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On the roster: How many mulligans will Warren get? – Biden widens national lead in matchup v. Trump – White House flouts subpoenas, heading for court – State races will test Trump factor Tuesday – Dedication to the hot sign
HOW MANY MULLIGANS WILL WARREN GET?
Through her long, steady climb into second place for the Democratic nomination across the summer and early fall, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ran a disciplined, risk-averse campaign.
Relying on an impressive work ethic, favorable press coverage, an extensive operation and a deeply committed set of core voters, Warren shouldered past Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and seemed poised to overtake front running former Vice President Joe Biden.
And then… pffffffftttt. Or, more accurately, double pffffffftttt.
The conventional wisdom on Warren and her autumn stall is that her class-warfare liberalism is too scary for a Democratic Party chiefly interested in finding the most electable candidate to beat President Trump. As Obama car czar Steven Rattner, a Gergenesque repository of the CW, put it to the NYT about the Democratic donor class, “everyone is nervous” because Warren “would fundamentally change our free-enterprise system.”
But there’s little indication that Warren could ever build the kind of transformational coalition to deliver on her most lavish promises — confiscating trillions from the fortunes of billionaires, free college, the Green New Deal, universal child care and on and on — let alone win the presidency.
Who could have watched the way Warren botched the conception, timing and execution of the rollout of her single-payer health plan last week and still consider her capable of a political revolution on par with FDR’s? Americans are capable of voting for very liberal and very conservative candidates, but almost never those who are bad at politics.
And it’s not like it was her first unforced error.
As Warren prepared last year to begin her candidacy in earnest, she committed with one of the most amazing self-owns in recent political history. She had long faced criticism for exploiting a dubious claim of Native American ancestry for professional advantage. It was a subject she understandably wanted to clean up before she launched her campaign.
In a party where questions of racial identity can be paramount, Warren might have opted for a contrite approach. Maybe a listening tour among tribal nations. Maybe a carefully worded apology.
Instead, Warren opted for confrontation. She took a DNA test that she said vindicated her claims and tried to stick it in the face of Trump, who calls her “Pocahontas.”
It was a disaster.
Warren has between “1/64th to 1/1024th” native ancestry, or about what an average white American might expect to have. Tribal leaders were furious. Not only had Warren reduced native identity to blood rather than belonging, but she didn’t even have the blood to back it up.
In reply, Warren did what she should have done in the first place and sought out the counsel and forgiveness of native leaders. But one had to wonder how the candidate touted as the big brain in the race could have made a mistake so foolish. Only hubris can explain it.
But as spring turned to summer, Warren not only persisted, but she started to make real gains on her left-wing rival, Sanders. She was drawing the kinds of crowds that had once flocked to the Vermont socialist. Coupled with the kind of gushy, uncritical press coverage unseen since Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, Warren was ready to break out.
Even better, events conspired to provide her with the perfect moment to take the lead.
Biden has been a remarkably weak front-runner all along. He’s strapped for cash, struggling for a raison d’être beyond just beating Trump and absolutely stinks with the younger voters in his party.
When news broke about a month ago that Trump had pressured his Ukrainian counterpart for dirt on Biden, it looked like it might be nearly as bad for the former vice president as it was for Trump.
Trump was after a prosecution of Biden’s son, Hunter, for pedaling influence in the woe-begotten former USSR. The younger Biden’s business pitch there and elsewhere overseas seems to have been one common to political relatives for generations: My dad will like you more if you pay me.
It’s the kind of swampy, Clintonian conduct that not only raised questions about Biden’s general-election viability but spoke directly to the desire for a populist revolt on which Warren is basing her candidacy.
Warren seemed like she was ready to pounce, rolling out a policy paper on anti-corruption measures. Here was the perfect spot for an insurgent candidate to take a stand. And then, she didn’t.
Instead, Warren did with health insurance what she did a year ago with her claims about “high cheekbones” and contributions to “Pow Wow Chow.” She took an existing problem of her own making — in this case, a failure to articulate a plan to back up her proposal to abolish private insurance — and made it worse with a ham-handed response.
A month ago, Biden looked like he was in free fall and Warren was still climbing. In our average of primo polling, his advantage got as narrow as 2 points.
Warren didn’t just miss her moment, she also kicked it into reverse by managing to annoy voters and analysts across the ideological spectrum with an insurance plan that is deemed both overly ambitious and impractical.
But Warren’s real problem isn’t ideological or policy-oriented. It’s her lack of political acumen.
BIDEN WIDENS NATIONAL LEAD IN MATCHUP V. TRUMP
Fox News: “Democratic primary voters increasingly feel the need to nominate a candidate who can beat President Trump in 2020, and more think Joe Biden can do that than any of the other top Democratic hopefuls. In addition, while most Democratic primary voters are satisfied with their field, more than a quarter wish they had other options, according to a new Fox News Poll. Biden leads the nomination race with the backing of 31 percent of Democratic primary voters, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 21 percent, Bernie Sanders at 19 percent, and Pete Buttigieg at 7 percent. In early October, Biden was at 32 percent, Warren 22, Sanders 17, and Buttigieg 4. Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang receive 3 percent apiece, followed by Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, and Amy Klobuchar each at 2 percent, and Tom Steyer at 1 percent. Compared to March, the first Fox News Poll on the race, Biden’s support is unchanged, while Warren has gained 17 points, Buttigieg is up 6 and Sanders is down 4.”
Battleground state polls show a different story – NYT: “Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election, according to a set of new surveys from The New York Times Upshot and Siena College. Across the six closest states that went Republican in 2016, he trails Joe Biden by an average of two points among registered voters but stays within the margin of error. Mr. Trump leads Elizabeth Warren by two points among registered voters, the same margin as his win over Hillary Clinton in these states three years ago. The poll showed Bernie Sanders deadlocked with the president among registered voters, but trailing among likely voters. The results suggest that Ms. Warren, who has emerged as a front-runner for the Democratic nomination, might face a number of obstacles in her pursuit of the presidency.”
Voters remain split on personal attributes – WaPo: “The Post-ABC News poll asked Democrats to choose which of five top-ranking candidates is best across seven personal and policy attributes. Biden continues to lead on the question of electability… But Biden was matched or exceeded by Warren or Sanders on other attributes. Asked which candidate ‘best understands the problems of people like you,’ Sanders led with 30 percent, compared with 22 percent for Biden and 20 percent for Warren. The three candidates are about even when it comes to who would do most to bring needed change in Washington, and Biden and Sanders tied at 25 percent on which candidate is closest to them on the issues. On honesty, Biden and Sanders are roughly even… On the question of which of five leading Democrats ‘has the sharpest mental ability,’ Biden [fell] narrowly between Warren at 24 percent and Sanders at 17 percent.”
Why was Beto such a bust? – Politico: “As night fell and his staffers led him through the drizzle to his rented Dodge Grand Caravan for the last time, Beto O’Rourke was asked Friday by a reporter, ‘What do you think went wrong for you?’ He didn’t answer, allowing the question, over cross-talk from reporters, to hang briefly in the air. There was no simple way to explain his fall, the most spectacular failure of the Democratic presidential primary. … In the first day of his campaign, he raised a staggering $6.1 million. Then it evaporated. The proximate cause of O’Rourke’s fall was not in the unorthodox things he did. … Rather, it was everything he didn’t do — rendering him an object lesson in the familiar limits of charisma, the liability of high expectations and the importance of organization. Or, as O’Rourke might say, of having one’s ‘s[–]it’ together. For too long — and irreparably — he did not.”
THE RULEBOOK: EQUIPOISE
“The ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense are, first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70
TIME OUT: AMERICA’S COWBOY PHILOSOPHER
Tulsa [Okla.] World: “When Will Rogers came home to visit, he never mentioned the celebrities he knew or the movies he made, said Doris ‘Coke’ Meyer, his great niece. He wouldn’t talk about meeting the president. … If you grow up in Oklahoma, you grow up knowing all about Will Rogers. You know about the rope tricks and the black-and-white movies and the plane crash. You can quote him saying he never met a man he didn’t like. You know he’s as much a part of our history as the Land Run and the Oil Boom. But maybe the way we know him, he doesn’t come across as such a big deal. Important to us, sure. But outside of Oklahoma? ‘Don’t take him for granted,’ Coke says. ‘He’s still one of the most famous people in the world.’ Monday would have been Rogers’ 140th birthday. He died Aug. 15, 1935 at age 55, in an Alaska airplane crash with aviator Wiley Post.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 26.6 points (↓ 1 point from last wk.)
Warren: 22.4 points (↓ 2.4 points from last wk.)
Sanders: 16.6 points (↑ 2 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 8.4 points (↑ 2 points from last wk.)
Harris: 3.4 points (↓ 1.4 points from last wk.)
[Averages include: NBC News/WSJ, ABC News/WaPo, Fox News, USA Today/Suffolk University and Quinnipiac University.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 42.2 percent
Average disapproval: 55.4 percent
Net Score: -13.2 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1 point
[Average includes: NBC News/WSJ: 45% approve – 53% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 39% approve – 59% disapprove; Fox News: 42% approve – 57% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve – 56% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 46% approve – 52% disapprove.]
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WHITE HOUSE FLOUTS SUBPOENAS, HEADING FOR COURT
Fox News: “Four White House witnesses called before House committees on Monday as part of the impeachment inquiry of President Trump are expected to defy subpoenas, Fox News is told. Already, two officials have skipped depositions scheduled for Monday morning: John Eisenberg, the lead attorney for the National Security Council, and Robert Blair, a top aide to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. The House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committees also scheduled depositions in the afternoon for National Security Council aide Michael Ellis and Office of Management and Budget aide Brian McCormack, but so far those officials are not expected to show up either. All are facing subpoenas, but President Trump has limited cooperation with the probe, as he publicly rails against Democrats for how they’ve conducted it.”
Poll: Two-thirds say Trump acted inappropriately – Fox News: “Nearly half of voters want President Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a new Fox News Poll. In addition, 6-in-10 believe the president did ask foreign leaders to investigate political opponents — and two-thirds say that action is inappropriate. Forty-nine percent want Trump impeached and removed from office, 4 percent say he should be impeached but not removed, and 41 percent oppose impeaching Trump. That’s about where things stood in early October, when 51 percent said impeach/remove, 4 percent impeach/don’t remove, and 40 percent opposed altogether. The two-point dip in support for impeachment comes from a 5-point decline among Republicans, as 8 percent favor impeachment now, compared to 13 percent in early October.
Continetti: Trump has to choose between the circus and the White House – NYT: “Mr. Trump’s problem is that he can’t win re-election on Republican votes alone. He needs independents. He has won their votes before — in 2016 — but he has a lot of work to do if he wants to regain their support. He has the material for a strong campaign. He just needs to grasp it. Does he have the self-discipline required to pull off the job? … Mr. Trump’s temperament and erratic, confrontational style are part of the reason voters do not like him. … Mr. Trump has two ways he could regain his standing among independents and win over undecided voters. He can pray that Democrats nominate a candidate whose personality and policies independents find more unappealing than his own. Or he can modify the way he comports himself in public. It is telling that the least likely option is the one within Mr. Trump’s control.”
Impeachment pressure builds on Susan Collins – Politico: “Shortly after she became one of just five Republican senators to vote to acquit President Bill Clinton on both charges of impeachment, Susan Collins returned [and] Maine Republicans did not exactly roll out the welcome mat. … Twenty years later as she prepares to take Donald Trump’s presidency in her hands… If she votes to acquit the president, the state’s resurgent Democratic Party and its national allies are likely to clobber her as out of step with the state’s light blue hue. And if she votes to remove Trump from office after a Senate trial, she’ll risk dampening support from the conservative base and raising the ire of the president himself. Still, impeachment also offers an opportunity for Collins to emphasize her independence at a time of deep polarization and a crucial moment in history. … [N]o one has a more wrenching confluence of politics, personal brand and principles to consider than Maine’s senior senator.”
Prosecutors one step closer to obtaining Trump taxes – NYT: “A federal appeals panel on Monday said President Trump’s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors, a setback for the president’s attempt to keep his financial records private. But the tax returns are not likely to be handed over soon. Mr. Trump has fought vigorously to shield his tax returns, and the case appears headed to the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Trump had sought to block his accounting firm from releasing the tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Prosecutors in the office are investigating the role of the president and his business in hush-money payments made to two women just before the 2016 presidential election.”
STATE RACES WILL TEST TRUMP FACTOR TUESDAY
WaPo: “…[For Andy Beshear the Democratic candidate for governor in Kentucky] and Jim Hood, the Democratic candidate for governor in Mississippi, such policy focus is being tested as Trump storms into these two Republican-friendly states and attempts to turn Tuesday’s governor’s election into a referendum on him and his possible impeachment at the hands of congressional Democrats. … Democrats see the three governors’ races as an opportunity to prove that voters still want local leaders to prioritize issues of health and economic well-being in states that continue to rank among the poorest in the nation. Political strategists from both parties warn that the Democrats’ issue-centric strategy comes with risks as partisan polarization creeps deeper into voters’ everyday lives. … The challenges facing Beshear and Hood are similar to the one facing Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). Polls showed Edwards comfortably ahead before the state’s bipartisan ‘jungle’ primary last month, but he failed to win an outright majority.”
Conservative group tests transgender anxiety in Kentucky race – NYT: “From the 12th floor of a glass office tower in the Washington suburbs, a campaign to sway the governor’s race in Kentucky on Tuesday is being waged with an alarmist claim that has little to do with the race itself: If Democrats have their way, soon boys will be able to compete against girls in school sports. This scenario, presented in a pair of ads that are appearing on computer screens and smartphones across Kentucky, is the work of a little-known group funded by anonymous donors called the American Principles Project, which in recent years has focused on fighting more familiar clashes in the culture wars over same-sex marriage and abortion rights. The group is limiting its work to Kentucky for now, but strategists say it has bigger ambitions. It is effectively running a pilot program for the 2020 election that will help it determine how it could use the debate over transgender rights to rally conservative voters in support of President Trump.”
Recall effort against Alaska governor gains steam – AP: “A fight is brewing over whether Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy should be recalled from office, with his critics saying he’s incompetent and has recklessly tried to cut spending while supporters see a politically motivated attempt to undo the last election. Dunleavy, a Republican, has drawn parallels between himself and President Donald Trump, casting himself as a chief executive trying to implement an agenda of smaller government and resource development while facing attacks from the left. Trump, the subject of an impeachment inquiry, has defended Dunleavy on Twitter. A state elections official could decide as early as Monday whether the first serious attempt to recall an Alaska governor since the early 1990s should advance to a second phase of signature-gathering. The decision could be challenged in court.”
Trump says he won’t commit to keeping government open before Thanksgiving – WaPo
Pergram: The impeachment inquiry in all its complexities – Fox News
“As a left-wing San Francisco liberal, I can say to these people: ‘What are you thinking?’” – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talking to Bloomberg about Medicare for All.
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DEDICATION TO THE HOT SIGN
WOWT: “Jayson Gonzalez, of Champlin, Minnesota, has been making weekend trips to a Krispy Kreme store in Clive, Iowa. He’d pack his car with boxes of doughnuts, head north and deliver them to his customers around the Twin Cities. Less than a week after the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported about his road trips, Gonzalez said he got a phone call from Krispy Kreme’s Nebraska office telling him to stop selling the company’s doughnuts in Minnesota. Krispy Kreme stores left Minnesota 11 years ago. His Krispy Kreme-craving-clientele got word in a Facebook post on Halloween that this weekend’s run had been sprinkled with objections and scrubbed. Gonzalez wrote, ‘Hi all! I bear some bad news. Unfortunately the run for this Saturday will not be taking place, as I have been told I have to shut down operations.’ … Jayson seems to be taking this all in stride and he appears to believe his enterprising side hustle might even set the stage for brighter lights in his future.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“A large segment of American opinion doubts the legitimacy of unilateral American action, but accepts action taken under the rubric of the ‘world community.’” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing for The New Republic on July 29, 1991.
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.