Vice squad

Vice squad

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On the roster: Vice squad – I’ll Tell You What: A wrap on 2020 – Dems not losing steam in Georgia runoff – Senate set to override Trump on military funds Saturday – Wait ‘til he finds out about French toast

VICE SQUAD
Starting with Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoffs, 2021 will bring answers to a host of gnawing political questions.

Will by-then-former President Donald Trump and his Bonapartist inner circle find a way to keep supporters engaged from his Palm Beach exile? When and around what will the progressive left draw a line in the sand for by-then-President Biden?

Which governors will shine under the Biden presidency? Biden may find teammates or rivals in the big blue states of California, New York or Illinois depending on their interests, particularly the inevitable presidential explorations of Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom.

How will the very quiet but very real battle for succession in the GOP Senate play out between Roy Blunt, John Thune and John Cornyn? Mitch McConnell has become the Bismarck of the Republican Senate, revered for his strategy and success even among those who resent him. He has never been stronger, but he also turns 80 in February. Even in the gerontocracy of the Senate, that’s old enough to set a succession struggle in motion.

Which bloc will be the most effective in squeezing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the moderates or the progressives? It’s a little misleading since Pelosi’s core support is from ideologically far-left members, but when it comes to tactics and process, there’s a huge chasm between Pelosi and young progressives. Can they match the clout of the problem solvers who just scored a big win on the coronavirus stimulus? Considerations of succession will matter a great deal here, too.

But there’s one question, intertwined with all of the preceding, that will be particularly revealing: How will Kamala Harris and Mike Pence set their sails?

A scant eight sitting American vice presidents have ever won their parties’ presidential nominations. Harris will certainly have a good chance to try for number nine.

Only three former vice presidents have ever gotten a shot at the top slot: Joe Biden, Walter Mondale and Richard Nixon (who makes both lists). Pence has a great shot to be number five.

As we’ve written before, Pence is the clear frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination. It’s hard to see how any other candidate can match his capacity to be a uniting figure.

Some Trump cultists may shun him for insufficient obedience and certainly the Lincoln Project types will reject him as tainted, but for the mainstream GOP, Pence will certainly look like a safe compromise. By following the same approach that Biden did in the 2016 Democratic primaries, Pence could make boring a blessing.

Certainly his performance in his debate against Harris (even with the fly) highlighted his skills at speaking to multiple audiences – both conservative and populist – without too much doubletalk.

The question for Pence is how to divide his time after leaving office. He’s had government jobs for 20 years and probably would like to make some dough in the short term but needs to do so in a non-icky way that won’t diminish his viability. Might a fat book advance and some board posts do the trick?

Harder than buckraking, though, is staying relevant without diminishing one’s brand. Biden was able to lay back for a couple of years before engaging. Pence may be able to do the same while the junior varsity tires itself out jockeying for position.

We know far less about what the future holds for Harris, and so does she.

Many assume that Biden will only seek one term and will let Harris use her post to elevate her standing among Democrats and increase her visibility to all voters. But what happens in Biden finds himself facing credible primary challengers before he makes such a handoff? He would be almost obliged to fight back for the sake of his reputation and clout.

Harris’ own presidential campaign was a dud and she wasn’t much of a force in the general election. How much of that was at Biden’s behest and how much of that was her own style?

We will be looking for the ways in which Harris seeks to set herself apart and the ways in which she shows herself to be a team player. If she vexes Biden with too much me-me-me, he will be less inclined to serve as her slingshot. But if she can’t appear to be her own woman, she will lose her chance to appeal to left-wing voters.

Like Pence, Harris’ appeal as a nominee would rely on her status as builder of bridges between the warring wings of her own party. Without the same reputation as an ideologue as Pence, though, she will find it hard to sink her pier on the progressive shore. And serving under a sitting president makes it harder to suck up to the establishment without undermining the boss.

There will be plenty to watch in 2021, but if you had to pick just two politicians to track for the sake of knowing where the parties are heading, Pence and Harris would be the ones.

THE RULEBOOK: CAPTAINS OF CHAOS 
“The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 10

TIME OUT: BIRTH OF AN EVIL EMPIRE   
History Channel: “In post-revolutionary Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established [on this day in 1922], comprising a confederation of Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, and the Transcaucasian Federation (divided in 1936 into the Georgian, Azerbaijan, and Armenian republics). Also known as the Soviet Union, the new communist state was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country in the world to be based on Marxist socialism. During the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent three-year Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin dominated the soviet forces, a coalition of workers’ and soldiers’ committees that called for the establishment of a socialist state in the former Russian Empire. In the USSR, all levels of government were controlled by the Communist Party, and the party’s politburo, with its increasingly powerful general secretary, effectively ruled the country. Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: A WRAP ON 2020
This week, we’ll revisit some of the best moments from the podcast in 2020. In a year marked by impeachment, a pandemic, and an election, this episode includes all the makings of a Perino & Stirewalt favorite. Hear clips on topics from good food to game-changing political action. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

DEMS NOT LOSING STEAM IN GEORGIA RUNOFF
Politico: “Democrats are buoyed by the strong early vote numbers, which show Black voters making up a larger percentage of the electorate than in November and higher early turnout in Democratic congressional districts in the state. Both are positive signs for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the two challengers, easing fears that the typical voter dropoff that has plagued Democrats in past years would doom the party’s chances with control of the Senate on the line. Meanwhile, early-vote turnout has lagged in Republican-held congressional districts, likely leaving GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue with a larger deficit heading into Election Day than they had to make up on Nov. 3… Both parties have been closely tracking the in-person and absentee ballots that have already been submitted, looking for data on the state of the races … with less than a week left to tweak get-out-the-vote and advertising strategies for next Tuesday’s vote.”

Another long count? – Bloomberg: “The high-stakes Jan. 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia are expected to play out a lot like November’s presidential election — with the result delayed for days, or weeks, as near-record numbers of votes are counted. In the Nov. 3 contest, the results were so close that it took 10 days before television networks projected that Democrat Joe Biden won Georgia. The state didn’t certify his victory for another week, and it was certified twice more, lastly on Dec. 7. With the runoff elections expected to be similarly tight, the results are likely to be slow again, leaving control of the U.S. Senate in doubt well into next month. ‘Almost no chance it’s called on election night,’ said Kerwin Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University. Adding to the drama, just as in November, the first returns coming in on election night are likely to favor Republicans, with Democrats gaining ground as mail-in and absentee ballots are counted in subsequent days.”

President of Georgia’s NAACP resigns from Raffensperger’s election task force – AJC: “The president of the Georgia chapter of the NAACP said Wednesday that he is resigning from a bipartisan election task force formed by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to improve voting policies because the process is a ‘farce.’ The Rev. James Woodall told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s participated in weekly meetings with dozens of other community leaders, elections experts and politicians to review policies and suggest improvements but that ‘nothing has happened’ with their recommendations. ‘It’s all for show,’ he said in an interview. ‘He’s trying to play both sides.’ Woodall said he’s long been frustrated with the committee, but that he decided to resign after Raffensperger criticized a judge’s ruling Monday that rejected challenges to the eligibility of more than 4,000 Georgia voters. Raffensperger, a Republican, called the decision a ‘direct attack on the rule of law in Georgia.’”

Biden and Trump go head-to-head in Georgia Monday – Fox News: “President-elect Joe Biden will campaign in Georgia the day before the Jan. 5 Senate runoff races there, the same day President Trump is scheduled to hold a rally for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will also visit the Peach State on Jan. 3 as she and Biden stump for the incumbents’ Democratic opponents, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Details aren’t yet clear on when the Biden rally will happen, but it could present a remarkable split-screen of the current president and the president-elect campaigning simultaneously in the same state during a time that’s usually pretty quiet in the political world. ‘It really feels like we’re at the center of the political universe and will be until Jan. 5,’ Atlanta Press Club Debate Committee Chair Maria Saporta told Fox News earlier this month ahead of the debate between Loeffler and Warnock.”

SENATE SET TO OVERRIDE TRUMP ON MILITARY FUNDS SATURDAY
Fox News: “The [Defense Department funding bill] previously passed overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate but Trump refused to sign it into law. … The House voted overwhelmingly to override Trump’s veto on Monday. And on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came out forcefully in favor of the Senate following suit.… McConnell’s effort to schedule a vote for Wednesday was stymied by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., over Sanders’ demands that the Senate fast-track a vote on $ 2,000 stimulus checks. This will merely delay McConnell’s effort and likely set up a vote to end debate on the veto override for Friday and a final vote on the actual override on Saturday. … The NDAA passed 84-13 on its initial vote in the Senate. Therefore, even if Perdue and Loeffler are absent from the vote and some GOP senators vote against the override in solidarity with Trump, it is almost certain to get more than the two-thirds threshold needed to become law.”

McConnell takes pressure off Senate GOP – Fox News: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday introduced his own version of a bill to increase the $ 600 stimulus checks from the coronavirus relief package to $ 2,000, but also included two other major priorities for President Trump. The legislation would also repeal Section 230, the controversial liability protection for online platforms, and create a committee on the Election Assistance Commission to study election integrity. McConnell set the table for a bill to address these three issues in his floor remarks Tuesday. … The remarks were not a firm promise that any of these issues would receive a vote or that McConnell would push particularly hard for them. … What McConnell’s bill could do, however, is allow GOP senators who want to be able to say they voted for $ 2,000 stimulus checks to do so while protecting priorities of the majority of his caucus which has previously opposed the checks.”

How McConnell can work around Sanders – Roll Call: “McConnell can work around Sanders by filing a cloture motion to limit debate of the defense bill veto override and break any filibusters, once the motion to proceed to that measure is agreed to Wednesday evening. That sets up a cloture vote an hour after the Senate comes in on Friday, which is New Year’s Day. There would then be just enough time to get the defense measure cleared over Trump’s objections either Saturday evening or Sunday morning, before the 116th Congress — and its outstanding business — expires at noon.”

Wall Street sets records as oil pops and stimulus checks go out – Fox Business: “U.S. equity markets rose Wednesday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said direct payments to Americans would begin immediately and as U.K. regulators approved a second COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was higher by more than 115 points, or 0.38%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.24% and 0.35%, respectively. The gains have all three of the major averages contending with record highs. A bigger than expected drop in oil inventories, over 6 million barrels, giving crude prices, a boost along with energy stocks, which were the top performers within the S&P 500’s large sectors. On the COVID-19 relief front, Mnuchin said the $ 600 direct payments to most Americans as part of the $ 900 billion COVID-19 aid package would be delivered via direct deposit beginning on Tuesday and that checks would be arriving in the mail as early as this week.”

TRUMP GETS HIS MAN: HAWLEY TO MAKE SENATE SPECTACLE
 NY Post: “Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said Wednesday he will object on Jan. 6 to certification of the Electoral College’s selection of President-elect Joe Biden. His objection guarantees a last stand by President Trump, who unsuccessfully argued in lawsuits that fraud handed narrow wins to Biden in swing states. ‘Following both the 2004 and 2016 elections, Democrats in Congress objected during the certification of electoral votes in order to raise concerns about election integrity. They were praised by Democratic leadership and the media when they did,’ Hawley said in a statement. ‘And they were entitled to do so. But now those of us concerned about the integrity of this election are entitled to do the same.’”

Campaign throws another clod at the SupCo – WSJ: “The Trump campaign said Tuesday it was asking the Supreme Court to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Wisconsin, following a similar appeal it filed last week seeking to reverse the Democrat’s win in Pennsylvania. The campaign asks the justices to declare the Wisconsin election ‘failed’ and allow the Republican-controlled state legislature to appoint presidential electors in place of those pledged to Mr. Biden, who won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes. But unless the high court grants the campaign’s request to expedite the case, the appeal likely will be moot before it comes up for consideration by the justices. Under Supreme Court rules, the opposing party—in this case, Mr. Biden’s campaign—normally has 30 days after petitions are docketed to file a response, after which the justices schedule a discussion to consider whether to hear the appeal.”

Audit of Georgia signature matches finds no fraud – WALB: “A ballot signature match audit in Cobb County found ‘no fraudulent absentee ballots,’ and confirmed the ‘original outcome’ of the November 2020 presidential race, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a Tuesday release. Raffensperger said this audit came after a hand recount and then a subsequent machine recount requested by the Trump campaign. ‘The secretary of state’s office has always been focused on calling balls and strikes in elections and, in this case, three strikes against the voter fraud claims and they’re out,’ said Raffensperger. ‘We conducted a statewide hand recount that reaffirmed the initial tally, and a machine recount at the request of the Trump campaign that also reaffirmed the original tally. This audit disproves the only credible allegations the Trump campaign had against the strength of Georgia’s signature match processes.’”

Pence rejects Gohmert bid to steal presidency – Politico: “Lawyers for Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Arizona’s 11 Republican electors revealed Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence declined to sign onto their plan to upend Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. It’s the first indication that Pence is resisting some of the most extreme calls to reverse the presidential election results, thus relying on his role as the presiding officer on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to finalize Biden’s win. Gohmert and the Arizona electors sued Pence this week to throw out the procedures that Congress has relied upon since 1889 to count electoral votes. Instead, he said, Pence has the unilateral authority to determine which electors should be voted upon by Congress — raising the prospect that Pence would simply override the choices made by voters in states like Arizona and Pennsylvania that Biden won, to introduce President Donald Trump’s electors instead.”

BIDEN PICKS INSIDER, FORMER AIDE FOR TOP PENTAGON POSTS
Bloomberg: “President-elect Joe Biden will nominate former Pentagon official Kathleen Hicks to serve as the first female deputy defense secretary, saying he wanted someone who knows the department ‘inside and out’ to help restore order to an agency he says was cast into disarray by President Donald Trump. Colin Kahl, who served as Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president, will be nominated for undersecretary of defense for policy. The new additions to Biden’s national security team, announced Wednesday, signal a return to experienced hands as Trump has run through a number of defense leaders, including two confirmed secretaries and three acting secretaries of defense. … Hicks and Kahl would report to Lloyd Austin, the retired four-star Army general and Raytheon Technologies Corp. board member who Biden has tapped to be secretary of Defense.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies from virus complications Monroe [La.] News-Star

Manhattan District Attorney hires forensic accountants to dig into Trump financesWaPo 

Pelosi plans to seat Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks in contested Iowa racePolitico

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Why didn’t you include an aside which said ‘…Leslie Abrams Gardner is Stacey Abrams’ sister’ [in the Politico article clip from Tuesday’s Halftime Report]?” – Peter Larsen, Muscle Shoals, Ala.

[Ed. note: Good point, Mr. Larsen. Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.]

“Now that Senator Harris is the Vice-President elect the vaccine is safe. She has already poisoned the minds of millions of Americans with her anti-vaccine rhetoric. How can Americans trust anything she says. She is also telling people the vaccine is safe so apparently she’s a scientist also. At least with Trump you got the truth whether you liked it or not.” – Ed Amelia, Bellingham, Ma.

[Ed. note: Oh, now, Mr. Amelia! There’s a lot of things you might say to your man’s credit, but I don’t think being a bold truthteller is one of them. I get why people responded to Trump’s blunt way of talking, but bluntness and honesty are not the same thing. I have never seen a politician anywhere close to this level who is more willing to deceive than Trump. Barack Obama was rightly excoriated for his “if you like your doctor” baloney, but Trump has usually surpassed that threshold by 9 am each day — and he’s both casual and intentional about it. As for Kamala Harris and her efforts in the October vice-presidential debate to score political points on vaccine development, her weasel wording was to say that she would not take the vaccine if Trump said so, but would if public health officials approved it. This was a pretty cheap shot since, as we have seen, whatever vaccine was approved by the Trump administration would be done by the health officials she said she revered. No one would take a vaccine Trump pushed if it was not approved through normal channels. Certainly her effort was self-serving and a dereliction of her duty to put the national interest ahead of her own ambitions. But I think you overstate how seriously people take the utterances of politicians. Like with Trump’s barrage of misinformation, I think most people probably just ignored it.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WAIT ‘TIL HE FINDS OUT ABOUT FRENCH TOAST
KGMB: “Contrary to popular belief, King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls are not actually made in Hawaii. And now, a New York resident is suing the makers, claiming that he was misled into buying the rolls. In the class action lawsuit, Robert Galinsky, the plaintiff, said the back label notes that the popular bread product is manufactured in Torrance, Calif. But Galinsky said the front packaging prominently features ‘Hilo, Hawaii,’ leading people to believe that the bread is actually from there. … He lists other lawsuits that King’s Hawaiian Holding Company filed against competitors to prevent the marketing of ‘Hawaiian Rolls.’ According to its website, King’s Hawaiian’s history dates back to the 1950s, when Robert Taira first opened the business in Hilo Robert’s Bakery. It later expanded to Honolulu, where it was renamed King’s Bakery. Eventually, the business moved to Torrance, Calif. as King’s Hawaiian Bakery continues to wholesale its famous sweet bread nationwide.” 

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Reagan was optimistic about America amid the cynicism and general retreat of the post-Vietnam era because he believed unfashionably that America was both great and good — and had been needlessly diminished by restrictive economic policies and timid foreign policies. Change the policies and America would be restored, both at home and abroad. He was right.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on June 11, 2004.

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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