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Biden, Sanders slips are showing in Iowa poll

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday in Cedar Rapids,

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Bloomberg / Daniel Acker

Front-runners suffer shrinkage

There's no such thing as a comfortable lead in the 23-candidate race for the 2020 Democratic nomination to challenge President Donald Trump. Not in Iowa, at least. Not right now.

A new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom's new Iowa caucuses poll has Joe Biden in first place with 24%. That's a 3-point drop from March, before he entered the race, and 9 points lower than a poll taken in December among Iowans who will host the first-in-the-nation presidential contest on Feb. 3.

Bernie Sanders was still in second place, but just barely, with 16%. That's a 9-point plunge from March and 3 points lower than December.

Gaining ground on the pair who started off as the best-known candidates in the Democratic presidential field are Elizabeth Warren, 15%; Pete Buttigieg, 14%; and Kamala Harris, 7%. None of the other contenders topped 2%.

CNN said other yardsticks in the poll showed Biden's supporters are less enthusiastic about voting for him than the average for other top candidates. As for Sanders, he's lost his 2016 standing as the clear choice of progressives, with Warren and Buttigieg beating him among those voters.

Veteran Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer, who ran the survey, said, "There’s a lot more commitment than we normally see this early. And some of these candidates who’ve been under the radar start to surface and compete with Joe Biden.” But she also cautioned against predictions, either now or on the eve of the caucuses. "Relatively few people attend them, and people can, and do, change their minds in the caucus room," she wrote in the Register.

Nevertheless, the battle is already intense. Nineteen of the Democrats took five-minute turns speaking before the state's party leaders at a gathering in Cedar Rapids. Biden skipped it to attend a granddaughter's high school graduation, his campaign said.

Mayor Zero

Bill de Blasio, among the candidates at Sunday's Iowa event, drew zero support from those surveyed in the poll.

The New York City mayor was nobody's second choice either, reports Newsday's Scott Eidler. But he eked out 6% for the "actively considering" category, which put him in a tie for 21st place, according to the survey.

Also scoring 0% as first or second choice was New York's Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

What's the deal with Mexico?

After Trump announced he'd made a deal with Mexico on migrants and called off his tariff threat, he wanted to hear more trumpets. He didn't. The inevitable angry tweet followed on Sunday morning:

"If President Obama made the deals that I have made, both at the Border and for the Economy, the Corrupt Media would be hailing them as Incredible, & a National Holiday would be immediately declared. With me, despite our record setting Economy and all that I have done, no credit!"

Trump attacked as "false" a New York Times report that Mexico had already agreed in past months to much that is in the agreement announced Friday to contain the flow of Central American migrants. Mexico said it has accelerated a planned deployment of 6,000 members of its National Guard (a police force, not military) to its border with Guatemala. The Times stood by its story.

Trump tweeted he has "full confidence" in Mexico's full cooperation, but if "for some unknown reason … there is not," tariffs remain an option.

So what if anything did Trump genuinely accomplish toward reversing the surge in illegal immigration by brandishing the weapon of tariffs, which risked disrupting both countries' economies? To cite one of his favorite hedging phrases, we'll see what happens.

Janison: Pelosi cribs Trump playbook

It seemed like Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew inspiration of sorts from the "Lock her up" chants of the president's crowds when she told House Democratic colleagues that she wanted to see Trump "in prison."

It got attention, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. How he would be put behind bars — such as just what Trump allegedly did to earn him a criminal sentence — was left unspoken. But it was likely no surprise to Pelosi that the private remark would go public and dominate a news cycle.

Pelosi got to paint over divisions within her party over impeachment in a bid to unite partisan bile against her nemesis. It's the art of distraction, well practiced by the 45th president.

Trump lost in space

Why stop at alternative facts when you can have an alternative solar system? Trump committed an astronomical error in a tweet Friday as he seemed to jettison a plan he previously favored for NASA to return to the moon in a few years as a precursor to sending astronauts to Mars.

"For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!"

As is universally known — well, almost universally — the moon is not a part of Mars.

Pompeo's Waterworld

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn't deny climate change is happening — he just sees it more as an opportunity than a problem. If sea levels rise, he says, people can move.

"Societies reorganize, we move to different places, we develop technology and innovation," Pompeo said in an interview with The Washington Times.

Pompeo has previously spoken of an upside to the melting of the polar ice cap in the Arctic. "Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade — this could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days," he said at a conference last month in Finland.

What else is happening:

  • House Democrats scheduled a series of hearings this week on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation report. They aim to spotlight alleged obstruction of justice by Trump and Russian election interference.
  • A big part of Biden's pitch is to remind Democratic voters of his Barack Obama connection. On Saturday, he tweeted out a photo of two matching friendship bracelets bearing the names “Joe” and “Barack." The photo appeared to be the same one then-Vice President Biden used in 2016 to wish President Obama a happy birthday.
  • Views about abortion among voters from both major parties are more complicated than the abortion-rights voices that dominate the Democratic Party and the hard-line opposition from their Republican counterparts would suggest, according to an analysis by a New York Times pollster.
  • Short-time White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, a veteran of investment banking, tweeted that the economy is suffering blowback from Trump's frequent tariff threats. "Business investment is slowing down due to the uncertainty and lack of predictability with the @Potus tariff strategy. … I support @potus but let’s be honest."
  • Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) says Trump had "every right" to hit back at Pelosi for her "prison" remark, but not from Normandy while he was attending D-Day 75th anniversary ceremonies. "He should’ve let it be until he got home … it did detract somewhat from the outstanding speech he gave,” King said on John Catsimatidis' radio show.
  • Non-Trumper Sen. Mitt Romney said he may not make any endorsements in 2020, adding, "I don't think endorsements are worth a thimble of spit." It wasn't worth much to Romney when he groveled for Trump's endorsement in 2012 and went on to lose anyway.

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