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How far left is too far? -- Meanwhile in America

There are two plans afoot to oust President Donald Trump. One, impeachment, has transfixed Washington. But the earth is also moving in the other: the 2020 Democratic race.

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Stephen Collinson
Caitlin Hu, CNN
CNN — There are two plans afoot to oust President Donald Trump. One, impeachment, has transfixed Washington. But the earth is also moving in the other: the 2020 Democratic race.

The smoke has cleared from last week's CNN/New York Times debate, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has suddenly emerged as the hot ticket for nomination, shaking up assumptions the race is former Vice President Joe Biden's to lose. But Warren is significantly to the left of much of middle America, and her proposals could spook voters -- even many of those who want Trump gone.

It's not impossible that Warren, who wants massive social and structural change in health care, taxation, education and the economy, could herald a political realignment. After all, Washington is often the last to get the news. No one here predicted how Trump ripped the Republican Party from its corporate, country club, internationalist roots and turned it into a working class, populist, anti-elite, isolationist force. But she's still a risky bet. And Trump is itching to run against what he's branding far left-wing "socialism."

(This is not just an American conundrum. It could shape the looming UK election as well, where Labour's Jeremy Corbyn hopes to become the most radical Prime Minister in generations — but could end up handing power back to the unpopular Tories.)

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First voting is more than three months away, and Warren's boom has woken up centrists like Biden, small town Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. But sooner or later, Democratic primary voters -- generally far more progressive than the country as a whole -- will face a fundamental question: How far left is too far?

'Fascists, racists and Venus-ians'

Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's far-right League party, reportedly mocked concerns that his weekend rally would attract fascists, joking that it would also bring people from the planet Venus. The event was held with fellow right-wing leaders Silvio Berlusconi and Giorgia Meloni in Rome -- just a few days short of the anniversary of Benito Mussolini's famous "March on Rome."

Kiu scias?

Remember covfefe?

In a new linguistic faux pas on Sunday, Trump substituted "Esperanto," the globalist's dream language, for "Esper," the surname of his Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Was the President the victim of predictive text or a rogue spell checker in his since-deleted tweet? Or -- could he actually not know the name of the man he put in charge of the most lethal military in history? Kiu scias?

'Between MAGA hats and black mamas'

Impeachment forces lawmakers into tough choices; their vote on this most crucial of questions could doom them or pave the way to reelection.

No one is in a dicier spot than Doug Jones, the Democratic senator from fiercely pro-Trump Alabama. He won office on a wave of support from African American voters, among whom the President is deeply unpopular. Now, as CNN's Van Jones put it, the senator will be stuck "between MAGA hats and black mamas" when it's time to vote.

The whole interview is worth watching for a look at how the impeachment drama is playing outside Washington.

'That's not what I said'

What's got into Mick Mulvaney? The acting White House chief of staff has suddenly developed a most un-Trumpian compulsion to blurt out the truth.

In Thursday's train-wreck of a news conference, Mulvaney effectively admitted there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine -- the central allegation of Democrats' impeachment case. "That's not what I said. That's what people said I said," he said on "Fox News Sunday" before being presented with video evidence of his comment.

When he was asked about Trump's aborted decision to host the G7 summit at one of his Florida resorts, he admitted, "People think it looks lousy," referring to fears of self-dealing. Then he offered this excuse: "(Trump) still considers himself to be in the hospitality business."

Of course, as President, Trump is supposed to have walled himself off from his hotel and real estate empire to avoid conflicts of interest. Mulvaney's suggestion of the exact opposite makes this the second time in three days his frankness has people asking how long before he's sacked. CNN reported Sunday that Trump's already having second thoughts.

Mulvaney could be getting it all out into the open, with an aim to minimize and normalize behavior that would once have been thought impeachable. But he may also be about to join an infamous DC club of power brokers remembered for their classic "Washington gaffes" -- as defined by former CNNer and New Republic editor Michael Kinsley.

A Washington gaffe, of course, is when a politician messes up and tells the truth.

'If the nesting doll fits...'

That's how Hillary Clinton's spokesman Nick Merrill responded when Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard rejected the former secretary of state's claim that she was being groomed for a third-party run by Russia.

Clinton must still be simmering at the role the Russians played in helping Trump win in 2016 (she also accused former Green Party candidate Jill Stein of being a Moscow "asset.") But her attack could backfire: First, she's elevating Gabbard, who barely registers in most polls. Second, evoking a Kremlin puppet master revives the mistrust seeded by the original Russian operation. It's the meddling scam that just keeps on giving.

Number of the day: 2 million

Warren announced on Sunday the two millionth donation to her presidential campaign -- highlighting the expansive fundraising base of small donors she can tap again and again after surging to the top of the Democratic 2020 race.

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