Warren pops her cork on Buttigieg


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On the roster: Warren pops her cork on Buttigieg - Pelosi, McConnell showdown looms in New Year - Quack in her heart again 

WARREN POPS HER CORK ON BUTTIGIEG
NYT: “Does the road to the White House run through a wine cave? That was the question that electrified the Democratic debate in Los Angeles on Thursday. It was specific, referring to the location of a recent fund-raiser that Pete Buttigieg had held in Napa Valley. But it was also metaphoric, a stand-in for the wider argument among Democrats over pragmatism versus purity, compromise versus idealism, a candidate like Buttigieg or Joe Biden versus a candidate like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. As Warren blasted Buttigieg for kissing up to wealthy donors — and he portrayed her as an unpractical hypocrite — they weren’t really sparring over cabernet and cash. They were promoting separate strategies for winning the presidential election, different ways to position their party and vanquish Donald Trump. It was the same conflict that has defined the Democratic primary from the start, but with extra fury. Passions often burn hotter when alcohol is involved.”

Biden surefooted for a change - Politico: “But the most significant story of the most intense, substantive debate of the 2020 Democratic cycle is that Joe Biden – an almost default frontrunner who has managed to stumble at one point or another in each of the past debates—may have finally found his footing in an environment where he has demonstrated persistent discomfort. In a Democratic primary that has often sounded like a battle for the hearts of the progressive blogosphere, with candidates outdoing themselves to spin out the most inclusive, greenest, most redistributed vision of America, Biden has often felt like a throwback—a visitor from Obamaworld and other vanished lands who has trouble parrying attacks from sharper and fresher voices. In Thursday's debate, however, Biden consistently demonstrated the capacity not just to defend himself but to turn that defense into effective arguments for his candidacy.”

Nate Silver: Klobuchar shines - FiveThirtyEight: “I thought this was not only [Amy Klobuchar’s] best debate, but one of the better debates that any Democrat has had so far in the cycle. I say that because she was both pretty good on the substance and smart tactically — going after Buttigieg by emphasizing electability and experience is exactly the strategy I advocated for her at the start of the evening. I don’t know whether we’re going to get a Klobuchar surge — she’s at only at 3 percent nationally so she has a looooong way to go! — but if there’s one in the cards, tonight might have been the catalyst for it.”

Huckabee Sanders apologizes for mocking speech impediment - USA Today: “Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has apologized for a tweet appearing to mock former Vice President Joe Biden when he mentioned children with speech impediments who have asked him for advice because of his own experience with a lifelong stutter during the Democratic debate. ‘There’s not one line I go through that I don’t have at least a half a dozen people come up and hug me and say, ‘Can you help me?...’’ Biden said as he rounded out his debate appearance. ‘The little kid who says, ‘I-I-I-I can’t talk, what do I do?’…’ In a tweet that has since been deleted, Huckabee Sanders said, ‘I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about.’”

Dems nudge up qualifications for January debate - Des Moines Register: “The Democratic National Committee announced Friday that it will ratchet up poll performance and donations criteria for presidential candidates to qualify for the January debate in Iowa. The debate, scheduled for Jan. 14, will be hosted by CNN in partnership with the Des Moines Register and held on the Drake University campus in Des Moines. … To qualify for the January, candidates must have: Received 5% or more support in at least four different polls, which may be national polls or state polls in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. That’s up from 4% for the December debate, held Thursday night. … [The second qualification:] donations from at least 225,000 total donors and at least 1,000 donors in at least 20 states. That’s up from 200,000 total donors and 800 donors in 20 states for the December debate.”

Bloomberg already boasts biggest early-state staff - McClatchy: “Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has hired more than 200 staffers to work in 21 states, aides told McClatchy, providing the New York billionaire with the largest organization after the early voting states of any 2020 Democratic candidate. Bloomberg, a late entrant into the White House race, finalized a fleet of state leadership hires this week, signing on a cadre of former campaign hands to Barack Obama, past presidential and gubernatorial races and national and state party committees. It means Bloomberg, who is skipping the first four nominating contests in February, now has teams in nine of the 14 Super Tuesday states that vote on March 3, as well as aides in four states that vote in April. The campaign’s beefed up ground game supplement the north of $80 million the former New York City mayor has already spent on TV ads through this week.”

THE RULEBOOK: THE RACE IS ON
“When the States know that the Union can apply itself without their agency, it will be a powerful motive for exertion on their part.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 36

TIME OUT: BIG FUN ON THE BAYOU
Garden&Gun: “Instead of leaving out cookies by the fireplace, Cajun Country welcomes Santa Claus with actual fire—a miles-long row of bonfires on the levees lining the Mississippi River. ‘As children, we were taught it was to light the way for Papa Noël to find his way into the swamplands,’ says John Folse, the heralded chef and author of The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine who grew up in St. James Parish, [Louisiana] the epicenter of the tradition started by early German and French settlers. … Beginning around noon Christmas Eve, families congregated and cooked, lit the fires, and feasted in the glow of roaring flames. Everyone in attendance brought a dish… But the center of the feast was always gumbo. ‘Every bonfire made a different kind,’ Folse says. … As the early Cajun and Creole settlers did before them, when Folse and his family finished their meal, they walked to church for midnight mass, stopping at fires along the way to warm up and chat with neighbors.”

[Ed. note: Well, it’s that time again… This will be the last full installment of the Halftime Report until after Christmas. We will be back a week from Monday in preparation for the beginning of what promises to be an exciting election year. Also, don’t forget to send in your nominations for the Best of Journalism 2019, the winners of which we will announce on Dec. 31. You can send your picks to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM. More importantly, however, we hope you and your families are positively swimming in peace and joy this holiday season. For our Jewish friends who begin their celebration of Hanukkah on Sunday evening, we wish you Chag Sameach! For our fellow Christians who begin their celebration of on Tuesday evening we wish you the peace that transcends all understanding. And for everyone else, please enjoy the cookies and egg nog.]

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 26.2 points (↓ 1.4 points from last wk.)
Sanders: 18.6 points (↑ 0.4 points from last wk.)
Warren: 16.2 points (↓ 2.2 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 9.4 points (↑ 0.8 points from last wk.)
Bloomberg: 5.2 points (first listing)
[Averages include: NBC News/WSJ, CNN, Quinnipiac University, USA Today/Suffolk University and NPR/PBS/Marist.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 43.8 percent
Average disapproval: 51.4 percent
Net Score: -7.6 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.8 points 
[Average includes: NBC/WSJ: 44% approve - 54% disapprove; CNBC: 40% approve - 49% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 48% approve - 50% disapprove.]

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PELOSI, MCCONNELL SHOWDOWN LOOMS IN NEW YEAR
Bloomberg: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell deepened their impasse over the terms of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial Thursday, as Congress left Washington for the holidays without settling when and how it would take place. Pelosi surprised many House Democrats Wednesday night after the House impeached Trump when she said she would delay transmitting the articles of impeachment and naming the impeachment managers -- who will argue the House’s case -- until the Senate lays out its procedures for the trial. ‘When we see what they have, we’ll know who and how many we will send over,’ Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday. Pelosi cast the timing as a procedural matter and cited the Senate’s ability to come up with a bipartisan trial plan after President Bill Clinton was impeached.”

Turncoat Dem swoons for Trump, pledges his ‘undying support’ - NJ.com: “New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who has voted against President Donald Trump 90 percent of the time while in the U.S. House, promised his ‘undying support’ at the White House Thursday for the president as he joined the Republican Party. Democrats weren’t happy. Van Drew switched sides a day after being one of only two House Democrats to vote against impeaching Trump, a Republican, for abuse of power, and one only three who opposed impeaching him for obstruction of Congress. … On Thursday, Van Drew met in the Oval Office with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and others on Thursday. ‘Two more things I want to say,’ Van Drew said as reporters looked on. ‘One, you have my undying support.’ ‘Thank you,’ Trump said. ‘Thank you very much.’ ‘And always,’ Van Drew said.”

Mulvaney, already marginalized, prepares for departure - Politico: “Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is widely expected to leave his current position once the Senate wraps up its impeachment trial and the intense scrutiny of the West Wing settles down, according to five aides and confidants to President Donald Trump. Trump allies and White House aides, who have been nudging the president in recent weeks to find a new leader for the team as it delves into a crucial reelection campaign, have been circulating lists of potential replacements for weeks. Mulvaney no longer wields much control over White House staff. Lately, he has been left out of major personnel and policy decisions, and he is not driving the strategy on impeachment even though he occupies what is historically the most powerful job in the West Wing. ‘He is there. I’ll leave it at that,’ said a Republican close to the White House when asked about Mulvaney’s status. ‘He’s like a kid. His role at the dinner table is to be seen and not heard.’”

Christie-backed PAC provides impeachment air cover for GOP senators - Politico: “Chris Christie is launching a big-money effort aimed at giving Senate Republicans air cover on impeachment — and positioning the former New Jersey governor as a counterweight to liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. The newly formed issue advocacy organization, Right Direction America, is set to begin a seven-figure TV and digital advertising offensive Monday. The nonprofit group will be focused on a half-dozen states where key 2020 Senate races are taking place: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina. Christie is looking to offset a multimillion-dollar offensive funded by Steyer, a Democratic presidential candidate and hedge fund executive, who is targeting Senate Republicans over impeachment. Steyer’s organization, Need to Impeach, has spent around $3.5 million across a handful of states pressuring GOP senators.”

Trump rages on evangelical magazine after it backs his removal - WaPo: “The evangelical magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham published a surprising editorial Thursday calling for President Trump’s removal and describing him as ‘a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.’ ‘Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election — that is a matter of prudential judgment,’ said the piece, written by editor in chief Mark Galli. ‘That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.’ Galli, who will retire from the magazine Jan. 3, wrote that the facts leading to Wednesday’s impeachment of Trump are unambiguous. … But the editorial didn’t just call out Trump. It called out his devout Christian supporters. … Trump lashed out at the magazine in a pair of early-morning tweets Friday, calling Christianity Today a ‘far left magazine ... which has been doing poorly.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
North American trade pact passes in the House - WSJ

Before Christmas recess Senate confirms 12 more Trump judicial nominees Politico

McMorris Rodgers to reimburse Treasury for misused funds after ethics ruling WaPo

Washington state Rep. Matt Shea suspended from GOP caucus for domestic terrorism ties The Seattle Times

Georgia attorneys defend voter purge, 22,000 reinstated to voting rolls - AJC

Pompeo has a new deputy, another sign of impending Senate run - AP

AUDIBLE: DUDE 
“If you want to talk about the capacity to win, try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80% of the vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana.” – Mayor Pete Buttigieg in response to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s questioning of his experience during Thursday night’s debate.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, Marc Short. 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. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I’m a retired federal employee. You say [Thursday:] ‘Certainly Republican incumbents would be worried about showing such generosity to one of the most resented classes of American citizens.’ I actually went looking for web results to support this widespread-resentment idea quantitatively, but didn’t find much. It’s not worth it to me to argue, and it wouldn’t surprise me greatly if you’re right, but — how do you know that?” – Steve Tulloss, Ellicott City, Md.

[Ed. note: I won’t share with you some of the other responses that we had about the new paid family leave benefit for federal workers, but suffice it to say that there is a longstanding antipathy toward federal workers, especially on the American right. We weren’t agreeing, just pointing out that the issue has been fraught before. During the Obama administration, pay raises and sometimes pay freezes for federal workers were often big political fights. Here’s a new, very generous benefit enacted without a peep.]   

“Could the Republicans in the House file a lawsuit saying this current impeachment does not rise to the level the Constitution requires and ask the Supreme Court to rule? Love reading your report each day!” – Jim Arthur, Seattle

[Ed. note: Nope. There’s no appealing the judgements of the House in an impeachment. The same goes for the Senate in an impeachment trial. Congress’ power in the matter is absolute. Thanks for reading and taking the time to write!]

“What does it say about my Boomer generation that three of the four impeachments of Presidents have occurred in my lifetime?” – Ron Smith, Larned, Kan.

[Ed. note: You guys have certainly played havoc with American politics over the past 50 or so years. If we look at the arc of events from the 1968 election to today, it’s been a doozy. But taken in the longer view, the upheavals of your era have been modest compared to others, so don’t be too hard on yourselves.]

“Sorry to be so old and out of it but in the ‘Impeachment Circus’ piece [Thursday] you wrote JK! LOLZ!  What on earth does that mean?” – Bill Newton, Berkeley, Calif.

[Ed. note: No need to apologize, Mr. Newton! The first one is J(ust) K(idding). LOLZ is a variant of L(aughing) O(ut) L(oud). The Z indicates, for some reason, ironic or mocking laughter.] 

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

QUACK IN HER HEART AGAIN 
Bangor [Maine] Daily News: “The ducks brought together by a Tinder-esque singles ad are hitting it off. Yellow Duck has warmed up to the mallard she was introduced to Sunday, said her owner, Chris Morris, who posted a personals ad on a community bulletin board at the Blue Hill Co-op last week seeking a companion for his lonely duck. ‘… At first she was a little wary of him, but now they follow each other around everywhere.’ Morris posted the ad because Yellow Duck appeared to be feeling blue after a bobcat snatched her two fellow ducks from the Morris’ yard on Dry Moon Lane about three weeks ago. ‘Duck seeking duck,” Morris wrote in the ad. “Lonesome runner duck seeks companion. Partner recently deceased. Serious replies only.’ … The Morris’ named their new duck Mr. Graham… The moniker is an homage to Aubrey Graham, the rapper known as Drake, which is also the term used to describe male ducks that are sexually mature.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Over the past hundred years, Americans have elected 13 Republican Administrations and 12 Democratic ones. Power could not be more evenly divided. American presidential elections are essentially a flip of the coin. This time the coin landed on its edge.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on Nov. 20, 2000.

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.