With days until Iowa, Dems in knots

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On the roster: With days until Iowa, Dems in knots - Trump allies try cash prizes for black outreach - Senate scramble ahead of vote on witnesses - She thought mice were keto friendly

WITH DAYS UNTIL IOWA, DEMS IN KNOTS

Monmouth University: “Joe BidenBernie SandersPete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren continue to jostle for the top spot in the fifth and final Monmouth University Poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers. Support for Amy Klobuchar registers in double digits and could have an impact on the leaderboard if she reaches the viability threshold in a number of precincts. About half of likely caucusgoers say they are still open to changing their minds when they show up to caucus on Monday. Four candidates remain in the top tier of likely caucusgoers’ first preference – Biden (23%), Sanders (21%), Buttigieg (16%), and Warren (15%). Klobuchar registers 10% support, while Tom Steyer earns 4% and Andrew Yang has 3%. Four other candidates earn 1% or less. … Changes from Monmouth’s poll earlier this month are not statistically significant. Two weeks ago, Biden had 24%, Sanders 18%, Buttigieg 17%, Warren 15%, and Klobuchar 8%.”

Biden and Bernie lead the pack nationally - Quinnipiac University: “Biden gets 26 percent of the vote among Democratic voters and independent voters who lean Democratic, while Senator Bernie Sanders gets 21 percent and Senator Elizabeth Warren receives 15 percent. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg receives 8 percent, Senator Amy Klobuchar gets 7 percent, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg receives 6 percent, and businessman Andrew Yang gets 3 percent. No other candidate tops 2 percent. In a January 13 poll, prior to the last debate, Biden had 25 percent of the vote, Sanders received 19 percent, Warren got 16 percent, Buttigieg had 8 percent, and Bloomberg got 6 percent. … There is plenty of room for movement in the Democratic primary race as 55 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they might change their mind about their vote, while 43 percent say their mind is made up.”

Biden balks at backing Bernie as nominee - AP: “Former Vice President Joe Biden wouldn’t say whether he thinks Bernie Sanders could effectively unify the Democrats if the Vermont senator wins the party’s presidential nomination. ‘We have to unite,’ Biden told reporters in Muscatine, six days before the Iowa caucuses. ‘I’m not going make judgments now. I just think that it depends upon how we treat one another between now and the time we have a nominee.’ Biden has previously promised to support the Democratic nominee, regardless of who it is. At some stops along the campaign trail, Biden has pledged to ‘work like hell’ to help any of his rivals defeat Trump. The Biden campaign said Tuesday afternoon that the former vice president would support the eventual nominee. ... Asked later Tuesday whether he can defeat Sanders, a democratic socialist elected in Vermont as an independent, Biden smiled, nodded and then boarded his campaign bus.”


Yang say his supporters may give Bernie a boost in Iowa - Bloomberg: “Andrew Yang said he won’t be surprised if his voters end up supporting Bernie Sanders in later rounds of the Iowa caucus voting -- a development that could strengthen Sanders’s already-surging campaign in the state. Speaking at a Bloomberg News reporter round table in Des Moines, Yang said there is an ‘overlap’ between his supporters and those of the progressive Vermont senator. ‘I think that Bernie and I do have a lot of overlap in support so it wouldn’t be surprising to me if many of our supporters head in that direction,’ he said. … The first-time candidate is currently polling in Iowa at just 3% in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, with Sanders breaking through in Iowa, New Hampshire and California. With so many Democrats in contention, even Yang’s small cadre of supporters could tip the balance in one of the early contests.”

Biden team weighs alliance with Klobuchar - NYT: “Aides to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are discussing the possibility of seeking an alliance with Senator Amy Klobuchar in next week’s Iowa caucuses, a plan that would involve a pledge to help each other in precincts where one of them does not have enough support to win delegates. Three staff members for Mr. Biden’s Iowa campaign tentatively floated the idea to a top Klobuchar adviser at a meeting this week, according to Democrats briefed on the meeting. People in both the Biden and Klobuchar camps played down the discussion, which took place at a Des Moines restaurant, and aides for Ms. Klobuchar said they did not regard it as a serious overture. But there is little doubt among Mr. Biden’s allies in the state that his campaign is contemplating such steps, with an eye toward preventing a messy split among moderate candidates on Monday.”

Who’s on second? - WaPo: “In Quinnipiac’s poll, former vice president Joe Biden is the top choice of Democratic primary voters, followed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). But Warren is the top second choice of respondents. Combine first and second picks, and Warren matches Sanders in support. That by itself doesn’t mean a whole lot, since this isn’t how we calculate the winners of elections. … Mapping out Quinnipiac’s data on second choices, we see how the liberal-moderate split plays out. … Sanders and Warren see much of their support go to each other as a second pick. Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s support goes largely to Biden and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg. Much of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) support goes to Buttigieg as well.”

Charlie Cook: Maybe Iowa and New Hampshire won’t clear things up this time - Cook Political Report: “We know that every contested nomination since 1972 has gone to a candidate that finished first, second, or third place in Iowa, then either first or second in New Hampshire. We also know that the last four Democratic nominations have gone to the winner of the Iowa caucus. Theoretically at least, that means in the next three weeks, the race should be down to two viable candidates. But considering that four Democrats have claimed first place in an Iowa poll in the last four weeks, and the same four have each been in first place in New Hampshire over the last four months, maybe it's time to throw out those traditional yardsticks.”

TRUMP ALLIES TRY CASH PRIZES FOR BLACK OUTREACH
Politico: “Allies of Donald Trump have begun holding events in black communities where organizers lavish praise on the president as they hand out tens of thousands of dollars to lucky attendees. … The tour comes as Trump’s campaign has been investing its own money to make inroads with black voters and erode Democrats’ overwhelming advantage with them. But the cash giveaways are organized under the auspices of an outside charity, the Urban Revitalization Coalition, permitting donors to remain anonymous and make tax-deductible contributions. The organizers say the events are run by the book and intended to promote economic development in inner cities. But the group behind the cash giveaways is registered as a 501(c)3 charitable organization.”

Drucker: Never Trumpers draw the line at Bernie - WashEx: “The rise of socialist Bernie Sanders is frustrating Never Trump Republicans who are hoping the Democratic Party nominates a consensus, center-left presidential candidate they are comfortable supporting in November. If Sanders is the Democratic nominee, many will sit out the election and be deprived of the opportunity of voting against President Trump, they said. Sanders is surging days before the Iowa caucuses and a couple of weeks before the New Hampshire primary, leaving Republican operatives avowedly opposed to Trump worried and perplexed. Most are convinced swing voters in key battlegrounds would reject Sanders, paving the way for Trump’s reelection. They are also convinced the Vermont senator, 78, is simply too liberal to earn their vote. With a Sanders nomination, Never Trump Republicans are unsure of what comes next.”

Dems despairing over Trump’s digital advantage - NYT: “With increasing speed, digital technology is transforming politics, constantly providing novel ways to target specific individuals, to get the unregistered registered, to turn out marginal voters, to persuade the undecided and to suppress support for the opposition. Democrats and Republicans agree that the Trump campaign is far ahead of the Democratic Party in the use of this technology, capitalizing on its substantial investment during the 2016 election and benefiting from an uninterrupted high-tech drive since then. Republicans ‘have a big advantage this time,’ Ben Nuckels, a Democratic media consultant said in a phone interview. ‘They not only have all the data from 2016 but they have been building this operation into a nonstop juggernaut.’”

THE RULEBOOK: GREATER THAN OR LESS THAN?
“The people can never err more than in supposing that by multiplying their representatives beyond a certain limit, they strengthen the barrier against the government of a few.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 58

TIME OUT: UNIQUE LIKE A LEAF
Smithsonian: “Around the globe, plants have evolved to use their leaves for many purposes: broad, flat fronds to soak up sunlight, hardy needles to withstand the elements, even intricate traps to snap up unwitting insects. But the biochemical processes by which plants sculpt their many leaf patterns have remained something of a mystery to scientists. Now, a study led by researchers from the John Innes Centre in England, a plant science institution, proposes a new way of understanding the genetic steps that allow leaves to grow into their particular shapes. The study, published this month in Science, brings together molecular genetic analysis and computer modeling to show how gene expression directs leaves to grow. Many plant scientists see leaves as being broken up into two domains—the upper leaf, or adaxial, and the lower leaf, or abaxial—and have looked at this separation as the key to producing a wide variety of leaf forms.”

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SCOREBOARD
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKI​NG
Biden: 28 points (↑ 2.4 points from last wk.)
Sanders: 23.2 points (↑ 5.4 points from last wk.)
Warren: 14.2 points (↓ 2.4 points from last wk.)
Bloomberg: 7.8 points (↑ 2.2 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 6.8 points (↓ 1.6 points from last wk.)
[Averages include: Quinnipiac University, ABC News/WaPo, Fox News, CNN and Monmouth University.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 44.6 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -7.2 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.8 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; ABC/WaPo: 47% approve - 50% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 45% approve - 51% disapprove; Monmouth University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove.]

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SENATE SCRAMBLE AHEAD OF VOTE ON WITNESSES
AP: “President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is shifting to questions from senators, a pivotal juncture as Republicans lack the votes to block witnesses and face a potential setback in their hope of ending the trial with a quick acquittal. Despite Trump’s defense team’s plea for it to ‘end now,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately told senators he doesn’t yet have the votes to brush back Democratic demands for witnesses now that revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, have roiled the trial. Republican senators are trying to figure out a way to deal with fallout from Bolton’s forthcoming book, which provides a potential eyewitness account of Trump’s actions at the heart of the impeachment charges. But ideas being floated are fizzling almost as soon as they arise — among them, a witness ‘swap’ with Democrats or issuing a subpoena for Bolton’s manuscript.”

Pergram: Trump’s vote teetering on ‘razor’s edge’ - Fox News: “Senate Republicans cloistered themselves behind closed doors shortly after Tuesday's trial session concluded. Fox's Hillary Vaughn confirms that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Republicans don't have the votes to block impeachment witnesses. Fox’s Mike Emanuel reported that McConnell indicated he may not have the votes to oppose witnesses – yet. None of this should surprise anyone. There was a dearth of solid information after the GOP conclave. Usually if a closed-door meeting goes well on Capitol Hill, lawmakers tumble out, willing to talk to any reporter waiting in the corridor. If the meeting goes poorly or intel is fragmentary, lawmakers speak in generalities or are tightlipped. The latter was true today. McConnell really doesn’t have control here. Senators will cast ballots the way they like. Remember that McConnell had to retool his resolution establishing the framework for the trial on the fly last week. He scribbled changes in the margins, in longhand.”

Answers about questions - Fox News: “The question phase of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump kicks off at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday with senators getting their first chance to weigh in formally on the six days of opening arguments they’ve sat silently through. The 100 senators will still have to keep quiet, however, and only submit their questions in writing to Chief Justice John Roberts. Sworn in as ‘impartial’ jurors in the trial, the senators will direct their questions to either the House impeachment managers or to Trump’s defense team. Roberts will read the questions aloud and he can identify the questioners, like what was done in former President Bill Clinton’s trial 20 years ago. Both the House managers and Trump’s defense say they’re prepared for an array of questions and are ready to answer from the well of the Senate chamber. They’ll have no time limit on their responses.”

Eyes on a trio of Dem senators considering acquittal - Politico: “A trio of moderate Senate Democrats is wrestling with whether to vote to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trial – or give the president the bipartisan acquittal he’s eagerly seeking. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Doug Jones of Alabama are undecided on whether to vote to remove the president from office and agonizing over where to land. It’s a decision that could have major ramifications for each senator’s legacy and political prospects – as well shape the broader political dynamic surrounding impeachment heading into the 2020 election. All three senators remain undecided after hearing arguments from the impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team. But they could end up with a creative solution.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Dems disappoint in Texas statehouse race in Houston suburbs - Texas Tribune

AUDIBLE: SOMETHING TO TAKE THE EDGE OFF
“Things are getting serious in the impeachment trial. @SenatorRomney is drinking chocolate milk. He apparently brought his own bottle.” – Salt Lake Tribune’s Washington bureau chief Thomas Burr tweeted on Tuesday. Drinks other than water and plain milk are forbidden in the Senate during the president’s trial.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Should the possible vote concerning hearing witnesses end in a tie, who if anyone would break the tie? If no one how is the tie resolved?” – Michael W Farrell, South Burlington, Vt.

[Ed. note: The vice president is usually the presiding officer in the Senate, and in that capacity would break any ties that arise – except during an impeachment trial. Chief Justice John Roberts gets to make the call in matters when the Senate can’t decide.]

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SHE THOUGHT MICE WERE KETO FRIENDLY
Shropshire [U.K.] Star: “An owl nicknamed Plump ate so many mice and voles that she became too fat to fly and had to be put on a diet. The little owl (Athene noctua) was found in a ditch by a member of the public who thought she was injured, but when staff at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary examined her they found she was just ‘extremely obese’. She weighed [about 9 ounces] on admission to the sanctuary – around a third heavier than a large healthy female little owl – but lost [an ounce to an ounce and a half] on a two-week diet. The bird, nicknamed Plump by staff at the sanctuary in Stonham Aspal, was released back into the wild on Sunday. Head falconer Rufus Samkin attributed Plump’s weight gain to ‘very high’ numbers of prey in the area where she was found, near Saxmundham, and a mild winter. He said: ‘This is the first time we’ve had this. It’s quite unusual. After Christmas we can all relate.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living — Israel and its 6 million Jews. Make ‘never again’ more than an empty phrase. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Jan. 29, 2015.

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.