Top Notes – This Week in Presidential Politics (May 25– 31, 2019)

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

May 25– 31, 2019

Candidate Summary: (Source: Five Thirty Eight)

Michael Bennet (D) – It isn’t clear whether Michael Bennet will qualify for the first debate in June. He has yet to reach the 65,000-donor threshold and still needs to crack 1 percent in another qualifying poll in the next month. He stated this past week, however, that he will keep going even if he does not qualify for the first debate and will hold out until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary next year. This weekend, he is making his first stop in South Carolina since launching his presidential bid.

Joe Biden (D) – Biden released the first major policy proposal of his campaign, on public education. His plan would boost federal funding for low-income school districts, increase teacher pay, make preschool universal and increase investment into mental health services for K-12 students. Biden will make his second campaign trip to Iowa on June 11 — the same day Trump is scheduled to visit the state for a fundraiser.

Cory Booker (D) – After Mueller’s public statement, Booker called for impeachment proceedings against Trump for the first time. “Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear,” Booker tweeted. “Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.” The senator has previously expressed hesitation in calling for impeachment, even as other Democratic presidential contenders approved of such a step. This week, Booker made his third trip to Nevada to appeal to swing voters.

Steve Bullock (D) – The Montana governor who declared his candidacy earlier this month is working to catch up to other campaigns, especially in Iowa. This past week, Bullock hired 10 more staffers in the first-in-the-nation caucus state to help build grassroots support.

Pete Buttigieg (D) – On ABC’s “This Week,” Buttigieg told Martha Raddatz that “there is no question” that the president used bone spurs as an excuse to avoid service. “I think to any reasonable observer that the president found a way to falsify a disabled status, taking advantage of his privileged status in order to avoid serving,” he said. Buttigieg also criticized Trump for meeting with Kim Jong Un, saying that it gave the North Korean government “legitimacy.” “The way diplomacy works, the way deals work, is you give someone something in return for something … it hasn’t worked at all,” he said. After Mueller’s statement, Buttigieg tweeted: “This is as close to an impeachment referral as it gets. Robert Mueller could not clear the president, nor could he charge him — so he has handed the matter to Congress, which alone can act to deliver due process and accountability.”

Julian Castro (D) – In a tweet last Thursday, Castro pledged to refuse contributions from oil, gas and coal industry executives. “Since day one, my campaign refused contributions from PACs, corporations, and lobbyists,” he said. “Today I announced we’re also refusing contributions from oil, gas, and coal executives — so you know my priorities are with the health of our families, climate and democracy.” The former secretary of housing and urban development is also set to participate in a Fox News town hall on June 13. Many Democratic presidential contenders have wrestled with the decision to participate in events hosted by the news network, but Castro will be the fifth to do so.

Bill de Blasio (D) – During CNN’s “State of the Union,” de Blasio said that the 1994 crime bill, which Biden helped pass when he served in the Senate, was a “huge mistake.” “That crime bill was one of the foundations of mass incarceration in a very painful era in our nation’s history,” de Blasio said. “The [former] vice president and anyone else has to be accountable for every vote they take and what’s on their record, and I think that was a huge mistake.” De Blasio also said that he understands Trump’s tricks and strategies better than other Democratic candidates and can “get under his skin.” “I know something about Donald Trump that’s different from the other candidates because I watched him for decades,” the New York City mayor said.

John Delaney (D) – Delaney has made the cut to participate in the first debate, having met the polling threshold for qualification. But he has not met the 65,000-donor threshold. This could complicate his chances to participate if more than 20 candidates qualify because candidates who meet both thresholds will have their spots secured first. On ABC News’s “The Briefing Room,” he said the debates are “really important” to his campaign’s ability to gain traction and blasted “the crazy DNC methodologies” that might keep him off the debate stage. Delaney also released a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would create seven new infrastructure funds and increase the size of the highway trust fund.

Tulsi Gabbard (D) – Earlier this week, Gabbard, who served in a medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard, criticized some politicians who she said, in a statement to ABC News, exploit the real meaning of Memorial Day. “Nothing angers me more than the hypocrisy exhibited every Memorial Day by warmongering politicians and media pundits feigning sympathy for those who paid the ultimate price in service to our country while simultaneously advocating for more counterproductive regime-change wars and the new Cold War and arms race,” she said. The Hawaii congresswoman has made foreign policy a centerpiece of her agenda, highlighting her credentials as a veteran. She also recently signaled during an interview with Fox News that if she were to win the presidency, she would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal. Gabbard heads to the West Coast this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention and other events.

Kirsten Gillibrand (D) – Mueller’s public statement Wednesday moved Gillibrand to explicitly support steps to remove the president. “It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts wherever they may lead,” she said in a statement. “We cannot let this president defy basic accountability measures built into our Constitution.” The New York senator also landed her first New Hampshire endorsementthis week, from state Rep. Sue Ford, who said she’s “the best person” for the White House.

Kamala Harris (D) – Harris stopped by Wofford College in South Carolina for an MSNBC town hall to outline her plan to confront the spate of anti-abortion laws sweeping across the country. “Are we going to go back to the days of back-alley abortions? Women died before we had Roe v. Wade in place. On this issue, I’m kinda done,” she said. Harris also joined Booker and Gillibrand in calling for impeachment, tweeting: “Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation.” Harris returns to her home state this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention and the MoveOn Big Ideas Series.

John Hickenlooper (D) – Hickenlooper unveiled a proposal to “protect the reproductive rights” of women by expanding access to contraception. “I think that it’s a fundamental inalienable right that women should have control over their own bodies,” Hickenlooper told MSNBC. “What’s going on in Indiana and even Missouri now, I mean so many states, is horrific.” On Thursday, after Mueller’s statement, Hickenlooper called for impeachment proceedings, telling CNN: “After listening to Mueller, and I wanted to hear what he had to say, I think of myself as an extreme moderate. But I think he laid the responsibility clearly at the doorstep of Congress.” “I think we have to begin an impeachment inquiry,” he said.

Jay Inslee (D) – Inslee announced this week that he had crossed the 65,000-donor mark, virtually assuring himself a spot on the debate stage next month. At a campaign stop in Nevada, the Washington governor endorsed Marie Newman, who is staging a Democratic primary challenge in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District to oust one of the few pro-life Democrats still left in Congress. Inslee joins Gillibrand as the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to weigh in on the race. Gillibrand endorsed Newman in April. Inslee is set to address the California Democratic Party’s state convention this weekend.

Amy Klobuchar (D) – At a campaign stop in Iowa over the weekend, Klobuchar recounted to a crowd the day of Trump’s “dark inauguration,” when she was sitting between Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain. “John McCain kept reciting to me names of dictators during that speech because he knew more than any of us what we were facing as a nation,” Klobuchar said. “He understood it. He knew because he knew this man more than any of us did.” This prompted a response from McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, who asked Klobuchar to leave her “father’s legacy and memory out of presidential politics.”

Wayne Messam (D) – Messam reiterated his call for impeachment on Wednesday, writing in a tweet that “Congress must now do its job of oversight and do what Mueller wasn’t allowed to.”

Seth Moulton (D) – Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer, disclosed this week that he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Iraq in 2008 — as he announced a new plan to expand military mental health services for active-duty members of the military and veterans. “I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat,” Moulton told Politico in an interview. “But because these experiences weren’t debilitating … it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have.” Moulton unveiled his plan as part of a “Veterans Mental Health Tour” on Tuesday in Massachusetts and will continue his tour in Nevada this weekend.

Beto O’Rourke (D) – The former Texas congressman rolled out a sweeping immigration policy proposal this week that would, among other things, establish a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S., invest $5 billion in foreign aid to “Northern Triangle” countries in Central America, and increase the number of immigration lawyers at the southern border. “The current administration has chosen to defy this American aspiration, drafted into our Declaration of Independence, welded into the welcome of our Statue of Liberty, and secured by the sacrifices of countless generations,” a memo from the campaign read. “Instead, the current administration is pursuing cruel and cynical policies that aim to sow needless chaos and confusion at our borders.”

Tim Ryan (D) – Ryan tiptoed closer to calling for impeachment proceedings, without explicitly calling on Congress to open an inquiry. “The President, no President, is above the law,” Ryan wrote on Twitter. “And it’s Congress’ job to make sure we are true to our founding principle that the President is not a King and must answer to the American people.”

Bernie Sanders (D) – Before a series of negative headlines about the senator’s second attempt to capture the presidency, Sanders returned to his home state of Vermont for a rally in Montpelier and went on the offensive, turning his attention to taking on Trump. “The underlying principles of our government will not be racism, will not be sexism, will not be xenophobia and will not be religious bigotry — and all the other mean-spirited beliefs of the Trump administration,” Sanders told the crowd. Sanders’s campaign also took on Biden in emails to supporters. Sanders’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir had previously attacked the Biden campaign for their “high-dollar” fundraisers and did so again. “These are not grassroots fundraising events. These are high-dollar functions hosted and attended by corporate lobbyists, health care executives, a Republican casino-CEO, and a union-busting lawyer among others,” the email reads. “We can win elections without begging those people for money. And, indeed, we are more likely to win with a candidate who does not.”

Eric Swalwell (D) – Swalwell said that as a white man, he understands when to promote the voices of others. In a video interview with Vice News, Swalwell said: “A white guy who doesn’t see other identities or understand other experiences should not be president.” “I do,” Swalwell continued. “And where there would be gaps in my knowledge or my experience, I will pass the mic to people who do have that experience.” And after Mueller’s public statement Wednesday, Swalwell told MSNBC that he warned other House members to be prepared for impeachment proceedings, without explicitly calling for the start of a probe. “‘Prepare for impeachment.’ That’s what I’ve told my colleagues,” he said.

Elizabeth Warren (D) – Asked whether she believed Mueller might be convinced to testify before Congress or be drawn to speak out against comments from the president, Warren said on ABC’s “The View” on Thursday that she didn’t take Mueller for someone who would act on impulse. “I think Mueller’s got a slow pulse. He knows what he’s doing. I don’t think rage is how he rolls,” she said. “I think he’s one of those people who says read the footnotes.” Warren added that she thought this wasn’t about politics for Mueller, saying: “It’s about the Constitution. It’s not only about this president, but it’s about what are the rules for the next president and the next president?” The Massachusetts senator has not shied away from her proposal to break up big tech companies ahead of her visit to the Bay Area this weekend for California’s Democratic convention. On Thursday, Warren unveiled a billboard that her campaign put up in San Francisco. It says “BREAK UP BIG TECH” next to a photo of her.

Andrew Yang (D) – On Tuesday, Yang signed a pledge to end the “Forever War,” which calls for the end of U.S. involvement in military conflicts overseas in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. “We’ve continued in a constant state of war for the last seventeen years, and it has cost us tremendously in American lives as well as billions of dollars that could have been used to help families here at home,” Yang said in a statement. The tech entrepreneur joined fellow 2020 hopefuls Warren, Sanders and Mike Gravel in signing onto the pledge.

Debates –  (USA Today, 5/29/19) It’s going to be more difficult for Democratic presidential candidates to the make the stage of the third and fourth debates, according to new qualifying rules released by the Democratic National Committee Wednesday. For debates scheduled for September and October, candidates will have to hit 2% in four qualifying polls and tally at least 130,000 individual donors, according to the DNC guidance.  For the first and second rounds of debates, the DNC is requiring candidates to either hit at least 1% in three polls or receive campaign contributions from at least 65,000 donors. The higher polling threshold could certainly narrow who from the nearly two dozen candidate field will make it to the stage. So far, eight candidates have hit received 2% or more support in four national or early-state voting polls: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris,  Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke.  The DNC also announced Wednesday that the third debate will be hosted on Sept. 12 by ABC News, in partnership with Univision. A second night of debating will be held to accommodate a large field if necessary, according to the DNC.

(The Hill, 5/26/19)- A crowded field of two dozen Democrats are jostling for one of the 20 spots in the debates set to kick off next month, in what could provide a make-or-break moment for the campaigns. The DNC has said it will prioritize candidates who meet both thresholds if more than 20 contenders hit at least one of the qualifications and could then use a series of tiebreakers to further narrow down the field.

Met both fundraising and polling thresholds

Met only polling threshold

Met only fundraising threshold

  • None

Met neither threshold

Poll on Fox News Appearances – (The Hill, 5/30/19)  The vast majority of Democratic voters say presidential candidates from their party should participate in Fox News town halls, despite opposition from some high-profile White House hopefuls, according to a new poll. In a Hill-HarrisX survey released Thursday, 78 percent of registered voters who identified as Democrats said candidates for the party’s 2020 nomination should appear in the televised events hosted by the cable network. Independent and Republican voters also backed the idea of Democrats appearing on Fox News — 75 percent of independents were supportive, as were 79 percent of Republicans. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez in March ruled out partnering with Fox News for a candidate forum, citing a news reports alleging close ties between President Trump and several network employees. A month later, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) brought Fox News back into the Democratic conversation by participating in a town hall discussion hosted by the network. He received higher ratings than similar events hosted by CNN.

  • Fox Newswill host 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, former Housing and Urban Development secretary, for a town hall on June 13 at 6:30 p.m. ET. “Special Report” host Bret Baier and “The Story” host Martha MacCallum will moderate the one-hour event live from Phoenix.

Nevada – (The Hill, 5/27/19) … is lining up to the be the wild card in the Democratic presidential primary. The Silver State, which is third in line to vote in the 2020 nominating process, has largely been ignored by the candidates in the rush to lavish attention on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. So far, only seven of the 24 Democrats running for president have paid staff on the ground in Nevada, making it anyone’s ball game and a potential launching pad for a dark horse candidate trying to break out from the pack. Nevada has the fastest growing AAPI population in the country and the state party has added Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, to the voter preference ballots, alongside English and Spanish. On her last trip, Harris met with an AAPI advocacy group and separately with a Latino organizing association…Her state director is Ernesto Apreza, who was featured in Spanish-language ads that ran in Nevada for President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012. More than a quarter of Nevada’s population is Latino. “We’re talking to every voter, we think everyone is within reach,” said a Harris campaign aide. “But a big part of what we’re doing is organizing with communities of color. Latinos, AAPI and African-Americans are a big part of the vote out here.” The working-class population in Nevada is transient and the labor movement, led by the culinary workers, is a political force. Rural voters can be tough to reach in a state where 13 percent of the population does not have internet access.

Food and Farming(Civileats, 5/29/19) Food and Farming haven’t been high on the list of campaign priorities in recent decades, except maybe in Iowa. But this year, that appears to be shifting. With the pivotal role that rural voters played in the 2016 election firmly in mind, many presidential candidates are zooming in to address the challenges that abound in today’s farm country. And a number of them are connecting agriculture to other pressing issues—notably climate change, food insecurity, economic development, and more. We first published this article on May 29, 2019; throughout the 2020 campaign, Civil Eats will be tracking how each candidate approaches food and farming, and we’ll update the information as their platforms develop.

Independent Candidate PAC(Seattle Times, 5/30/19) Eighteen months ago, a former Washington state Republican Party chair and a former Democratic congressman came together to launch Washington Independents, a new political-action committee dedicated to supporting centrist, independent candidates for office. “The American people are hungry for an alternative to the status quo, to the dysfunction and the gridlock in the two political parties,” former state Republican Party Chair Chris Vance said at the time. Not that hungry, it turns out. Vance and former Democratic Rep. Brian Baird announced Tuesday that they were suspending all operations of Washington Independents after the national group they partnered with, Unite America, chose to focus on electoral reforms rather than supporting independent candidates.

Progressive Agenda – (NYT, 5/30/19)  After months of liberal senators dominating the Democratic presidential primary, and leftist ideas such as the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All” getting significant national attention, Mr. Biden’s entrance into the race last month has swung the conversation back toward the center. The result: rising tensions within the Democratic electorate between liberal activists who don’t want their policy ideas and favored candidates to lose ground, and some party officials and voters who hope to see moderate candidates gain even more momentum…Neil Sroka, a spokesman for Democracy for America, said it would be a mistake to view the [Democratic] primary as a referendum on progressives. “The establishment is the establishment because they have the lion’s share of the power within the Democratic Party,” he said. Maria Svart, the national director for the Democratic Socialists of America, said her organization views its insurgency against Democrats as a long-term struggle, and that it exists outside of any particular candidate or election cycle. “People are sick and tired of being ignored by both parties, in all states in this country, and are looking for a way that they can make an impact,” Ms. Svart said. “That’s why we focus on grass-roots organizing.”

California – (WKZO, 5/31/19) Fourteen Democratic presidential hopefuls seeking money and support in California, the most liberal and populous U.S. state, will descend on San Francisco this weekend for a state party convention – with front-runner Joe Biden notably absent. Appearances by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and other candidates highlight California’s growing importance in the Democratic nominating process. Its 500 delegates are up for grabs three months earlier than in prior years, which could set the tone for the rest of the 2020 race. Sanders, Harris and the dozen other candidates attending the convention will speak in brief appearances on Saturday and Sunday to about 5,000 delegates, guests and journalists gathered in San Francisco. Most of the contenders also plan to address a nearby event by the progressive group

Atlanta, GAAn Atlanta fundraiser next week may look a lot like a warmup to the first Democratic presidential debate. That’s because four top-tier candidates have now signed up to appear at the June 6 event. Former Vice President Joe Biden has joined a trio of other White House hopefuls who were already planning to headline the IWillVote Gala and African American Leadership Summit: Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg. They’ll attend along with Stacey Abrams, the runner-up to last year’s gubernatorial race who has not ruled out her own bid for president.

Education(US News, 5/29/19)  “Putting in the stake of ‘I value public education,’ is the starting point they [presidential candidates] all have to take,” says Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science and education and director of the Politics and Education Program at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “Then they’re trying to figure out how to do that in ways that can win the support of, say, the teachers unions, which are important in the democratic primary, without falling into the possible trap of seeming to be catering too much to the teachers unions in particular.”  As the two national teachers unions begin their presidential endorsement vetting process and educator unrest that’s prompted strikes, protests and walkouts in nearly a dozen places this year continues to unfurl, the candidates that make up the Democratic field of 2020 hopefuls have been jockeying to prove who is the biggest defender of public education.

Former Vice President and 2020 contender Joe Biden stood alongside American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Tuesday evening in Houston and outlined the first major policy platform of his campaign – supercharging the federal investment in the country’s public schools in order to level the playing for poor students, students of color and those with disabilities and boost teacher pay, among many other things. Biden is in good company with his grand gesture to K-12 education.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California was the first with a splashy education campaign pledge: If elected president, she said in March, every public school teacher will get a $13,500 raise by the end of her first term – that’s more than a 20% increase in base pay for the average educator.

Two months later, Julian Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, unveiled a sweeping reenvisioning of the country’s public K-12 system. The “People First Education Plan,” as he calls it, covers everything: universal pre-kindergarten, a $150 billion school infrastructure investment for public schools, the elimination of tuition at public colleges and universities, an additional $3 billion for historically black colleges and universities, a boost in teacher pay up to $10,000 a year and a plan to combat school segregation by overhauling housing and zoning policies – to name just a few proposals in the plan.

On the same day, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts pledged that if elected she would tap a public school teacher to be her secretary of education – this, on top of a major pillar of her campaign she had already outlined that includes universal child care and pre-kindergarten, tuition-free public colleges and universities, a major injection of funding for HBCUs and the cancelation of student loan debt for 95% of borrowers.

Then it was Sen. Bernie Sanders’ turn, and the Vermont independent did not hold back. His “Thurgood Marshall Plan for Education” would triple federal funding for poor students, significantly increase federal dollars for students with disabilities, boost teacher pay, impose a moratorium on federal funding for charter schools and ban for-profit charter operators, provide school lunch for every public school student and set a minimum starting salary for teachers at $60,000. The list goes on, and it’s in addition to his already well-laid plan to provide free tuition at all public colleges and universities.

Sanders’ recent pledge to halt federal funding for charter schools until the federal government can perform an audit, combined with a full ban on for-profit charter operators, is rooted in the evolving position of the NAACP over the last few years, which has seen its governance vote to place a moratorium on all new charters, arguing their proliferation has trounced community input. Sanders’ pitch, for example, comes at the same time as two recent polls show that white Democrats are strongly opposed to charters, while black and Hispanic Democrats are modestly in favor.

Newly Announced – (WBAI, 5/26/19) – Howie Hawkins announced the start of his campaign for the Green Party nomination for President today in Brooklyn. He co-founded the Green Party back in 1984 and first campaigned for the Green New Deal when he ran for Governor of New York State in 2010. Hawkins says the Greens are the original Green New Dealers and while AOC and the Sunrise Movement succeeded in putting the Green New Deal in the spotlight, they watered down the content of the deal. And he says the best way to counter Donald Trump and his policies is to “impeach his sorry ass!” Please click the arrow above to hear our report.

GOP Primary – (The Hill, 5/21/19) There is growing buzz that Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) will leave the Republican Party to mount a challenge against President Trump as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate. If he were to switch parties, Amash would be the first-ever member of the Libertarian Party in Congress. Libertarians will nominate their presidential candidate at the party convention next May in Austin, Texas. Johnson’s 2016 campaign was hamstrung by his own gaffes and panned by Washington insiders, but he still managed to post the best showing by any Libertarian presidential candidate ever, receiving nearly 4.5 million votes, or three times as many as the party’s prior best showing. In his home state of New Mexico, Johnson received 9.3 percent of the vote, raising questions about whether Amash could play spoiler for Trump in his home state of Michigan, which is a lynchpin of the president’s reelection hopes. “I don’t think Trump can win Michigan if Amash is running,” said Sarwark. “They’d have to take it off the board.”

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