Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 178 days until the Iowa caucuses and 452 days until the 2020 presidential election.
In the wake of the mass shootings that left 31 people dead and more than 50 others injured in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, gun control has returned to the forefront of American politics. And the debate will be on display this weekend in Iowa, where 14 Democratic presidential candidates — including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg — will take part in a Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun safety organization.
"There has never been more momentum in the gun safety movement than there is right now, but political inaction continues to take a tragic toll,” Bloomberg said earlier this week. “The shootings in El Paso and Dayton have rightly outraged Americans, and we are going to make sure that gun safety is front and center in this presidential election — something that is long overdue.”
Ahead of the event, which will be held Saturday in Des Moines, Warren called on Walmart — the site of the El Paso massacre — to stop selling firearms at its stores.
“Companies that sell guns have a responsibility to the safety of their communities," Warren tweeted on Friday. "Walmart is one of the largest gun retailers in the world. Weapons they sell are killing their customers and employees. No profit worth those lives. Do the right thing — stop selling guns.”
Earlier this week, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the company will respond in a "thoughtful and deliberate" way to the shootings, but company officials also stressed that Walmart's policy on gun sales has not changed.
Meanwhile, President Trump maintains he can rally Republicans around strengthening background checks, and that the National Rifle Association — which has resisted virtually all gun control legislation — will come around. But Trump said the same thing after the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., and nothing was done.
Beto goes home
Last weekend’s deadly shooting in El Paso has a personal connection for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a native of the city who served on its city council before representing it in Congress. O’Rourke’s presidential campaign has stalled in both polling and fundraising, but he’s found himself in the media spotlight for much of the week as he mourns with his hometown, having left an event in Nevada shortly after Saturday’s shooting. O’Rourke has spent time with the injured and families of the deceased, including traveling to Mexico for a funeral.
He’s also been outspoken in connecting President Trump’s fearmongering over immigrants to the shooting that left 22 dead.
“The president is part of the problem. He is trafficking in lies,” O’Rourke told MSNBC Wednesday morning in advance of Trump’s visit to El Paso. “He’s called El Paso one of the most dangerous cities, repeatedly, in the country, though it is one of, if not the, safest. Describing immigrants as rapists and criminals, talking about invasions and infestations. All of that fear, that anger, that hatred, that willingness to dehumanize our fellow human beings found a home in the killer and found an expression in violence that we saw Saturday. He is in large part to blame for what has taken place.”
Hours before departing the White House to visit Dayton and El Paso, Trump responded to O’Rourke on Twitter.
“Beto (phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage) O’Rourke, who is embarrassed by my last visit to the Great State of Texas, where I trounced him, and is now even more embarrassed by polling at 1% in the Democrat Primary, should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!” Trump tweeted.
O’Rourke does not claim Hispanic descent, and was given his nickname in childhood.
Beto retweeted the message and added, “22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I.”
While he draws the ire of the president, O’Rourke has received support from his fellow primary candidates.
“Folks have been so kind these last few days — a good reminder of the larger fight we are up against and how we can all come together in such dark moments,” wrote Aleigha Cavalier, O’Rourke’s national press secretary, after Sen. Kamala Harris’s campaign bought lunch for the staff at O’Rourke’s El Paso headquarters on Tuesday.
Some have suggested that O’Rourke could use the shooting and time spent back home in its aftermath as a way to end his presidential run and transition to a Senate race against incumbent Republican John Cornyn, but on Wednesday night O’Rourke said he planned to resume his campaign eventually.
“I will return to the campaign trail,” O’Rourke told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. “I will pursue the nomination of our party to serve this country as president of the United States, but right now I’m going to focus on my community, on our family, on those families who are grieving right now and those families who have someone who's not yet out of the woods.”
Sanders visits ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’
Earlier this week, when his campaign swung through Los Angeles, Sen. Bernie Sanders sat down for an interview with Joe Rogan, the podcast host and MMA personality. His show, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” is known for its huge following (nearly 6 million YouTube subscribers), a nonconfrontational interview style, eclectic guest list and conversations that can stretch to three hours. Published Tuesday, the Sanders interview outlining his platform has already reached 6.1 million views and spent part of the week as the No. 1 trending video on YouTube.
Rogan has been criticized for opening his large platform to “alt-right” ideologies, including conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has appeared on the show multiple times. Sanders is the third Democratic candidate to go on Rogan’s show this cycle, joining entrepreneur Andrew Yang (who credited the appearance with boosting his campaign in its early days) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. The Sanders video already has more than the Yang (3.4 million) and Gabbard (2.2 million) interviews.
Many progressives have lauded Sanders for reaching out to an audience that likely has not heard his policies before. As Luke Savage writes in the leftist magazine Jacobin, “By appearing on the show, Sanders successfully exposed Rogan’s audience to left-wing ideas many have probably never encountered before, without the compromising filter usually applied to them by the mainstream media or the typical bad-faith actors on the right.” The reviews for Sanders’s appearance, both in the YouTube comments and on the Rogan subreddit, are overwhelmingly positive, although perhaps the main takeaway was the senator’s promise that if elected he would go back on Rogan’s show to disclose what the government knows about extraterrestrial aliens.
The Sanders campaign didn’t respond to a question about whether it had seen any noticeable boost in new donors after his interview with Rogan.
It is not the first time during this campaign Sanders has attempted to reach a different audience. He received positive reviews for his Fox News town hall where he rallied the crowd in support of his Medicare for All plan. The event drew the ire of Trump, an avid viewer of the network who is a confidant of several of its personalities.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is still the polling frontrunner, but a series of verbal stumbles have led to concerns over whether the 76-year-old is up for the rigors of a presidential campaign. On Thursday in Iowa, Biden accidentally said “poor kids” are just as bright as “white kids” while speaking to the Asian & Latino Coalition before attempting to correct himself. He also briefly confused the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Biden had previously conflated Thatcher with one of her successors, Theresa May) and misquoted his own stump speech by saying, “We choose truth over facts.” The muddled Thursday came one week after the second round of Democratic debates where Biden misstated the cost of Medicare for All, confused an insurance deductible with an insurance co-pay and was unable to accurately direct viewers to text support for his campaign, as well as a Sunday statement where he mixed up the locations of two mass shootings.
The Biden campaign responded after an account for Trump’s reelection campaign posted a clip of the “poor kids” remarks.
"Vice President Biden misspoke and immediately corrected himself during a refrain he often uses to make the point that all children deserve a fair shot, and children born into lower-income circumstances are just as smart as those born to wealthy parents,” said communications director Kate Bedingfield.
Last year Biden called himself a “gaffe machine” and asked friends whether he was too old while deliberating whether to run, but the frequency of verbal stumbles has led Democratic officials to question his stamina for a campaign that could last another 15 months.
“Biden and his team owe it to voters to put him [in] a real, rigorous public campaign schedule, like everyone else,” said Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Harry Reid. “If he can hack it, great. If not, better to know sooner rather than later. Keeping him under wraps except for big events while trying to skate by is just sketchy.”
“I saw Biden at an event in Las Vegas this Saturday and his remarks were disjointed, meandering and at times incoherent,” noted Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen. “This is a real issue, and Democrats need to be paying attention to it now.”
While Biden may be fumble-prone on the trail, it does not appear to be bothering voters. According to a Monmouth University poll of likely 2020 Iowa Democratic caucusgoers released Thursday, support for the former vice president remains virtually unchanged in the Hawkeye State, where he is maintaining a double-digit advantage over his closest rival:
Joe Biden: 28% (+1)
Elizabeth Warren: 19% (+12)
Kamala Harris: 11% (+4)
Bernie Sanders: 9% (-6)
Pete Buttigieg: 8% (-1)
Amy Klobuchar: 3% (-1)
Tom Steyer: 3% (+3)
Kirsten Gillibrand: 2% (+1)
Andrew Yang: 2% (+1)
Steve Bullock: 1% (+1)
Cory Booker: 1% (-2)
John Delaney: 1% (+0)
Tulsi Gabbard: 1% (+1)
John Hickenlooper: 1% (+1)
All the other candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination received less than 1 percent support.
By grabbing 2 percent, entrepreneur Andrew Yang crossed the second of two thresholds needed to qualify for the fall Democratic primary debates. He had already received at least 2 percent in three other polls approved by the Democratic National Committee and passed the 130,000 unique-donor mark.
"This president has fanned the flames of white supremacy."
— Joe Biden in a speech in Iowa criticizing President Trump's rhetoric that was echoed by the alleged mass shooter in El Paso
"Sowed from the highest office in our land we reseed in tweets and rhetoric, hateful words that ultimately endanger the lives of people in our country."
— Cory Booker, in a speech in Charleston, S.C., drawing a line from Trump's anti-immigration comments to the massacre in Texas
“Yes. He has given aid and comfort to white supremacists. He’s done the wink and a nod. He has talked about white supremacists as fine people. He’s done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country.”
— Elizabeth Warren, when asked by the New York Times if she believes President Trump is a white supremacist
"He is. He’s dehumanized or sought to dehumanize those who do not look like or pray like the majority here in this country.”
— Beto O'Rourke, when asked by MSNBC if he believes President Trump is a white supremacist
"I believe everything the president has done encourages white supremacists and I don't know there's much of a distinction. And as a matter of fact, it might be worse."
— Biden, at the Iowa State Fair, when asked if President Trump is a white supremacist
"The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video."
— Dan Scavino, White House social media director, on Trump's visit with mass shooting victims in Dayton
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