Top Notes – This Week in Presidential Politics

Each 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

Shultz – A Fox News townhall w/ Shultz hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum is scheduled for April 4 in Kansas City, Missouri. Schultz’s town hall next month will be Fox News’ first of the 2020 cycle, and it comes weeks after the Democratic National Committee rejected its request to host a Democratic primary debate, citing its ties to Trump. (Fox News, 3/19/19)

  • Backlash – The former Starbucks chairman and his band of true believers are convinced — and getting more unblinkingly convinced by the day — that the anger is conveniently packaged proof that they’re paving the right path. By now, Schultz’s pre-campaign team has been growing for months. He consulted with D.C. veterans like former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley and former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, both ex-Starbucks board members, before making his exploration public, and his political payroll now includes — in addition to Chiarelli, Schmidt, Burton, and Strimple — GOP operative Brooks Kochvar, who’s managing the effort, and longtime PR pro Tucker Warren and former D.C. journalist Erin McPike for the press side. Schultz’s aides are sketching out a path for the months ahead that includes meetings with voters and business owners all over the country, and studying target states — including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas — where they think he has a chance to make waves.  (NY Mag, 3/15/19)“The reaction we got from the extremes is proof positive that we’ve struck a chord,” Greg Strimple,a Republican pollster who does Schultz’s public-opinion work, toldNew York “That sounds really basic, but I think it’s true: we go out there, Howard says on 60 Minutes he’s thinking of running for president, and the world becomes unglued. How can that one sentence unglue the whole political establishment of the most powerful country on earth? It tells me we’re onto something.” (Vanity Fair, 3/15/19)

Buttegieg – Buttigieg entered Sunday’s CNN town hall as a longshot — sitting at 1% in Iowa and New Hampshire, recent polls have shown. At the close of the hour-long town hall on Sunday — his first extended appearance with a national television audience — Democrats were saying they wanted to hear more from the former Rhodes Scholar and Afghanistan veteran. Buttigieg’s hit the 65,000-donor threshold to qualify for the first presidential debate in June.

  • Morning Joe – “Mika and I have been overwhelmed by the reaction @PeteButtigieg got after being on the show,”tweeted “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough following “Mayor Pete’s” appearance on the program earlier this week. “The only other time in twelve years that we heard from as many people about a guest was after @BarackObama appeared on Morning Joe.” (MSNBC, 3/20/19)
    • Scarborough: Let’s start with your ideology first. Would you say you’re more liberal or less liberal than AOC, Nancy Pelosi..where are you on the ideological spectrum.
    • Buttegieg: I pretty consider myself a pretty strong progressive but I also don’t consider the left-center spectrum the most useful way look at our politics right now because I think it’s gotten jumbled up by the current president and the pace of change.
    • Scarborough: So, do you consider yourself more of a centrist?
    • Buttegieg: Again, I don’t find these labels very helpful but I would consider myself more of a progressive than a centrist.  Look in South Bend, I wouldn’t be able to govern effectively if I couldn’t work well with independents and Republicans.  But, I didn’t do it by pretending to be more conservative than I am.  I actually don’t believe that the best way to reach independents today is thru ideological centrism.  I mean mathematically, look at the numbers in my county and its very clear that are a lot of people who voted for Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Mike Pence and me. Which indicates that voters, especially voters in the heartland where I come from, don’t necessarily make their decisions by just lining everybody up on an ideological spectrum and then looking for the dot that’s closest to where they are
  • Exchange with Howard Schultz – Schultz apologized (to Buttigieg and Gabbard) Thursday after claiming he spent more time with the military than any other 2020 contender.

O’Rourke –  Beto O’Rourke raised $6.1 million in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, according to his campaign, surpassing Bernie Sanders and every other 2020 Democrat who has disclosed their figures. O’Rourke’s campaign announced Monday that he had taken in $6,136,763 in online contributions in the day after declaring his candidacy Thursday morning. (NBC, 3/18/19).   O’Rourke will be very busy this week — with stops in Wisconsin (Sunday), Michigan (Monday), Ohio (Monday), Pennsylvania (Tuesday), New Hampshire and, this coming weekend, South Carolina.

  • Early Fundraising Comparison: Sanders beat expectations and stunned observers by raising a then-record-setting $5.9 million in his first 24 hours as a candidate last month. Among other Democratic candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris of California collected $1.5 million, which was seen as an impressive haul. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota raised $1 million in 48 hours, as did former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. It took Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington 72 hours to raise more than $1 million, but that still surpassed expectations. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts raised at least $300,000 on New Year’s Eve, her first partial day in the race, according to filings from the online donation clearinghouse ActBlue. But her campaign declined to disclose their complete one-day fundraising picture.

Booker / O’Rourke – Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, suggested this weekend that they would pick a woman as their vice president if they won the nomination. “It would be very difficult not to select a woman, with so many extraordinary women who are running right now,” Mr. O’Rourke told reporters in Iowa on Saturday night. But, he noted, “first, I would have to win, and this is as open as it’s ever been.”  Mr. Booker told voters in New Hampshire that he was “confident” the party would “make history” with their nominee. “No matter what — I’m looking you in the eye and saying this — there will be a woman on the ticket,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s in the vice president’s position or the president’s position, but if I have my way, there will be a woman on the ticket.” (NYT, 3/19/19)

Sanders – Campaign announced Friday it will be the first major presidential campaign to have a unionized workforce, as party activists push Democratic candidates to mirror their progressive platforms within their own campaigns. Over the past week, a majority of the staff’s bargaining unit employees designated United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 to represent them. The campaign stayed neutral during organizing efforts and voluntarily recognized the union once a majority of staffers signed union cards, according to both the campaign and the union. (Politico, 3/15/19)

Warren – It is not surprising that Warren has jumped out to an early lead in the ideas primary. The main theme in her life, both professional and personal, has been economic opportunity. Her theory of political change has been shaped by two experiences — one failure and one success. As a professor in the 1990s, she served on a federal bankruptcy commission and fought against legal changes that favored banks over borrowers. The fight went on for a decade, and Warren’s side lost. The defeat left her believing that a technocratic legislative debate — “the inside game,” as she calls it — almost always favors industry lobbyists. The success came during the Obama administration, when she pushed for an agency to protect consumers against banks’ misbehavior. The idea was new. It was also simple enough for voters to understand. She hawked it on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” This time, Warren’s side won. Trump has since constrained the agency, but it still exists and is still doing good. (NYT, 3/15/19)

  • Wants to abolish the Electoral College “I believe we need a constitutional amendment that protects the right to vote for every American citizen and makes sure that vote gets counted,” Warren said. “We need to put some federal muscle behind that, and we need to repeal every one of the voter suppression laws that is out there.” States have already started to take matters into their own hands. Warren also said a constitutional amendment should deal with voter suppression in the United States, which disproportionately affects low-income communities of color, and that she would create a group to study the implementation of reparations for the descendants of slaves. (VICE, 3/19/19)

Gillibrand – Officially announced her candidacy for the 2020 Democratic nomination on Sunday with a campaign video titled “Brave Wins.” Gillibrand, who announced an exploratory committee in January and has visited a number of key early voter states, is the 14th Democrat and the 6th woman to enter the race. Her announcement video singled out President Trump for using fear to pit people against one another, and argued that American bravery can help the country achieve progressive proposals like universal health care, paid family leave for all and a Green New Deal.

Castro – Visited Charleston to tour the site for the International African American Museum. This is his first visit to South Carolina since declaring his candidacy for president. The International African American Museum will break ground in August 2019 at Gadsden’s Wharf, in Downtown, Charleston.

Weld – I’m basically a lifelong Republican who always tended toward the liberty side of the Republican family. When I re-registered as a Republican, after three years as a Libertarian, I was not rejoining the Know Nothing wing of the Republican Party, which is the Trump wing. The Whig Party, when it split in half in the 1850s, the pro-slavery wing became the Know Nothing Party, and the other wing is the party that elected Abraham Lincoln four years later. I rejoined what I hope is the party of Lincoln. (Rolling Stone, 3/15/19)

  • Weld was recently asked what he thought about Ranked Choice Voting as a structural reform. “I loveRanked Choice Voting. It actually made a difference: my candidate lost in one of the Maine House districts because of ranked choice voting. Which is after everyone’s first choice is counted, you go and look at the second choice votes and the Democrat – I was for the Republican – the Democrat won that race in Maine, based on getting more second-choice votes. I lived in Cambridge Massachusetts for 25 years, which has proportional representation, which is very close to the same thing.”
  • On third parties / Shultz: “I hope they have a more prominent role. I’m not one to throw cold water on idea of third parties or says that Howard Schultz is crazy to run as a third party. He’s a pro biz Dem and if he comes from a third party, that’s better than not being heard at all.” Weld was interviewed on March 9th at the “Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater” as part of the “Conversations about America’s Future” series sponsored by South by Southwest and the Texas Tribune. You can watch the whole interview at the Texas Tribune’s website here. Wait through the short ad and intro screen. The Ranked Choice Voting question comes right at minute 25:00. (Texas Tribune, 3/15/19)

Hickenlooper – Said Wednesday that he would suspend the death penalty if he were elected to the White House. Hickenlooper, who officially launched his presidential campaign earlier this month, said the death penalty “makes no sense” during a CNN presidential town hall in Atlanta. “It’s expensive, it prolongs misery, and the worst thing, it is random. Depending on where that crime occurs and, in many cases, whether the killer is African American or Latino, that has a lot to do with who gets tried on a death penalty charge,” he said. “The random injustice of that is something this country should never stand for.” (The Hill, 3/21/19)

Harris – Praised California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for halting the death penalty in the Golden State. “As a career law enforcement official, I have opposed the death penalty because it is immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars,” Harris said. “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.”

Hogan – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a popular Republican governor in a blue state, isn’t ruling out a challenge to Mr. Trump but has yet to announce any intention to do so. (CBS, 3/15/19)

Mike Gravel – The two-term former Democratic senator from Alaska who left elected office in 1981, is running for president. Kind of. Late Tuesday night, a Gravel exploratory committee filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. The filing was the brainchild of teenagers — but they had the senator’s blessing. Gravel and the teens are an odd match at first glance. But the students said they were attracted to Gravel after hearing about the senator on “Chapo Trap House,” a left-leaning podcast. The organizers said they were drawn to Gravel’s beliefs on foreign policy specifically, as well as the promotion of direct democracy initiatives by the senator who famously read the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record. (Politico, 3/20/19)

Popular Vote – Colorado has joined 11 other states and the District of Columbia in pushing legislation that will require their electoral votes to be assigned to whichever presidential candidate wins the nationwide popular vote. On Friday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed the popular vote bill into law. However, the law will only take effect if enough states adopt it. Collectively, states representing at least 270 Electoral College votes — the amount required to win the presidency — need to sign on to the legislation; the states that have adopted the bill so far represent 181. (Think Progress, 3/16/19)

Nevada Caucus – Nevada Democrats proposed extensive changes to their 2020 caucus on Wednesday, recommending in-person early voting and a way for voters to caucus absentee as a way for the process to be more open to Democrats. The plan includes long-held proposals, like hosting caucus sites on the Las Vegas Strip for hospitality workers and offering bilingual preference cards in English and Spanish. It also adds new proposals, such as a four day in-person voting period for those unable to caucus on February 22, a two-day virtual caucus for those Democrats who can’t participate at all in person and adding Tagalog to the list of languages offered in caucus locations. (CNN, 3/20/19)

# # #