2020 Vision: Bernie Sanders launches, like a rocket

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer
Bernie Sanders addresses a campaign rally in the Bronx, N.Y., March 31, 2016. (Getty Images)

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the new Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 348 days until the Iowa caucuses, and 619 days until the 2020 presidential election.

It was a big week for Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent senator formally launched his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign on Monday. On Tuesday, the Sanders campaign said it raised nearly $6 million in its first 24 hours, or roughly four times as much as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., raised in the first 24 hours of her campaign’s much-heralded launch.

The same day, the Daily Beast reported that Sanders had hired Faiz Shakir, national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union, to serve as his campaign manager. “Shakir, 39, is almost certainly the first campaign manager of a major presidential campaign who identifies as a Muslim,” the Daily Beast noted.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s 2016 campaign manager and longtime friend, had been eyeing a different role for Sanders’s second run and will likely serve as a senior adviser.

Then on Thursday, Sanders announced his campaign’s four national co-chairs, who together with Shakir fill out a diversity full house: former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen.

“To win this election and build a movement to defeat Donald Trump, we must bring together a team prepared to fight for economic, social, racial and environmental justice,” Sanders said. “And that’s exactly what Nina, Ro, Carmen and Ben have been doing their entire lives.”

But Sanders wasn’t the only 2020 candidate to make staffing moves this week. Harris named three women of color to her presidential campaign: Emmy Ruiz, who served as Barack Obama’s Nevada state director in 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s state director in Nevada and Colorado in 2016, to be a senior adviser; Missayr Boker, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s director in 2018; and Julie Chávez Rodriguez, granddaughter of civil rights leader Cesar Chávez. The women will serve as Harris’s national political co-directors.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign named its communications team, tapping veteran GOP operative Tim Murtaugh as communications director; Mark Lotter, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, as director of strategic communications; and Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany as national press secretary.

McEnany’s first task? Issuing the Trump campaign’s official response to Bernie Sanders joining the 2020 field.


“Crazy Bernie has just entered the race. I wish him well!”

President Trump

“What’s crazy is that we have a president who is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and a fraud. We are going to bring people together and not only defeat Trump but transform the economic and political life of this country.”

Bernie Sanders

Related: What Trump and Sanders have said about each other

President Trump at a rally in El Paso, Texas, Feb. 11, 2019. (Photo: Eric Gay/AP)

Trump’s ‘robust’ primary challenge

President Trump may be happy to handicap the 2020 Democratic presidential field, but there’s been a lot of talk in recent days of a possible Republican primary challenge — the first serious one to a sitting president since Ted Kennedy tried to wrest the Democratic nomination from President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Yahoo News’ Alex Nazaryan that he believes Trump will face a “robust challenge” for the GOP nomination. And that, Steele said, is as it should be.

“For a party that’s always stood for the principle of freedom, it’s amazing how quickly we want to go into lockdown when it comes to Donald Trump,” Steele said.

Earlier this year, the RNC passed a resolution giving Trump its “undivided support” ahead of the 2020 election.

Still, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who recently became the first Republican in more than a half-century to win reelection in that state, is not ruling out a primary challenge to Trump. And like Steele, Hogan doesn’t understand what the RNC is doing.

“It’s very undemocratic,” Hogan told Politico. “And the question is, What are they afraid of? Because on the one hand you look at polls, 70 percent of Republicans support the president in a primary. Why are they so concerned?”

Last week, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld announced he is exploring a primary challenge against Trump. But Weld, who ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016, is not widely regarded as an electoral threat.

“It’s ruled out.”

— Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on whether he is running for Senate in Kansas

Beto O’Rourke on election night in El Paso, Texas, Nov. 6, 2018. (Photo: Eric Gay/AP)

Beto’s looming decision

Facing a self-imposed end-of-the-month deadline to decide his political future, Beto O’Rourke has increasingly looked and sounded like a candidate for president. But back in Texas, Yahoo News’ Holly Bailey reports, some of the state’s Democratic leaders are privately hoping the former congressman will skip the increasingly crowded Democratic presidential primary in favor of what they believe is a more winnable race: a challenge to Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for reelection in 2020.

While no one is publicly waving O’Rourke away from a White House bid, several Democratic strategists and activists in the state said in interviews in recent days they believe the ex-congressman has a proven ground operation and fundraising ability that would instantly make him a formidable challenger to Cornyn. The state’s senior senator, who received an early endorsement from President Trump on Thursday, is considered more popular and a better bet for reelection than Sen. Ted Cruz was in 2018. O’Rourke lost to Cruz but gained a national following and a huge outpouring of individual campaign donations.

On Tuesday, O’Rourke kept the political mystery going. Back in his hometown and speaking after a luncheon where he was honored as “El Pasoan of the Year,” he told reporters he still hasn’t decided on his future plans.

“I’m trying to figure out how I can best serve this country, where I can do the greatest good for the United States of America,” O’Rourke said. “So yeah, I’m thinking through that, and it, you know, may involve running for the presidency, it may involve something else.”

“You don’t have to be a socialist to believe everyone should have equal opportunities on a path to success.”

— Kamala Harris

Also read: Democratic candidates back Election Day holiday

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a rally in Glendale, Calif., Feb. 18, 2019. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Warren’s Western swing

Elizabeth Warren was in California this week, appearing as a guest on “The Late Late Show” alongside 50 Cent and at a campaign event in Glendale, where Yahoo News’ Andrew Romano took in the scene:

It could have been a rally in New Hampshire on the eve of the 2020 primary. There was the candidate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, gripping the mic and pacing the stage in a purple collarless coat. There was the brisk, biographical stump speech, polished to a stadium-ready shine. There was the peppy yet pointed playlist: “American Girl” by Tom Petty, Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” And then there was the crowd: a packed house of 1,400 — plus another 300 outside, according to the campaign — leaping to its feet whenever Warren delivered her well-honed applause lines about overturning Citizens United and making it easier to join a union.

The only indication that this wasn’t all happening in New Hampshire? The hundreds of red, white and blue “California for Warren” signs her staffers had ordered for the occasion.

The fact that a leading Democratic presidential contender spent Monday night rallying in this off-the-beaten-trail Los Angeles suburb is unusual enough; when Democrats visit deep-blue California, they tend drive straight from the airport to a closed-door, high-dollar Hollywood or Silicon Valley fundraiser, and then straight back to the airport.

But what’s really remarkable is not just that Warren bothered to rally here at all — it’s that she was doing it a full 379 days before the state’s 2020 primary.

The skill, scale and early timing of Warren’s event, California strategists tell Yahoo News, is one of the first clear signs that even though America’s most populous and progressive state is unlikely to be in play in next November’s election, it is already looming large in the Democratic nominating contest.

Much has been made of the reason why: California’s decision to move its primary from June to March 3.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that one of the Democratic Party’s top 2020 prospects, Kamala Harris, hails from the Bay Area, and has held seven California fundraisers to date.

“We must confront the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country that has had many consequences, including undermining the ability of Black families to build wealth in America for generations.”

— Elizabeth Warren, in a statement to Reuters

Noted


Klobuchar’s ratings dud

One by one, the growing field of presidential candidates are getting the town hall treatment from CNN. But they’re not always ratings gold. This week’s Don Lemon-hosted town hall with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., finished in third place with 1.1 million viewers, drawing more than a million fewer than MSNBC and Fox News programming in the same primetime slot.

Kamala Harris, on the other hand, drew a big audience for CNN during a January town hall, watched by nearly 2 million.

In Iowa, ranch rules


Des Moines

• Feb. 22, Partly cloudy, 32°/30°
• Feb. 23, Freezing rain, 35°/18°
• Feb. 24, Partly cloudy, 21°/3°

Manchester, N.H.

• Feb. 22, Mostly sunny, 41°/19°
• Feb. 23, Partly cloudy, 41°/27°
• Feb. 24, Rain/snow mix, 41°/31°

Source: Weather Underground

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