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

April 14 – 25, 2019

Voting Rights

Asked at a CNN town hall Monday night if he thought felons should be allowed to vote — even while they’re incarcerated — Sanders said the country needs more people to vote. “This is a democracy and we have got to expand that democracy, and I believe every single person does have the right to vote”. Sanders started his answer by pointing out the low rate of voter turnout in the United States when compared to other major democracies around the world. He said one of the primary priorities of his campaign is to make the US a “vibrant” democracy with a much higher voter turnout. When asked by a student if sex offenders, the Boston Marathon bomber, terrorists and murderers should have voting rights he responded, “Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, ‘Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote. Well, that person did that. Not going to let that person vote,’ you’re running down a slippery slope.” Sanders added: “So I believe people commit crimes and they paid the price and they have the right to vote. I believe even if they’re in jail they’re paying their price to society but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.”  (CNN, 4/22/19)

  • Sanders reiterated his support for the voting rights of prisoners on Wednesday, tweeting: “More than 30 countries around the world today such as Canada, South Africa and Finland allow prisoners to vote. This is not a radical idea.” Chiraag Bains, a Justice Department official in the Obama administration who now works at the liberal think tank Demos, said restoring prisoners’ right to vote is the logical next step in a movement that is trying to reverse laws enacted shortly after slaves won the right to vote. Within 15 years of the end of the Civil War, nearly one-third of the states passed laws barring felons and prisoners from voting. “I think the public is a lot smarter about criminal justice reform and voting rights” than they’re given credit for. The Sentencing Project estimates about 1.3 million citizens cannot vote because they are in prison or jail. (AP, 4/25/19)

O’Rourke – said Wednesday he supports granting voting rights to people currently behind bars for nonviolent offenses, saying doing so would help mend racial disparities in voter turnout. “When you look at the population in prisons today, it is disproportionately comprised of people of color; far too many there for nonviolent drug crimes. I want to make sure that time spent behind bars does not entail a stripping of your civic and constitutional rights. I would think especially for nonviolent offenders that we rethink removing the right to vote, and allow everyone, or as many as possible, to participate in our democracy,” the former Texas congressman said in Houston. O’Rourke stopped short of endorsing restoring voting rights for all felons.  “For violent criminals, it’s much harder for me to reach that conclusion. I feel that, at that point, you have broken a bond and a compact with your fellow Americans, and there has to be a consequence in civil life to that as well,” he said.

Harris – “I agree that the right to vote is one of the very important components of citizenship. And it is something that people should not be stripped of needlessly, which is why I have been a long been an advocate of making sure people formally incarcerated are not denied the right to vote,” Harris said. “In some states they’re permanently deprived of the right to vote.”

Buttigieg – unequivocally said felons should not be allowed to vote while serving their sentences. “No,” he said during his CNN town hall Monday. “I do believe that when you are, when you have served your sentence, then part of being restored to society is that you are part of the political life of this nation again and one of the things that needs to be restored is your right to vote.” He went on to say losing the right to vote is part of the punishment when someone is convicted of a crime. “You lose your freedom and I think during that freedom it does not make sense to have an exception for it the right to vote,” Buttigieg said.

Schultz – At a town-hall style discussion in Scottsdale, Schultz detailed what he characterized as a bipartisan approach to immigration reform. Schultz said he agrees with Republicans and Trump that the border needs to be secured, Immigration and Customs Enforcement needs to be fully funded and illegal immigrants need to be kept out. But he agrees with Democrats that the issue must be resolved in a humane way and that immigration, when done legally, is a big factor in the nation’s economic growth. A 2020 battleground state such as Arizona could be crucial to a Schultz campaign, and Schultz said many of his priorities are in line with Arizona’s. Schultz called Arizona State University President Michael Crow “a force of nature” and said he was a key player in one of the three things Starbucks did that no company had ever done before. The two worked together to figure out a way to offer a free education from ASU to Starbucks employees. “People said, ‘That’s crazy, it can never be done,'” Schultz said Monday. “And yet two people came together and said, ‘Let’s not look at the barriers, let’s look at the opportunities and let’s figure this thing out.’ And we did it.” Crow appeared with Schultz during a January event at ASU. Schultz is expected to meet Tuesday with more Arizona voters in Tucson and Nogales and take a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.  The Commission on Presidential Debates requires third-party candidates to demonstrate at least 15% support in five selected national public opinion polls to qualify and “if I can get on the debate stage, it’s a 3-person race,” Schultz said.(AZ Central, 4/15/19)

  • Campaign Ad – The former Starbucks CEO who is considering an independent bid for the presidency in 2020, made a bold claim in a new ad. “The majority of Americans aren’t Democrats or Republicans,” the ad, which is circulating on Facebook and cited by NBC News, said. “The majority of Americans are Americans.”  That had Schultz’s critics wondering: Who were the Americans who weren’t Americans?
  • Sanders Comparison – Likening Bernie Sanders to Howard Schultz might seem like a cheeky provocation. And it is. But it is also genuinely the case that Sanders, like Schultz, is campaigning as an aspiring unifier of a disaffected, bipartisan majority that (supposedly) shares his policy preferences.  (“Sanders is the Schultz of the Left” (NY Magazine, 4/16/19)

Schultz Naysayers

  • Gov Jay Inslee – a 2020 presidential candidate, took a jab at potential rival Howard Schultz, saying the Starbucks CEO has been “almost totally” absent from policy in Washington state. “He has never really engaged in public policy in my state,” Inslee told New York Magazine in an interview published Tuesday.”AWOL — almost totally — from almost anything having to do with democracy or policy in our state. Doesn’t even vote over half the time … Here’s a guy who wants to be president of the United States who didn’t even deign to vote, what, five weeks ago?” “In Howard’s life, voting is just for the little people,” Inslee added. “I don’t think his candidacy is going to soar.”

Weld – announced Monday he is officially entering the race for president, becoming the first Republican to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 race. “Ours is a nation built on courage, resilience, and independence. In these times of great political strife, when both major parties are entrenched in their ‘win at all cost’ battles, the voices of the American people are being ignored and our nation is suffering,” Weld, who had previously formed an exploratory committee, said in a statement. In 2016, Weld was the vice presidential nominee on the Libertarian Party ticket with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. He previously served two terms as the governor of Massachusetts in the early 1990s. Weld ran for Senate in Massachusetts in 1996 and lost against John Kerry. He later moved to New York and in 2005 unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor. Weld said he will not run as an Independent if he does not win the Republican nomination. (CNN, 4/19/19)

  • In addition to hiring Stuart Stevens, the lead strategist on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and Horn, Weld said two other New Hampshire staffers have accepted offers to join his campaign in May. He also plans to open an office in Boston’s financial district next month. In an interview inside a Nashua diner, Weld said his first goal for his nascent presidential campaign was to win the New Hampshire primary, but he also plans to raise more than $12 million and run a national campaign. He’ll focus on all six states in New England, the mid-Atlantic region, and the Pacific Northwest, he said, and he plans to make his first trip to California later in the month. But when asked whether his goal was to prevent Trump from winning reelection, he replied, “my goal now is to win the New Hampshire primary.” Weld said his model is former senator John McCain of Arizona, who won the New Hampshire primary twice, including in 2000, when the state party favored his opponent, George W. Bush. “There is no substitute for going over the party apparatus to win over voters,” said Weld, who followed a similar strategy when he won the GOP nomination for Massachusetts governor in 1990. But the party has changed over the last four decades. The ranks of the New Hampshire Republican Party are decidedly supportive of the president. The new chairman, Steve Stepanek, has disparaged Weld for running as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016. (Boston Globe, 4/16/19)
  • While he told ABC that he was “horrified” by the Mueller report, he also said he didn’t think impeachment was a politically savvy move. Weld was part of the House Judiciary Committee’s legal team during Watergate, and said that while the House has “more than enough evidence, more than there was against President Nixon” to impeach Trump, it’s unlikely that Trump would be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate.
    • Hogan on Weld – On when he’ll decide to run or not, @GovLarryHogan says there’s “no real timeline” but says he is “not going to launch a suicide mission,” he has to see a path to victory. Also notes that @GovBillWeld “is a wonderful guy” and says they talked before Weld launched his campaign

Buttigieg – the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, officially announced his presidential bid Sunday afternoon, hoping to make history as the youngest-ever, and the first-ever openly gay, commander in chief. (Transcript of announcement) Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd inside a downtown tech hub that had once been the home of a long-ago-shuttered Studebaker car factory.

  • 43% of Pete Buttigieg’s support comes from Independent voters, not registered Democrats. This is the highest percentage of Independent (non-Democrat) supporters for any candidate in the current field. Only 57% of Buttigieg’s supporters are registered as Democrats. In contrast, 80% of Bernie’ supporters and 84% of Biden’s supporters are registered Democrats. For those who believe in Mayor Pete’s growth potential and potential to beat President Trump, this relatively high percentage of support from Independent voters is a good sign for the 37-year-old Mayor from the Midwest. (Forbes, 4/17/19)
  • The mayor of South Bend, Ind., made headlines when he compared President Trump’s supporters to those who back Bernie Sanders, stating both groups feel marginalized and want to tear down the system. “I think the sense of anger and disaffection that comes from seeing that the numbers are fine, like unemployment’s low, like all that, like you said GDP is growing and yet a lot of neighborhoods and families are living like this recovery never even happened,” the 37-year-old told high school students in Nashua, N.H. “It just kind of turns you against the system in general and then you’re more likely to want to vote to blow up the system, which could lead you to somebody like Bernie and it could lead you to somebody like Trump. I think that’s how we got where we are.”
    • “Come on @PeteButtigieg It is intellectually dishonest to compare Bernie to Trump,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., tweeted, before listing some policy differences between Sanders and the president.
    • Nina Turner, a vocal supporter of Sanders, tweeted: “Bernie Sanders’ supporters are not the same as Trump fans — Sen. @BernieSanders supporters are Democratic & Independent voters, many of whom are people of color.”
    • Citizen Uprising, a far-left Twitter account, sent out a post reading: “Pete Buttigieg is officially over. He just blamed Trump AND Bernie voters for the problems we currently face.”
      • “This is an extremely weird Narrative coming from some Sanders surrogates. Buttigieg’s comments were extremely boilerplate, basically that Trump and Sanders voters both suffer economic anxiety and are disaffected with the system,” FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver tweeted.
  • Buttigieg – Fox News announced Tuesday that they will host a presidential town hall with Democratic candidate and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Sunday, May 19. The town hall, which will take place in Claremont, New Hampshire, will be moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace.

Mueller Report

Warren announced her support for impeachment on Twitter Friday. She wrote that the misconduct outlined in the Mueller report was so severe that it “demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”

Castro – Obama HUD Secretary and San Antonio mayor Castro was the first 2020 presidential candidate to speak out in favor of impeaching Trump, telling Anderson Cooper after the release of the redacted Mueller report that he finds the idea “perfectly reasonable.”

Swalwell – who’s running for the Democratic nomination on a gun control platform, didn’t support the idea of attempting to remove Trump from office outright when asked by MSNBC Friday. Impeachment is a “conversation we have to have as far as holding this president accountable,” said Swalwell, before saying he supported subpoenaing Mueller to “see what the evidence is.”

Yang: “I am glad that the Mueller Report has been made public. It’s important to the American people,” he wrote. “My focus is on beating Donald Trump at the ballot box and solving the problems that got him elected in the first place.”

Gabbard: “On issue of impeachment, I am doing my homework,” she said at a local town hall Wednesday. “I am studying more about the impeachment process. I will just say I understand the calls for impeachment, but what I am being cautious about and what I give you food for thought about is that if President Trump is impeached, the problems don’t go away, because then you have a Vice President Pence who becomes President Pence.”

Harris: California Senator Harris held back from coming out as either being for or against impeachment, telling MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Thursday that while “there’s definitely a conversation to be had” on the subject of impeachment, “she wants to hear from Bob Mueller and really understand [the evidence]” before coming to a conclusion.

Gilibrand:  The New York Senator hasn’t come out for or against impeaching Trump, but she did call for the President to resign over the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct that women have brought against him. “If he’s unwilling to do that, which is what I assume, then Congress should hold him accountable,” she told CBS last year. “We’re obligated to have hearings.”

Buttigieg:  “I think that Congress needs to make that decision,” he said during an event in Boston. “I think he may well deserve it, but my focus, since I’m not a part of Congress but I am part of 2020, is to give him a decisive defeat at the ballot box, if he is the Republican nominee in 2020.”

Booker:  Senator Booker, who, like Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told a crowd in Nevada Friday that he feels it’s “too soon” to consider impeachment as Congress still has not been given the full, un-redacted report or interviewed Robert Mueller. “There’s a lot more investigation that should go on before Congress comes to any conclusions like that,” he said,according to the Associated Press.

Klobuchar:  Pointed out on MSNBC that as a member of the Senate, her “job is to be the jury, so I’ve been really careful talking about if an impeachment is brought before us.”

Sanders: “While we have more detail from today’s report than before,” the Vermont senator tweeted, “Congress must continue its investigation into Trump’s conduct and any foreign attempts to influence our election.”

Inslee:  “It is clear that the president tried and tried and tried to stop the Mueller investigation,” the governor tweeted Friday. “Congress needs to get to the bottom of what’s going on here. Impeachment should not be off the table.”

O’Rourke:   “I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020,” he told CBS’s Gayle King in March, “and perhaps that’s the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions.” Whether or not Congress pursues impeachment proceedings however, O’Rourke says he still feels certain “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that Trump is guilty of offenses that merit impeachment.

Youth vote

  • ​​More young people, particularly those who identify as Democrats, say they plan to vote in the 2020 presidential caucuses and primaries than did four years ago, according to a Harvard University Institute of Politics poll published Monday.
  • Forty-three percent of young voters, ages 18 to 29, surveyed said they are likely to participate in the nominating contests, compared to 36% of young voters who indicated that they’d vote in the nominating contests at the same point four years ago.
  • The new polling data suggests a continuation of a surge in engagement by young voters from November’s midterm election. Youth turnout was31% for the midterms, a 25-year-high that Democrats said helped pave the way for the party’s largest gain of House seats since the post-Watergate 1974 elections.

Black Vote

  • Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced endorsements from seven black lawmakers in the critical early voting state of South Carolina, a show of force in the first place where African American voters feature prominently in next year’s primary elections. Sanders’ 2020 campaign made the announcement just ahead of a Spartanburg town hall meeting with members of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. The backing represents the biggest number of black lawmakers to back a 2020 hopeful to date in this state, which holds the first primary in the South. (AP, 4/18/19)
  • Event / She The People – Texas’ biggest city was at the center of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday as a group of Democratic candidates descended here to appeal to a key voting bloc in the primary. Appearing at Texas Southern University, a historically black college, eight candidates made their pitches at a forum hosted by She the People, a national network of women of color. The three-hour event was one of the biggest gatherings of the Democratic primary candidates yet, let alone in Texas. On the sidelines of the forum, candidates confronted an issue that has flared up in the primary in recent days: whether the incarcerated should be able to vote. Sanders recently said they should, prompting a debate in the party about how far voting rights should be extended to those in prison. After he spoke at the forum, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told reporters he was frustrated that the issue had become another “political box-checking exercise” in the primary and wants to instead focus on halting a system of mass incarceration so that people don’t needlessly end up behind bars in the first place. Both Castro and O’Rourke fielded the question from reporters, similarly responding by expressing support for restoring the right to vote for nonviolent offenders. (Texas Tribune, 4/24/19)

Newly Announced: 

  • Biden – After months of oscillating speculation, followed by a long ramp up that drew out uncomfortable reassessments of his long public career, former Vice President Joe Biden has announced that he will run for president in 2020. Biden made the announcement in a video released on Thursday. He’s expected to head to Pittsburgh for a kickoff event next week, highlighting the focus the latest Democratic candidate places on winning back key states President Trump flipped in 2016. Former President Barack Obama held off on endorsing his vice president, instead releasing a glowing statement from his office: “President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made. He relied on the Vice President’s knowledge, insight, and judgement throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today.” Biden immediately picked up endorsements from some Democratic senators, including both senators from his home state of Delaware, Chris Coons and Tom Carper. Biden is also being backed by moderate Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Progressive pushback was also swift. The group Justice Democrats, aligned with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., released a statement saying, “The old guard of the Democratic Party failed to stop Trump, and they can’t be counted on to lead the fight against his divide-and-conquer politics today.” This will be Biden’s third run for president. His first try came in 1988, ending amid plagiarism revelations. (NPR, 2/25/19)
  • Seth Moulton of Massachusettsannounced he’s mounting a bid for president in 2020, expanding the Democratic field to 19 candidates. On Monday, he sought to set himself apart from the ever-growing pack of Democratic candidates, many of whom have more Washington experience and star power, saying on “GMA,” “I’m not a socialist. I’m a Democrat. And I want to make that clear. Maybe that’s a differentiator in this race.” He used health care as an example. “I think I’m the only candidate who actually gets single payer health care,” he said, adding that he’s on a single payer plan himself through the Department of Veterans Affairs. “And I’ll tell you, it’s not perfect. So if I’m elected, I’m not going to force you off your private health care plan.” (ABC, 4/22/19)

# # #