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On the roster: Elizabeth Warren, zombie candidate – Ducey holds all the cards on McCain seat – Cohen calls out Trump – House schedule is ‘subject to change’ – Finally, an interception even the Jets can make

ELIZABETH WARREN, ZOMBIE CANDIDATE 
At this point, it feels a bit like piling on, but can we just say: Puh-leeze, Elizabeth Warren

The Massachusetts senator, who is whiter than a Starbucks kiosk at a Dave Matthews Band concert, delivered the fall-semester commencement address at the historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore. 

“I’m not a person of color,” she helpfully observed. “And I haven’t lived your life or experienced anything like the subtle prejudice, or more overt harm, that you may have experienced just because of the color of your skin.”

The joke here is that Warren did once present herself as a person of color back when it was advantageous for her to do so in the nerd-eat-nerd world of big-time academia. 

When she was called out for this “Pow-Wow Chow” stuff, she initially blew it off. Then when Donald Trump weaponized the taunt in a deadly effective way, Warren sought to double down, releasing a DNA report that said she was, in fact, part Native American. 

This is where it gets really funny. Having failed to do its homework, her campaign ended up bragging about a portion of native blood in which only the most committed bigot could be interested. She had less Indian ancestry than the average white American.

*sad trombone*

Tribal leaders were furious, Republicans were splitting their sides with laughter and Democrats concerned for their 2020 chances were watching through latticed fingers at the implosion. 

Now, with all of the subtlety and nuance of Clark Griswold’s Christmas display, Warren is sucking up to minority voters knowing as she does that like Bernie Sanders in 2016 and several white progressives in 2018 primaries that the readership of The Nation is not a sufficient base in a party that is substantially and increasingly not white. 

In a party enamored with Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAyanna Pressley and Stacey Abrams, Warren looks hopelessly out of step. Democrats may very well choose a person of color as their 2020 nominee, but it’s hard to imagine that they would pick a white person with racial baggage. (Sorry, Mike Bloomberg.)

Now, Warren has seen her stock tumble so far that she may one day be in good shape for a “comeback kid” narrative, but not yet. And that really is the problem for Democrats: Their field will be full of zombies. 

Warren, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Sanders and others have enough resources and can garner enough media attention to run for a long, long time. 

Even now a phalanx of Democratic staffers fresh from the 2018 field of battle are surging into early states for these candidates. There’s plenty of money and a field so large no one can really be discredited so early. If Beto O’Rourke is a thing – and he is – who is to tell a sitting senator, governor or billionaire former mayor of New York they don’t have a chance? 

But as the groan-inducing efforts to prop up Warren’s floundering campaign illustrates, this all comes at a cost.

In 2012 Republicans were quite indulgent with themselves when it came to choosing a nominee, pausing over several odd lots, sometimes more than once, before grudgingly, half-heartedly accepting Mitt Romney as their man. This happened for a lot of reasons, most of all a misunderstanding among GOP voters about how hard it would be to defeat and incumbent president.

But it was also made worse by billionaire Republican donors and the consultants that milked them propping up doomed candidates and generally avoiding the hard arithmetic of primary politics. 

Republicans should not kid themselves. Few incumbent presidents have faced the challenges that Trump does. George W. Bush had a pretty hard pull in 2004, but you’d probably have to go back to his dad to find an incumbent with a to-do box as full as Trump’s. 

But he is nowhere near as vulnerable as Democrats would like to think. He will be a tough out and if the Blue Team has a bunch of zombies roaming around snacking on the brains of an engaged but uncertain electorate, it will cost them.

THE RULEBOOK: ACTION HERO 
“Those politicians and statesmen who have been the most celebrated for the soundness of their principles and for the justice of their views, have declared in favor of a single Executive and a numerous legislature. They have with great propriety, considered energy as the most necessary qualification of the former, and have regarded this as most applicable to power in a single hand…” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70

TIME OUT: ‘PIOUS, JUST, HUMANE, TEMPERATE AND SINCERE’ 
On this day in 1799, the father of our country, George Washington, died at age 67 from a throat infection and the misinformed medical treatment of his time. Mount Vernon: “At five in the afternoon [he] sat up from bed, dressed, and walked over to his chair. He returned to bed within thirty minutes. [Longtime friend and family physician James Craik] went to him and Washington said, ‘Doctor, I die hard; but I am not afraid to go; I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it; my breath can not last long.’ … At ten at night [he] spoke, requesting to be ‘decently buried’ and to ‘not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead.’ … He was surrounded by people who were close to him including his wife who sat at the foot of the bed, his friends Dr. Craik and Tobias Lear, housemaids CarolineMolly, and Charlotte, and his valet Christopher Sheels who stood in the room throughout the day. … On December 18, 1799 a solemn funeral was held at Mount Vernon.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at [email protected] with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 41.6 percent
Average disapproval: 53 percent
Net Score: -11.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.6 points 
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; CNN: 40% approve – 53% disapprove; Gallup: 40% approve – 56% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 43% approve – 49% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve – 55% disapprove.]

DUCEY HOLDS ALL THE CARDS ON MCCAIN SEAT 
Politico: “Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will resign at the end of this year, forcing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to appoint a new replacement to the late Sen. John McCain‘s seat ahead of a 2020 special election to fill the last two years of McCain’s term. Kyl sent Ducey a letter Wednesday announcing his resignation effective at the end of this month. ‘When I accepted your appointment, I agreed to complete the work of the 115th Congress and then reevaluate continuing to serve,’ Kyl wrote. ‘I have concluded that it would be best if I resign so that your new appointee can begin the new term with all other Senators in January 2018 and can serve a full two (potentially four) years.’ Ducey’s office said in a statement that the governor will appoint another replacement in the near future. Two prospects are GOP Rep. Martha McSally, who lost a campaign for Arizona’s other Senate seat earlier this year, and Kirk Adams, Ducey’s former chief of staff and a former speaker of the Arizona House.” 

And he isn’t sold on McSally – WaPo: “Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has lost enthusiasm for appointing Rep. Martha McSally, a fellow Republican, to the Senate in recent weeks even as Republican leaders in Washington have championed her. … But her stock has fallen in the eyes of the governor, according to two people familiar with his thinking, as Ducey approaches one of the most significant decisions of his political career. Ducey’s choice would affect not only the future of the Senate but the 2020 elections in an increasingly competitive battleground state. It could also impact his relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a McSally advocate, as well as other party leaders who want to see more Republican women in Congress. There are several reasons McSally’s chances have faded, according to the people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss private conversations. One is a post-election memo her campaign strategists provided to The Washington Post last month, which attributed her defeat in November to external factors. Among them… There are also concerns about McSally’s standing among Republican donors.”

COHEN CALLS OUT TRUMP 
NPR: “Michael Cohen, President Trump‘s onetime lawyer and fixer, says his former boss knew it was wrong to order hush-money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump — but he directed Cohen to do it anyway to help his election chances. Cohen also said in an interview with ABC News aired Friday that the president’s repeated assertions that Cohen is lying about the payments and other aspects of his work for Trump were false. ‘He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth,’ Cohen said. ‘The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.’ Cohen pleaded guilty to financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. His ABC interview appeared less than 48 hours after a federal judge in Manhattan sentenced him to three years in prison and imposed around $2 million in financial penalties. It appears to be part of an effort by Cohen to rehabilitate his reputation, which is in tatters and disparaged by people on both sides of the political spectrum.”

Giuliani not concerned about Cohen’s allegations – Market Watch: “Rudy Giuliani bashed President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Friday, after Cohen said in a televised interview that Trump had directed him to make hush-money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the former New York mayor, now a lawyer for Trump, called Cohen’s allegations ‘much ado about nothing’ and sought to minimize Cohen’s admitted violation of campaign-finance law. ‘Whether they talked about it or not, their talking about it can’t make it a crime,’ Giuliani said about the hush-money payments. … In discussing Cohen’s admission, Giuliani told the Journal: ‘It’s campaign finance, my God.’ ‘Everybody pays a fine to the [Federal Election Commission] that is in politics. You can’t follow all the rules.’ The payments were found to be in violation of campaign-finance laws, since they were made in an attempt to influence the election. Giuliani also made comments to the Daily Beast about the violations, saying ‘nobody got killed, nobody got robbed.’”

HOUSE SCHEDULE IS ‘SUBJECT TO CHANGE’
Roll Call: “House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stated the obvious on Thursday when he noted that the chamber’s schedule for next week remains ‘fluid and subject to change.’ Outside of the big remaining item of business — a deal to extend government funding for nine departments and assorted agencies amid the congressional standoff with President Donald Trump over funding for a border wall — there is a dwindling list of legislative business for the chamber to attend to before the adjourning of the 115th Congress. The House conducted its final vote of the week early Thursday and as McCarthy and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., assembled on the floor to discuss the week ahead, the schedule McCarthy laid out reflected the uncertainty of when a spending deal might be considered, as well as the lack of a definitive plan on considering anything else.”

Pelosi vs. Hoyer is another fight to watch – NYT: “In her quest to become speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California appears ready once again to sacrifice the higher ambitions of her No. 2, Representative Steny H. Hoyer, and Mr. Hoyer is not shy about expressing his objections. ‘She’s not negotiating for me,’ he snapped the other day, referring to Ms. Pelosi’s deal with a group of House Democratic rebels to impose term limits on the leadership — and not just herself — of four years. As Democrats prepare to assume control of the House, the Pelosi-Hoyer frenemies dynamic, long a subject of intrigue in the Capitol, is growing ever more complex. The friction goes back decades. The last time Democrats took power from Republicans, in 2006, Ms. Pelosi backed then-Representative John P. Murtha in his effort to oust Mr. Hoyer from the majority leader’s slot. The putsch failed spectacularly, but she’s ready to handcuff him again with a deal on term limits that, if approved, would most likely usher both lawmakers from their leadership suites by early 2023, along with the No. 3 Democrat, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.”

WALKER SIGNS LEGACY BILL STICKING IT TO DEMS
AP: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a sweeping package of Republican-written legislation Friday that restricts early voting and weakens the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, brushing aside complaints that he is enabling a brazen power grab and ignoring the will of voters. Walker signed the bills just 24 days before he leaves office during an event at a state office building in Green Bay, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) from his Capitol office that has frequently been a target for protesters. The Republican governor and one-time GOP presidential candidate downplayed bipartisan criticism that they amount to a power grab that will stain his legacy. Speaking for 20 minutes and using charts to make his points, Walker detailed all of the governor’s powers, including a strong veto authority, that will not change while defending the measures he signed as improving transparency, stability and accountability.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Des Moines Register 2020 Iowa poll out this weekend – Des Moines Register

Trump inauguration spending under investigation – WSJ

Chris Christie withdraws from running for chief of staff – Fox News

Joe Lieberman tapped to do damage control for China’s ZTE – Politico

Inspector general report shows complexity of recovering Strzok, Page texts – WaPo 

Judge rules to uphold Maine’s ranked-choice voting – [Portland] Press Herald 

AUDIBLE: UN CAFÉ POR FAVOR
“Esta cafetera seguirá sirviendo café cubano para constituyentes en #DC.” – Tweet from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., posted with a picture of her giving her successor, Democratic Rep.-elect Donna Shalala, a “cafetera” machine to make Cuban-style coffee for constituents who visit the South Florida lawmaker’s Washington office.

BEST OF JOURNALISM 2018 
It’s time again for our annual year-end edition saluting the year’s best journalism, and we need your input. What stories stood out? Which journalists helped you understand the world in a better way? Who did it with integrity and an unflinching commitment to the truth? What about the ones who made you think or laugh? You can read last year’s winners here to get an idea of what we’re looking for. Share your suggestions with us by email at [email protected] 

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani and businessman Bill Gates. 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 [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

FINALLY, AN INTERCEPTION EVEN THE JETS CAN MAKE
WPVI: “An armored truck spilled cash on a New Jersey highway Thursday, leading to two crashes as drivers ‘went a little bit crazy,’ stopping their cars and scrambling to grab the swirling money. The frenzy happened during morning rush hour in East Rutherford, near MetLife Stadium, where the New York Giants and New York Jets play. In online videos, a man in uniform is seen running through traffic trying to collect money, while others exited their cars to do the same. … A Brink’s truck idled in the right shoulder with its lights flashing as the bills blew around the highway. One video showed the bashed-in front end of a sedan as traffic crawled through the blizzard of bills. Police said the chaos led to two crashes, though it’s unclear whether anyone was injured. … Police said they don’t know how much money spilled.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“If you get in a car to go to a certain place in the middle of the night to pick up stolen goods, and it turns out the stolen goods don’t show up but the cops show up, I think you’re going to have a very weak story saying ‘I got swindled here.’” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) on “The Story with Martha MacCallum” on July 11, 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.

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