Top Notes – This Week in Presidential Politics

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


February 2 – February 16, 2019

Schultz – A handful of people from an independent voters group gathered outside the Free Library before Schultz’s remarks to support his right to run. (WHYY, 2/13/19)

  • Spoiler Issue
    POPPY HARLOW, CNN: If you run, Mr. Schultz, and if you look at the polls in the fall of 2020 and it looks like you are going to be a spoiler, like you will get President Trump reelected, will you drop out of the race?
    HOWARD SCHULTZ, CNN: Okay, a very important question, so let’s clarify this right now, right here, on national TV, on CNN.  First off, the issue of being a spoiler, how can you spoil a system that is already broken? It’s just not working? So it’s not — it’s not the right word.  Now, what I’ve said publicly and I want to repeat, if the math doesn’t tally up when I get through the next three or four months and I take my message out to the American people and I continue to talk this way about how concerned I am about the country and how much I think we can do so much better under a different process, if the numbers don’t add up, I will not run for president, because I will not do anything, whatsoever, to re-elect Donald Trump.
  • Spoiler Alert: Shultz, the Democrats and the Independents (by Jackie Salit, IVN, 2/13/19)
  • Brief Recap of Some Spoiler Controversies (Independent Voting, 2/12/19))

Pro Schultz

  • Letter to Editor – Democrats are heckling Howard Schultz for his possible presidential run as an independent candidate. As the two-time CEO of Starbucks, Schultz is socially progressive but financially conservative and smart enough to know that Bernie Sanders (I) was not treated fairly in the Democrat primary…So what scares the groomed-for-years-to-be-professional politicians of both parties are businessmen who have undermined the professional politicians’ own profession by skirting their waiting line and becoming president. (Santa Rosa Press Gazette, 2/14/19)
  • Richard Branson – In an interview with Yahoo Finance at a launch event for his new adults-only cruise line Virgin Voyages, Branson voiced his support for fellow billionaires Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO, and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, and their potential 2020 campaigns. “There are some extraordinarily good business people. Donald Trump was not one of those people, he just happens to be in the White House,” Branson said. “But people like Howard Schultz or Mike Bloomberg, they are extraordinarily good business people and therefore I think they would be extraordinarily good in the White House running a country.” (Yahoo, 2/14/19)


  • Ronald Brownstein – After this week’s CNN town hall, it’s more and more clear that any money Howard Schultz might spend on an independent presidential bid would function as an in-kind campaign contribution to Donald Trump. Schultz offered few policy specifics during the hour-long session Tuesday night and repeatedly retreated to platitudes when pressed to clarify his position on core issues, including taxes and health care. But to the extent that Schultz did explain his views, they stamped him as a moderate Democrat, tilting toward the party’s center on economics while firmly identifying with its solidifying liberal lean on social and racial issues. (CNN, 2/14/19)

Warren – Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren made her bid for the presidency official on Saturday in this working-class city, grounding her 2020 campaign in a populist call to fight economic inequality and build “an America that works for everyone.” Warren enters the race as one of the party’s most recognizable figures. She has spent the past decade in the national spotlight, first emerging as a consumer activist during the financial crisis. She later led the congressional panel that oversaw the 2008 financial industry bailout. After Republicans blocked her from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency she helped create, she ran for the Senate in 2012 and unseated a GOP incumbent. She has $11 million left over from her commanding 2018 Senate re-election victory that can be used on her presidential run. (TIME, 2/10/19)

Biden – McClatchy interviewed 31 Democratic strategists — pollsters, opposition research experts, media consultants, ex-party officials, and communications specialists — from across the country about a potential Biden campaign. Nine agreed to speak on the record; all others quoted anonymously do not plan to be affiliated with any candidate running in the presidential primary. Strikingly, these conversations yielded a similar view: The Democratic political community is more broadly and deeply pessimistic about Biden’s potential candidacy than is commonly known. While these strategists said they respect Biden, they cited significant disadvantages for his campaign — from the increasingly liberal and non-white Democratic electorate to policy baggage from his years in the Senate and a field of rivals that includes new, fresh-faced candidates. (McClatchy, 2/11/19)

Sanders – Bernie Sanders has seen himself as on a mission since he started running for office in the 1970s, and he sees no reason to stop now. He thinks he’s dramatically changed the conversation over the past three years, and he feels like he’s close to achieving his ultimate goal…Sanders will likely announce an exploratory committee in the coming weeks, followed by a rally. (The Atlantic, 2/8/19)

Holder –  Former Attorney Gen. Eric Holder said Tuesday he is in the final stages of deciding whether to seek the 2020 Democratic nomination for president and plans to decide in about a month. “I’m going to sit down with my family very soon and decide whether this is something we’re going to seek,” Holder told reporters after headlining a voting rights forum at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Mouton – Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., is considering entering his party’s growing field of presidential candidates. “I’m thinking about running for president,” Moulton told BuzzFeed News. “I’m not definitely running, but I’m going to take a very hard look at it. A very serious look at it. Because I believe it’s time for a new generation of leadership, and we gotta send Donald Trump packing.” Moulton, 40, would be one of the younger side of the Democratic field. The third-term House member gained some following as a persistent critic of now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before and after the 2018 midterm elections, which gave Democrats a majority in the chamber. Moulton called for a “new generation of leadership” and tried to organize and intra-party challenge to Pelosi. But a viable alternative failed to materialize. (Washington Examiner, 2/11/19)

Eric Swalwell – Doesn’t have the star power of Kamala Harris, the progressive following of Elizabeth Warren, or the silverback status of Joe Biden. But the three-term California congressman — who’s edging closer to a longer-than-longshot presidential bid — does have one advantage in the crowded Democratic presidential field if he chooses to run: Iowa, the state where he was born. Swalwell does, however, have a growing national profile thanks to his frequent cable television appearances. He serves on the Judiciary Committee, which is charged with oversight of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy — and where the impeachment process would start if Democrats go down that road. And he has a high-visibility slot on the Intelligence Committee at a time when the Russia investigation continues to rate high on the minds of Democratic primary voters. (Politico, 2/12/19)

Booker – A week after joining a growing Democratic field for the 2020 presidential nomination, the former mayor of Newark, N.J., made his first official campaign stops in South Carolina, speaking in a Columbia church and addressing a town hall in Winnsboro. Booker started his campaign for the S.C. primary with a trip to Right Direction Church International on Broad River Road. Bishop Herbert Bailey, a native of Jersey City, had spoken to Booker earlier and invited him to attend his S.C. church if he decided to run. “I didn’t think he would take me up on it,” Bailey told the congregation. Booker continued his campaign with an event at Fairfield Central High School in Winnsboro. The event was billed as a forum on rural health care in a county that saw its only hospital closeat the end of 2018. (The State, 2/10/19)

Delaney  – of Maryland was the first Democrat in the presidential race, announcing his candidacy back in July 2017. Now, as he makes his 14th trip to New Hampshire, Delaney is among a field of candidates that has quickly expanded to include people with broader name recognition, more hard-line progressive positions stands on key policy, more diversity and, in some cases, a more confrontational approach to taking on President Donald Trump. But Delaney, a former three-term U.S. representative from Maryland, is undeterred. Far from it. He welcomes the sudden flood of competitors, confident that his brand of politics – he calls himself a “pragmatic progressive” – will find support among voters in the Granite State, Iowa and beyond. (WMUR, 2/12/19)

Former Maryland U.S. Rep. John Delaney now has official headquarters in New Hampshire. The Democratic candidate for president opened the office on Canal Street in Manchester Monday night.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a high-profile House moderate, said Wednesday evening he is “seriously considering” a presidential run in 2020. Ryan rose to prominence after challenging then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her post in 2016. He garnered about a third of the Democratic conference’s support in the unsuccessful effort, underlining significant divisions within the caucus. (The Hill, 2/14/19)

Yang – Chances are you haven’t heard of Andrew Yang even though he’s been running for president for more than a year now. By any objective standard, he is the longest of long shots. He has never held political office, he isn’t a celebrity, and while he has been a successful entrepreneur, he isn’t a billionaire who commands media attention. But he is tackling head-on one of the biggest challenges facing American society—what happens when rapid automation eliminates millions of jobs. He says that left unchecked, it “will strain our society beyond repair.”  (Council on Foreign Relations, 2/12/19 )

Buttigeig – During his overnight drive into Iowa from Indiana, Pete Buttigieg logged onto Twitter to pass the time. “Good time to chat: any questions?” he typed. Among the nearly 600 responses, one user took the opportunity to ask the South Bend, Indiana, mayor for advice on how to bring positive change to his home state. “Start local, and don’t wait for permission,” Buttigieg wrote back. In some ways, Buttigieg could have been talking about himself in Iowa this weekend and his run for the White House. Friday marked Buttigieg’s first trip to the lead-off caucus state since announcing last month that he would launch a presidential exploratory committee. A lieutenant in the Navy Reserve who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, Buttigieg was also asked about issues like veterans care, abortion, religion, student loan debt and LGBTQ protections. Buttigieg’s potential run would be historic. He would be the first openly gay president, if elected. At 37, he would also be the youngest. (Des Moines Register, 2/8/19)

Bloomberg – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday that he’ll decide by the end of the month whether to seek the presidency.

Gabbard – Gabbard made campaign stops in Des Moines and Fairfield on Monday before heading to Iowa City. It was Gabbard’s first visit to Iowa City since announcing her candidacy in January. Gabbard began her message with a call for unity in a divided political climate.  Gabbard named the environment as one of her most important platform issues, calling for making environmental protections a top priority. “When our founding fathers wrote our Constitution, they built this foundation based on a recognition of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Gabbard said. “Do you feel that representation in Washington today?” “This is an issue that should not be partisan,” she said. “This is an issue about humanity. This is an issue about our future.” Prison reform, financial regulations, and health care were also issues the candidate focused on. Gabbard proclaimed her support for Medicare for All, a universal health-care system that would guarantee care for all.  (Daily Iowan, 2/11/19)

New Hampshire – Weld is the scheduled speaker Friday morning at the Politics & Eggs series in Bedford, which has traditionally served as a backdrop for White House wannabes to introduce themselves to the first-in-the-nation primary state. As Commonwealth magazine first reported, Weld visited the town hall in his hometown of Canton on Jan. 17 and switched his political registration back to Republican. And later last month, several outlets reported that he was considering running against President Donald Trump in the 2020 GOP primary. Weld has since stayed tight-lipped about his plans. “I’m not going to have anything to say until my talk at Politics and Eggs,” he told WMUR. (, 2/13/19)

  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said on Friday that he is exploring a challenge to President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. “Our president is simply too unstable to carry out the duties of the highest executive office in the land,” Weld said as he announced the launch of an exploratory committee at Politics & Eggs in Bedford, N.H. The breakfast program is considered a must for 2020 hopefuls in the early voting state. “I’m here because I think our country is in grave peril, and I cannot sit any longer quietly on the sidelines,” Weld added. “We have a president who openly praises and encourages despotic and authoritarian leaders abroad while going out of his way seemingly to insult and even humiliate our Democratic allies.”..At the Libertarian Party’s 2016 convention, Weld said he was a “Libertarian for life.” He continued courting Libertarian groups after November, but appears to have done an about-face for 2020. Leading up to Friday’s announcement, there was some speculation as to whether Weld would run as a Republican or a Libertarian. Weld said the political moment is too urgent to stick with the Libertarian Party, which he said functions as a “protest vote” in the general election. “That’s a poser, that’s an issue and people are entitled to take that into account. It’s just, the stakes have gotten higher,” Weld told reporters. Weld had voiced support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, but told reporters on Friday he’s not sure Clinton would have been a better president than Trump. (Politico, 2/14/19)

DP debate selection – the DNC announced its criteria for how 2020 candidates will qualify for its first debates this summer. In order to qualify for debates, candidates will need:

  • To register 1 percent or more support in three polls between January 1 and two weeks before the debate. These polls don’t necessarily have to be national polls; public polls in the first four primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada also qualify. But they have to be done by major news organizations or qualifying universities.
  • The DNC is also trying to incentivize grassroots donations. Candidates can qualify for the debates if they show their campaign has received donations from at least 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 US states. (Vox, 2/14/19)

Celebrity – Marianne Williamson, whose previous run for the seat of California’s 33rd congressional district as an Independent in 2014 was endorsed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, as well as actors and celebrities like Laura Dern and Kim Kardashian, isn’t like most candidates running today—mainly because she’s not a politician. But here’s everything you should know about her. (Marie Claire, 2/8/19)

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