Here are the top four stories to start your morning:
1: Not Ready to Endorse TrumpEmbed from Getty Images
Maine Senator Susan Collins (Republican) said Tuesday that she is not prepared to endorse President Trump’s reelection bid in 2020.
Collins told PBS NewHour’s Judy Woodruff that she is focused on her own reelection bid and had not given too much thought to the presidential campaign. Asked if she would endorse Trump, Collins responded:
“I don’t know, I’m going to have to see what happens between now and then and look at what his record is. I can’t imagine I would endorse any of the Democrats who are running right now but I’m going to focus on 2020 in 2020.
Collins has previously said she does not have an issue with a primary challenge to Trump and refused to endorse him in the 2016 presidential campaign.
2: Stacey Abrams to Give State of the Union ResponseEmbed from Getty Images
Democrats have asked former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to give the response to the State of the Union address on February 5th.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters he asked Abrams to give the response three weeks ago, “Three weeks ago, I called Stacey Abrams and asked her to deliver the response, I was very delighted when she agreed.”
Abrams, formerly Georgia’s leader of the State Assembly, made national headlines last year when she ran for governor against then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
Last year, Democrats tapped Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Ma.) to give the response to the State of the Union.
3: Maduro Open to Talks With OppositionEmbed from Getty Images
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro told a Russian news agency he is open to talks with opposition leader Juan Guaido:
“I’m willing to sit down for talks with the opposition so that we could talk for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future.”
Maduro said the talks could be held with a third-party mediator such as Russia or Mexico.
As the U.S. continues its pressure campaign to oust Maduro, Russian officials say they are anticipating “problems” with Venezuela’s payment on a $3 billion loan from Russia.
Early Wednesday, President Trump tweet about the situation in Venezuela and warned Americans against traveling to the country:
4: Schultz Has Spent Months Researching Viability as a Third-Party CandidateEmbed from Getty Images
A report in The Washington Post goes behind the scenes of former Starbuck Coffee Company CEO Howard Schultz’s announcement that he is considering running for president as a third-party candidate:
“Before announcing his presidential ambitions this week, former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz secretly undertook a months-long effort to prepare an independent presidential campaign against the nation’s two-party political system, deploying more than six national polls and laying the groundwork for paid advertising that could debut in the next two months.
The full reach of the project suggests that his stated goal of disrupting the U.S. political process is not likely to fade away anytime soon.”
The report says that Schultz polled thousands of voters across the country and believes that he stands a better chance of winning if a progressive candidate wins the Democratic nomination. But if a more establish candidate wins, his chances of winning would be lower.
Schultz believes he could win by making the election a referendum on the two-party system in presidential politics.
His advisers say they were encouraged by a poll of 1,000 voters conducted during CBS’ “60 Minutes” interview in which Schultz confirmed he was thinking about running for president.
The Post’s report indicates that Schultz was prepared for the backlash from from Democrats after his announcement and will announce his final decision mid-year.