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A tree stump painted in a Des Moines front yard. Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP

This was the worst week for Democrats since Donald Trump’s election-night shocker of 2016.

Why it matters: In less than 200 hours, Democrats botched Iowa, watched Trump hit an all-time popularity high, debated ousting the DNC chair, and watched a socialist soar and an ideological civil war intensify.

  • Axios' Margaret Talev reports from New Hampshire that amid real enthusiasm at candidate rallies, there's an underlying unease about unifying the party enough to get the kind of turnout needed to win in November.

What we're hearing: There's a new fatalism in my conversations with Democrats, with many telling me that what once seemed unthinkable — Trump's re-election in November — is now starting to look more likely than ever.

  • In a CNN segment this morning that included Friday's rosy economic statistics, a graphic asked: "IS TRUMP'S RE-ELECTION PATH WIDENING?"
  • This is all the more galling to Democrats because they believe he truly sees himself "above the law," as House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff tweeted Friday night, after Trump's impeachment acquittal.

Reality check: A New York Times live fact-check blog on Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday came up with 8 statements labeled "misleading," 7 "lacks"/"needs context," 6 "false," 5 "true," 4 'exaggerated," 3 "mostly true," 2 "partly true," 1 "weighted but mostly true" and 1 "lacks evidence."

  • The entries became shorthand for how Democrats see the presidency.

Between the lines: Talk to well-wired Republicans and they'll tell you Trump is fully capable of self-sabotage — that enough exhausted voters will finally say: "Just make it stop." But here's why Dems are apoplectic about the terrain:

  • In the Gallup poll this week that put Trump at 49% approval, a record for his presidency, just 1% had no opinion — leaving few persuadables.
  • Whoever is ultimately nominated will start in a tremendous hole against a Trump campaign has been relentlessly organized and optimized over the past three years. Axios' Sara Fischer has documented how the Trump campaign is mastering Facebook and Google ads.
  • The constant Trump rallies serve as an ongoing dry run for Election Day, with eye-popping metrics.

What's next: Recriminations over the botched count of the Iowa caucuses are continuing into a second week. Rep. James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in the House, told C-SPAN "Newsmakers" (via AP):

  • "There are some serious discussions taking place here on Capitol Hill as to what ought to happen at the DNC."
  • Asked whether DNC chair Tom Perez must go, Clyburn said: "That's a decision for him."

P.S. Changing tides:

  • WashPost, Oct. 28: "'It feels like a horror movie': Republicans feel anxious and adrift defending Trump," by Robert Costa and Phil Rucker.
  • WashPost, yesterday: "'Tempted to despair': Trump’s resilience causes Democrats to sound the alarm," by Robert Costa and Phil Rucker.
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Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
34 mins ago - Energy & Environment

IEA analysis charts "narrow" pathway to Paris climate goal

Photovoltaic solar panels at the power plant in La Colle des Mees, Alpes de Haute Provence, southeastern France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

The pathway for transforming global energy systems to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is "narrow but still achievable" and demands unprecedented acceleration away from fossil fuels, an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday concludes.

Why it matters: It provides detailed analysis and estimates of what's needed for a good shot at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels — the Paris Agreement benchmark for avoiding some of the most damaging effects of climate change.

2 hours ago - World

In photos: Deadly Cyclone Tauktae leaves trail of destruction across India

A police officer helps a public transport driver cross a flooded street due to heavy rain caused by Tropical Cyclone Tauktae in Mumbai, India, on May 17. Photo: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tropical Cyclone Tauktae killed at least 16 people in India after making landfall in Gujarat Monday, packing 100mph winds, and sweeping across Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, per Reuters.

The big picture: The storm unleashed heavy rains and winds as authorities continued to grapple with surging infection rates and deaths from COVID-19. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from Gujarat, and ports, airports and vaccination centers shut in the state and Mumbai, Reuters reports. Tauktae weakened from a Category 3 storm into a "severe cyclonic storm" Tuesday morning local time.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Yellen wants business to help foot infrastructure bill

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is heading into the belly of the beast Tuesday and asking the business community to support President Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan during a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Why it matters: By trying to persuade a skeptical and targeted audience, Yellen is signaling the president’s commitment to raising corporate taxes to pay for his plan. Republican senators, critical to a potential bipartisan deal, oppose any corporate tax increase.