Budgets, big names and blue collars: A weekly roundup on potential 2020 field

ANNECORDON/iStock
ANNECORDON/iStock

(WASHINGTON) — Former Texas congressman and Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke officially entered the presidential race on Thursday. But with every big-name Democrat to get in the race — the field is now more than a dozen Democrats strong — the prospect of a contested convention is all the more real.

That’s because the Democratic Party changed its nominating rules over the controversial role superdelegates played in Hillary Clinton’s nomination in 2016. Now, only pledged delegates will vote on the first ballot at the national convention in Milwaukee next July — not superdelegates.

The Democratic National Committee’s rule change was meant to prevent superdelegates from casting the deciding vote in the first round of voting, but with so many candidates in the race, superdelegates could still play an outsized role.

If the results of the primaries and caucuses spread pledged delegates too thin, and no one candidate has a majority, it means superdelegates could still swing the nomination when they cast their preference in a second ballot vote.

So in this case, O’Rourke’s relatively late entry into the field, and perhaps that of former Vice President Joe Biden soon, may not be good for the party unless some Democratic challengers drop out or a clear front-runner emerges long before next July.

Here’s the weekly candidate roundup:

Mar. 8-14, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)

After first appearing to set aside any immediate presidential ambitions at South by Southwest, Abrams said on Twitter on Monday that “2020 is definitely on the table.”

During an appearance in Austin, Texas, over the weekend, Abrams told the crowd: “In the spreadsheet with all the jobs I wanted to do, 2028 would be the earliest I would be ready to stand for president because I would have done the work I thought necessary to be effective in that job.”

Later, Abrams’s former campaign manager pushed back against the idea that Abrams had ruled out a 2020 run, saying in a tweet that Abrams was “taking a look at all options on the table for 2020 and beyond.”

Abrams later explained that her comments at South by Southwest were related to goals she had set for herself earlier in her life but that the circumstances had changed.

Michael Bennet (D)

The Colorado senator said last Friday in New Hampshire that he is still a few weeks away from a decision, but he was forceful in a rebuke of President Donald Trump at a Concord house party, calling it a “tragedy” he was elected.

The former Denver schools superintendent previewed where his priorities would lie as the nation’s chief executive.

“If I ever made it to the end of this process, I guarantee you there will not have been a president who’s focused more on education,” he said, according to WMUR-TV.

Joe Biden (D)

The former vice president dropped perhaps his most obvious hint about his presidential ambitions during a speech to the International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference Tuesday when he asked those in attendance to save their “energy” because he “may need it in a few weeks.”

At least one source close to Biden told ABC News that he has yet to reach a final decision, but those with knowledge of his thought process have told ABC News that he is “90 percent there” as far as joining the race.

Cory Booker (D)

The New Jersey senator offered a critique of the United States’ criminal justice system during an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last Friday.

“One of my friends says we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent,” Booker said. “And there are people from neighborhoods like mine in America, who get convictions for doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing. We are a nation right that that churns into our criminal justice system the most vulnerable people.”

On Friday, Booker campaigns in New Hampshire, with stops in Upper Valley and Claremont, before continuing on to Iowa, where he will visit Des Moines, Ottumwa and Indianola on Saturday and Ames, Waterloo and Davenport on Sunday.

Steve Bullock (D)

WMUR-TV reported Monday that later this month, the Montana governor will make his first trip to New Hampshire this year. He will meet with Democratic Party activists, attend a fundraiser and a reception for Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Pete Buttigieg (D)

Buttigieg received a lot of attention this week for his performance at a CNN town hall at South by Southwest, particularly for an answer in which he addressed the character of Vice President Mike Pence, who formerly served as governor of Buttigieg’s home state of Indiana.

The mayor of South Bend said he was not certain Pence would make a better president than Trump, asking rhetorically: “How could he allow himself to become the cheerleader for the porn star presidency? Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing Donald Trump?”

In the 24 hours that followed the event, Buttigieg raised $600,000, the largest single day of fundraising for the mayor since he launched his presidential exploratory committee, according to an aide to Buttigieg.

Julian Castro (D)

Castro targeted fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders during a CNN town hall event at South by Southwest, questioning the explanation that the Vermont senator recently gave for his opposition to paying reparations to the descendants of slaves.

On ABC’s The View earlier this month, Sanders said that he thinks there are better ways to address the issue than “simply writing out a check.”

At South by Southwest, Castro said, “It’s interesting to me that when it comes to Medicare for all, health care … the response there has been we need to write a big check, that when it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been we need to write a big check. And so if the issue is compensating the descendants of slaves, I don’t think that the argument about writing a big check ought to be the argument that you make if you’re making an argument that a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff.”

Castro said that if he were elected president, he would establish a group to study the idea of reparations.

Bill de Blasio (D)

The New York City mayor will visit New Hampshire this weekend, making stops in Manchester and Claremont, the birthplace of his mother-in-law.

John Delaney (D)

Delaney used his appearance at a CNN town hall Sunday to discuss his blue-collar roots, reminiscing about “a time when we had institutions in our society that really supported people,” including his father’s union which provided him with a scholarship to attend college.

During the town hall, the former Maryland congressman outlined his ideas for the nation’s health care system, including a government-run program that Americans could choose to opt-out of; for education, including free community college; and the environment, which he would address by pushing for a carbon tax.

Delaney visits Iowa this weekend with a stop in Churdan on Friday; Fort Dodge, Waterloo and Mason City on Saturday; and Charles City and Decorah on Sunday.

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

Gabbard continues to face questions over her personal opinion of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During a CNN town hall, she refused to say whether she believed Assad was a war criminal and continued to argue on The Late Show against U.S. intervention to overthrow regimes such as his.

The Hawaii congresswoman said on CNN that she believes evidence should continue to be gathered and if it points to war crimes, Assad “should be prosecuted as such.” But she was careful with the language she used to describe the Syrian president on The Late Show, characterizing him as a “potential adversary” and saying that her 2017 trip to Syria to meet with him was made in the “pursuit of peace and security.”

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Politico reported on Monday that an aide to the New York senator resigned last summer after a sexual harassment complaint went unaddressed — contrasting with Gillibrand’s publicly forceful advocacy for victims of such misconduct.

The staffer about whom the complaint was made kept his job until Politico presented its reporting to Gillibrand’s office last month, culminating in his dismissal in early March.

Gillibrand defended the actions of her office, telling reporters that it “take[s] these kinds of allegations very seriously” and maintaining in a statement that when such claims of harassment arise, “we must believe women so that serious investigations can actually take place, we can learn the facts, and there can be appropriate accountability.”

“That’s exactly what happened at every step of this case last year,” she continued.

Gillibrand travels to New Hampshire Friday for events in Portsmouth, Merrimack and finally Manchester, where she will participate in an MSNBC town hall on Monday. Next, Gillibrand will visit Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, with stops in Dubuque, Davenport, Muscatine, Burlington, Ottumwa and Des Moines.

Kamala Harris (D)

Harris voiced her support for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to impose a statewide moratorium on the death penalty, characterizing capital punishment as “immoral, discriminatory, ineffective and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

“The symbol of our justice system is a woman with a blindfold. It is supposed to treat all equally, but the application of the death penalty — a final and irreversible punishment — has been proven to be unequally applied,” Harris said. “Black and Latino defendants are far more likely to be executed than their white counterparts. Poor defendants without a team of lawyers are far more likely to enter death row than those with strong representation. Your race or your bank account shouldn’t determine your sentence.”

During a visit to South Carolina last weekend, Harris detailed her plan for a middle class tax cut, including credits for families earning less than $100,000 per year, paid for by a repeal of the recently implemented tax reform plan backed by Trump.

John Hickenlooper (D)

In a Medium post on Tuesday, Hickenlooper wrote that he “may be a capitalist” but was “sure not a Trump capitalist,” criticizing the president for letting “corporations and the wealthy run wild.”

He later said on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers that being called a capitalist in the current political environment was akin to being labeled a “nerd” in high school, but his background as the successful owner of a chain of brewpubs made it “hard to argue with.”

Next Wednesday, Hickenlooper will participate in a CNN town hall in Atlanta.

Larry Hogan (R)

On Tuesday, the Maryland governor told ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast that he has still not ruled out a Republican primary challenge of Trump and is “excited” for an upcoming trip to New Hampshire for a “Politics and Eggs” breakfast.

Hogan acknowledged that Trump still has a strong base of support among Republicans, but said with regard to his own plans that “if things were to change, and things do have a way of changing in this volatile environment that we’re in, then all bets are off.”

Jay Inslee (D)

Inslee called for an end to the Senate filibuster during an MSNBC interview on Tuesday, labeling it “a vestige of an Antebellum era” that would prevent action on his priority: climate change.

“This is absolutely necessary if we’re going to defeat this beast,” he said, “It is time to shake up D.C., and one of the ways to shake it up is to end the filibuster and have majority rule like Americans deserve. Only then can we fight climate change, and that’s job number one to get this thing done.”

Inslee will visit New Hampshire this weekend for events in Bedford, Exeter and Durham.

Amy Klobuchar (D)

At South by Southwest last weekend, the Minnesota senator joked about an anecdote included in a New York Times report last month on her treatment of her staff, saying that her choice to use a comb to eat a salad on an airplane after an aide forgot a fork was her “sort of doing a mom thing” and a “MacGyver move.”

She did not engage in speculation during the interview about whether the coverage of her interactions with her staff constituted sexism, but did use the appearance to decry the less-than-four-year prison sentence given to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort last week. He was sentenced to additional time this week in a separate case.

“You can’t have two systems of justice, one for the rich and powerful and one for everyone else,” she said.

Klobuchar visits Iowa this weekend for stops in Waterloo, Dubuque and Independence on Saturday, and Cedar Rapids and Davenport on Sunday.

Seth Moulton (D)

The Massachusetts congressman, who is reportedly still considering a presidential run, argued for the abolishment of both the Electoral College and the Senate filibuster in a Washington Post op-ed on Tuesday, writing that such changes were necessary to ensure every vote in the country counts.

Beto O’Rourke (D)

O’Rourke’s long-awaited announcement arrived on Thursday morning when the former Texas congressman revealed that he was entering the race.

“This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us,” O’Rourke said in his announcement video. “The challenges that we face right now; the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate have never been greater.”

O’Rourke is spending his first weekend as an official candidate in Iowa. After stops in Burlington and Muscatine on Thursday, he visits Mount Pleasant and Cedar Rapids on Friday, then North Liberty, Waterloo and Dubuque on Saturday.

Tim Ryan (D)

During an event in Akron, Ohio, on Monday, Ryan said that he is “looking very, very closely” at a presidential run and that Sen. Sherrod Brown’s decision not to enter the race led him to examine the possibility more closely.

“I felt like Sherrod was talking about the issues many of us were concerned about,” the Ohio congressman said, adding that his own decision would come in the next few weeks.

Bernie Sanders (D)

During a Senate Budget Committee hearing Wednesday, Sanders probed the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget over Trump’s recently revealed 2020 budget proposal, asking “how many thousands … will die because of massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid?”

Democrats as a whole have criticized the Trump administration for the budget’s $845 million reduction in Medicare spending over the next 10 years.

One of Sanders’ campaign staffers apologized for a comment she made on a Facebook thread in which she asked whether the “American-Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel,” similar to language used by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The staffer, Sanders’ national deputy press secretary, told Politico the language was “insensitive” and that such a discussion should occur “with greater care and sensitivity to their historical resonance.”

Sanders will hold a rally in Henderson, Nevada, on Saturday.

Howard Schultz (I)

Though he continues to face criticism from Democrats who view his potential independent presidential campaign as helpful to Trump’s reelection chances, the former Starbucks CEO himself took aim at Trump during an event in Miami on Wednesday, decrying Trump’s national emergency declaration to secure funds for his proposed southern border wall.

Schultz said that as president, he would “restore the presidency to the proper position as one of three branches of government” and would refuse to sign any legislation that does not have bipartisan support.

A Washington Post story Wednesday examined Schultz’s upbringing and “rags-to-riches” story, interviewing residents of the Brooklyn housing project where he grew up who characterized it as middle-class as opposed to the “poor” and “low income” community Schultz discussed at recent events.

Eric Swalwell (D)

While Swalwell himself has yet to say whether he will run for president, he predicted on MSNBC on Monday that “Donald Trump is not going to be the president in 2021.”

Swalwell made some other “news” too: After a San Jose Mercury News story revealed that the California congressman dyed his hair in his youth, Swalwell joked on Twitter that “all of us make bad decisions in high school. Sometimes those decisions involve bleach.”

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Last weekend, Warren unveiled a proposal to break up large technology companies, such as Amazon, Google and Facebook. She argued that unregulated mergers were decreasing competition in the industry.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” Warren said in a statement. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”

The Massachusetts senator visits neighboring New Hampshire on Friday for events in Salem and Exeter, then takes a southern swing through Memphis on Sunday; Jackson, Mississippi, on Monday for a CNN town hall; and Selma and Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday.

Andrew Yang (D)

Yang announced this week that he’s surpassed the 65,000 donor threshold necessary to earn a spot in the first Democratic primary debate. Provided the number of candidates who reach the threshold does not surpass 20 — at which point candidates would then be winnowed by poll performance — Yang will become the first Democratic non-politician to earn a spot in a presidential primary debate since Al Sharpton in 2004.

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