2020 Vision: Booker opens a new chapter, Coulter promotes a challenge to Trump, and Marianne Williamson throws her aura into the ring

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaking in New Orleans, Aug. 3, 2018. (Photo: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the new Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 369 days until the Iowa caucuses, and 640 days until the 2020 presidential election.

Cory Booker books his spot

New Jersey’s junior senator, still serving his first full term, launched his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday morning.

If elected, Booker would be the country’s second African-American president. (So would California Sen. Kamala Harris, who formally announced her campaign 10 days ago.) And he made a point of launching his campaign at the start of Black History Month.

“When I was a baby, my parents tried to move us into a neighborhood with great public schools,” Booker said in a separate video message announcing his candidacy. “But realtors wouldn’t sell us a home because of the color of our skin.'”

Booker served as mayor of Newark before winning his Senate seat, and doesn’t want anyone to forget it. “I still live there today, and I’m the only senator who goes home to a low-income, inner-city community,” he said.

Booker told Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker the decision to run came after his appearances on the campaign trail this past year, which included extensive travel to key primary states.

“I saw that people didn’t just want a politician that’s going to stand up and say, ‘I’m going to punch Trump in the face,’” he explained. “I saw that people really did want to rise above it and pull people together back to our common ideals and common principles.”

In his announcement video, Booker said his vision for America is one “where we see the faces of our leaders on television and feel pride and not shame.” The face of the leader Americans should be proud of, he implied, is his own. He didn’t name the one they should be ashamed of, but he didn’t need to.

In an interview with CBS’ “Face The Nation” scheduled to air on Super Bowl Sunday, Trump was asked by host Margaret Brennan about Booker’s chances.

“He’s got no chance,” Trump said.

“Why?” Brennan asked.

“Because I know him,” Trump replied. “I don’t think he has a chance.”

IN
Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Julián Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, President Trump

CONSIDERING (OR BEING CONSIDERED)
Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Michael Bloomberg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Eric Swalwell, Seth Moulton, Jay Inslee, Sherrod Brown, Mitch Landrieu, Terry McAuliffe, John Hickenlooper, Chris Murphy, Gina Raimondo, Tim Ryan, Joe Kennedy III, Luis Gutierrez, Jeff Merkley, Bill de Blasio, John Kasich, Mo Brooks

OUT
Tom Steyer, Andrew Cuomo, Michael Avenatti, Martin O’Malley, Bob Casey, Richard Ojeda, Jeff Flake, Eric Garcetti

President Trump (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

Trump surveys the rest of the 2020 field

In an interview with the New York Times on Thursday, Trump touted the prospects of Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who entered the Democratic primary with an exuberant rally last weekend.

“I would say the best opening so far would be Kamala Harris,” he said, pronouncing her first name “Kameela.”

“Some of the others were very flat,” he added, taking advantage of the opportunity to flatten Sen. Elizabeth Warren a little further with his favorite epithet for her: “I do think Elizabeth Warren’s been hurt very badly with the Pocahontas trap.”

Of course, nothing a politician says about the other party’s candidates should be taken at face value. Does Trump really consider Harris the most impressive Democrat so far? Does he really think Warren fell into “the Pocahontas trap” by claiming Native American ancestors?

On the latter, perhaps he has a point. The Times reported Friday that Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation for her decision to take a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry.

“I understand that she apologized for causing confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and the harm that has resulted,” Julie Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the tribe, told the newspaper. “The chief and secretary of state appreciate that she has reaffirmed that she is not a Cherokee Nation citizen or a citizen of any tribal nation.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP)

Trump’s record haul

President Trump’s reelection campaign raised more than $21 million in the final three months of 2018, the Washington Post reports:

“The latest fundraising disclosures bring the total haul for Trump’s reelection effort to more than $129 million, a record amount for a sitting president at this point in the election cycle. The campaign had more than $19.2 million in cash on hand by the end of 2018, according to new Federal Election Commission filings made public Thursday night.”

Trump, the Post notes, is “entering the presidential election cycle with a massive head start just as a wide-open Democratic field begins to take shape.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown. (Photo: Tony Dejak/AP)

Brown and the billionaires

During a week in which two billionaires (former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz) were prominently featured in media coverage of the race, although neither has actually entered it yet, two declared Democratic hopefuls were staking out actual policy positions. At a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday night, Harris joined Warren in supporting “Medicare for all.”

That led both Bloomberg and Schultz to criticize the progressive health care policy. “I think you could never afford that,” Bloomberg said. “You’re talking about trillions of dollars.” Schultz initially called the “Medicare for all” proposal “un-American” before calling it “unaffordable.”

But Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is considering entering the race, is holding back his endorsement of the idea, which has become a kind of shibboleth for progressive Democrats.

“I don’t need to jump when somebody says jump on any particular issue,” Brown said in an interview with Yahoo News’ Andrew Romano. “I’ll put up my progressive bona fides up against anybody in this group. Of all the candidates that you guys are writing about are in this race, I will be one of two people who voted against the Iraq War. I’ll be one of two people who voted against NAFTA. I’ll be the only person who has a long-term “F” rating from the NRA. I’ve been pushing for marriage equality for 20 years. And I’ve done all of that in a state where it’s a lot harder than … pick your state, of the other candidates.

“I won’t be lectured to by other candidates about not being progressive enough on the issues,” he added.

That includes “Medicare for all” — something Brown sees as aspirational, rather than realistic — and the “Green New Deal.”

“I don’t know exactly what that means,” he said. “The New Deal was a bunch of things put together: the Wagner Act, Social Security, the minimum wage, collective bargaining, Medicare. So I think the ‘Green New Deal’ is a wonderful term. I think that climate change is the greatest moral issue of our times, and that we need to address it directly, and deeply, and consistently, and comprehensively. I think that there will be many components of what we do to address climate change, and I’ve been part of those efforts in the past.”

“Kamala Harris said this week that as part of her presidential platform, she would advocate for a single payer health care system. It would replace our current system of taking Flintstone vitamins and hoping for the best.”

— Seth Meyers on NBC’s “Late Night” Wednesday

A Trump primary challenge?

The question of whether President Trump might face a viable primary challenge in 2020 has come up more frequently of late, Yahoo News’ Jon Ward noted this week, after the president was criticized by far-right supporters for agreeing to reopen the government without any money for a border wall.

“The door is now slightly ajar, but only for the right person,” said a veteran and well-connected Republican consultant in New Hampshire. “The best person would not be perceived as anti-Trump. A large portion of the party supports Trump, and if the opponent is just a Never Trumper, that would in no fashion be enough to win.” A candidate who could effectively challenge Trump, the consultant added, would have to be “energetic, a self-funder, [with a] positive message and serious effort with a realistic plan to win.”

There is no clear alternative at the moment, and plenty of skepticism about the best-known Republican considering a primary challenge, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who may have hurt his chances by taking a job with CNN as a paid commentator. Dave Carney, a GOP consultant based in New Hampshire who works on national political races, told the New Hampshire Journal after Kasich joined CNN that Kasich was a “nonstarter” as a Republican primary candidate.

Nonetheless, the recent shutdown and the general perception that Trump bungled nearly every aspect of it has set things on a trajectory that, if it continues, could open the door substantially wider to a Republican alternative.

In an interview for Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast, conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, who has broken with Trump over what she thinks is his wishy-washy support of a border wall, touted Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks as a “terrific” candidate. Brooks has not commented on the idea.

Meanwhile, a national poll by the Washington Post and ABC News released Tuesday showed mixed signs for Trump. He has 75 percent approval from Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, but almost one in three of those voters said they would like someone else to be the Republican nominee.

Boring but important: Major reelection challenges for Trump in Wisconsin (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

More reasons to question polling

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters released this week showed Donald Trump tied for third place, just ahead of Beto O’Rourke. Make of that what you will, but not too much.

If the 2020 Democratic primary or caucus in your state were being held today, for whom would you vote? (Open-ended)

Among Democrats/Democratic-leaning voters:

• Joe Biden 9%
• Kamala Harris 8%
• Bernie Sanders 4%
• Donald Trump 4%
• Beto O’Rourke 3%
• Michelle Obama 2%
• Elizabeth Warren 2%
• Cory Booker 1%
• Steve Bullock 1%
• Hillary Clinton 1%
• Amy Klobuchar 1%
• Nancy Pelosi 1%
• Oprah Winfrey 1%
• Other 4%
• Someone new 1%
• No one/None of them 7%
• Anyone/Any of them 5%
• No opinion 43%

Source: Washington Post-ABC News

Oprah Lite

If you’re disappointed that Oprah Winfrey isn’t running for president in 2020, you might want to check out self-help author and “spiritual adviser” Marianne Williamson, who launched her campaign for the Democratic nomination last week as “a co-creative effort, an effort of love, a gift of love.” Williamson, a favorite guest on Winfrey’s show, has written 12 books, including “A Return to Love,” “Enchanted Love,” “The Age of Miracles” and “A Course in Weight Loss.”

“First of all, Donald Trump is president. This idea of predicting who can win, we should throw that out the window.”

— Marianne Williamson on CNN

A crowd of nearly 20,000 gathered in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday as Kamala Harris formally launched her campaign for president. (Photo: Tony Avelar/AP)

Kamala’s test

Yahoo News’ West Coast correspondent Andrew Romano wrote about the historic challenge Harris’s candidacy faces:

Harris, 54, is only two years into her freshman term as a U.S. senator. She represents one of the most dependably Democratic states in the nation. Previously she served as California’s attorney general for six years, and San Francisco’s district attorney for seven years before that.

That’s hardly a flimsy résumé. But it’s also not the sort of résumé that, by itself, tends to gets you talked about as one of your party’s most inevitable presidential prospects, or catapults you into the ranks of frontrunners the moment you declare.

Only two past presidents — Martin Van Buren and Bill Clinton — served as attorney general before ascending to the Oval Office. And there’s only one senator-turned-president in U.S. history who spent so little time in the world’s greatest deliberative body before launching a White House bid: Barack Obama.

Harris, meanwhile, has been touted as a potential president for years — even before she joined the Senate. The question is why. Looking back at how the “Kamala for commander in chief” buzz built over time is instructive. In part that’s because it reveals how much of a trailblazer she’s been in every stage of her career — and how that trailblazer status has, in turn, propelled her into the national spotlight.

“When Harris first ran for statewide office, the nation and, more specifically, the Democratic Party, had begun to rethink the boundaries for minority and female candidates,” said Dan Schnur, a former spokesman for John McCain. “Right after a primary in which voters chose between a minority candidate [Obama] and female candidate [Hillary Clinton], Harris emerged on the landscape of the biggest state in the country as both. Her demographic identity brought her a tremendous amount of attention at precisely the right moment in her party’s history.”

Yet this history also highlights the single biggest challenge facing Harris’s nascent campaign — the key factor that will determine if she catches fire or flames out. In a presidential slugfest, biography is a great starting point. But it can only take you so far. For years, the excitement surrounding Harris has overshadowed whatever political skills she’s displayed on the campaign trail. Now those skills will be put to the test.

“Harris has been a very talented campaigner. But there is no preparation for running for president except running for president.”

— Dan Schnur, former spokesman for John McCain

A demonstrator outside a book promotion event for former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Thursday in Seattle. (Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP)

‘Run, Howard, run!’

“Maybe Schultz wouldn’t be much of a candidate,” Yahoo News’ Matt Bai wrote this week. “He certainly doesn’t project a ton of warmth or rhetorical skill. Maybe he goes ahead with this venture and finds out that campaigning for anything is a lot harder than it looks, and that the answers to complex policy problems are generally some version of telling everybody something they can’t bear to hear.

“But if he does decide to run, he’ll have shown us something already, which is that he’s got the steel to shrug off a social media storm of nasty, sanctimonious bullying and manage to do what he thinks is right. That in itself might set him apart from the field.”

“Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical, billionaire a**hole! Go back to getting ratioed on Twitter. Go back to Davos with the other billionaire élites who think they know how to run the world.”

— Heckler to Howard Schultz at a Manhattan book launch for the former Starbucks chief executive

• Sherrod Brown is in Iowa right now.
• Cory Booker will be there Feb. 8-9
• Also note: Rep. Adam Schiff will be in New Hampshire on Feb. 4

Des Moines

• Feb. 2, Afternoon showers, 44°/41°
• Feb. 3, Afternoon showers, 53°/41°
• Feb. 4, Morning showers, 45°/12°

Manchester, N.H.

• Feb. 2, Cloudy, 31°/14°
• Feb. 3, Mostly cloudy, 37°/26°
• Feb. 4, Morning showers, 53°/33°

Source: Weather Underground

Longreads: Kamala Harris’ Crusade Against ‘Revenge Porn’ (Politico Magazine)

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