THE BIG IDEA:

Congress is back in town. But that doesn’t mean a whole lot will get done before we enter the legislative dead zone of 2020 and President Trump’s bid for reelection.

Lawmakers are wrestling with a number of thorny issues in the few dozen legislative days remaining before the end of the year. Here’s a brief breakdown of the top five things they’ll be grappling with and their chances of passage.

1. Gun control: Following the spate of mass shootings this summer, there – once again – is renewed momentum for action on gun control. But Trump is in the driver’s seat on this issue, and it’s not at all clear what kind of action he wants, if any.

The Democratic-led House has passed legislation calling for expanded background checks on gun sales, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke with the president Sunday on the phone about it. The leaders said anything short of their bills “will not get the job done” but Trump has threatened to veto the measures.

The White House says it’s working on its own proposals to address the rising tide of mass shootings, including on mental health. And Trump has expressed support for background checks, though he has since seemed to back off while under pressure from the National Rifle Association and after aides showed him polling showing his supporters are “skeptical” of background checks. Other possible actions include an “app connected to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks system that could be used to conduct background checks on private gun sales,” per my colleagues Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Mike DeBonis. Attorney General William Barr is also crafting legislation expediting the death penalty for mass shooters, though some question its deterrence value given many of them expect to die in the massacres they perpetrate, my colleagues report.

Until Trump takes a stand, nothing is likely to happen in Congress. Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been clear they won’t advance something that doesn’t have the president’s backing.

2. Impeachment: The House Judiciary Committee voted on party lines last week to expand its investigative arsenal as it determines whether to impeach Trump. But Democrats are divided over whether that rarely used move is actually a formal impeachment inquiry or something short of it.

Despite pressure from the progressive base, Pelosi has staunchly resisted opening a formal impeachment probe into the president, which could set the House on course to impeaching Trump. Pelosi argues that such a move isn’t supported by both Republicans and Democrats (she is right) and that it’s futile given the GOP-controlled Senate will only acquit the president (“He’s just not worth it,” the speaker told The Post magazine’s Joe Heim).

Pelosi is also thinking of the 2018 class of freshman Democrats who gave her the speaker’s gavel. Many of them come from swing seats and they are concerned the impeachment drive is overwhelming their message headed into 2020.

Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has seemed to waffle on whether to move full-speed ahead on impeachment. This morning, he told the New York Daily News: “If you’re going to impeach the president, you want more than Democrats and progressives to understand what you’re doing,” he said. “You have to have enough public support so that you’re not tearing the country apart, so that you don’t have half the country saying for the next 30 years, ‘We won the election — you stole it from us.’”

This is an internal Democratic drama that has yet to play out.

3. Health care: There is little common ground between the parties to be had on health care. The Trump administration won’t defend the Affordable Care Act in court; and the debate about Medicare-for-all is consuming the Democratic 2020 primary.

But both Trump and Congress want to lower the cost of prescription drugs. And they’ve both proposed a raft of ways to get that done.

The most likely avenue is a bipartisan proposal crafted by the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee – Republican Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Democrat Ron Wyden (Ore.). That bill would, for the first time ever, cap the rate by which prices of the drugs covered by the Medicare program could increase. The panel has passed the measure, though only six Republicans supported it, but Grassley – under pressure from the White House – is leaning hard on other GOP lawmakers to support it, warning of something less palatable if they don’t.

Pelosi is reportedly drafting her own proposal, which would allow the government to negotiate the price of 250 Medicare-covered drugs, something that is “loathed” by Republicans, according to the New York Times. And Trump has his own plans; his administration has promised a rule allowing the government to limit what it pays for Medicare-covered drugs to rates paid by other countries.

There may also be some congressional action on what’s known as “surprise billing,” or bills patients get that they weren’t expecting after, for example, receiving uncovered services in a hospital that takes their insurance.

The political incentives of both parties, for once, align on these issues: lowering drug prices and eliminating surprise billing. But the drug industry is lobbying fiercely against changing the price model and anything could happen – or not.

4. Election security: This would seem to be a no-brainer after the sensational fallout from Russian interference in the 2016 election. But it’s another point of conflict – surprise! – in Congress, where Majority Leader McConnell is blocking some measures from coming to the Senate floor.

Senate Democrats are pushing a package of bills, including to require campaigns to report any contact they receive from a foreign government.

The House in July passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act, which would provide $600 million to the states to update their elections systems; and $175 million every two years to help states keep maintain their voting infrastructure.

But McConnell has so far refused to take up the bills, arguing they infringe on states’ rights and wouldn’t make elections safer. He may, however, allow some votes on election security measures later this session. The conservative Democrat Blue Dog Caucus last week called for action.

5. Spending bills: The next deadline to keep open the government is Sept. 30, and Congress looks like it will do what it normally does when faced with difficult decisions: punt. Lawmakers are most likely to approve a short-term spending bill known as a “continuing resolution” through an as-yet-unpicked date sometime in November or December.

And there have been the usual blowups on the way to any deal, including a threat by House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) to block the farm bailout proposal from the Trump administration. The bailout was created last year to assuage the effects of China halting its purchases of certain agricultural products after trade hostilities with the United States began.

There’s also a fight brewing over funds the Trump administration has diverted from the $695 billion Pentagon spending bill to help fund its border wall.

There are some promising signs that the typical gridlock over spending bills won’t haunt us too badly. Over the summer, Congress and the administration reached a broad deal setting spending caps at $1.35 trillion through 2021, which eliminates mandatory cuts to domestic and military programs known as the sequester. That pact also raised the debt ceiling through 2021.

The bad news there is that there seem to be zero guardrails anymore against excessive spending. As of Sept. 30, the sequester threat is no more. As if on cue, the Treasury Department reported last week that the budget deficit widened to more than $1 trillion over the first 11 months of 2019. Government spending increased by 7 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported, compared to just 3 percent for federal revenue.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Purdue Pharma, the drug manufacturer accused of triggering the opioid epidemic through its sale of OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy. Christopher Rowland reports: “The Chapter 11 filing is expected to lead to the ultimate demise of a company that sold a fraction of the opioid prescriptions in the United States but nonetheless is most closely identified with the epidemic because of its pioneering role in the sale of narcotic pain pills. The company used aggressive, allegedly misleading, sales tactics to push physicians to prescribe millions of doses of its dangerously addictive pills. The company’s move to seek financial shelter, part of a tentative settlement with thousands of litigants, will shift the focus to new wrangling over how potential proceeds will be divvied up by communities reeling under the burden of addiction and overdose deaths.

"The bankruptcy also will raise the stakes on legal sparring over how much of the personal fortunes of the billionaire Sackler family, which owns Purdue, will be available to compensate plaintiffs. Multiple states that have rejected the proposed settlement have accused the family of improperly stripping billions of dollars out of the company’s coffers in the past decade to protect the cash from expected court judgments.”

-- Nearly 50,000 General Motors employees went on strike this morning after negotiations between the United Auto Workers union and the Detroit-based carmaker broke down Deanna Paul and Alex Horton report: “The union had announced plans for the nationwide strike Sunday afternoon, and no deal was reached before the midnight deadline. It is the first national UAW strike since 2007. Despite ongoing talks since July, when the union met with GM leadership to renew an arrangement in place since 2015, the parties remain divided on several key issues. The UAW said it is aiming to secure fair wages, affordable health care and better job security, among other things. ‘We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most,’ said UAW Vice President Terry Dittes in a statement Sunday. ‘Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our Members, their families and the communities where we work and live.’ …

“The strike was greenlit Sunday in Detroit during a UAW meeting of nearly 200 regional leaders gathered from at least seven states. The group voted unanimously in favor of the plan, union spokesman Brian Rothenberg told The Washington Post. For every auto assembler, there are several manufacturing and supply workers outside GM that could be adversely affected if the plants shut down, Rothenberg said Sunday. ‘But this is a sacrifice worth making. It’s not just standing up for ourselves. It’s standing up for all of us.’”

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN: 

-- Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is facing impeachment demands from 2020 Democrats after an allegation that he exposed himself to a female classmate surfaced as part of New York Times report. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Cat Zakrzewski and Robert O’Harrow Jr. report: “A classmate, Max Stier, said he saw Kavanaugh with his pants down at the party, where friends pushed Kavanaugh’s penis into the young woman’s hand, the Times reported. Stier notified senators and the FBI before Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but the FBI did not investigate, the Times reported. The Washington Post last year confirmed that two intermediaries had relayed such a claim to lawmakers and the FBI. The Post did not publish a story in part because the intermediaries declined to identify the alleged witness and because the woman who was said to be involved declined to comment. 

“Republicans denounced the Times report as an effort by the media to smear Kavanaugh. Some seized on the fact that the story — labeled as a news analysis — did not mention that, according to the book, the woman involved in the alleged incident has told friends she does not recall it. On Sunday morning, President Trump tweeted that Kavanaugh should ‘start suing people, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue.’ … Kavanaugh’s bitter confirmation [hearings] … were dominated by Christine Blasey Ford’s account, first reported by The Post, that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were high school students in the 1980s. … The new claim echoes an allegation made by a different female Yale student, Deborah Ramirez, during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. Kavanaugh has denied that allegation.”

2020 candidates Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former congressman Beto O’Rourke and former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro all called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment, while frontrunner Joe Biden called for further investigation: “We need to get to the bottom of whether the Trump administration and Senate Republicans pressured the FBI to ignore evidence or prevented them from following up on leads,” the former vice president said in a statement.

-- Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the acting director of national intelligence rejected a subpoena to turn over a whistleblower complaint in order to protect a higher-ranking official, possibly a top administration official. From CBS News: “‘According to the [DNI] the reason he's not acting to provide it, even though the statute mandates that he do so, is because he is being instructed not to. This involved a higher authority, someone above the DNI,’ Schiff, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said. ... Schiff had issued a subpoena Friday to Joseph Maguire, the acting DNI, alleging that he was unlawfully withholding the whistleblower complaint from the committee. A letter sent with the subpoena said that Maguire's office had ‘improperly’ cited the complaint's ‘confidential and potentially privileged communications’ as its reason for withholding it. ‘The Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials,’ Schiff wrote in the letter.”

-- Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, will testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, an opportunity he will spin as part of his Senate campaign. From Axios: “‘Corey will use [the hearing] as part of the campaign. He will be confrontational to the Democrats. He will be totally loyal to Trump. And he will be playing to the right wing of the party who need to unite behind him in a primary,’ Thomas Rath, former attorney general of New Hampshire and adviser to several GOP presidential candidates [said] … The Judiciary Committee plans to press for more information about possible obstruction of justice by Trump outlined in Robert Mueller’s report, including his asking Lewandowski to press then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Russia investigation."

-- Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who Trump once considered making his “immigration czar,” sent the names of Nebraska residents to ICE while running for Kansas governor. From the Kansas City Star: Kobach “helped write an ordinance in 2010 for Fremont, Neb., banning landlords from renting homes to immigrants living in the country illegaly … Enforcing the law had proven difficult because information collected on rental applications wasn’t enough for the federal government to determine whether someone was in the country legally. But Kobach wasn’t ready to give up. So in 2017, while still receiving a $10,000-a-year retainer from Fremont, he emailed the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with a list of 289 people who had applied for an occupancy license in the eastern Nebraska city, where about 15 percent of its 26,000 residents are Hispanic. Kobach wanted to determine if any of the people on this list were in the country illegally, and asked ICE to ‘verify the immigration status’ of each individual. He also went a step further, hinting that if the information he provided led to anyone being arrested or deported he’d be fine with that.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER: 

-- Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an attack on two Saudi oil installations that halved the state oil company’s production output. Kareem Fahim and Steven Mufson report: “An Aramco statement said production of 5.7 million barrels of crude was suspended by the attack from ‘projectiles.’ That represents more than half of the kingdom’s output and about 6 percent of global oil supply — a shortfall that could send oil prices sharply higher. The Aramco statement did not give any timetable on how long the production could be curtailed … The blasts struck facilities in the districts of Khurais and Abqaiq, Saudi officials said. That is more than 500 miles from the Houthi-controlled zones in Yemen — raising critical questions about Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend its territory from Houthi missile and drone attacks with apparent expanding range.”

-- And while the Houthi rebels are allied with Iran, the country denied having a role in the devastating attacks. Trump, meanwhile, warned that the U.S. is ready to respond -- but he is waiting for intel from the Saudis. Kareem Fahim, Anne Gearan, Erin Cunningham and Seven Mufson report: “‘There is reason to believe that we know the culprit,’ Trump said in a tweet Sunday evening. He said the United States was ‘locked and loaded depending on verification.’ Trump did not name Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Saturday, or specify whether he was contemplating a military response. He said he was waiting to hear from the Saudis on ‘who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!’ …

“Trump said he had authorized the release of oil from strategic reserves, ‘if needed,’ to blunt the market impact of the attacks. The attacks on Saturday could upend Trump’s hopes for new U.S.-Iran negotiations, an effort in which he has faced opposition from close ally Israel and many of his own hawkish foreign policy aides. Trump said last week that he would not rule out a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this month. … The most pointed public accusation came from Pompeo, who blamed Iran on Saturday for what he called ‘an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.’ ... The U.S. government’s working assumption is that the attacks did not come from Yemen, meaning the Houthis either were not involved in the attacks or did not carry them out on their own, according to a U.S. official.”  

-- Trump will travel to Texas and Ohio with foreign leaders ahead of a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Anne Gearan reports: “Trump plans to appear alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an unusual campaign-style event next weekend in Houston that organizers have dubbed ‘Howdy, Modi!’ the White House said Sunday. The White House said the Sept. 22 event in Texas, along with a separate stop with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Ohio the same day, ‘underscore the important partnerships between the United States and India, and Australia.’ … The Houston event will offer Trump and Modi a chance to showcase a planned trade agreement before an audience of Indian Americans they want to impress. Houston is home to a large population of Indian Americans, a target for Republicans in Texas and elsewhere. … In Wapakoneta, Ohio, Trump and Morrison will tour of a new Australian-owned manufacturing plant, the White House said.”

-- Australia concluded that China was behind a cyberattack on its national parliament and three largest political parties before the general election in May. From Reuters: “The report, which also included input from the Department of Foreign Affairs, recommended keeping the findings secret in order to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing, two of the people said. The Australian government has not disclosed who it believes was behind the attack or any details of the report. In response to questions posed by Reuters, [Morrison’s] office declined to comment on the attack, the report’s findings or whether Australia had privately raised the hack with China.”

-- Hong Kong police hit protesters with tear gas and water cannons spraying stinging blue dye as anti-government activists took the streets for the 15th weekend of unrest. Shibani Mahani and Timothy McLaughlin report: “Some demonstrators appealed to their former colonial ruler, Britain, and the United States to support their demands for democracy. Tensions began escalating before sundown, when police fired rounds of tear gas to clear protesters who were occupying a key road. Masked groups in black retaliated by lobbing molotov cocktails and smoke bombs at police barricades outside government buildings, briefly setting them ablaze. Protesters also tore up bricks from the surrounding streets and hurled them at the buildings. … The unrest shows no signs of abating as a sensitive political anniversary for China — the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party on Oct. 1 — draws closer.”

-- A search for “#hongkong” on Twitter and other social media platforms leads to a visual patchwork of the city’s unavoidable protests. But on the rising app TikTok, a short-video platform developed by a Beijing-based tech giant, the same search results in a more politically convenient version of reality: food photos, playful selfies, and barely a hint of unrest. Drew Harwell and Tony Romm report: “Researchers have grown worried that the app could also prove to be one of China’s most effective weapons in the global information war, bringing Chinese-style censorship to mainstream U.S. audiences and shaping how they understand real-world events. Compounding researchers’ concerns are TikTok’s limited public comments about the content it removes and its purported independence from censors in Beijing. … In its statement, the company defended TikTok as a place for entertainment, not politics, and said its audience gravitates there for positive and joyful content as a possible explanation for why so few videos relate to sensitive topics such as the protests in Hong Kong.”

-- The U.K. is not ready to postpone Brexit beyond its current October 31 deadline, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to tell the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. From the BBC: “A Downing Street source says Mr Johnson will stress he wants to secure a deal by 18 October, after a key EU summit. But if not possible he will ‘reject any delay offered’ and leave with no deal. The source said Mr Johnson ‘would make clear that he would not countenance any more delays.’”

-- American prosecutors believe Venezuela’s late leader Hugo Chávez worked to flood the U.S. with cocaine. From the Wall Street Journal: “The documents, prepared by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, outline for the first time the possible role of Mr. Chávez, an icon of the Latin American left who died from cancer in 2013, in drug trafficking. They assert that several leaders who served Mr. Chávez and remain in key posts in Venezuela’s regime today wielded cocaine trafficking as a weapon against their ideological adversary, the U.S. In 2005, Mr. Chávez convened a small group of his top officials to discuss plans to ship cocaine to the U.S. with help from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said a participant in the meeting who, at the time, was a justice on Venezuela’s supreme court, according to the papers. … ‘During the meeting, Chávez urged the group, in substance and in part, to promote his policy objectives, including to combat the United States by ‘flooding’ the country with cocaine.’”

-- The U.S.-led effort to force current Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office has escalated as fears rise of military conflict between Venezuela and Colombia. Karen DeYoung reports: “Members of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance agreed last week to invoke [a] 1947 [mutual defense] pact, better known as the Rio Treaty, that allows joint actions ranging from economic sanctions to the use of military force and cutting transport and communications links. Foreign ministers of the treaty’s 19 member nations are due to meet later this month to decide which measures are necessary to stem the threat. … Colombia has charged that Maduro, who announced military exercises on their shared border last week, is hosting and arming Colombian guerrillas who have threatened to reignite a terrorist campaign, including what Colombia’s intelligence service contends are plans to begin bombing central sites in Bogota, the capital, according to U.S. and Latin American officials.”

-- Tunisians voted yesterday in their second-ever presidential elections, a test for one of the world’s youngest democracies, born out of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Sudarsan Raghavan reports: “People across the North African nation dubbed the cradle of the Arab Spring streamed into polling stations throughout the day to choose from among 26 candidates who represent a wide spectrum of political, social and religious views. No candidate was expected to gain the majority needed to win the election in the first round; authorities weren’t expected to release official results until Monday or Tuesday."

2020 WATCH: 

-- Joe Biden delivered the keynote address at services marking the 56th anniversary of the deadly bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports: “Biden said that the hatred on display that day is not dead — and that Americans are still grappling with white supremacy, which ‘has been the antagonist of our highest ideals from before our founding.’ ‘Lynch mobs — arsonists — bombmakers and lone gunmen. And as we all now realize, this violence does not live in the past,’ Biden said to a mostly black crowd in a sanctuary illuminated by a stained-glass image of a black Jesus. … Biden did not mention [Trump] and alluded only obliquely to his own White House aspirations, but his remarks … underscore the prominent and often volatile role that race has played in his presidential campaign. ... [He] told the crowd that the bombing motivated him to leave a white-shoe law firm and become a public defender — and, ultimately, to pursue public service."

-- Texas Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez pulled his endorsement from former housing secretary Julián Castro to support Biden. From CNN: “The switch of support comes days after Castro sharply criticized Biden -- with an apparent jab at the former vice president's memory -- in a contentious moment … but Gonzalez said that debate moment was not the reason behind his decision. ... Gonzalez called the former vice president a ‘steady ship’ with White House experience who can defeat Trump. He called Castro … a qualified candidate, but said there are a number of qualified candidates. ‘If you're polling in the low single digits and you're not raising resources, I mean it's clearly a recipe for disaster,’ Gonzalez said.”

-- As Elizabeth Warren climbs the polls, Biden’s Massachusetts allies are pointing to her election history to suggest that she runs weakest among the types of voters that Democrats need to win the White House. From Politico: “While Warren won reelection easily in 2018, Biden’s backers point to her performance among independent and blue-collar voters as evidence she’ll fail to appeal to similar voters in the Rust Belt — just as Hillary Clinton did in 2016. … Skeptics of Warren’s ‘electability’ typically haven’t hailed from Massachusetts, where in 2018 she handily defeated Republican Geoff Diehl … Yet even in victory … Warren’s 60 percent to 36 percent winning margin failed to impress. … State Rep. Angelo M. Scaccia pointed out even Gov. Charlie Baker — the lone Republican to win last year in the solidly blue state — received a higher percentage of the vote than Warren in 2018, as well as more total votes. … ‘It was the year of the woman,’ Scaccia said. ‘She should’ve done much better.’ … Warren’s supporters accuse Biden’s Massachusetts backers of cherry-picking data as the polls begin to show her gaining traction.”

-- Bernie Sanders shook up his New Hampshire operation as his campaign aims to maintain the support in the state he won by more than 22 percentage points in 2016. From the Times: “The campaign has replaced the New Hampshire state director, Joe Caiazzo, with Shannon Jackson, who is a member of Mr. Sanders’s inner circle and who led the senator’s re-election campaign in Vermont last year. Mr. Caiazzo, who was Mr. Sanders’s political director in Massachusetts and Rhode Island during the 2016 campaign, has been named state director in Massachusetts. … Mr. Sanders’s campaign said the moves in New Hampshire and elsewhere are an attempt to expand his operations and organize supporters in the northeast as they look beyond the early states toward Super Tuesday, when several other New England states, including [Warren’s] state of Massachusetts, will vote.”

-- In her first-ever political race, Kamala Harris defied her old boss, a fund-raising pledge, and the implication that she owed her career to an ex-boyfriend. From the New York Times: “It was December 2003, a final debate in the final days before the runoff election in Ms. Harris’s race for San Francisco district attorney against her onetime boss, Terence Hallinan. And Mr. Hallinan, the crusading progressive incumbent, was going low: Ms. Harris could not be trusted to prosecute city corruption, he suggested, because of her relationship with Willie Brown — the outgoing mayor, peerless local kingmaker and Harris supporter whom she had dated years earlier. … In a party weighing how to best counter [Trump’s] boundless capacity for brawling, Ms. Harris is the one who knows how to hit hardest, friends say, because that is how you win in San Francisco. The 2003 race, the first of her career, is where she learned. ‘San Francisco is the bluest of blue,’ said Tony West, her brother-in-law and longtime informal adviser. ‘All political wars there are civil wars. And so it’s like a family fight. And those are often the worst.’”

-- South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has yet to win over his own generation. From the AP: “His lack of any ample base of support, even among his fellow millennials, is a central challenge of the 37-year-old’s long shot bid to rise ... to the nation’s highest office. He plays well across a broad spectrum of Democratic voters, but in small fragments that have left him an intriguing candidate stuck in single digits in national polls. ‘You can put groups of candidates into corners. What corner do you put Pete Buttigieg in?’ said J. Ann Selzer, longtime director of the Iowa Poll, produced by The Des Moines Register and its partners… Biden does better among older voters; Sanders and Warren do better among younger ones. There is no consistent deviation among age groups for Buttigieg, Selzer said.”

-- Four Democratic candidates are heading to South Carolina in an attempt to make their cases ahead of the first Southern vote of 2020. From the AP: Biden, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar “are scheduled to speak at the Galivants Ferry Stump, a biennial Democratic event that takes place in a rural portion of northeastern South Carolina. … A common stop for South Carolina’s Democrats, this year’s event is the first organized specifically for presidential hopefuls. One of them, Biden, has been here before, introduced to speak at the 2006 event by longtime friend and Senate colleague Fritz Hollings as Biden considered a 2008 presidential bid. This year, Biden was the first confirmed attendee. Republicans are always invited to attend the stump but aren’t allowed to speak.”  

-- Who will win Florida's Latino voters? From the New Yorker: “In every Presidential election since 1992, the winner of Florida has gone on to the White House. Trump won the state, which has a population of twenty-one million, by a hundred and thirteen thousand votes. He’s since made it the centerpiece of his reëlection effort, launching his campaign in Orlando and making frequent visits to South Florida to deliver major addresses on Cuba and Venezuela. … Most of the diaspora communities in the state have fled socialist dictatorships. Republicans, and especially Trump, have seized on this fact to relentlessly attack left-wing populists in Central and South America … The Latino electorate is younger, more numerous, and more diverse than ever before, with largely progressive views on health-care and social-justice issues. These trends should work in favor of the Democrats. Still, the Presidential election is more than a year away, and disaffection with Republicans is hardly a guarantee of Democratic votes.”

-- Trump and his reelection team believe they can turn New Mexico red. From Politico: “Their efforts begin Monday night with a campaign rally in Rio Rancho, which sits in a county Trump lost by 1,800 votes in 2016. The Hispanic-heavy city is four hours north of El Paso, Texas, where the president held a reelection rally in August that prompted campaign manager Brad Parscale to add New Mexico to his ‘watch list’ … ‘I’ve continued to say the president’s policies are a win for Latino voters across America … and one of the first symbols of this was the El Paso rally,’ Parscale told reporters on a call last week. ‘We saw in the data thousands of voters who did not vote for the president in 2016 show up to a rally, come listen to the president and register [to vote].’ … Political forecasters and local officials remain puzzled by claims that Trump -- with his restrictionist immigration policies, white-identity politics and below-average approval ratings -- can woo enough voters to turn New Mexico in his favor.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The president attacked the media for something his Treasury and State secretaries said:

Remember: There's always a tweet:

In the face of a potential rise in oil prices after an attack on a Saudi facility, Trump tweeted this: 

Which led to some Twitter jokes: 

A conservative commentator said she wouldn't be friends with Trump but as long as she keeps voting for him, he doesn't seem to mind:

The GOP got caught spinning labor force numbers to its benefit on Twitter: 

Pete Buttigieg contradicted himself after asking other Democrats to care less about what Republicans say: 

And a Times reporter shared this telling picture from a synagogue:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “To have gone from where people didn’t know much about us to where people actively hate us, it’s difficult,” said former Border Patrol agent Chris Harris, who retired in June 2018 after serving for 21 years. “There’s no doubt morale has been poor in the past, and it’s abysmal now. I know a lot of guys just want to leave.” (New York TImes

 

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

John Oliver attempted to explain how legal immigration works, and how often the system fails: 

After taking a solar-powered boat from England to New York City to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit, activist Greta Thunberg sat down with The Post to discuss her role in the fight for preventing climate change: 

And some thieves flooded an art exhibit in Britain's Blenheim Palace to steal an 18-carat gold toilet, which was once installed in New York City's Guggenheim museum, from an art exhibit: