2020 Vision: Buckle up, America! It’s gonna be a long, crowded campaign

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., declares her candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in Minneapolis on Sunday. (Eric Miller/Reuters)

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the new Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 362 days until the Iowa caucuses, and 633 days until the 2020 presidential election.

Just in: A primary challenge for Trump

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016, has become the first Republican to announce a challenge to President Trump.

Weld, 73, announced in New Hampshire on Friday that he has created a presidential exploratory committee to take on Trump in the 2020 primaries.

“We have a president whose priorities are skewed toward promotion of himself rather than toward the good of the country,” Weld said at an event in Bedford, N.H. “We don’t need six more years of the antics we have seen.”

What a week

If this week was any indication, the 2020 presidential campaign is going to be exhausting.

It began with the sixth woman, including four U.S. senators, to enter the 2020 presidential race. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., announced her candidacy at a snow-swept rally in her state that was immediately mocked by President Trump, the climate change denier in chief.

“Well, it happened again. Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing,” Trump tweeted, again appearing to mistake weather for climate.

“By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!” the president added.

“Science is on my side,” Klobuchar replied in a tweet. “Looking forward to debating you about climate change (and many other issues). And I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard?”

Klobuchar’s wintry announcement followed by a day the formal entry into the race of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts Democrat has been nicknamed “Pocahontas” by the president, thanks to her largely unfounded claim of Native American ethnicity, for which she has apologized. Trump’s reaction to this news on Twitter included an elliptical allusion to the Trail of Tears, the brutal ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the Southeastern states under the administration of Trump’s favorite president, Andrew Jackson.

“By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be President,” Warren said Sunday while campaigning in Cedar Rapids. “In fact, he may not even be a free person.”

Trump then held a “Make American Great Again” rally in El Paso, Texas, to highlight his demand for a wall along the U.S. southern border. On the same night, Beto O’Rourke, a possible Democratic presidential candidate and El Paso native, held his own competing rally at an outdoor plaza nearby.

“Here is one of the safest cities in the United States of America, safe not because of walls but in spite of walls,” O’Rourke told a crowd that Trump, holding his rally within earshot, erroneously estimated at 200 to 300 people. Musing on this purportedly pathetic turnout, Trump opined that O’Rourke’s decision to hold a competing rally “might be the end of his presidential bid” (O’Rourke has not yet formally declared his candidacy).

The president, unsurprisingly, was off in his count, although by an unusually large margin even for him. The El Paso police said O’Rourke’s rally actually attracted 10,000 to 15,000 people.

Still, Trump could console himself that it was a lot smaller than his own crowd, which he estimated at 35,000, including 10,000 in the arena and more than twice that number watching on screens outside. He even thanked the El Paso fire department for bending the occupancy rules for him. But the department said it had done no such thing, and that the arena was at its legal capacity of 6,500, with several thousand others gathered outside, according to the El Paso Times.

Trump also said that O’Rourke “has got very little going for himself, except he’s got a great first name.” (O’Rourke’s given name is actually Robert; Beto is a childhood nickname.)

And that just took us through Monday.

Beto O’Rourke addresses a rally held to counter Trump’s rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. (Photo: Christ Chavez/Getty Images)

‘Thinking about’ 2020

At his counter-rally, people waved signs that read “Beto 2020,” and people could be heard shouting for O’Rourke to run.

“I’m thinking about it,” the former congressman told one man — the same answer he gave to several reporters who waded through the crowd to press him on his White House aspirations.

Yahoo News’ Holly Bailey noted that privately, those close to O’Rourke are offering nothing further than that.

“He’s thinking about it,” one close associate said Monday, asking not to be named. O’Rourke’s deliberations about his future have been confined to a small group of family, friends and trusted advisers, including his former congressional chief of staff, David Wysong.

The discussions have been so closely guarded that some former staffers say they feel hurt that they have been excluded, Bailey added.

He told Oprah Winfrey that he would make a decision by the end of the month, which is less than two weeks off.

Hey, you never know

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., told BuzzFeed this week that he is thinking about running for president.

“I’m not definitely running, but I’m going to take a very hard look at it. A very serious look at it,” Moulton said. “Because I believe it’s time for a new generation of leadership, and we gotta send Donald Trump packing.”

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that he, too, is “seriously considering” a bid himself, adding: “I don’t feel any pressure to make any particular announcement anytime soon.”

Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Julián Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Bill Weld, President Trump

Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Eric Swalwell, Seth Moulton, Jay Inslee, Sherrod Brown, Terry McAuliffe, John Hickenlooper, Chris Murphy, Gina Raimondo, Tim Ryan, Joe Kennedy III, Luis Gutierrez, Jeff Merkley, Bill de Blasio, Steve Bullock, John Kasich, Howard Schultz

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

A campaign volunteer in Minneapolis on Sunday grills his lunch over an open flame just before Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced she will run for president. (Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP)

Filling the town hall

On Monday night, a week after announcing her candidacy, Klobuchar will participate in a live CNN town hall meeting moderated by Don Lemon at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. The cable news network has already hosted a town hall with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., also a candidate. But it drew widespread scorn for giving former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz a primetime town hall platform on Tuesday night.

Schultz, who says he is seriously considering an independent bid but has yet to declare his candidacy, offered few, if any, new policy positions at the event, despite being pressed by CNN’s Poppy Harlow. Schultz, who is estimated to be worth several billion dollars, committed to releasing his tax returns if he runs for president — something Trump said he would do during the 2016 campaign but more than two years into his presidency, has yet refused to do.

Schultz laid claim to the mantle of colorblindness when it comes to race, a political trope from the 1960s that is very much out of tune with today’s identity-driven politics.

“As somebody who grew up in a very diverse background as a young boy, in the projects, I didn’t see color as a young boy,” said Schultz, who was born and raised in Brooklyn. “And I honestly don’t see color now.”

“‘I don’t see color’ is the staple answer of white people who refuse to understand what racism is. When a great many people are being burned, not seeing fire is no virtue.”

— Author Anand Giridharadas, reacting to Schultz’s town hall comments


‘Women first’

In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow this week, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., was asked if he would commit to choosing a woman as his running mate.

“I think that you will rarely see a Democratic ticket anymore without gender diversity, race diversity. I think it’s something that we should have. So, I’m not going to box myself in, but, should I become [the nominee], you know I’ll be looking to women first.”

Details on the first Dem debates

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday announced details for the first two presidential primary debates of the 2020 cycle: The first debate, hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, will take place in June; and the second, hosted by CNN, in July. Given what is expected to be a large field of Democratic candidates, each debate will take place over two consecutive nights.

According to the DNC, up to 20 candidates may qualify for the debate after they have managed to register support of 1 percent or more in three separate polls (either national polls or polls of the electorate in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and/or Nevada) publicly released between Jan. 1, 2019, and 14 days prior to the date of the debate. Each debate will feature randomized lineups, and the “qualifying polls” will come from a DNC-approved list.

A total of 12 presidential primary debates are planned.

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attend the unveiling of a portrait of retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Capitol Hill on Dec. 8, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Is Biden a ‘weaker candidate than Hillary’?

It sounds as if former Vice President Joe Biden is about to enter the 2020 presidential race. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on Thursday that she spoke with Biden and came away convinced that he intends to run. A report from The Hill corroborated Feinstein’s assessment. One source said of Biden that he’s “95 percent there.”

While Biden leads in nearly every early poll (presumably a factor of name recognition in the large, somewhat unknown field), some Democrats are skeptical. His long record in the Senate includes votes that could be used against him. He is a 76-year-old white man who came of age in a different political era, and would be running in a party whose newest star, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is less than half his age. McClatchy DC talked to 31 Democratic strategists and reported that many felt a Biden run was “a bad, bad idea.”

“There’s a lot of reason to think he would wind up a significantly weaker candidate than Hillary,” one strategist said.


Who’s leading the Democratic primary right now?

Source: Morning Consult

Senate Judiciary Committee members Sen. Cory Booker, D.-N.J., top left, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., wait behind Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., before voting on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court on Sept. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Trump’s ‘oppo’ operation

According to Politico, President Trump’s political advisers are “homing in on three declared Democratic candidates who they believe are the most viable at this early stage of the campaign”: Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. The Trump campaign reportedly began “compiling opposition research” on them this past weekend — a time-honored practice that is changing quickly in the social media age, according to Yahoo News’ Andrew Romano.

Meanwhile, Trump, himself reportedly believes former Vice President Joe Biden represents the “most formidable” threat to his reelection. Yet back in July, Trump said that Biden would be his “dream opponent.”

Biden has said he regrets not running for the 2016 Democratic nomination, and once expressed a desire to take Trump on — in a fistfight. “I wish we were in high school,” Biden said in October 2016. “I could take him behind the gym.” Trump responded by saying he would “love that.”

Dismiss it all you like. Pitting two near-octogenarians in a steel-cage match would be peak 2020.

“I think the word has mostly lost its meaning. And it’s certainly lost its ability to be used as a kill switch on debate.”

— Pete Buttigieg discussing socialism on CNN’s “State of the Union”

Boring but important

Former New York City mayor and billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is “preparing to spend at least $500 million from his own pocket to deny President Donald Trump a second term,” Politico reported this week, citing Democratic operatives briefed on his twofold plan:

If he runs, he will use that half-billion-dollar stake — roughly $175 million more than the Trump campaign spent over the course of the entire 2016 election cycle — to fuel his campaign through the 2020 primary season, with the expectation that the sum represents a floor, not a ceiling, on his potential spending.

If Bloomberg declines to seek the presidency, his intention is to run an unprecedented, data-heavy, campaign designed to operate as a shadow political party for the eventual Democratic nominee.

At an event in in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Bloomberg said that he’ll make a decision in “three more weeks.”

“The insatiable greed of the billionaire class must end. They cannot get it all.”

— Bernie Sanders in an email to supporters

Des Moines

• Feb. 15, Cloudy, 13°/1°
• Feb. 16, Partly cloudy, 19°/16°
• Feb. 17, Snow showers, 25°/14°

Manchester, N.H.

• Feb. 15, Rain/freezing rain, 47°/28°
• Feb. 16, Partly cloudy, 38°/16°
• Feb. 17, Partly cloudy, 33°/15°

Source: Weather Underground

Democrats’ 2020 Choice: Do They Want a Fighter or a Healer? (New York Times)
• ‘A Woman, Just Not That Woman’: How Sexism Plays Out on the Trail (New York Times)
Everyone’s Running — and That Could Be Dangerous for the Democrats (FiveThirtyEight)

— With Christopher Wilson contributing