2020 Daily Trail Markers: Bloomberg takes steps toward 2020 presidential run

Katie Ross Dominick

BLOOMBERG TAKES STEPS TOWARD 2020 RUN

Michael Bloomberg is taking steps to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, a person familiar with his plans tells CBS News political reporter Ed O'Keefe.

Bloomberg has dispatched aides to Alabama to file paperwork in the state to run as a Democrat. The Cotton State doesn't hold an early Democratic presidential primary, but has the earliest filing deadline for the presidential campaign. Taking steps to file paperwork is the most serious signal yet that the former New York mayor and billionaire is seriously planning for a White House run.

The New York Times first reported Bloomberg's plans to file to run in Alabama.

PENCE SHOOTS DOWN 25TH AMENDMENT ANECDOTE

Vice President Mike shot down a Huffpost report this morning, detailing a preview of a Trump administration tell-all, authored by an anonymous senior White House official. Due to appear in a forthcoming book entitled "A Warning," senior White House officials were reportedly sure that Pence would support the use of the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. 

"I think you know when those rumors came out a few years ago I dismissed them," Pence said. "I never heard any discussion in my entire tenure as vice president about the 25th Amendment. And why would I," Pence continued, in defending Mr. Trump's record.

Following a partisan House vote on impeachment proceedings last week, Pence denied any wrong-doing by President Trump in his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

"The American people have the transcripts of the president's call. And they can see there was no quid pro quo," Pence told reporters gathered at the New Hampshire State House. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the vice president visited the "first-in-the-nation" state Thursday to file for the New Hampshire primaries on behalf of Donald Trump, adding his name to the upcoming 2020 Republican ballot. 

After the filing, Pence called impeachment proceedings, "the latest effort by Democrats to try and overturn the results of the 2016 election." He told reporters repeatedly, "I know the president did nothing wrong." The second-in-command called all White House administration interactions with Zelenksy, including his own, "in our national interest." Pence's proclamation came as his white House aide, Jennifer Williams, testified before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday.

Asked if he would campaign on behalf of Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions who has announced a bid to reclaim his old Alabama senate seat, Pence pivoted. "Well let me say, we will let people of Alabama make that decision."

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FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Congressman Cedric Richmond is in Nevada today, wrapping up his second day of campaigning for Joe Biden in Nevada. Unlike in Iowa and New Hampshire, the former vice president has defended a sizable lead in the "first in the West" contest, with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren trailing by some 10 points. 

"There's no secret what's behind it. He does very well with minority voters. And he is not doing as well with college-educated white voters. So when you look at Nevada, it is the first contest that looks like the rest of the country," Richmond, co-chair of Biden's campaign, told CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.

BERNIE SANDERS

Senator Bernie Sanders' New Hampshire campaign has announced a seven digit, 2-week television ad buy beginning today. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the $1 million spend includes all three of New Hampshire's expensive media markets: Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine; and Burlington, Vermont. 

The ad, entitled "Fight for Us" will also run on digital platforms. Few candidates have invested in New Hampshire television advertisements — with one exception. Businessman and presidential candidate Tom Steyer has spent nearly $3 million on commercials within the Boston media market alone.  

In Iowa, Sanders' team made another announcement – LULAC Iowa State Director Nick Salazar will be a state campaign co-chair, according to CBS News campaign reporters Musadiq Bidar and Adam Brewster. Salazar was elected to the position in May and is the youngest person to serve in the role in LULAC Iowa's history. 

"I personally endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders because he represents the best opportunity for America to truly transform itself into the nation that it can and should be," Salazar said in a press release. "To win Iowa and build a movement we are bringing together a diverse group of leaders, along with millions of people, who are prepared to fight for justice and I am ready to be a part of that fight as campaign co-chair here in Iowa." 

Salazar will appear at a rally with Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday night in Coralville, where he will introduce the congresswoman. Salazar joins Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker as a 2020 Iowa campaign co-chair for the Sanders campaign.

TOM STEYER

A top Iowa aide to Tom Steyer has been privately offering money to local politicians in exchange for their endorsement of Steyer, according to a Thursday report from the Associated Press. 

The Steyer campaign denied this was the case. "Tom has not made any individual contributions to candidates in Iowa this year, and he will not be making any contributions. The endorsements he receives are earned because of Tom's campaign message," the Steyer campaign said in a statement to CBS News campaign reporters Musadiq Bidar and Adam Brewster. "Our campaign policy is clear that we will not engage in this kind of activity, and anyone who does is not speaking for the campaign or does not know our policy."  Steyer has received one endorsement in Iowa so far — from former State Representative Roger Thomas. 

The Steyer aide in question, Pat Murphy, is a former Iowa House Speaker. In a statement, Murphy did not explicitly deny offering money in exchange for endorsements, saying, "As a former legislator, I know how tricky the endorsement process can be for folks in Iowa." Murphy apologized, adding, "It was never my intention to make my former colleagues uncomfortable and I apologize for any miscommunication on my part." 

Tom Courtney, a former Democratic state senator from southeastern Iowa who is running for office again, told the AP the financial offer from an aide "left a bad taste in my mouth," though he did not explicitly name Murphy as the aide involved. When reached by phone, Courtney declined to confirm the account to CBS News. 

Another Iowa State Representative, Karin Derry, told the AP that Murphy didn't explicitly offer a specific dollar amount, but it was made clear to her that she would receive financial support in exchange for her endorsement. Derry could not be immediately reached for comment by CBS News. The AP reported that neither Courtney nor Derry took the offer.

Offering money in exchange for an endorsement is not illegal and as long as the payments are disclosed. It would not violate campaign finance laws. Steyer has previously been accused by his Democratic primary opponents of trying to buy his way through this election cycle. When the billionaire and former investor spent millions of his own money on advertisements, several candidates criticized him and said he was buying his way onto the Democratic debate stage. Steyer has responded by saying it's his message that is resonating with voters. Hours after the news broke, Montana Governor Steve Bullock responded on Twitter saying, "You buy your way to the debate stage. You try to buy your endorsements. Tom Steyer, we won't be bought."

A source within the Steyer campaign told CBS News on Thursday that the news was "a total shock," and added, "this is not how Tom works nor is it the type of campaign we are running." The Steyer campaign says the aide will not be facing any disciplinary action at this time. This report comes days after a Steyer aide in South Carolina resigned following reports he allegedly was stealing voter data from fellow 2020 contender Kamala Harris's South Carolina team. 

ANDREW YANG

Andrew Yang is joining several of his competitors on the airwaves in Iowa, spending more than $1 million on his first TV ad campaign, CBS News political unit associate producer Ben Mitchell reports. The ad was the first produced by the firm Devine, Mulvey and Longabaugh, the same communications team that worked with Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election and up until his 2020 announcement. 

"Democratic voters will see Andrew Yang's message multiple times over the next week, learning about his credentials, family and unique plan to move our country 'a new way forward,'" Yang senior adviser Mark Longabaugh said in a statement. The ad highlights Yang's background as the son of immigrant parents, then calls him a champion for education and the founder of a non-profit that created "thousands of jobs," before going into his policies. "Parent, patriot, not a politician. A new leader who understands that what's coming is the greatest transformation in history," the ad says.  In an email to supporters, the Yang campaign turned the ad's announcement into a fundraising plea, telling supporters via email, "Now, to keep it on air for another week, we need to raise $1 million in the next 7 days."

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

SENATE WATCH

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told reporters today in Concord, New Hampshire he would decide "by the end of the year" whether or not to launch a Senate bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says New Hampshire's already crowded Republican Senate primary includes General Don Bolduc, Former New Hampshire Speaker Bill O'Brien and millionaire attorney Bryant "Corky" Messner.

PARTY LINES

EARLY INVESTMENTS

In a briefing with reporters Thursday, a Democratic National Committee official said the party has increased its investment in state parties by 33 percent, compared to this time of year in 2015 when Democrats were getting ready for the 2016 general elections, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The DNC hopes to have a solid infrastructure for the nominee in the general election coming out of the primary. This effort is an attempt to compete against the Republican National Committee, which has teamed up with the Trump campaign and is already  focusing on the general election, having raised enormous amounts of cash.

Since the candidates are focusing on early states, the DNC is investing in the states expected to be battlegrounds in the general election like Florida, where the DNC along with its Democratic partners are making six-figure investments earlier than they have in past cycles. 

The DNC is also training staff to be ready to help the nominee once he or she is chosen. A DNC official said the committee will have 1,000 organizers ready to go in June 2020 for the nominee. In 2016, Hillary Clinton dramatically ramped up her staffing, from 330 organizers in April 2016 to 3,800 for the general. It is difficult to find talent at that scale so quickly, so the DNC is preparing for that earlier this time around.

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