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Democrats eye field of would-be Trump challengers and ask: Got anyone else?

Sen. Bernie Sanders, seen here on Nov. 27:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, seen here on Nov. 27: In a new poll, Democratic and independent voters say they want a fresh face in the 2020 presidential race. Photo Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

Dark horse derby

Democratic voters were oh so energized in November when they blew away Donald Trump's Republican majority in the House. They seem less focused when they look over the names floating about of Democrats who might take Trump on in 2020.

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll asked Democrats and independents who they'd be most excited to see in the 2020 presidential field. There were 10 names to choose from, but the clear winner — the choice of nearly 6 in 10 surveyed — is: "someone entirely new." 

The runner-up was Joe Biden, at 53%. Bernie Sanders was third, at 36%, but 41% said he shouldn't run, and The New York Times reports some of his top supporters and aides from the 2016 primaries are looking elsewhere. Further down the list were potential presidential-race first-timers Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren. Dead last was the 2016 loser, Hillary Clinton. Only 15% said they would be excited to see her try once more, while 70% said no, not again.

A top adviser to Michael Bloomberg said that if he decides to run, he is prepared to spend much more than the $100 million in personal funds he spent on his last mayoral campaign in 2009. “Whatever is required,” said Howard Wolfson. It may not be enough. Bloomberg placed eighth in the poll, with 20% calling him an "exciting" possibility, but 32% not interested.

But that kind of cash could be an advantage in California, whose primary takes on greater importance now that it has been moved to March,  earlier than in the past. Strategists estimate it could cost at least $5 million for a candidate to compete in the most populous state, a sum that could be prohibitive for all but the best-funded contenders, The Associated Press reported.

It's me, isn't it 

This time, for Trump, it's personal. Actually, it's personal for him a lot of the time, so why should the stalemate on a border wall that caused a partial government shutdown be an exception?

"This is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump & the Republicans have a win," said one of the president's tweets Thursday. In another, Trump said, "Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?" Two days earlier, he said many federal workers support his position of holding out for wall money.

The House and Senate are gone until Monday, essentially punting any action to end the shutdown until next week, with no progress reported toward an agreement.

Polls by Reuters/Ipsos and HuffPost/YouGov showed Trump getting more blame from the public for the shutdown than congressional Democrats.

Janison: Semper lie

It was his first time in a war zone, but not the first time Trump trotted out a falsehood he keeps repeating to military audiences. Meaning he should know better by now, but just won't stop.

"You just got one of the biggest pay raises you've ever received," he told the troops in Iraq. "You haven't gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one."

U.S. troops received annual pay raises of at least 1 percent every year for more than three decades. The 2018 raise, approved by Congress amid a massive military spending hike, totaled 2.4 percent. It was the largest in eight years. Soldiers and families who see their pay stubs know what's true. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.

Trump's no-huddle offense

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump fan, isn't so enamored by a now-familiar trait of the president's governing style: announcing policy by tweet without bothering to consult with or even clue in agency heads and congressional Republicans.

“The challenge is that Trump is like a quarterback who doesn’t call a play and simply snaps the ball and expects his teammates to react,” Gingrich told The Associated Press.

“The thing you have to ask yourself about Trump is: Could he, in fact, be as disruptive as he is in the ways that his base wants, but be more traditional on tactical things?” Gingrich said. “Or can you not have one without the other?”

We may never know.

Does Cohen story Czech out?

McClatchy News, citing "four people with knowledge of the matter," reports a mobile phone traced to Michael Cohen, Trump’s now-convicted former “fixer,” shows him in the Prague area in the summer of 2016 during the U.S. presidential campaign.

The significance, if true, is that it would provide one element of support for claims in the Christopher Steele dossier that Cohen met with Russian officials in secret in the vicinity of the Czech capital. That electronic report, along with electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency of a Russians who mentioned that Cohen was in Prague, has been shared with special counsel Robert Mueller, McClatchy said.

Cohen, who has been cooperating with Mueller since the feds nailed him on a variety of charges, stood by his past denials of a visit to Prague or anywhere else in the Czech Republic. He added in a tweet: "#Mueller knows everything!” 

What else is happening:

  • China's government said it has made plans with the Trump administration for talks in January aimed at ending a tariff battle that threatens to depress global trade.
  • A Trump tweet Thursday pointed to an incident in which authorities suspect a California police officer was killed by a man in the U.S. illegally as a reason to fund a wall along the border with Mexico.
  • Trump came in second to Barack Obama in the annual Gallup Poll of men most admired by Americans. As for women, the winner was Michelle Obama, who unseated Hillary Clinton from first place for the first time in 17 years. Clinton was third, behind Oprah Winfrey. Melania Trump was in fourth place.
  • Trump's partisan behavior during his visit with troops in Iraq raised concerns from those who believe the military must remain apart from politics, The Washington Post reported. Trump on Twitter lashed back at criticism for signing MAGA campaign hats: “If these brave young people ask me to sign their hat, I will sign. Can you imagine my saying NO?"
  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will travel Friday and Saturday to the U.S.-Mexico border, a department representative said. DHS has come under heavy criticism for the deaths this month of two detained migrant children, Politico reported. Nielsen said she has ordered stepped-up medical screenings.
  • Long Island sellers of CBD — a compound derived from cannabis that isn't mind-altering — can breathe easier after Trump signed legislation that legalizes hemp production in all 50 states, reports Newsday's Daysi Calavia-Robertson.

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