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.
After a week in which the news cycle was dominated by President Trump’s State of the Union address and a trio of scandals rocking the government of Virginia, focus this weekend figures to shift back to the 2020 race, as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., are each expected to formally announce their campaigns for president.
And both are doing so on the heels of some bad headlines. On Thursday, our colleagues over at HuffPost reported that at least three people withdrew their names from consideration to manage Klobuchar’s campaign, in part because of reports that she mistreats her staff:
Klobuchar, who plans to make an announcement about a potential presidential bid on Sunday in Minneapolis, has spent the past several months positioning herself to run for president. She’s beloved in her state as a smart, funny and personable lawmaker and has gained national attention for her questioning at high-profile hearings.
But some former Klobuchar staffers, all of whom spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity, describe Klobuchar as habitually demeaning and prone to bursts of cruelty that make it difficult to work in her office for long. It is common for staff to wake up to multiple emails from Klobuchar characterizing one’s work as “the worst” briefing or press release she’d seen in her decades of public service, according to two former aides and emails seen by HuffPost.
Warren, who is scheduled to make her announcement on Saturday in Lawrence, Mass., issued another apology for identifying herself as Native American after the Washington Post unearthed a 1986 registration card for the Texas state bar in which Warren identified her ethnicity as “American Indian.”
The controversy over Warren’s Native American ancestry has largely overshadowed her compelling personal story, Yahoo News’ Holly Bailey reports:
The Massachusetts senator has recently sought to play up her working-class roots in a way she hasn’t before, frequently reminding early primary state voters that she is not really a member of the Northeastern elite, but an “Okie,” a nickname originally given to hardscrabble Oklahomans during the Dust Bowl. […]
But Warren’s accounts of her childhood in Oklahoma, where she spent the first 17 years of her life, leave out some nuance and some details, like the little sports car [a two-door 1958 MG] she drove during her last year in high school.
“She drove that car like a bat out of hell,” recalled Katrina Cochran, a classmate and one of Warren’s closest high school friends.
NEW: Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio “has made some initial steps toward exploring a presidential bid.”
Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, 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, Amy Klobuchar, 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
“I don’t think so. A lot of people ask me that. I never say never, but at this point in time, I don’t think I’m going to do it.”
— Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, when asked on CNN if he plans to run for president in 2020
Kamala Harris vs. the NRA
As far as 2020 goes, the National Rifle Association had been pretty quiet until this week, when the gun lobby’s national spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, took aim at Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, calling her nascent presidential bid an “existential threat to our Second Amendment.”
On her daily NRA-TV show, Loesch urged viewers to band together in opposition of Harris — and, more pointedly, to contribute to the organization.
“The one organization she fears is the NRA, made up of millions of people just like you,” she said. “If you aren’t a member, I need you to join. I need you to donate. And I need every gun owner and freedom-loving American to join us in this fight. Now. Today.”
It wasn’t obvious why Loesch singled out Harris, whose position on gun control — she supports it, along with 80 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of the country — isn’t notably different from other candidates in the race.
Harris responded in a Twitter post.
“You know what’s a threat? Gun violence,” she tweeted. “It kills on average 96 people every day. I will never be afraid to stand up to the gun lobby and their efforts to make our communities less safe.”
In defense of Bernie
Like most 2020 hopefuls, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issued a quick response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. But Sanders’s decision to live-stream it after Trump’s speech irked some Democrats, who thought it might overshadow the party’s official response by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. But to be fair to the Vermont senator, his live stream started after Abrams’s well-received rebuttal. And he began by praising Abrams.
“Now I think we all know why she would’ve been a wonderful governor of Georgia,” Sanders said.
“I know that it is late and I’m not going to go on for too long,” he said before delivering a 28-minute rebuttal.
Abrams’s speech ran only 10 minutes.
Arguably Sanders’s most notable response to Trump wasn’t his speech but his frown, caught by pool photographers, when Trump declared that “America will never be a socialist country.”
Beto watch: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke told Oprah Winfrey on Tuesday that he will make a decision about his 2020 plans by the end of the month.
The ‘Green New Deal’ gets its debut
On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced the framework of the so-called Green New Deal, legislation that aims to reconfigure the American economy to combat climate change, and it includes a long progressive wish list that has no obvious connection to carbon dioxide emissions. Its provisions include making all existing buildings in the U.S. energy efficient; eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions “as much as possible” on farms; overhauling the country’s transportation system, including a transition to high-speed rail and electric vehicles; guaranteeing a “family-sustaining wage” for all U.S. workers; and providing “high-quality health care” for all Americans.
Two Democratic presidential candidates, Harris of California and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, co-sponsored the legislation. Sanders, who Yahoo News reported is on the verge of launching his campaign for president, also backs the bill.
We now pause briefly to imagine what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell probably thinks about the bill’s chances of passing the Republican-controlled Senate.
In fact, not even all Democratic leaders in Congress are on board. A day before the “Green New Deal” was introduced, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw a bit of shade at the plan in an interview with Politico.
“The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is,” Pelosi said.
The Amtrak primary
— Kirsten Allen (@knicole_a) February 7, 2019
Trump nails down his first endorsements
In 2016, following the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said he wouldn’t vote for Trump.
“I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” Gardner said at the time. (He wrote in Mike Pence’s name instead.)
Trump is still the person he was in 2016. But this week Gardner became one of the first two Senate Republicans (Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio being the other) to endorse Trump for president in 2020. His rationale? A Democrat would be worse.
“I know what Kamala Harris and I know what Bernie Sanders will do to Colorado,” Gardner told the Independent Journal Review. “And that’s why I’ll be supporting the president.”
He didn’t say what he thought the two senators would do to Colorado — take away the Rocky Mountains? Legalize marijuana? — or whether he would change his mind if someone else was the Democratic nominee.
Trump, in turn, thanked Portman and Gardner on Twitter.
“Thank you to Senator Rob Portman and Senator Cory Gardner for the early and warm endorsement,” the president tweeted. “We will ALL WIN in 2020 together!”
Boring but important: Trump’s campaign has spent nearly $100,000 of donor money to pay legal bills to the firm representing Jared Kushner, new campaign finance records show.
“Privately, lots of Democratic insiders also fear that the only thing standing between Democratic victory in 2020 and another Trump term is a nominee who scratches the itch of the liberal base but can’t appeal to the moderate middle.”
— Amy Cook, Cook Political Report
The GOP’s anti-primary effort
Trump’s campaign has launched a “state-by-state effort to prevent an intraparty fight” that could lead to a potential Republican primary challenge, the Associated Press reported this week. The initiative follows last month’s unusual vote by the Republican National Committee at its winter meeting to throw the party’s “undivided support” behind Trump’s reelection bid. Taken together, the moves are “an acknowledgment that Trump … hasn’t completely cemented his grip on the GOP and, in any event, is not likely to coast to the 2020 GOP nomination without some form of opposition.”
Indeed, the Trump campaign is “closely monitoring” former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other potential primary challengers.
This, despite polls showing Trump’s outsized approval rating among Republicans — 79 percent, according to the most recent Reuters/Ipsos survey. Overall, though, the president’s job approval in under water, with just 38 percent approving of his performance in the Oval Office.
Howard Schultz continues to make Dems see red
Two weeks ago, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz angered Democrats when he said he is seriously considering an independent bid for president. Next week, he’s getting the primetime CNN town hall treatment, which is triggering even more Dem rage. And according to a Bloomberg poll released this week, Schultz has virtually no chance of winning the White House as an independent candidate, but such a bid would almost certainly benefit Trump. According to the poll, Schultz is getting twice as much support from Democrats (11.6 percent) as Republicans (5.6 percent), and the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls “fare worse against Trump when Schultz is included in the race.”
“The moniker ‘billionaire’ now has become the catchphrase. I would rephrase that and say people of means have been able to leverage their wealth and their interest in ways that are unfair.”
— Howard Schultz when asked if billionaires wield too much power in American public life
• Dems see danger in the Mueller probe (Politico)
Read more from Yahoo News:
- Booker launches his campaign with a call for America to ‘rise’
- Ann Coulter: ‘Lunatic’ Trump could be challenged in 2020 — from the right
- Bernie Sanders set to announce 2020 presidential run
- Mayor Pete to president? It’s crazy, but he thinks his ideas aren’t.
- Someday, Donald Trump will be a former president. The mind boggles.