Average disapproval: 52.4 percent
Net Score: -9 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.2 points
[Average includes: CNN: 45% approve - 51% disapprove; Monmouth University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 42% approve - 53% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve - 54% disapprove.]
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TRUMP AND DEMS HOLD THEIR BREATH ON GOP MODERATES
WaPo: “They are the most closely watched senators of President Trump’s impeachment trial — the moderate Republicans who might vote with Democrats to call new witnesses and subpoena unseen documents. But, a week into the trial, they are also oddly isolated. Trump has kept his distance after White House advisers warned him that outreach would not help his cause. Democrats say there is no serious effort to privately lobby the Republicans, with the party relying instead on public opinion and the House prosecutors to squeeze them into breaking ranks. The group of senators, some facing tough elections in November, could be decisive next week, defying GOP leaders and voting with Democrats for the witnesses and evidence that the Trump administration has repeatedly denied Congress. Such a move could extend the trial indefinitely, shed new light on Trump’s conduct and pose a serious threat to his presidency.”
The impeachment wildcard: Lamar Alexander - Politico: “If you want to know how President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial could play out, keep your eye on Lamar Alexander. On the most important question of the trial — whether to subpoena witnesses — the 79-year-old Tennessee Republican senator is a wild card. Privately, senior Senate Republicans expect the vote to seek witness testimony to fail, but they are watching Alexander and several other Republicans closely. And wherever Alexander comes down is almost sure to be the majority position in the Senate. Three GOP senators have expressed some level of support for calling witnesses, and if they joined all Democrats, it would result in a 50-50 tie and likely be defeated. Unless Chief Justice John Roberts shocked Washington by wading in with a tie-break, Democrats need one more Republican to break ranks and upend GOP plans for a swift Trump acquittal. That’s got both parties eagerly eyeing Alexander.”
Pelosi still has a role in the process - NYT: “Ms. [Nancy Pelosi’s] role in the impeachment of Mr. Trump may be formally over, but by her own design, the matter is not out of her hands. Even in her absence from the Capitol this week, as the speaker traveled through Poland and Israel in remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, she had her hand firmly on the tiller of the prosecution of the president. In many ways, Ms. Pelosi is the eighth, largely unseen manager of the Democrats’ case. … Ms. Pelosi has dispatched her handpicked House general counsel to sit at the table inside the Senate chamber, with the prosecutors acting as her eyes and ears. She reviewed all the managers’ written briefs before they were filed. And the multipronged media campaign to make the case for Mr. Trump’s removal is being run out of her office, by her communications director and other staff.”
Pergram: Senate impeachment trial could boil down to ‘pettifogging’ - Fox News: “The Senate is full of precedents. And Roberts cited the impeachment trial of Federal Judge Charles Swayne in 1905. Senators debated whether it was appropriate to use the word ‘pettifogging’ on the floor during the trial. The word means to project underserved attention on minor details. Roberts told senators he would emphasize a standard of decorum so strict that they can’t use the ‘pettifog’ in Trump’s trial. And this brings us back to the case at hand. Republicans are assailing Schiff, Nadler and tactics of the Democratic managers. Democrats think the president committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ And whether it’s allowed on the floor or not, Republicans think Democrats are just pettifogging Trump.”
Continetti: Nadler’s folly - Free Beacon: “The cynicism behind the Democratic strategy has brought Republicans together. There is little sign that the unity of the opening votes has dissipated. That can change, of course. Democrats hope to convince four Republicans to extend the trial by calling witnesses and requesting documents from the Trump administration. But they are having trouble. You can tell because Chuck Schumer's press conferences are louder than usual. He's not using them to convince the undecided (if such people exist). He's taking the opportunity to draw a partisan contrast that he hopes will hurt Republicans in the fall.”
PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST TRUMP’S PEACE PLAN
Guardian: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has warned Israel and the US not to cross ‘red lines’ as anxiety mounts over the impending release of Donald Trump’s peace plan proposal, which is widely expected to be tilted heavily in Israel’s favour. A spokesman for Abbas said the Palestinian leadership had a ‘clear and unwavering position’ to reject any Trump-led initiatives. In a separate statement, and referring to reports that the plan might allow Israel to permanently control Palestinian territory the spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeinah, said: ‘We warn Israel and the American administration against crossing the red lines.’ Trump has said he will probably release details of his long-delayed plan for the Middle East before next Tuesday, after he invited the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the leader of the opposition, Benny Gantz, to Washington for talks.”
RNC approves plan to send 300 field staffers to 18 target states to boost Trump - Politico
Early voting has begun in Minnesota - AP
AUDIBLE: THE REAL SUBPOENA THE PEOPLE WANT
“I understand as House manager I certainly we hope we can subpoena [former national security advisor] John Bolton, subpoena [acting White House chief of staff] Mick Mulvaney, but perhaps we can all agree to subpoena the Baseball Hall of Fame.” – Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., joked that the lawmakers should subpoena the Baseball Hall of Fame over the nearly unanimous vote to enshrine former New York Yankee Derek Jeter during Thursday's Senate impeachment trial.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will be live from Des Monies, Iowa where he’ll sit down with presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Plus, Fox News Sunday will air the new Fox News national polls. 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.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
A SPILL TO WINE ABOUT
AP: “More than 97,000 gallons of red wine spilled from a tank at a vineyard in Sonoma County and eventually leaked into the Russian River, an accident officials said could hurt water quality in the 110-mile tributary flowing into the Pacific Ocean. The cabernet sauvignon, enough to fill eight large tanker trucks, spilled at the Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg Wednesday after a door near the bottom of a large blending tank popped open, spilling all of the wine it was holding into a sanitary sewer system on the property, the Press Democrat reported. The wine spilled into a drainage ditch that feeds into Reiman Creek and eventually made its way to the Russian River. The winery is conducting an internal investigation and cooperating with authorities, Rodney Strong spokesman Chris O’Gorman said Thursday.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The shortest honeymoon on record is officially over. Normally, newly elected presidents enjoy a wave of goodwill that allows them to fly high at least through their first 100 days. Donald Trump has not yet been sworn in and the honeymoon has already come and gone.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Jan. 12, 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.