2020 Vision: Beto and Biden on the verge; Inslee takes the plunge

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor
Beto O’ Rourke; Joe Biden; Jay Inslee. (Photos: Kathy Willens/AP; Nati Harnik/AP; Ted S. Warren/AP)

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the new Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 339 days until the Iowa caucuses, and 613 days until the 2020 presidential election.

Jay Inslee enters race, powered by the sun

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday announced he is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on his signature issue of clean energy. Inslee, who has been visiting early-voting states to road test his message of combating an imminent climate disaster, made the announcement in a YouTube video entitled “Our Moment.”

“We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change,” Inslee says in the 90-second clip. “And we’re the last that can do something about it.”

“Our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change,” he continued. “We have an opportunity to transform our economy, run on 100 percent clean energy that will bring millions of good-paying jobs to every community across America and create a more just future for everyone.”

Inslee added: “I’m running for president because I’m the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s No. 1 priority. We can do this.”

Note: Inslee will be a guest on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, if there is a Sunday.

IN:
• Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Julián Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, Pete Buttigieg, Jay Inslee, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson
• Bill Weld, President Trump

CONSIDERING (OR BEING CONSIDERED):
• Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Swalwell, Eric Holder, Seth Moulton, Sherrod Brown, Terry McAuliffe, John Hickenlooper, Chris Murphy, Gina Raimondo, Tim Ryan, Jeff Merkley, Bill de Blasio, Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet
• Howard Schultz
• John Kasich, Larry Hogan

OUT:
• Tom Steyer, Andrew Cuomo, Bob Casey, Richard Ojeda, Eric Garcetti, Mitch Landrieu

Beto O’Rourke speaks to a crowd during an anti-Trump march in El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 11. (Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP)

Beto and Biden are on the verge

The former Texas congressman said this week that he and his family have “made a decision” on a presidential bid.

“I’m going to be making an announcement soon,” a smiling O’Rourke told reporters on El Paso Wednesday, after ruling out another Senate race in 2020, against Republican John Cornyn. “I’m going to be making the same announcement to everyone at the same time. And that’s all I can say.”

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden said this week that he is “very close” to deciding whether to make a 2020 White House bid, and told an audience at the University of Delaware, “Don’t be surprised,” if he jumps into the race.

“I can die a happy man never having lived in the White House. What I don’t want to do is I don’t want to take people’s time and effort and commitment without there being a clear shot that I could be the nominee.”

— Joe Biden on Feb. 26

Boring but important: Politico reports that Trump’s 2020 money machine is “in disrepair.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attends an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 21. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Bernie revisits his Brooklyn (College) roots

Bernie Sanders is holding the first formal rally of his 2020 presidential campaign on Saturday morning among people who speak his language, Brooklynese. The 77-year-old Vermont independent senator and self-described democratic socialist, who grew up in Flatbush and attended Brooklyn College, will hold a rally at the college, part of the public City University of New York.

Sanders transferred before graduation to the University of Chicago. On Sunday night, Sanders will hold the second rally of his 2020 campaign at the Navy Pier in Chicago, where the forecast calls for snow showers and temperatures plummeting to around 1 degree above zero. (Note to Bernie: Pack your parka, even though you’re a Vermonter now.)

The Sanders campaign also announced the senator will make another trip to Selma, Ala., to participate in the annual events to mark 1965’s “Bloody Sunday” and the attacks on civil rights activists.

Also read: Creative firm behind Bernie’s ‘America’ spot splits from his 2020 campaign

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., laughs during a campaign stop in Rochester, N.H., on Feb. 17. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Lighting up the race

There are, as of today, 12 announced candidates for the Democratic nomination, including six U.S. senators. If you count two others who are considered likely to run (Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Michael Bennet of Colorado), that makes eight, or one-sixth of the entire Democratic caucus in the upper chamber. How do you stand out in that field?

One way is to try to own a popular issue, and Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, did that Thursday, reintroducing a bill to legalize marijuana. Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act would not just legalize weed but would also expunge convictions for possessing the drug.

Four of Booker’s primary opponents, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, immediately signed on as co-sponsors to the bill, which is unlikely to reach the floor of the Republican-controlled Senate. Sanders’ 2016 position was to decriminalize the drug, but Booker’s bill would not just legalize the drug but would also create a “community reinvestment fund” that would offer grants and job training to people and places “most affected by the war on drugs.”

An October 2018 Pew Research poll found that 62 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana, with even higher levels of support among Democrats (69 percent) and independents who leaned Democrat (75 percent). A Gallup poll that same month found levels of support at 66 percent among all Americans with a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all endorsing the position.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks in Des Moines, Feb. 24. (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A weekend in Iowa

One Democratic presidential hopeful (Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.) and two other potential candidates (New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.) were in Iowa last weekend, as was Yahoo News Washington correspondent Alex Nazaryan, who offered snapshots of their visits:

On Friday, Bennet was at a strip mall in suburban Des Moines, in the back room of a bar, in what appeared to be the opening salvo of a presidential bid. He hasn’t made it official yet, but an announcement is about as predictable as snow in Iowa. In conversations with reporters after the event, he appeared unperturbed by the increasingly crowded Democratic field, in which he would have to struggle for both name recognition and fundraising. He also might find himself running against another Democrat from his own state, former governor John Hickenlooper.

De Blasio’s trip to Iowa began in Sioux City, where he met about 30 people at a bar on Saturday. (About twice as many Iowans greeted him in Des Moines the following day, so he was getting close to 100. In-person campaigning ahead of the Iowa caucuses is an example of what’s called “retail politics,” although in this case it’s more like selling from a pushcart.) Speaking from a podium as the audience ate lunch on folding tables before him, de Blasio eagerly made his case, even though it remained unclear whom he was making that case for, and to what end. As in the past, he indicated that he wants to be a national progressive leader, a role that he hasn’t been able to master. But he also allowed that instead of prodding other candidates into more progressive positions, he might want to be such a candidate himself.

Meanwhile, Iowa voters were clearly impressed by Harris, and dozens stayed behind to shake hands and take pictures with the first-term senator. But some also expressed disappointment in her unwillingness to commit to concrete policy proposals.

“She didn’t really go into details,” said Maria Alcivar, a Democrat who had enthusiastically supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 primaries. “And I think we want to know the details.”

“When you talk about him calling African countries s***hole countries, when you talk about him referring to immigrants as rapists and murderers, I don’t think you can reach any other conclusion.”

— Kamala Harris when asked if she thinks President Trump is a racist

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., left, meets with civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, at Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem on Feb. 21. (Photo: Bebeto Matthews/AP)

A town hall for the forgotten

CNN announced this week that they would be doing a series of town halls at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, with three Democratic candidates who are yet to make a mark in polling or coverage: Tulsi Gabbard (the congresswoman from Hawaii), John Delaney (the former congressman from Maryland) and Pete Buttigieg (mayor of South Bend, Ind.). On Sunday, March 10, the three will face questions from Texas voters, with Delaney appearing at 7 p.m. ET, Gabbard at 8 p.m. ET and Buttigieg at 9 p.m. ET.

Over the last few weeks CNN has provided primetime town hall platforms for three Democratic primary candidates (Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders) and also for some reason Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks executive who has yet to formally announce his candidacy and has a negative approval rating among Democrats. Harris’s town hall did the best ratings-wise, but she had to walk back one answer on eliminating private health insurance and later said she did not correctly hear a question about investigating police shootings during her time as California attorney general.

A recent Morning Consult poll found Gabbard, Delaney and Buttigieg all polling at one percent. An Emerson College poll of Democrats in Iowa, the first caucus state, had only Delaney registering above zero, also with one percent.

Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., poses for a portrait during a campaign stop in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Jan. 31. (Photo by Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images)

Des Moines

• Friday, March 1: Partly cloudy, 28°/9°
• Saturday, March 2: Cloudy, 21°/1°
• Sunday, March 3: Partly cloudy, 5°/-12°

Manchester, N.H.

• Friday, March 1: Partly cloudy, 37°/20°
• Saturday, March 2: Snow showers, 35°/22°
• Sunday, March 3: Mostly cloudy, 41°/29°

— With Christopher Wilson contributing

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