2020 Vision: Trump gets surprise Log Cabin Republicans endorsement

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Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 171 days until the Iowa caucuses and 445 days until the 2020 presidential election.

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

Log Cabin Republicans back Trump

During the 2016 election, Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBT organization, declined to endorse Donald Trump for president, even after Trump's vow, at the Republican convention, to “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from violence and oppression.”

Since taking office, Trump and his administration have effectively rolled back rights for the LGBT community, reinstating a ban on transgender troops from serving in the U.S. military; reversing departmental protections against discrimination against transgender people; banning the flying of pride flags at U.S. embassies; and siding with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

This month, the Department of Labor promulgated a draft rule that would allow government contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees on religious grounds.

That's why it was a surprise on Friday when the group — which normally waits until after the conventions to endorse a candidate — announced its endorsement of Trump's reelection bid.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Log Cabin Republicans chairman Robert Kabel and vice chair Jill Homan credited Trump with "removing gay rights as a wedge issue from the old Republican playbook" and "taking bold actions that benefit the LGBTQ community."

"He has committed to end the spread of HIV/AIDS in 10 years, through the use of proven science, medicine and technology to which we now have access," they wrote. "Trump has used the United States’ outsize global influence to persuade other nations to adopt modern human rights standards, including launching an initiative to end the criminalization of homosexuality."

"While we do not agree with every policy or platform position presented by the White House or the Republican Party," they added, "we share a commitment to individual responsibility, personal freedom and a strong national defense."

Trump has courted the support of evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, John Hagee and Jerry Falwell Jr., who stridently denounce homosexuality as a sin. He appointed Falwell to a task force on education policy.

Log Cabin Republicans endorsed John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, speaks to members of the media and supporters during a campaign re-launch in El Paso on Thursday. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke at a campaign relaunch in El Paso on Thursday. (Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Beto’s reboot

After the deadly mass shooting in El Paso earlier this month, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke returned to his hometown, where he was met by both grieving families and mounting calls for him to end his presidential run and return to the Lone Star State.

"Texas needs you," the Houston Chronicle said in an editorial calling for him to drop his bid for the Democratic nomination and focus his efforts on the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican John Cornyn.

Instead, O'Rourke delivered what his aides called a “major address to the nation” in El Paso on Thursday morning, recasting his campaign as a direct effort to hold President Trump accountable for gun violence.

"I've got to tell you, there's some part of me — and it's a big part of me — that wants to stay here and be with my family and be with my community," O'Rourke said. "There have even been some who suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate. But that would not be good enough for this community. That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country.”

He added: “We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem, the person who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment of peril. And that is Donald Trump."

Cardi B is feeling the Bern

Sen. Bernie Sanders recently sat down with rapper Cardi B for a campaign video set in a Detroit nail salon, where they discussed their shared love of FDR, increasing the minimum wage, canceling student debt and defeating Donald Trump in 2020.

“We have this bully as a president, and the only way to take him out is somebody winning,” Cardi said.

“We’ve got to get rid of Donald Trump, obviously,” Sanders agreed, “because Donald Trump is an overt racist. He’s way out there.”

It's not the first time Sanders has turned to hip-hop in an effort to connect with African-American voters. In 2016, he sat down with the rapper Killer Mike at an Atlanta barbershop for a similar conversation. Killer Mike subsequently became one of Sanders’s most visible surrogates, even appearing in the spin room after one of the Democratic debates on his behalf.

President Trump holds a "Keep America Great" hat as he speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
President Trump holds a "Keep America Great" hat at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

#KAG wins

At his rally in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday, President Trump polled the crowd inside the Southern New Hampshire University Arena on whether his reelection campaign should adopt a new slogan, "Keep America Great," or use the one from his successful 2016 bid, "Make America Great Again." Judging by applause, the crowd chose "Keep America Great."

They were perhaps swayed by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, who was handing out "Keep America Great" hats before the president's speech.

After the event, Trump posted photos of the crowd on Twitter with their preferred rallying cry and accompanying hashtag, #KAG2020.

According to UrbanDictionary.com, "kag" is a slang verb that means "to eat or drink something reluctantly" or "to consume with disdain or disgust" and "choke down."

Hickenlooper ends campaign, eyes Senate

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s run at the Democratic presidential nomination officially came to an end on Thursday after a campaign of “pragmatic progressivism” that never found traction. Hickenlooper had a muddied start (refusing to identify himself as a capitalist before becoming the race’s foremost basher of socialism; an odd answer at a CNN town hall when asked about putting a woman on the ticket) and a late June staff shakeup that failed to serve as a reboot as he lagged in both polls and fundraising.

After repeatedly saying he had no interest in the Senate, Hickenlooper said in his departure video that he would now give serious consideration to taking on Republican incumbent Cory Gardner in the 2020 race, saying, “I’ve heard from so many Coloradans who want me to run for the United States Senate. They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state. I intend to give that some serious thought.”

Gardner is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators, as his narrow victory in the 2014 GOP wave year was followed by Hillary Clinton winning the state by 5 points in 2016 and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis winning by double digits in 2018. Hickenlooper remains a popular figure in Colorado, where he won two terms as both governor and mayor of Denver.

Democratic candidates appear during a primary debate in Detroit last month. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Democratic candidates at a primary debate in Detroit last month. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Who’s in, who’s out for next debate

One reason for Hickenlooper to drop out is he had almost no chance of making the next round of Democratic debates, set for Sept. 12 and 13. As we’ve written here before, the qualifications are higher than they were for the first two sets, requiring 130,000 individual donors and 2 percent or more in four Democratic National Committee-approved polls. Nine candidates have already locked in spots:

  • Joe Biden

  • Cory Booker

  • Pete Buttigieg

  • Kamala Harris

  • Amy Klobuchar

  • Beto O’Rourke

  • Bernie Sanders

  • Elizabeth Warren

  • Andrew Yang

Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro has hit the donor mark and just needs one more qualified poll by the Aug. 28 cutoff. That’s the same position as billionaire Tom Steyer, whose recent entry into the race came with massive spending on social media and gripes from some of his fellow candidates about buying a spot on the stage.

"We’re kidding ourselves if we’re calling a $10 million purchase of 130,000 donors a demonstration of grassroots support," said Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who is projected to miss the next set of debates but will have a CNN town hall later this month. "It’s not serving the candidates, and it sure isn’t helping the voters who will actually decide this election."

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — who went after Harris’s prosecutorial record in the last debate — has also cleared the donor threshold but needs three polls after a flurry of 1 percent finishes. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s message of climate change likely won’t make the stage as he has yet to hit 2 percent in any of the qualifying polls, but his campaign did announce on Wednesday that it was within 10,000 of the donor mark.

Should the number of qualified candidates exceed 10 — which seems likely — the group will be split into two nights, live on ABC News and Univision from Houston.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren greets supporters as she arrives at a rally outside the Wing Ding Dinner in Clear Lake, Iowa, last week. (Photo by Alex Edelman/ AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren greets supporters at a rally outside the Wing Ding Diner in Clear Lake, Iowa, last week. (Photo: Alex Edelman/ AFP/Getty Images)

Warren surges in latest Iowa poll

Last weekend all the candidates descended on Iowa for the state fair and crossed off important items from the list, from meeting voters and giving speeches to eating fried food and looking at a butter cow sculpture. Coming out of the cattle call, one poll shows a big winner: Elizabeth Warren. Warren led with 28 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in an Iowa Starting Line-Change Research Poll, 11 points ahead of Biden and Sanders, who were tied for second. It is a 16 percent bump from Warren’s position in a similar poll in May. The only other candidate to clock in at double digits in the August survey was Pete Buttigieg, who placed fourth with 13 percent.

While Iowa Republicans haven’t had the best luck at projecting the future nominee (the last three winners were Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee), the last few Democrats to win Iowa (Hillary Clinton by a slim margin, Barack Obama and John Kerry) all went on to win the nomination.

Biden still leads in most national polling, but Warren has worked her way into second in two August releases from Quinnipiac (21 percent, to Biden’s 32) and Fox News (20 percent, to Biden’s 31). A Morning Consult poll found the Massachusetts senator in third with 14 percent, behind Biden (33 percent) and Sanders (20 percent).

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tosses out hats to supporters before President Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tosses out hats to supporters before President Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)


“Promises have been made to black Americans. And they have not been kept.”

— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, at the Black Church PAC forum in Atlanta on Friday, when asked why African-American millennials should support him

“We are losing our well-being as a nation because so many of these guns now are on our streets.”

— Sen. Cory Booker, on MSNBC Wednesday, responding to the news of six police officers being shot in Philadelphia

“I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate. I’m running for president.”

— Beto O'Rourke, on MSNBC Wednesday, when asked about calls from some in the Democratic Party for him to change course

“One of the things I’m most proud of in this presidential campaign is that I’m leading the national narrative on major issues.”

— Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in an interview with CNN Wednesday; Gillibrand traveled to Missouri this week to highlight abortion rights

“Whether you love me or hate me, you gotta vote for me.”

— President Trump at a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday

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