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As Democrats debate again, is Elizabeth Warren now the one to beat?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the Las Vegas Pride

Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the Las Vegas Pride Parade on Friday. Credit: AP / John Locher

She'll need a plan for that

A new national Quinnipiac poll shows Elizabeth Warren opening up a small lead over Joe Biden and, significantly, drawing almost triple the support of her chief rival on the Democratic left, Bernie Sanders. The numbers: Warren, 30%; Biden, 27%; and Sanders, 11%. The survey counted Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters.

Warren's very good summer of campaigning has paved the way for a potentially very good autumn, writes Newsday's Emily Ngo, but two major factors will now test the resiliency of her candidacy, political experts say.

Her slogan is "I have a plan for that," but she may not have counted until recently on the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry steering the national political conversation away from her bid, which could blunt her momentum. Then again, it could be worse for Biden, given the negative attention Donald Trump has tried to turn back at him.

Warren also must anticipate the attacks that will come with her elevated status. For example, she was forced last week to address inconsistencies in her account of pregnancy discrimination as a young teacher. "As her star rises, the scrutiny and level of intensity will only increase,” said Christina Greer, a Fordham University professor of political science. 

But Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist, said Warren's candidacy has been built to withstand turmoil.

Though she is 70, she has managed to avoid the age concerns some voters have about Sanders, 78, who recently had a heart attack, and Biden, 76, who is prone to verbal rambles. The Los Angeles Times reports that Warren takes every opportunity to flaunt her fitness, jogging to the podium at rallies and staying for hours afterward in her famous "selfie-photo lines."

Warren has faced criticism throughout the campaign from rivals closer to the center who suggest her policies could be too radical to beat Trump in a general election. Her rise and the prospect of a Biden fade has billionaire and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg rethinking his decision to stay out of the 2020 race, CNBC reported, citing people familiar with discussions with associates.

Debate guide

A dozen candidates, the biggest group for a single night, will be on the debate stage in Westerville, Ohio, on Tuesday. It starts at 8 p.m. on CNN and will be livestreamed by the sponsors on cnn.com and nytimes.com.

Newsday's Ngo has the forecast of five things to watch for. Among them: It's the first debate since House Democrats began an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

He'll try sanctions on Turkey

The nearly universal view in Washington on the debacle in Syria is that Trump broke it. He still won't own it. Now he's pivoting to try to fix what might still be fixable, but in most respects it appears to be too late.

Trump on Monday announced sanctions targeting Turkey's economy aimed at restraining its assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria and is sending Vice President Mike Pence to the region. Trump spoke to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Pence said, and told him the United States wants Turkey "to stop the invasion, implement an immediate cease-fire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence."

On the ground, the Kurds who were America's partners fighting ISIS until Trump greenlighted the invasion have turned to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and Russia for help in holding off the Turks.

Trump's plan for further withdrawal from Syria was denounced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said it “would re-create the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS.” He also said “such a withdrawal would also create a broader power vacuum in Syria that will be exploited by Iran and Russia, a catastrophic outcome for the United States’ strategic interests.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said "sanctions alone against Erdogan will not be enough to stop the ISIS jailbreak or undo the damage." In a statement with two fellow Democratic senators, Schumer said "it is increasingly clear to all, including many Republicans in Congress, that the president’s erratic decision-making has endangered our national security and the security of our allies around the world.”

Trump defiantly insisted he's made the right moves. “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte,” he wrote on Twitter. “I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

Guts and blood

Trump followed his gut, rather than his advisers, and rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests, The New York Times writes in an analysis.

With lightning speed, Trump's choice to not oppose Turkey's invasion of Kurdish lands has left bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year mission to keep the peace on a volatile border and handed an unanticipated victory to four U.S. adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and ISIS.

None of that appeared to have been anticipated by Trump. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. 

The Times reports some Trump aides concede in off-the-record conversations that the president got on his Oct. 6 call with Erdogan underprepared, and then failed to spell out for Erdogan the potential consequences of an invasion.

The situation is so unstable that State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States has long stored under American control at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

Janison: Groundhog Days

History has a way of repeating itself, or threatening to, in Trump's world.

Once again, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, a news story features Donald Trump Jr. meeting with political people with ties to Eastern Europe as part of one of his father's campaigns. In 2016, it was the Russian-with-dirt-on-Hillary meeting. Now, we see a photo of the namesake son dining in May 2018 with Trump supporters Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, co-defendants in an alleged campaign-finance scheme that put $325,000 in a pro-Trump PAC.

Another story with an ominously familiar ring has federal prosecutors in Manhattan taking a look at Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani's dealings in Ukraine. For now, the president is embracing Giuliani as the victim of a "witch hunt." Trump cried "witch hunt" in 2018, too, after federal raids targeting his then-personal lawyer Michael Cohen. That was before Cohen flipped and went to prison.

Trump's calls on Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens has echoes of his "Russia, are you listening" pitch for hacked Clinton emails. His acquiescence to Turkey's attack on Syrian Kurds is in keeping with his shrug over suspected Saudi royal family complicity in the murder last year of dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Report: Rudy probe is months old

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have been questioning witnesses in an investigation of Giuliani since at least August, The Wall Street Journal reported.

They have examined Giuliani's bank records and are examining his business dealings in Ukraine, including his finances, meetings and work for a city mayor there, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Giuliani's comment: “They can look at my Ukraine business all they want."

Reuters reports that Giuliani's business was paid $500,000 for consulting by a firm co-founded by his indicted client Lev Parnas. “I know beyond any doubt the source of the money is not any questionable source,” he told a reporter in an interview. “The money did not come from foreigners. I can rule that out 100 percent."

Ex-Trump aide: I spoke up for envoy

Fiona Hill, Trump's former top Russia adviser, told House lawmakers behind closed doors Monday that she had high praise for Trump's ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, CNN reported, citing sources familiar with her testimony. Hill said she spoke out about her concerns when Yovanovitch was removed.

Hill is among the handful of current and former Trump administration members being interviewed this week by House panels as part of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry. Yovanovitch was targeted by Trump and Giuliani after they saw her as an obstacle to pushing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

What else is happening:

  • Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who no longer vouches for the truth of Trump's Ukraine "no quid pro quo," will testify that Trump told him he had to go through Giuliani before having a face-to-face meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, The Washington Post reported. An in-depth Post profile says Sondland, a hotel magnate and GOP megadonor, tried to ingratiate himself with Trump to move up in the administration ranks.
  • Is Trump's "phase one" trade deal with China as close to done as he said? “We’ve come to a deal, pretty much, subject to getting it written," Trump said recently. China said there has been "substantial progress” but there's no "deal" yet. The Associated Press reports the toughest issues have been pushed off until later.
  • Biden's son Hunter spoke about Trump's attacks against him and his father in ABC News interviews airing Tuesday. He denies any ethical lapses in connection with his overseas employment but said "in the grand scheme of things" failed to see the political repercussions for his father. 
  • White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump "strongly condemns" a video parody shown to a pro-Trump gathering at his Miami-area golf resort that depicted him on a shooting rampage in a "Church of Fake News," killing figures that represented journalists, Barack Obama, the late Sen. John McCain, Black Lives Matter and others. Trump himself said nothing.
  • Trump’s re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale on Monday branded the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry a “seditious conspiracy” and called for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to resign for "attempting to overthrow our great Republic.” He's referring to the impeachment process provided for by the Constitution.
  • Trump campaigned via tweet for "Dancing with the Stars" viewers to vote for former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
  • The publisher of rock legends Queen forced Trump to take down a campaign video that used "We Will Rock You" as its soundtrack, BuzzFeed reports. The Trump campaign has had other copyright tangles lately with Nickelback and the estate of Prince.

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