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 15 – February 27, 2019

Eyes on 2020 – (Letter to Editor/ Randy Fricke, CO) The national office of Independent Voters ( and a national committee of independent voters has just launched a national campaign called “Eyes On 2020” — a national campaign to open all of the closed Democratic and Republican Party primary elections across America to nonpartisan open primary elections. As part of this national campaign, Western Colorado Independent Voters is holding a public town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 21, at the Glenwood Springs Library in downtown Glenwood Springs to discuss nonpartisan options such as “top two” and “top four” primary elections, as well as ranked-choice voting to be established for the state of Colorado….Our local Democrats and Republicans are good people, but they need to know that their parties can’t own the entire election system. All voters should own our election process and not the Democratic and Republican parties. Also, taxpayers need to stop paying for their primary elections. Why should citizens continue to subsidize these political parties? This should be unconstitutional. (Post Independent / Citizen Telegram, 2/18/19)


“The stakes are too high to cross our fingers and hope the Democratic Party nominates a moderate who can win over enough independents and disaffected Republicans, and even fellow Democrats, to defeat Trump next year,” Schultz wrote. “That any opponent can oust Trump, no matter how far to the radical left they are, is a fallacy.” He added: “Those so concerned about a centrist independent being a spoiler should perhaps ask another question: Will the eventual Democratic nominee be the party’s own version of a spoiler?” (Fox News, 1/20/19)

Schultz’s wealth and third-party posturing has led to frequent comparisons to an earlier plutocrat who ran two independent candidacies for president, and won more than 18 percent of the vote in 1992: H. Ross Perot….Perot was without any question a phenomenon who made an indelible impression at the time. The same cannot be said for Schultz. Though he’s been making the media rounds and has a new book on the New York Times best-seller list, it’s still unclear what he stands for other than dislike for Trump and disdain for what he considers a socialist trend among Democrats. (New York Magazine, 2/21/19)

“If you imagine a period in time in 2020 where Howard Schultz is ahead in a three-way race, with multiple paths to 270 electoral votes, and all the commentariat saying, ‘How did you know that would happen?,’ well, the indication was probably at the beginning with the hysterical, overwrought, panicked reaction by vested interests within the political duopoly and in the media class,” Schmidt says. “There’s an enormous constituency in this country that’s just completely unrepresented. There has never been a larger population of moderate voters who generally agree on some of the country’s biggest problems.” (Vanity Fair,1/31/19) )


  • Warren Buffet – Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett told CNBC on Monday it would be a “mistake” if former StarbucksCEO Howard Schultz ran for president as an independent against Donald Trump. Buffett weighed in on Schultz’s presidential aspirations after saying he would support Mike Bloomberg if the former New York mayor chose to run in 2020. “I think generally [that] third-party candidates, they’re going to hurt one side or the other, and they’re more likely to hurt the side that they actually favor, because they’re closer to that view and so they pull more people away that would otherwise go with the second-best with that view,” Buffett said. “So I hope no third-party candidate runs,” he added. “I think third-party candidates can thwart, actually, the will of the people.” (CNBC, 2/25/19)
  • Robert Reich – the former CEO of Starbucks whose most notable achievement to date has been the Mocha Frappucinno…Schultz, like Trump, it’s all about money and media. Schultz is running because he thinks it will be a hoot – the capstone to his coffee career, the apex of his espresso. But like many other billionaires of America’s New Gilded Age, Schultz doesn’t seem to give a damn about what his political escapades do to America. (Salon, 1/24/19)
  • Bernie Sanders – On today’s “CBS This Morning,” newly declared presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wasted no time dismissing one of his potential competitors: former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who recently announced he’s considering a run for president. At the 3:31 mark in the segment above, when “CBS This Morning” co-host John Dickerson brings up Schultz, Sanders immediately shifts into cranky-old-man mode as he paints Schultz as a know-nothing rich dude whose main qualification is that he can afford a lot of advertising: Why are you quoting Howard Schultz? Because he’s a billionaire. There are a lot of people I know personally who work hard for a living, who make forty, fifty thousand dollars a year, who know a lot more about politics than, with all due respect, does Mr. Schultz. But because we have a corrupt political system, anybody who’s a billionaire, who can throw a lot of TV ads on television, suddenly becomes very, very credible. (Ad Age, 2/19/19)
  • Eric Swalwell – “Count me in the small group of potential 2020 contenders who could not care less as to whether Howard Schultz runs,” says Eric Swalwell,a California Democratic congressman who spoke as he was traveling to New Hampshire Thursday morning. “I’m not scared one bit by one independent billionaire. We’re going to win based on our candidates and our ideas. And we’re going to have a Democratic president in 2021.” (Vanity Fair, 1/31/19)

Sanders –And while rising stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley have siphoned some of his authority over the party’s progressive wing, Mr. Sanders still claims to have spawned a “political revolution” that, true revolution or not, has ignited a generation of young, socialist-leaning voters and reshaped the Democratic Party.He is also partly responsible for the party’s decision last year to overhaul its presidential nomination process, including sharply reducing the influence of superdelegates and increasing the transparency around debates — factors he felt greatly favored Hillary Clinton in 2016…Mr. Sanders is the longest-serving independent in congressional history, a point of pride for him but one of consternation and annoyance for some Democrats who are quick to suggest he does not have the party’s interests at heart. Some Democrats blame him for Mrs. Clinton’s loss in 2016, saying his anti-establishment rhetoric during his campaign inflamed divisions in the party that proved insurmountable. (NYT, 2/19/19)

Weld – Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld said his bid to win the Republican presidential nomination over President Donald Trump will get a boost from independent voters who can cast GOP primary ballots in 20 states. “That is an opening,” he said of the independent voters in a Bloomberg Television interview. “Beyond that, you have to make a case for yourself, and I am in this to win.” Asked if he’s received encouragement from other Republicans, Weld said, “I am not asking people to endorse or get behind me until I have shown I have some traction.” He said he’s getting “a lot” of support by email and that when people speak in favor of his candidacy, they use words like “historic.” (Bloomberg, 2/19/19)

Harris – Kamala Harris touted Medicare for all, an assault weapons ban, and the Green New Deal on her first visit to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate Monday. But the message she emphasized the most to Granite State voters was a simpler one: I’ll be back. “I just want to get this out of the way,” the freshman senator from California said to open up her packed town hall Monday evening in Portsmouth’s South Church. “I intend to compete in New Hampshire. I intend to spend time here. I intend to shake every hand that I possibly can.” (Boston Globe, 2/18/19)

  • Kamala Harris, D-Calif., on Monday distanced herself from democratic socialism when pressed on whether she’ll be able to compete in states like New Hampshire in the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential primary. Harris was asked about her position on the political ideology during her maiden trip to New Hampshire as a candidate, a state where Sen. Bernie Sanders beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 by more than 20 percentage points. “Well, the people of New Hampshire will tell me what’s required to compete in New Hampshire, but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist,” Harris told reporters during a campaign stop. (Washington Examiner, 2/18/19)

Booker – Senator Cory Booker continued his swing through New Hampshire Sunday, with three different campaign stops as he focused on a message of unity for the American people, regardless of party. “I’m running for president not just to win an office, but there is a larger campaign for our country. Our nation is a moral moment. We are at a crossroad that’s going to define who we are. We all have to accept the responsibilities that we are framers again. That we have to re-establish the ideals for this country in this generation,” he said. Booker also said the 2020 presidential primary race should not be about President Donald Trump or the democrats, but about the cause of the country, saying you can’t fight a fire with more fire. “People tell me if you’re gonna beat Trump, you gotta bring it,” Booker said. “Well, I believe in bringing it, but not bringing more of what Trump is bringing.”…  he was not the only candidate in the Granite State, which will hold the first primary next year.  New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wrapped up her three-day visit, California Senator Kamala Harris is campaigning there until Monday, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is heading to Manchester on Monday. (NECN, 2/17/19)

Buttigieg –  He’s got a resume that appears to have been forged in Democratic headquarters’ central casting department: Harvard grad. Rhodes scholar. Millennial. Afghanistan war veteran. Married his boyfriend three years ago. Elected twice in a deep-red state. For the most part, he’s been spending his time in Iowa and New Hampshire. But he came to San Francisco to court donors and make a lunchtime appearance at Postmates, a South of Market on-demand delivery company, where he impressed many of his fellow Millennials by answering questions about artificial intelligence and riffing on the privacy policy in Estonia. (SF Chronicle, 2/25/19 )

Warren – The two senators—Sanders from Vermont, Warren from neighboring Massachusetts—are among the left’s most prominent figures, having built impressive national profiles with sharp criticism of America’s economic system. These and other unabashedly liberal positions have turned them into progressive heroes. But their similarities also mean they’re likely to rely on the same base of voters to lift them to the Democratic nomination—and could find themselves slugging it out sooner rather than later. (Vanity Fair, 2/22/19)

  • Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren distanced herself from the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party by saying she was not a socialist in an interview with BuzzFeed News published Thursday. The answer arose after Warren was asked to explain the difference between her and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a lingering question as Democrats are already discussing potential challengers to President Donald Trump in 2020. Yet Warren seems to have her line when asked to differentiate herself from Sanders. “He’s a socialist,” Warren said, “and I believe in markets.” (The Daily Caller)

Hickenlooper –  Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has hired an Iowa organizer as he considers a 2020 Democratic presidential bid. Hickenlooper’s Leadership PAC hired Ferguson Yacyshyn as an adviser. The onetime Denver mayor, who’s considered a centrist politician, said in mid-February that he will not decide for several more weeks whether to join the crowded 2020 contest. CBS (2/21/19)

O’Rourke – O’Rourke is now on the precipice of running for president with “losing Senate candidate” as the most impressive line on his résumé. It was how he chose to run that campaign last year that sets him apart from his potential Democratic rivals…In political terms, it amounted to a massive bet on a strategy of mobilizing infrequent voters instead of trying to win over dependable ones. …If he stuck to that plan, O’Rourke would never even have to hire a pollster, because he did not really care about moving opinions. There would be no triangulating against his party’s base, no judicious courtship of a relatively small slice of potential party-switchers with views to the right of his. (Politico, 2/22/19)

Klobuch – (Oped, Klobuch as centrist alternative to Schultz) Former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz appears to believe he could perform well in a presidential race with voters turned off by President Donald Trump and those fearful that the Democratic Party has moved too far left. But the independent candidate recently told The Washington Post he would reconsider his quest if a more moderate Democrat, like former vice president Joe Biden or former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, got the party’s nomination. “I would reassess the situation if the numbers change as a result of a centrist Democrat winning the nomination,” he said regarding internal polling suggesting he would be competitive in a three-way race against President Trump and a liberal Democratic candidate. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., might be able to change those numbers. Klobuchar is running for president in 2020, joining a crowded and diverse field of Democratic candidates vying for the nomination. The billionaire is right that there are voters who are looking for a third way; he just might not be the person to lead that path. But the pragmatic Klobuchar could. Her stances appear to be rooted in acknowledging a Democratic electorate interested in big ideas but recognizing some proposals might be too radical to win over independents who backed Trump in 2016. (Mesabi Daily News, 2/19/19)

McAuliffe – Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Sunday he’s inching closer to making a decision on whether or not to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. McAuliffe had previously set a self-imposed deadline of March 31 for announcing his intentions. “I have made hundreds and hundreds of calls across the country, talked to potential staff and, listen, we’re close to making a decision,” McAuliffe said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” Asked whether he was waiting for former Vice President Joe Biden to make his own decision on 2020, McAuliffe said he isn’t, but said he “wants to see where the field is.” McAuliffe is a longtime ally of the Clinton family and served as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018.

  • Terry McAuliffe -“I do think we need in this race a progressive governor who was very jobs-oriented, very successful in economic development. They’re not mutually exclusive,” said McAuliffe. “A governor is CEO. We build roads, we fix roads. We do need governors in this race because, you know, we don’t just get to talk all day, we’ve got to to deliver every single day.” (Face the Nation, 2/17/19)

Memoirs – Virtually every candidate entering the massive 2020 presidential field has published a memoir, arguing why he or she is the best person for the job (or, at least, the best person to defeat Donald Trump). But let’s be honest: Some of these books can be a real slog, filled with empty promises, progressive platitudes, and plain bad writing. So we read 10 of them for you — separating the great from the terrible, the middling from the slightly less middling. Here are our takes on the books, ranked from best to worst. (Entertainment, 2/22/19)

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