A recent campaign gaffe from Sen. Kamala Harris has only fueled the narrative the California senator’s presidential campaign has stalled out. Catch up on all the developments from the Democratic field in this week’s 2020 recap.
Fmr. Vice President Joe Biden
With the gaffes piling up, 2020 candidates have their knives out for Joe Biden. On the heels of his misrepresentation of a war story last week, Biden went on to claim that he opposed the Iraq War the “moment it started,” a claim that was given “four Pinocchios” from The Washington Post’s fact checker. Biden also had a tense interaction with a voter during last week’s “Environmental Town Hall.” After news broke that Biden was expected to attend a fundraiser following the town hall with a fossil fuel executive, a voter asked, “How can we trust you” to fight for the environment? Adding to the negative press coverage, Biden was accused of making an Iowa voter uncomfortable after he immediately grabbed her hands when she asked him a question.
In reaction to the near continuous stream of issues with his candidacy, former Obama adviser David Axelrod warned that the former vice president was at risk of damaging his credibility. In a tweet, Axelrod said Biden was “serially distorting” his record and was “in danger of creating [a] more damaging” trend for his campaign.
For their part, Biden and his team have pushed back on the criticism. Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and DNC chairman, defended Biden and argued, “No one cares about Joe Biden’s gaffes except media and politicos.” Speaking to Stephen Colbert on his late night show last week, Biden claimed that his gaffes aren’t “substantive” and his missteps are not “relevant” to the overarching themes of his campaign.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Like Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders also came under fire for comments he made at CNN’s town hall. After he was asked by an attendee about rising populations, Sanders said he would be open to discussing population control as a means to combat climate change. Conservative commentators blasted Sanders’ position, arguing that he was proposing something akin to eugenics.
On the campaign front, Sanders is working to build support in important primary states. After a three-day campaign stop in New Hampshire, Sanders told reporters that he was stepping up his efforts to win the first-in-the-nation primary. Sanders is also making sizable investments to shore up staff in California. According to his campaign, they now have 15 paid staffers in the state and have held more than 2,000 events statewide. California Sen. Kamala Harris, meanwhile, has 10 full-time staffers in her home state, after announcing seven new hires earlier this month
In an interesting turn of events, Sanders announced that he would not be making an endorsement in the crowded Democratic primary for Colorado Senate. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), who recently jumped into the contest after abandoning his presidential bid, was almost immediately endorsed by the DSCC. The move angered progressive activists in the state, who criticized the group for trying to tilt the scales in the primary. While several other 2020 candidates have decided to back Hickenlooper, Sanders’ non-endorsement could be viewed as a veiled swipe at the DSCC and him working to shore up left-wing support in the state.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren continues to make progress in polls, helping to solidify her position as a top-tier candidate. A CBS poll released over the weekend of Democratic voters in early primary states showed Warren within striking distance of Biden. Based on the polling, CBS estimates that Warren would receive 545 delegates from early contests, second only to Biden who is estimated to receive 600 delegates.
Adding to her long list of policy proposals, last week Warren unveiled a $3 trillion climate plan. The proposal, which explicitly adopts ideas from Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, proposes eliminating planet-warming emissions from power plants, vehicles, and buildings over 10 years, and adds an additional $1 trillion in spending to subsidize that transition. Her plan would also set regulations aimed at retiring coal-fired electricity within a decade and would create new federal regulations on vehicle tailpipe emissions with the goal of achieving zero emissions by 2030.
While Warren has carved out a niche as the policy-wonk in the race, not all Democrats are thrilled with her approach. Over the weekend, Former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel said listening to Warren discuss policy is “like we’re studying for our midterm exam.”
Sen. Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris, who had a brief bump in the polls after the first primary debate, has seen her campaign stall in recent months. Despite public comments pushing back against this narrative, a briefing memo left behind by her campaign at a restaurant in New Hampshire indicates that the Harris team expected to be asked about her lack of presence in the Granite State. The document, obtained by Politico, acknowledged Harris’ “summer slump” but claimed she “fully intends to win.”
One factor working against Harris’ comeback narrative: praising a voter who used an offensive term to describe the president. At a recent town hall in New Hampshire, an attendee brought up the president’s potential impeachment before asking Harris, “What are you going to do in the next one year, to diminish the mentally retarded actions” of the president? The California senator drew ire from disability rights activists when she appeared to laugh at the remark, responding, “Well said.” Harris has been working overtime to walk back the response, but even The Los Angeles Times has suggested she has already “lost the magic.”