2020 Vision: The field comes into focus

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer
Former Vice President Joe Biden. (Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the new Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 332 days until the Iowa caucuses, and 606 days until the 2020 presidential election.

[Who’s running for president? Click here for Yahoo News’ 2020 tracker]

A week ago, there were at least 13 candidates considering entering the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, alongside the 14 already running. But then four — former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — decided to stand down. And each did so by vowing to stay relevant in the party’s fight to unseat President Trump.

“I will keep calling out Donald Trump and his phony populism,” Brown said.

“It’s essential that we nominate a Democrat who will be in the strongest position to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country back together,” said Bloomberg. “We cannot allow the primary process to drag the party to an extreme that would diminish our chances in the general election and translate into ‘Four More Years.'”

The decisions by Bloomberg and Brown to bow out would seem to clear a lane for former Vice President Joe Biden, who the New York Times reported this week is “95 percent committed to running.” (Math note: That means he’s 5 percent uncommitted to running.)

Biden is an old-school centrist in a party that has moved to the left since he left office, running against new-school progressives who have made issues such as “Medicare for all” and the “Green New Deal” mainstream.

The 76-year-old, who lost his two previous bids for president, would enter this race as a favorite, sitting at or near the top of early polls alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Gaffe machine

Biden would also bring with him plenty of baggage.

Just this week, decades-old comments Biden made about desegregation and crime resurfaced — a reminder that everything he’s ever said or done will receive fresh scrutiny in a presidential race.

In 1975, Biden, then a freshman senator from Delaware, spoke out against busing white children to majority-black schools and black children to majority-white schools.

“I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race,’” Biden said in the interview with a Delaware-based newsweekly 44 years ago, republished Thursday in the Washington Post. “I don’t buy that.”

He added: “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”

And in a speech on the Senate floor in 1993, Biden warned of “predators on our streets” who must be locked up.

“They are beyond the pale, many of those people, beyond the pale,” Biden said in a clip published Thursday by CNN’s K-File. “And it’s a sad commentary on society. We have no choice but to take them out of society.”

Biden was instrumental in shepherding a crime bill ― signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 ― that mandated life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes. The law has come under criticism for its disproportionate impact on African-Americans and is a prime target of the criminal-justice reform movement.

“On a human level, I love Joe Biden. He’s like family,” journalist and political analyst Joan Walsh tweeted. “Which is why I don’t want him to run. He’ll be reduced to his worst statements and votes and … shows of affection. And someone who knows him and cares about him should tell him that.”

“Being a pragmatist doesn’t mean saying no to bold ideas. It means knowing how to make them happen.”

— John Hickenlooper, former Colorado governor, at his campaign kickoff rally

Warren takes on Big Tech

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., rolled out another policy proposal Friday, following up on her plans for a wealth tax and expanded child care. Warren has proposed regulations targeting large tech companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook.

“As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people,” Warren wrote in a Medium post announcing the policy. “To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.”

Warren’s antitrust plan would also unwind previous acquisitions, such as Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and Zappos, Facebook absorbing WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google adding Waze and Nest to their portfolio. Warren’s plan also called for consumers having more control of their personal information and for additional safeguards against foreign powers using social media to influence U.S. elections.

It’s an ambitious plan and one that is unlikely to make the senator a favorite among the Silicon Valley donors who’ve become a major source of support for Democrats. Warren will continue to rely on small donors and grassroots support for her campaign.

The pot primary, part two: Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman now considering a White House bid, sent a lengthy email to supporters on Monday calling for the legalization of marijuana, joining a growing list of pro-legalization 2020 hopefuls that includes Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand.

“I think the only reason to do something like this is to do it with the purpose in mind of winning.”

―William Weld, who is exploring a primary challenge against President Trump, on this week’s episode of the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Supporting Omar

Democrats in and out of office, running for president and not running, spent much of the week denouncing, defending, explaining or running away from reporters asking about comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Discussing the Mideast at a town hall, Omar brought up “the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” The foreign country she meant was Israel, and the “people” presumably were American Jews. A draft of a House resolution condemning anti-Semitism evolved over several days to incorporate broader language opposing all forms of bigotry, including against Muslims, after pressure from progressive House members.

Some 2020 contenders also weighed in. “Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology, which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, in a statement. “We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing Netanyahu government in Israel. Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace. What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said she was concerned focusing on Omar could put her in danger but added that “you can both support Israel and be loyal to our country. I also believe there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said, “Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Threats of violence ― like those made against Rep. Omar ― are never acceptable.”

Trump to ditch his rallies? Politico reports that Trump is itching to match the excitement surrounding 2020 Democrats’ campaign announcements with more of his own “MAGA” rallies. But his advisers “believe an early reelection strategy built around his role as chief executive in dignified settings like the Oval Office and the Rose Garden will carry more weight with voters than his signature freewheeling arena speeches.”

Good luck in getting him to agree to that.

(Also: A question for Politico: Have you seen Trump’s Rose Garden speeches lately? They’re not exactly dignified.)

Fox News moderators Chris Wallace, left, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier at a Republican presidential primary debate in Cleveland in 2015. (Photo: John Minchillo/AP)

The debate over the Fox News debate

On Monday, the New Yorker published an 11,000-word story by Jane Mayer about the outsized influence Fox News has over President Trump and the White House. In it, Mayer reports that Roger Ailes, the network’s late chief executive, may have informed the Trump campaign in advance of questions Fox News moderators, including Megyn Kelly, intended to ask at the first Republican debate in 2015. The Democratic National Committee, in turn, announced that Fox will not host any of its 2020 debates.

“Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates,” DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

Trump, of course, was too busy dealing with the national emergency at the border to respond to the news.

Just kidding!


Weekend preview

Bernie Sanders is making his first trips to Iowa (Friday and Saturday) and New Hampshire (Sunday) as a candidate.
South by Southwest, the annual interactive, music and film festival, opens Friday in Austin, Texas. And a bunch of 2020 candidates are scheduled to be there, including Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Julián Castro, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard and Pete Buttigieg, as well as three considering bids: Beto O’Rourke, Eric Swalwell and Howard Schultz.
CNN hosts back-to-back-to-back live Democratic presidential town halls at SXSW on Sunday night: Delaney at 7 p.m. ET, Gabbard at 8 p.m. ET and Buttigieg at 9 p.m. ET.

“I think it’s safe to say I’m not extremely famous.”

— Pete Buttigieg, South Bend, Ind., mayor, on the challenge facing his Democratic presidential candidacy, in Manchester, N.H., Friday

Austin

• Friday, March 8: Mostly cloudy, 81°/67°
• Saturday, March 9: Thunderstorms, 81°/53°
• Sunday, March 10: Thunderstorms, 75°/59°

Des Moines

• Friday, March 8: Cloudy, 38°/32°
• Saturday, March 9: Rain, 36°/24°
• Sunday, March 10: Partly cloudy, 33°/17°

Manchester, N.H.

• Friday, March 8: Partly cloudy, 36°/16°
• Saturday, March 9: Sunny, 41°/22°
• Sunday, March 10: Rain/snow, 38°/35°

— With Christopher Wilson contributing

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