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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Pelosi Marches Forward
      •  Joe Loses His Cool
      •  Kim Promises "Christmas Gift"
      •  Warren Has Definitely Fallen Off
      •  Kerry Endorses Biden
      •  Democrats Try to Sweet Talk Bullock
      •  Graves Joins the Crowd Headed for the Exit

Pelosi Marches Forward

Any way you do the math, the Democrats simply must move forward with impeachment now. If they backed off after making such a fuss and uncovering so much evidence, the base would be furious, while Donald Trump would spend the next year bragging that his enemies tried to take him down and failed. And so, consistent with this, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the next big step forward on Thursday, announcing that she has instructed the chairs of the House committees to produce and vote upon articles of impeachment.

After the declaration, Pelosi sat for a town hall with CNN. And if there was any doubt whatsoever about the meaning of what she'd just said, the Speaker resolved it: "I have to admit that today was quite historic. It was taking us across a threshold on this that we just had no choice. I do hope that it would be remembered in a way that honors the vision of our founders, what they had in mind for establishing a democracy." She also added: "The facts are uncontested. The President abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival."

That puts the ball, at least for the moment, into the court of Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), whose committee will help draw up the articles, and then will have to approve them. Nadler announced on Thursday that his committee will hear presentations on Monday with counsels to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House Judiciary Committee. That's the sort of step that comes very near the end of the process, particularly since members of the Committee have been asked to cancel their weekend travel plans and to remain in Washington. In fact, there is talk that the articles of impeachment could be introduced by the end of next week.

In past weeks and months, the White House has been in denial about impeachment, and has pooh-poohed the possibility several times. Now, however, the time has come to rally the troops:

Who knew that the President was also a constitutional scholar? Wonder what his evidence is for the assertion that this is not what the Founders had in mind. We can only assume it comes from his close reading of the Federalist Papers, Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, and the collected works of Melancton Smith. It certainly didn't come from the testimony of four distinguished constitutional law professors on Wednesday.

In any case, it's not just the folks in the House who have lots of work to do, it's also the folks in the Senate. Particularly Senate Republicans, who have some difficult decisions to make about exactly how they want to handle this superheated hot potato. They have already made clear, however, that they are not interested in the sorts of stunts that the House GOP members pulled. "We're not going to do that," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Thursday, specifically in response to a suggestion from one of the Republican representatives that Rep. Adam Schiff's (D-CA) phone records be subpoenaed.

Undoubtedly, barring some sort of game-changing development, Senate Republicans are going to have Donald Trump's back. But the senators pride themselves on their chamber being more "grown up" than the lower chamber. Further, senators generally answer to a broader range of voters than representatives do, and many centrists/independents may be displeased with shenanigans. And Senate rules also don't leave a lot of leeway for trickery; it would take only a couple of GOP senators to torpedo something silly, like trying to subpoena the whistleblower's barber. That said, there does appear to be broad agreement among the members of the GOP caucus that Joe Biden should be called to testify, so that's likely to happen (more below).

Meanwhile, the timing of all of this may just be a coincidence, but it certainly appears Pelosi is taking a page out of the playbook of her predecessor (and nemesis), Newt Gingrich. When Bill Clinton was impeached, the articles of impeachment were formally adopted on December 19. That gave everyone involved, along with the American people, the entire Christmas/Channukah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice/Festivus season to dwell on the President's malfeasance. The trial did not actually begin until January 7. One can only imagine how many tweets Trump will send if he has three weeks of waiting, and vast amounts of holiday downtime during that period. The good people at Twitter are going to need to buy a new server to hold them all. (Z)

Joe Loses His Cool

Joe Biden continues his "No Malarkey" tour of Iowa this week. And during a town hall event, the former VP got quite testy after a voter accused him of corrupt behavior for getting Hunter Biden a job with Burisma. That triggered a rant, which began thusly: "You're a damn liar, man. That's not true. And no one has ever said that. No one has proved that," but then—after a bit of stuttering—transitioned into this: "You wanna check my shape on it, let's do push-ups together here, man. Let's run. Let's do whatever you want to do. Let's do push-ups and take an IQ test." You can watch the footage here, if you wish, although it doesn't make the leap from "that's a lie" to "let's take an IQ test" much clearer.

Anyhow, the point here is not that the Democratic frontrunner had a semi-meltdown. Everyone has a bad day once in a while (though if Barack Obama had lost his cool like that, it would have been a national scandal). The point is that Biden is clearly quite raw about this whole situation with his son. Understandable, but if he lets his emotions get the best of him on camera too many times, that could be trouble for his campaign.

In particular, and as we note above, Biden is likely to be subpoenaed to testify before the Senate, and will be given the third degree once he sits in the witness chair. If he blows his top, it will not be a good look for him. Similarly, if he stumbles and mumbles and has trouble putting together coherent thoughts, that will also be a bad look for him. For these reasons, RealClearPolitics' Susan Crabtree argues that Biden is about to enter a "make or break" phase of his campaign. There's probably a fair bit of merit to that assessment.

However, there is also a potential upside for Biden as well. The entire country will be watching his testimony, including Republicans who don't normally pay any attention to him. It will be a hugely valuable opportunity for him to appear presidential in front of a large bipartisan audience. If he does really well, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) may demand to be called as witnesses as well. Oh wait. They are jurors. (Z)

Kim Promises "Christmas Gift"

There has been so much domestic turmoil, with news about Donald Trump's poor relationship with the leaders of NATO occasionally mixed in, that you probably forgot for a while the danger posed by Kim Jong-Un and his nukes. But he's there, and they are still there, as Kim made sure to remind everyone earlier this week, threatening that the U.S. would receive a special "Christmas gift" if progress is not made in U.S.-North Korea negotiations pronto.

Kim did not specify exactly what kind of Christmas gift he had in mind, but we believe we've got it narrowed down to a couple of possibilities:

  • He's going to stage another nuclear test
  • He's signed Trump up for a membership in the jelly-of-the-month club

The last time that Kim made a threat like this, it was a Fourth of July gift that he threatened, and it turned out to be a nuclear weapons test. So, the odds are that it's a nuclear test this time, too. Kim does love a well-crafted jelly, though, so you never know.

One of the interesting things to watch for in 2020 is whether people care even one whit about foreign policy anymore. There was a time when Trump was prepping his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, but now the North Korea situation has turned sour, the Iran situation has deteriorated badly, the trade wars have not accomplished anything, the Syrian Kurds have been abandoned, and the leaders of America's allies—including alleged friend-of-Trump Boris Johnson—are laughing at him behind his back. If just 1 in 50 Trump supporters looks at that litany of foreign policy failures and missteps and loses faith in him, he's in trouble. (Z)

Warren Has Definitely Fallen Off

The polls keep rolling in, and they keep saying the same thing: Elizabeth Warren is no longer a co-frontrunner with Joe Biden. Here are the latest, from Economist/YouGov, Politico/Morning Consult, The Hill/HarrisX, CNN, and SurveyUSA:

Candidate EC/YG Po/MC TH/HX CNN SUSA Average
Joe Biden 27% 29% 31% 28% 30% 29.0%
Bernie Sanders 13% 20% 15% 17% 17% 16.4%
Elizabeth Warren 18% 15% 10% 14% 15% 14.4%
Pete Buttigieg 12% 9% 9% 11% 11% 10.4%
Michael Bloomberg 3% 5% 6% 3% 3% 4.0%
Andrew Yang 2% 4% 2% 3% 4% 3.0%
Amy Klobuchar 3% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2.2%
Cory Booker 3% 2% 1% 2% 2% 2.0%
Julián Castro 1% 1% 2% 1% 1% 1.2%
Tom Steyer 0% 2% 2% 3% 2% 1.8%
Tulsi Gabbard 2% 2% 0% 0% 1% 1.0%

As you can see, not only is Warren not a co-frontrunner, it appears she's fallen behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, as she trails him in four of the five polls. In fact, she's mildly in danger of being caught by Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend). There's still time for her to recover, of course, particularly if she does well in the early primary/caucus states, where she's got massive ground game and has basically taken up residence. However, she was on top of the world as recently as a month ago. Such a precipitous drop, particularly in the absence of an obvious gaffe, must have Team Warren worried. (Z)

Kerry Endorses Biden

It's 60 days until the first Democratic voters cast their caucus ballots. If you subtract 15 of those because people are going to be distracted by the holidays, football, etc., then it's not much more than a month of full-time campaigning before the rubber starts to hit the road. Consequently, a former senator, secretary of state, and Democratic presidential nominee decided to take the plunge and officially endorse Joe Biden. No, not her, she's too busy shredding Bernie Sanders in interviews with Howard Stern. In fact, it was John Kerry, who said, "Joe is uniquely the person running for president who can beat Donald Trump and get to work on day one at home and in the world with no time to waste."

Does Kerry's endorsement actually matter? Does anyone's these days? That is an exceedingly difficult question to answer with data, but we're willing to hazard an educated guess that endorsements really move the needle in only three situations:

  • Superstars: There are a small number of people so beloved by one party or the other that their endorsement probably does influence voter behavior, at least some. Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Jimmy Carter on one side of the aisle; Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh on the other. But there are only a very small number of these folks.

  • Interest group leaders, but just with that group: Evangelists' endorsements probably sway other evangelists, labor leaders influence their fellow unionists, prominent black leaders can persuade some black voters, etc.

  • Endorsement against interest: When a person or a newspaper endorses someone at odds with their long-established philosophy/political viewpoint/persona, that likely impresses some people. For example, nobody would much care if Paul Ryan came out for Donald Trump, but they would probably sit up and take notice if he gave his endorsement to Elizabeth Warren.

John Kerry does not fit into any of the three categories above, so our guess is that his endorsement of Biden won't have any meaningful impact. (Z)

Democrats Try to Sweet Talk Bullock

Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) is no longer running for president, and he will soon be effectively term-limited as governor (Montana allows people to serve for only 8 years of 16, and year 8 is about to begin). His colleagues in Washington think he would be a whiz-bang U.S. senator, and probably the only candidate they've got who could plausibly knock off Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), who is up next year. So, they are putting on the full-court press, even though he's said "no, thanks!" more times than he can count. The obvious role model here is John Hickenlooper, a successful two-term governor of a Western state and failed presidential candidate. There hasn't been a lot of polling in the Colorado race, but the last one (3 months ago) had Hickenlooper ahead of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) by 13 points.

The approach to Bullock stands in stark contrast to another failed presidential candidate from another state with a potentially winnable Senate seat, namely Beto O'Rourke. Nobody is trying to get him to run. In part, that is undoubtedly because the Democrats have a pretty good candidate to face Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) already, in the person of MJ Hegar, and the last thing they need is a bloody primary. However, it's also a sign of how far O'Rourke's star has fallen after his train wreck of a presidential campaign.

In O'Rourke's case, his non-run for the Senate will become official this Monday, because that is Texas' filing deadline. Bullock, by contrast, could jump in as late as March 9 of next year. He probably wouldn't even have to fundraise; Montana's cheap to campaign in, and the DNC would surely give him a nice war chest as an inducement. By way of comparison, Daines has a little over $4 million on hand right now, which is relative chump change if it significantly increases the Democrats' chance of retaking the Senate. (Z)

Graves Joins the Crowd Headed for the Exit

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) has been in the House for 10 years, which means he's a veteran politician and campaigner. Further, his district (GA-14) is, apropos to the season, like a candy cane. It's both very white (84.3%) and very red (R+27). So, he could have had a lifetime job if he'd wanted it. However, he decided this week that five terms is enough for him, and so announced on Thursday that he was going to bow out.

The Representative's official reason for retirement was that he wants to enjoy "a new season in life," as his wife nears retirement age and his children reach adulthood. Maybe so, though he was in serious contention to be appointed to Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat, and the word among GOP insiders is that he may run for the seat when it comes up in two years. He's also held Donald Trump at arm's length; "I have trouble seeing how he lines up with the great tradition of Lincoln and Reagan, and I'm concerned that many of his statements run afoul of the Constitution, my values and my beliefs," Graves said in a statement to constituents back in 2016. So, at just 49 years of age, it looks like he is just tired of the current president, and wants to take a breather until he's gone. Graves becomes the 22nd Republican to retire this cycle. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec05 House Learns What "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" Are, or Maybe It Doesn't
Dec05 Democrats Hint at Three Articles of Impeachment
Dec05 Giuliani Is Still at It
Dec05 Biden Says He Will Consider Harris as His Running Mate
Dec05 Kemp Defies Trump and Appoints Loeffler to the Senate
Dec05 Graham: Russia Interfered with the 2016 Election, Not Ukraine
Dec05 Horowitz: Russia Probe Was Legitimate
Dec05 Trump Calls Trudeau "Two-Faced"
Dec05 Heck Won't Run for Reelection
Dec04 House Intelligence Committee Releases Report on Ukraine
Dec04 Who Will Be the Impeachment Managers?
Dec04 Trump Loses Another Ruling Related to His Finances
Dec04 Harris Has Her Kamala to Jesus Moment
Dec04 Steyer Makes the Debate Cut
Dec04 Democrats Can't Sleep on Michigan Senate Seat
Dec04 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part VI
Dec03 Republicans Close Ranks Around Trump
Dec03 Page and Zelensky Speak Out
Dec03 Trump Readies for Another Trade War
Dec03 Steve Bullock Exits Democratic Presidential Race
Dec03 Garland Tucker Exits North Carolina Senate Race
Dec03 Duncan Hunter to Plead Guilty
Dec03 Assessment of Open House Seats
Dec03 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part V
Dec02 Intelligence Committee Will Circulate Draft Report Today
Dec02 Ranking Republican on Judiciary Committee Wants Schiff to Testify
Dec02 Biden Will Crisscross Iowa for 8 Days
Dec02 Booker is Desperate for Donors
Dec02 Candidates on the Cusp
Dec02 Joe Sestak, We Hardly Knew Ye
Dec02 Disinformation Will Run Rampant in 2020
Dec02 Adam Schiff's Star Is Rising
Dec02 The Youngest Potential Voters Are Not Interested in Voting
Dec02 Poll: Republican Voters Think that Trump Is a Better Leader than Abraham Lincoln
Dec02 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part IV
Dec01 Sunday Mailbag
Nov30 Saturday Q&A
Nov29 Trump Paints Impeachment as an Attack on All Conservatives
Nov29 Nadler Invites Trump to the First Judiciary Committee Hearing on Impeachment
Nov29 The Knives Are Coming Out for Buttigieg
Nov29 Yang Releases His Tax Returns
Nov29 Richard Spencer Is Not Going Gentle into that Good Night
Nov29 Congress May Pass a Bill Somewhat Limiting Robocalls
Nov29 Georgia Governor Brian Kemp May Cross Trump When Filling Isakson's Seat
Nov29 Cummings' Daughters Support Their Father's Aide, Not His Wife
Nov28 Are Trump and Giuliani Turning on Each Other?
Nov28 Giuliani Was Also Doing Business in Ukraine
Nov28 Poll: Support for Impeachment Is Holding Steady
Nov28 Warren Is Slipping in Iowa
Nov28 Some Voters Want Divided Government