Top Notes – This Week in Presidential Politics

January 29, 2019

Every week I curate a set of “Top Notes” of media coverage on the 2020 presidential elections. Read it to keep up to date on latest developments.
– Sarah Lyons, Director of Communications, Independent Voting


January 23 – 30, 2019

Trump – Amid chatter of a potential Republican primary challenger, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has sent a message to party members: get behind Donald Trump in 2020. On Friday, the RNC unanimously voted to give Trump “undivided support”ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Although largely symbolic, the vote comes as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history sinks the president’s approval rating. But it’s worth noting that, as The Washington Post pointed out, the resolution passed by the RNC isn’t an official endorsement of a Trump 2020 campaign. According to the paper, such an endorsement was discussed by some RNC members. Ultimately, however, concerns over whether such an endorsement would force the RNC to abide by Federal Election Commission rules well before the 2020 election kicked off kept the political committee from offering more than Republicans’ “undivided support.” (Bustle, 1/26/19)

Howard Schultz – “I can’t think of anything that is a more quintessential expression of our democracy than providing the American people with a choice that doesn’t have to be binary between the Republican and the Democrat,” Schultz said. “Why should the American people not have the choice of someone who is saying, ‘I’m not embedded with either party’?” Schultz has hired two veteran political strategists to aid him with his potential run — Steve Schmidt, a onetime Republican who worked on the White House campaigns of President George W. Bush and 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, and Bill Burton, who worked for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and later served as deputy White House press secretary. (NPR, 1/28/19)

  • Book Tour – Billionaire and former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, launched his book tour in New York City on Monday, but it’s his presidential ambitionsthat caused a stir at the sold out event inside a Barnes & Noble. As Schultz began to speak at the event, he was interrupted by a heckler who was escorted out by security.  Book Tour Dates and Locations


  • Bloomberg – “Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the Electoral College system, there is no way an independent can win,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote. “In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the president. That’s a risk I refused to run in 2016 and we can’t afford to run it now.” (NYT, 1/27.19)
    • Schultz took a moment during his event to address Bloomberg’s concern, saying, “I don’t agree with his conclusion.”
  • Howard Wolfson – I have seen enough data over many years to know that anyone running for POTUS as an independent will split the anti-incumbent, anti-Trump vote. The stakes couldn’t be higher. We can not afford the risk of spoiler politics that result in Trump’s re-election. (Twitter)
  • Larry Saboto – Someone convinced @HowardSchultz that 40% of the electorate is “Independent”. In fact, that’s just a popular cover label for hidden partisans, who are quite loyal to their hidden party. True independents are few and far between in this highly partisan era. (Twitter)
  • Julian Castro – Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro said Sunday that should former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz run for president as an independent, he would give President Donald Trump the “best hope of getting re-elected.”
  • David Axelrod – One thing you can be sure of: The consultants who sign on with the Howard Schultz campaign may help facilitate the second Trump term. But they surely will make enough to keep themselves in overpriced coffee drinks for life! (Tweet)
  • Micah Cohen (editor Five-Thirty-Eight) – He may not have the votes to win outside of the two-party system, according to FiveThirtyEight Managing Editor Micah Cohen. “The problem is, most of those voters, while they like to call themselves independents, they’re not true independents,” he says. “They, year after year after year, vote for one party or the other, and so if Schultz is relying on them, I think he’s in for a rude awakening.” (ABC News, 1/29/19)
  • Zac Petkanas – a former top aide to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, used Twitter to encourage people to protest Schultz’s book-signing on Mondayevening in New York City.

Sources: Salon (1/28/19) , CNN (1/23/19)

Booker – Cory Booker is finalizing the leadership of a potential Iowa campaign team — an indication the New Jersey senator is moving closer to announcing a run for president. According to a source familiar with the process, Booker will hire, should he run, a team of high-profile Iowa staffers that includes Mike Frosolone, Haley Hager, Joe O’Hern and Tess Seger. Frosolone directed the Iowa House Democrats’ political operation, leading the recruitment of 95 Democratic candidates to run in the House’s 100 districts — the most in 30 years. Hager was the Iowa state director for NextGen America, the organization funded and created by billionaire activist Tom Steyer. She has a background in organizing and field work. O’Hern‘s resume includes work for the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign in 2014 and as Martin O’Malley’s caucus director in the 2016 cycle. Seger has been the communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party for the last year and a half. Booker’s national campaign manager would be Addisu Demissie, who also has Iowa ties. Booker has long been expected to enter the 2020 presidential race, and on Twitter last week told his followers, “I will let you know soon” about a decision. (DesMoines Register, 1/28/19)

Bloomberg – Speaking at a Friday gathering of the Democratic Business Council of Northern Virginia, the former New York City mayor flayed the president for triggering chaos in Washington. Bloomberg vowed to make sure the president doesn’t serve another term. “The presidency is not an entry-level job,” Bloomberg said. “There is just too much at stake.” “And the longer we have a pretend CEO who is recklessly running this country, the worse it’s going to be for our economy and for our security. This is really dangerous.” He then panned Trump’s White House with a film reference, suggesting there wasn’t much separating the president from a villain. “It’s like the government version of a bad horror movie, but instead of Freddy Krueger and the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ we’ve got Donald Trump and the ‘Nightmare at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.’” Following his appearance at the business council’s event, Bloomberg made a stop at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., where he echoed his previous sentiments and laid out a strong condemnation of the shutdown. (Huffington Post, 1/26/19)


  • Hickenlooper – Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday visited Des Moines, where he met with potential Iowa caucusgoers as he considered a bid for the 2020 presidential election. Hickenlooper, who served two terms as governor, spoke to a large crowd at Court Avenue Brewing Company in downtown. It’s the site of former Raccoon River Brewing Company, a restaurant he developed in the 1990s. “I’m not screaming and yelling,” said Hickenlooper. “I’m trying to get people together. I’m trying to find solutions to the problems that are facing everybody.” (KCCI, 1/27/19)
  • Harris – announced her campaign on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on ABC’s “Good Morning America”; stopped by her alma mater, Howard University; then appeared at a fundraiser for Alpha Kappa Alpha, her college sorority,at a gala Friday in South Carolina, a key early primary state. At a rally Sunday in her hometown of Oakland, she officially launched her presidential campaign by tapping those same populist themes. A crowd that rally organizers estimated at 20,000 filled the streets …where the California Democrat made her opening 2020 pitch: She will be the candidate who is both “a fighter for the people” and someone who can unite a country severed into partisan corners by saying that “we must seek truth, speak truth and fight for the truth.” The rollout was impressive for its first-day money haul — Harris’ campaign took in $1.5 million from roughly 38,000 donors within 24 hours of her announcement, roughly what Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders raised in a one-day haul early in his 2016 presidential run.  On Monday, she appeared at a CNN-televised town hall in Iowa, the first caucus state. (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/28/19)

New Hampshire

  • Bloomberg – During a day-long campaign-style swing through the Granite State, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will decide whether to run for president by the end of February. Although his schedule in New Hampshire had all the trappings of a campaign-style swing, meeting factory employees in Nashua and taking a downtown walk in Dover, sources have told WMUR that he is truly undecided on whether to run for president and that the New Hampshire visit will be key to his decision-making process. Bloomberg, who will turn 77 on Valentine’s Day, began his day by speaking at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics as part of the institute’s “Bookmark” series. He discussed the 2017 book, “Climate of Hope,” that he co-authored with Carl Pope. The New York Times Bestseller looks at how cities, businesses and rank-and-file citizens can address climate change regardless of the political battles raging in Washington. Although the breakfast had all the trappings of a traditional “Politics and Eggs” breakfast, Bloomberg and his team preferred the book discussion format…. “Americans want elected officials to put partisanship aside and work on real problems” related to climate change, Bloomberg said. Trump, he said, “failed at business, and now he has failed at government.” (WMUR, 1/29/19)
  • Gillibrand – Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign said Monday that she will make her first campaign trip to New Hampshire – the first primary state – this weekend. Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, is no stranger to New Hampshire. In fact, she’s a graduate of Dartmouth College who has loved the state ever since her college days… Gillibrand’s campaign trip will begin in Manchester on Friday and conclude two days later in the northern part of New Hampshire. The state is expected to hold its primary on Feb. 11, 2020, eight days after the Iowa caucuses kick off the race for delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders – Three years after fighting a surprisingly competitive Democratic primary race against Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is making another run for the White House. Two sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo News that Sanders, an independent and self-described “democratic socialist,” plans to announce his presidential bid imminently. While Sanders has been mulling a bid for months, one of the sources said he was emboldened by early polls of the race that have consistently showed him as one of the top candidates in a crowded Democratic primary field. In particular, the source said Sanders was heartened to see numbers indicating he is one of the leading candidates among African American and Latino voters, two groups he was perceived as struggling with in 2016. (Huffington Post, 1/25/19)

O’Rourke – Beto O’Rourke said Friday that it could take him months to decide whether to run for president, adding that he does not want to “raise expectations” about a 2020 bid. O’Rourke told POLITICO after a speaking engagement here that he has no timetable for making a decision, which he said could “potentially” be months away. “There are people who are smarter on this stuff and study this stuff and are following this and say you’ve got to do it this way or get in by this point or get in in this way if you were to get in,” O’Rourke said of his timing. “I think the truth is that nobody knows right now the rules on any of this stuff. I think the rules are being written in the moment.”

Bill Weld – The former Republican governor of Massachusetts, is weighing a challenge to Mr. Trump as a small-government moderate, people who have spoken with him said. Mr. Weld, 73, who was the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2016, has discussed either opposing Mr. Trump in the Republican primaries or seeking the Libertarian presidential nomination. Mr. Weld declined to comment on his deliberations… (NYT, 1/26/19)

Daphne Bradford – entrepreneur, nationally recognized educator, #MeToo survivor and former EURweb columnist is a FEC (Federal Election Commission) registered 2020 presidential candidate. Daphne has spent her career fighting for high quality education, health care for all,  school/community safety, comprehensive gun control and for a woman’s right to work without being sexually harassed.  The Daphne for a Reunited America (DRA) 2020 presidential campaign will “Unite US” around these universal issues.

McAfee – United States entrepreneur and serial cryptocurrency advocate John McAfee has fled the country to conduct his 2020 presidential campaign, he said in a video statement Jan. 22.  McAfee claims he has been indicted by U.S. tax authorities and plans to run his campaign from a boat in international waters.

Out of the Running

  • Flake – Former Sen. Jeff Flake announced on “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday he will not run for president in 2020 against President Trump. “I have always said that I do hope that there is a Republican who challenges the president in the primary. I still hope that somebody does, but that somebody won’t be me. I will not be a candidate,” Flake said. The former Arizona senator will join CBS News as a contributor in a new series called “Common Ground.”
  • Ojeda – Former West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda dropped out of the race on Jan. 25, 2019, telling supporters he didn’t want them donating money to a campaign with little chance of success.
  • Chris Muphy (CT)

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