2020 Vision: Biden’s 'flip-flop-flip' on abortion funding caps his bad week

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a fundraiser in Atlanta on Thursday. (Photo: John Bazemore/AP)

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 241 days until the Iowa caucuses and 514 days until the 2020 presidential election.

Since launching his presidential campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden had largely avoided the types of unforced errors some were worried the self-described “gaffe-machine” might make. Until this week.

Biden — who was criticized by rivals, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, for being too moderate on issues like climate change — released an ambitious plan to tackle global warming on Tuesday. But the Biden campaign was immediately put on the defensive when several media outlets noticed several passages were lifted from various sources without attribution.

“Staff working on drafts of the policy paper inadvertently left some citations out of the final document, and Vice President Biden was unaware of it,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said in a statement. “As soon as staff were made aware of the error, they fixed it.”

In 1987, Biden’s first run for president was derailed by a plagiarism scandal when it emerged that his impassioned closing remarks at a debate were lifted from a British Labour Party leader’s speeches. Biden was also forced to admit he had been accused of plagiarism in law school.

Then came a scandal of a different sort. On Wednesday, Biden’s campaign sought to clarify an answer he gave in May to a volunteer with the American Civil Liberties Union who asked him if he would support repealing the Hyde Amendment, a federal law barring federal funds for abortion services, except in the cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. Biden, who as a senator voted in favor of the amendment, told the activist, “It can’t stay.”

His campaign, though, insisted he misheard the question, and that he does not support repealing the law — a position that put him at odds with his rivals, including Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris.

“He is a deeply religious man,” Cedric Richmond, co-chair of the Biden campaign, said on CNN Wednesday. “He is guided by his faith, his position on the Hyde Amendment has been consistent.”

That was until Thursday afternoon, when Biden reversed course at a Democratic fundraiser in Atlanta.

“If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” he said.

The zigzagging did not sit well with David Axelrod, former chief strategist for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

“The @JoeBiden rollout was close to flawless,” Axelrod tweeted. “His handling of this Hyde Amendment issue was a mess. Changes of position over a long career are justifiable but should be thoughtfully planned. This was an awkward flip-flop-flip.”

To Axelrod, Biden is risking his authenticity as a candidate, and his status as the frontrunner.

“This underscores questions about whether he can go the distance,” Axelrod said on CNN Friday.

“I’m not here to attack Joe Biden. ... I’m glad that Joe has come to that position.”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders to CNN on Biden’s sudden support for repealing the Hyde Amendment

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a town hall event at Laney College in Oakland, Calif., last month. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

The ideas election

Presidential elections are decided by many things: media exposure, financial backing, personal chemistry, timing and luck. Policy positions often are just a way of signaling where a candidate stands on the political spectrum. But 2020 is shaping up to be different, the most ideas-driven election in recent American history. Yahoo News is examining them and other policy questions in “The Ideas Election” — a series of articles on how candidates are defining and addressing the most important issues facing the United States:

• Candidates have a plan, or a score of different ones, to change the tax code

• Warren’s call to abolish the Electoral College gets picked up on the campaign trail

• Candidates begin rolling out their climate plans

• ‘Farm Aid’ 2020: Warren, Sanders propose rescue plans for family farmers

• Candidates tackle student-debt crisis

• One Democrat has a plan to run against Trump on immigration

• Frightened by artificial intelligence? These candidates have a solution for that.

• Should we expand the Supreme Court?

• What’s behind Warren’s plan to break up Facebook, Amazon and Google

• Candidates edge toward discussing slavery reparations

• The rent is too damn high, so here’s how some candidates hope to lower it

• Who’s minding the kids? Warren pushes universal childcare

Ability vs. electability

According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Friday, Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters remain split over the idea of voting for someone based on the person’s policies or voting for someone who they believe can beat Donald Trump.

Which is more important to you:

• A Democratic nominee for president who shares your position on most issues: 47 percent

• A Democratic nominee for president who has the best chance of beating Donald Trump: 46 percent

• Unsure: 7 percent

[Bloomberg News: Trump’s tariffs have already wiped out tax bill savings for average Americans]

Donald Trump appears at rally in Tallahassee, Fla., Oct. 25, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/File)

Trump’s (official) reboot

President Trump said last weekend that he will be formally announcing his reelection campaign in Orlando on June 18. Trump, who filed his 2020 campaign with the Federal Election Commission on the day of his inauguration, will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence at the event at the 20,000-seat Amway Center.

Four years ago, Trump announced his 2016 presidential run at a rally in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City in an incendiary speech accusing immigrants from Mexico of committing violent crimes.

According to the New York Times, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, initially “pushed the idea of re-creating Mr. Trump’s descending escalator ride at Trump Tower” for his 2020 reboot, but “that idea was rejected because of the conflict of interest it might suggest between Mr. Trump’s business and his role as president.”

Doing so would have violated a pledge from 2017 that the Trump Organization would not seek to profit from its connection to the presidency — which it did anyway on Friday, in two (now-deleted) tweets about Trump’s visit to his golf resort in Ireland.

[Boring but important: Koch network unveils 2020 strategy]

Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Getty Images)

Dems woo Hollywood megadonors

The entertainment industry has long been a key source of campaign cash for liberal politicians. But as the crowded field for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination goes west, Yahoo News’ Brittany Shepherd and Hunter Walker report that it’s finding a landscape that has undergone seismic shifts with traditional kingmakers competing for influence against small donors and high-tech upstarts:

This year, with a field of over 20 candidates, and California coming up early on the primary calendar, Hollywood is more crucial than ever. At this point, you’re about as likely to see a candidate in Beverly Hills as you are in Iowa or New Hampshire.

“We have presidential candidates here two or three times a week for a couple of months now,” said Andy Spahn, a political consultant who works closely with Hollywood megadonors.

“It is on, with no chances of slowing down,” Spahn added.

The candidates aren’t boasting about their visits to Tinseltown. Much of the campaigning in Hollywood is taking place at invitation-only soirees hosted by entertainment industry power players.

Owing to gaps in how political donations are reported and tracked, it’s almost impossible to say exactly how much Hollywood money has gone to help candidates. But it’s substantial. An examination of the most recent reports from the Federal Election Commission showed seven of the leading Democratic candidates took in over a half-million dollars from entertainment industry donors during the first quarter of this year.

Read more about the Hollywood fundraising primary here.

Sunday show schedule

• CBS’s “Face the Nation”: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Sen. Amy Klobuchar

• CNN’s ‘“State of the Union”: Sen. Bernie Sanders

• ABC’s “This Week”: Beto O’Rourke

Rep. Seth Moulton (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)


“President Moulton would be a lot more careful about putting young Americans into harm’s way.”

— Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., to Vice News on President Trump’s possible deployment of U.S. troops to Iran

“I’ve been penalized for making sure people have health care, for making sure that even in a rural Republican state that we can get good things done.”

— Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who has yet to reach the fundraising or polling thresholds to qualify for the Democratic presidential debates, to NBC News; Bullock says he’s been too busy governing to fundraise or campaign

“Many of Warren’s policy prescriptions make obvious sense.”

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson; yes, that Tucker Carlson

Read more original 2020 coverage from Yahoo News: