March 27, 2019

The ever-growing field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates grabs most of the headlines, but President Trump's re-election campaign is always lurking right beneath the surface. Axios reports that Trump's team is "already gathering ammunition" against his potential opponents and trying to pinpoint where in the United States the president might be the weakest.

Those places, at this point, appear to be Wisconsin and Michigan.

"The issue for Trump last time was, frankly, he spoke to working class voters and Hillary [Clinton] didn't," one former Trump campaign official told Axios. "So if you take that out of the equation, something like 60 thousand votes in Michigan becomes a lot harder."

The campaign staff isn't too concerned about a few other swing states, though. The gubernatorial races in Florida, Georgia, and Ohio — which all resulted in Republican victories despite strong Democratic candidates — has the Trump team feeling confident. They also aren't worried about Pennsylvania. Per Axios, Clinton campaigned heavily across the state and "won just as many votes in Philly as she could get," and Trump still won.

But would that have to change if former Vice President Joe Biden, who still hasn't officially announced his candidacy, ultimately emerges as the Democratic nominee? Biden has strong Pennsylvania roots; he was born in Scranton, after all. He also represented neighboring Delaware in the Senate.

In fact, an earlier Axios report from July 2018 said that Trump's two major concerns at that time were having to run against Biden and losing Pennsylvania — so the recent about-face on the state is a surprising strategic development. Tim O'Donnell

11:15 a.m.

President Trump is usually the one hurling insults at former Vice President Joe Biden, but on Sunday he actually defended his potential general election opponent — at least somewhat.

Earlier this week, North Korean state media described Biden as a "rabid dog" who should be "beaten to death with a stick." Trump was late to the news, but when he caught wind of it Sunday morning, it proved to be too much even for him. Trump's defense of Biden wasn't exactly ardent or inspiring, but it's reassuring to learn that he doesn't agree with Pyongyang on this one, despite his normally negative feelings about Biden.

Still, the president made sure everyone knows he still doesn't think highly of Biden. He also got a word in there about how he alone is capable of solving the U.S.-North Korea stalemate, implying that if North Korea waits around for a Democratic candidate like Biden to get elected, there will never be a satisfactory deal. Tim O'Donnell

10:31 a.m.

There's been another changing of the guard in Iowa.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg took the lead for the first time in the latest Democratic primary poll out of Iowa. The Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll, released Saturday, showed the mayor surging to the top ahead of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden.

It doesn't look like a fluke, though there's been some fluctuation in Iowa throughout the primary's early going. Buttigieg took a relatively commanding lead over the field for the time being, receiving support from 25 percent of likely Iowa caucusgoers in the poll, a startling 16 point leap from his September standing. Warren, who was leading the September poll, fell by six points into second place at 16 percent, while Biden and Sanders were right behind her at 15 percent. Biden, the early frontrunner, fell another five percentage points, but Sanders picked up four.

The poll was conducted between Nov. 8-13, and 500 likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers were surveyed. The margin of error was 4.4 percentage points. Read more at Des Moines Register. Tim O'Donnell

8:14 a.m.

There's a fine line between parody and reality sometimes.

In the latest cold open, NBC's Saturday Night Live mocked President Trump's impeachment inquiry, depicting it as a soap opera titled Days of Our Impeachment (an obvious play on long-running soap Days of Our Lives.)

As cast member Alex Moffat's House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Mikey Day's angry Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) settled in to question former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, portrayed by Cecily Strong, about her knowledge of the Trump administration's methods in Ukraine, the chambers were hit with a barrage of shocking guests, in true soap opera fashion.

Most notably, actor Jon Hamm made an appearance as acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor. He was joined by Kate McKinnon's Rudy Giuliani, Maria Villaseñor's Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and even Kenan Thompson's Myles Garrett. The skit gets more outlandish by the moment, leaving the room filled in feigned shock. Watch the full sketch below. Tim O'Donnell

7:47 a.m.

President Trump suffered another setback in the South on Saturday.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) defeated his Republican challenger Eddie Rispone, a wealthy businessman who had Trump's backing, to secure another term in Baton Rouge. After polls predicted a close race, Edwards edged Rispone by about 40,000 votes, carrying most of the state's urban centers. Rural areas mostly supported Rispone.

Edwards' victory is widely viewed as a loss for Trump and the GOP, especially after Democratic challenger Andy Beshear won a tightly contested race against incumbent Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R). Trump had campaigned heartily for both candidates. "If this campaign has taught us anything, it's that the partisan forces in Washington, D.C., are not enough to break through the bonds that we share as Louisianans," Edwards said during his victory speech.

The president decried Edwards as a "radical leftist" in the lead up to the election. The governor is known for expanding Medicaid and criminal justice reform, but he has also received criticism from his own party for supporting antiabortion measures. Read more at The Washington Post and NPR. Tim O'Donnell

November 16, 2019

A new major federally funded study released Saturday at The American Heart Association's annual scientific conference found that stents and coronary bypass surgery are no more effective than drug treatment and better health habits in preventing heart attacks.

The study's results primarily pertain to people who have narrowed coronary arteries, but are not actually suffering acute symptoms. Typically in those cases, doctors will implement a stent or perform bypass surgery to redirect blood around a blockage even when patients don't show any symptoms or feel any discomfort when they exert themselves, The Wall Street Journal reports. But, per the new study, these interventions aren't actually more successful than cholesterol-lowering drugs and other changes in health habits.

"You won't prolong life," Judith Hochman, the chair of the study, said.

Stents and surgery do, however, work better for relieving symptoms related to frequent chest pain, the study found.

The results of the study, while likely to increase debate between preventative and interventional cardiologists, do provide further evidence that caution is a-okay in many circumstances. "This shows the safety of not panicking when you see a positive stress test," said Jay Giri, a practicing interventional cardiologist. Read more at The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

November 16, 2019

An anonymous member of the Chinese political establishment leaked over 400 pages of internal documents to The New York Times, which provide an "unprecedented inside view" into Beijing's crackdown on China's Muslim population.

The Times notes that the most detailed discussions on the "indoctrination camps" in Xinjiang, where as many as one million members of ethnic groups that practice Islam are being held, are found in a directive that outlines how party officials should handle minority students returning home in the summer of 2017 to find that their family members had been sent to Xinjiang. Officials were advised to tell the students their relatives were "in treatment" after exposure to radical Islam, and respond with increasingly firm replies when pressed on their matter, highlighting the narrative the government had carved out to justify the internment.

"If they don't undergo study and training, they'll never thoroughly and fully understand the dangers of religious extremism," one of the answers said. "No matter what age, anyone who has been infected by religious extremism must undergo study."

A series of internal speeches by Chinese President Xi Jinping also stood out in the document. Xi said officials should show "absolutely no mercy" and use the "organs of dictatorship" to root out Islamic extremism in the country. He was careful, however, to say there should be no discrimination against certain ethnic groups like the Uighurs, and that Islam should not be restricted as a religion. Many people argue that both of these things have come to fruition regardless. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

November 16, 2019

Things haven't been going smoothly for Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-Calif.) presidential campaign lately, but the Democratic hopeful is expected to receive a boost Saturday with an endorsement from the United Farm Workers, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

It's considered a major endorsement from a powerful California-based union established by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta (who personally endorsed Harris this year), and Gilbert Padilla. Home state ties were likely a factor for Harris in this instance, but a win is a win.

The union's executive board reportedly voted "overwhelmingly" to back the senator. UFW President Teresa Romero cited Harris' efforts to help farm workers secure overtime pay, as well as her time spent marching with the group during demonstrations, and advocating for immigrant rights as major reasons why they're throwing their weight behind her.

It's unclear if this will boost Harris' numbers even in California where she's lagging behind Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden. Things look even worse nationally for her, as South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has vaulted into fourth place. Besides faltering in the polls, the campaign is also dealing with some internal strife. Perhaps the most recent endorsement will brighten the mood. Read more at The San Francisco Chronicle. Tim O'Donnell

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