There are exactly 662 days until the 2020 presidential election, and 389 days until the Iowa caucuses. Which means there’s no time like now to launch our new column that will track who’s in, who’s out, who’s considering, where they’re traveling and what they’re saying, all in an effort to keep tabs on what is likely to be another crowded, divisive, furious campaign cycle.
Kamala floods the zone
A week after Elizabeth Warren formally launched a 2020 exploratory committee, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., launched what you might call an informal one with the release of a new memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” (Excerpt: “Most mornings, my husband, Doug, wakes up before me and reads the news in bed. If I hear him making noises — a sigh, a groan, a gasp — I know what kind of day it’s going to be.”) Many candidates kick off their presidential campaigns with a dull memoir, or an even duller policy treatise, of course, but Harris one-upped them by simultaneously publishing a children’s book, “Superheroes Are Everywhere.” (Excerpt: “Faster than a rocket ship, braver than a lion, superheroes always make the world better.”)
Her literary endeavors resulted in the desired effect of promoting a flurry of media appearances, ranging from “Good Morning America” and “Morning Joe” to chats with Stephen Colbert and the women of “The View.” And her book tour, which made its first stop in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, will wind through New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles over the next five days. (Just a suggestion: There are several excellent bookstores in Des Moines, including this one.)
“The Kamala Harris soft launch is here,” Christopher Cadelago writes in Politico. “It’s a chance for Harris to roll out her personal story while previewing the fundamental themes of her prospective campaign, drawn from her time as a career prosecutor and her ideas about reforming the criminal justice system.”
It’s also a chance to boost her visibility before the Democratic field, which is expected to include nearly two dozen candidates, gets overcrowded. Polling at this stage basically just reflects name recognition, which is why the most recent survey of likely Iowa Democratic caucus goers showed a big lead for former Democratic everything Joe Biden, at 32 percent, followed by lovably curmudgeonly 2016 runner-up Bernie Sanders at 19 percent, Instagram pinup Beto O’Rourke at 11 percent and Trump-tweet target Warren at 8 percent. Harris was at 5 percent, which isn’t at all bad for a first-term senator with limited national exposure. [Note: The Des Moines Register poll was conducted last month; Warren visited the first-in-the-nation caucus state last weekend. Harris visited Iowa in October to stump for Democratic candidates ahead of the midterm elections.]
Meanwhile, San Francisco’s KCBS Radio reports that Harris has indeed decided to run and will “announce her candidacy on or around Martin Luther King Day” in Oakland, where she was born and began her legal career.
According to the report, Harris’s advisers want to “avoid identifying her too closely with San Francisco,” where she was a district attorney.
Gillibrand to visit a state that starts with ‘I’ (not you, Idaho)
CNN reports that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is considering a presidential run in 2020, is planning a trip to Iowa next weekend. And the New York Times reports that Gillibrand has hired Meredith Kelly, former communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to serve as spokeswoman for her expected campaign.
She’s got some communicating to do. In that Des Moines Register poll, Gillibrand received less than 1 percent support. Many Democrats still blame her for forcing Minnesota’s Al Franken to resign from the Senate — except for the ones who credit her with forcing Franken to resign.
If Kristen Gillibrand runs in my state's primary, I will write-in Al Franken's name.
— Bruce Bartlett (@BruceBartlett) January 11, 2019
Speaking of polls…
DailyKos.com did its first straw poll of the 2020 presidential cycle and Elizabeth Warren came out on top with 22 percent of the liberal site’s users, selecting the progressive firebrand as its choice for the presidency. Beto O’Rourke (15 percent), Kamala Harris (14 percent), Joe Biden (14 percent) and Bernie Sanders (11 percent) round out the top five — but that’s bad news for two of the Bs, DailyKos says:
“Bernie … has a ‘yesterday’s news’ feel to him. He has universal ID and the best he can manage is 11 percent on a site of Democratic activists? He can’t play the ‘I’m more progressive than thou’ card in this field, so he’s got nowhere to go but down, as other candidates become better known. Same with Biden: Universal name ID, and he’s eclipsed by the party’s new stars. Where is he going to grow support? His only direction will be down.”
More bad news for Bernie
Last week, Bernie Sanders issued an apology after the New York Times detailed allegations of unwanted sexual advances and pay inequity for women on his 2016 campaign. This week, Politico reported that a top Sanders adviser has been accused of forcibly kissing a subordinate during the 2016 Democratic National Convention — another example of what some say was a hostile work environment for women on the campaign. The adviser, Robert Becker, denied any wrongdoing. The unnamed woman, who did not report the incident at the time because the campaign was over, said she was compelled to come forward because Becker had been gearing up for Sanders’s potential 2020 bid. “Candidates who allow people like Robert Becker to lead their organizations shouldn’t earn the highest office in our government,” said the woman. “It just really sucks because no one ever held him accountable and he kept pushing and pushing and seeing how much he could get away with. This can’t happen in 2020.”
CNN reported Thursday that Sanders’s 2016 campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, won’t return to the role if Sanders enters the race. Weaver, a longtime Sanders aide, will instead take a strategic adviser role. (According to CNN, the change was decided long before the sexual harassment reports surfaced.)
And a Vermont newspaper is urging Sanders not to run for president.
“In fact, we beg him not to,” the Montpelier Times-Argus said in an editorial. “That is an unfavorable opinion, especially among most Vermonters and progressives who support the platform that has come to define him. But at this point, there are more things about another Sanders run at the White House that concern us than excite us.”
Among them: the accusations about his campaign’s treatment of women, and the risk of Sanders “dividing the well-fractured Democratic Party,” hurting the party’s chances against President Trump.
“There is too much at stake to take that gamble,” the paper said.
Des Moines, Iowa
Friday, Jan. 11: Snow showers, 35°/27°
Saturday, Jan. 12: Snow, 31°/21°
Sunday, Jan. 13: Sunny, 32°/19°
Monday, Jan. 14: Mostly cloudy, 34°/26°
Source: Weather Underground
Steyer goes to Iowa to — wait for it — not run
Tom Steyer, the billionaire activist whose campaign to impeach President Trump has given him a national platform, took himself out of the field of potential Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday, saying he’s going to focus on Trump’s impeachment instead.
Steyer, who had stoked speculation about a possible run, made the announcement in Iowa.
“Most people come to Iowa around this time to announce a campaign for president,” Steyer said. “But I am proud to be here to announce that I will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to remove a president.”
Politico reports that Beto O’Rourke is leaning toward running for president, although he’s doing it in his unconventional way — by not going to Iowa. The former Texas congressman, who lost a hard-fought Senate race to Ted Cruz in November’s midterm elections, is reportedly “preparing for a solo road trip” — but one that will avoid early voting states — and “won’t make any decision before February.” Still, he’s polling higher than some of his would-be rivals. And Beto met with former President Barack Obama late last year in what is increasingly being seen as a prerequisite for serious Democratic contenders.
“It sounds like he’s seeing green and yellow lights, and not a whole lot of red lights,” Democratic strategist Boyd Brown told Politico.
Like virtually all potential Democratic hopefuls, O’Rourke responded to President Trump’s Oval Office address using social media. (Bernie Sanders delivered a live-streamed response on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.) But Beto did something a bit different: He took a walking tour of his El Paso, Texas, neighborhood late Tuesday night, lambasting Trump over the course of a 75-minute Facebook Live broadcast.
O’Rourke has become known for his Facebook Live videos. A few weeks after his loss to Cruz, he filmed himself in his kitchen preparing dinner for his wife, Amy Sanders, and their three kids, drawing nearly a quarter-million views. Is it possible in this age for a politician to overshare on social media? O’Rourke pushed the envelope with a live stream of his dental checkup. Taking a page from Donald Trump’s pre-election physical, which he dictated to his doctor, Mr. O’Rourke, if elected, will surely have the healthiest gums of anyone ever elected to the presidency.
Chew on that, Democrats.
Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro (twin brother of Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquín Castro) will announce his 2020 plans at an event in San Antonio on Saturday morning. He’ll also appear on CBS’ “Face The Nation” Sunday.
Back in October, Castro told Yahoo Finance it was “likely” he would launch a White House bid.
And the Texas Tribune reports that Oprah Winfrey, who had been rumored as a potential 2020 challenger to Trump, will sit down with O’Rourke on Feb. 5 in New York City as part of a forthcoming interview series titled “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations from Times Square.” It will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network and will also be available as a podcast.
Iowa Democratic caucus
Joe Biden: 32 percent
Bernie Sanders: 19 percent
Beto O’Rourke: 11 percent
Elizabeth Warren: 8 percent
Kamala Harris: 5 percent
Cory Booker: 4 percent
Michael Bloomberg: 3 percent
Amy Klobuchar: 3 percent
Source: Des Moines Register/CNN
Who would “excite” Democratic voters as a candidate in 2020?
Bernie Sanders: 36 percent
Joe Biden: 53 percent
“Someone entirely new”: 59 percent
Source: Suffolk University/USA Today
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