Another big dog jumped into the fight this week, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made iet official. Sanders’ entrance made a splash in more ways than one. His larger-than-life persona is sure to dominate the Democratic primary conversation, and his fundraising prowess is already on full display.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead every single national poll and many state-based surveys. And the other up-in-the-air candidate, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), put his fellow Democrats in the hot seat by his bold declaration about the border wall near El Paso.
For these stories and much more, check out AR Intel’s 2020 breakdown below:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Bernie’s back, and he’s making a splash. The Vermont independent announced Tuesday he’s officially running for president again, delighting his supporters and potentially throwing a wrench in the plans of other far-left liberal candidates hoping to take over the “progressive” mantle from the 77-year-old.
Within 24 hours of his announcement, Sanders’ campaign said they raised nearly $6 million – likely more than all the other announced candidates’ first 24 hours combined – from more than 225,000 donors. In an interview on the liberal program, “The Young Turks,” Sanders said his ideal running mate would be female and “ a couple of years younger” than him.
Fmr. Vice President Joe Biden
While the country waits for Biden to make a decision about running for president, the former vice president appears to be in no hurry. During a speech at the University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Biden said he’s more optimistic about the country than ever, argued how he would reverse President Trump’s foreign policy moves, and demanded new worker protections to strengthen the middle class, per the Washington Post. But what he did not do was hint at his thinking about 2020.
A new poll of Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire showed Biden once again leading the field with 28 percent, followed by neighboring-state favorite Sanders at 20 percent, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) at 14 and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 9. Fourteen percent said they were undecided. Nationally, the results are similar, according to a Morning Consult poll.
Fmr. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
The other will-he-or-won’t-he candidate that Democrats are eagerly watching, O’Rourke gained attention (and some scrutiny) when he told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last week that he believed the border wall separating El Paso and Mexico should come down. Specifically, he added that if the question were put to the residents of El Paso, they would agree with him.
O’Rourke’s bold proclamation wound up putting other 2020 Democrats in the hot seat this week as many of them were asked if they agreed with O’Rourke’s assessment. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was asked the question on camera, and she argued that if removing parts of the wall “makes sense, I could support it.” The question was also put to Harris, who basically dodged answering.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
The president is eager to make socialism a contentious 2020 issue, but Harris was quick to bat away a voter’s question about the topic earlier this week. “The people of New Hampshire will tell me what’s required to compete in New Hampshire, but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist,” she said in Concord. The remark was a not-so-subtle dig at Sanders and liberal rising star, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), both of whom self-identify as socialists. But when pressed on the issue by NBC News’ Kasie Hunt, Harris struggled to explain why a policy like Medicare For All is not socialism.
Harris also stumbled when asked about the controversial Jussie Smollett incident, in which the “Empire” star may have faked a hate-crime attack. Harris and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) called the incident a modern-day lynching, but after it was revealed Smollett’s case may have been a hoax, Harris acted as if she could not remember her tweet on the topic:
.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery.
This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2019
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
During a CNN town hall on Monday evening, Klobuchar raised some eyebrows when she publicly broke with many far-left liberals in her party on key issues, namely Medicare for All and free college tuition for everyone. The two projects are pet causes of Sanders, but Klobuchar argued for a more gradual approach. On health care, she said she supported a “public option” as a better immediate alternative to the current health care situation.
Klobuchar’s position on free college tuition was a call back to 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s, before she capitulated to win over Sanders voters:
“I am not for free four-year college for all, no,” Klobuchar said. “If I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would.” Instead, she pitched an expansion of Pell grants, free two-year community college, and streamlined refinancing programs.
She called the Green New Deal “an aspiration,” but in practice, she said accomplishing its goals in 10 years, as the resolution lays out, “would be very difficult to do.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Warren’s big announcement this week was her free child care program, which her campaign said would cost $700 billion to implement. That figure relies heavily on some economic assumptions that could very well go awry, potentially putting the cost at or near the trillion-dollar mark:
But, the sources said, the campaign has an internal analysis that shows the initiative will likely require approximately $700 billion in new federal spending over 10 years. That is a net figure, taking into account higher economic benefits of early childhood investments, such as making it easier for new parents to return to work.
Warren’s team claims that they will use the money from her wealth tax, a plan that taxes the wealthy simply for being wealthy, to help offset costs for the free child care plan. The larger question there, is if her wealth tax (which would need to pass Congress first) is even constitutional.
Bits & Pieces
Two Coloradans, former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), are headed to Iowa this week to test the waters. Hickenlooper will be in Sioux City, Carroll, and Ames this weekend, while Bennet plans to visit Dubuque on Thursday.
Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropy has given away $6.4 billion to projects taking on the gun lobby, obesity, and the tobacco industry. His team is now beginning the process of “asking beneficiaries of his largesse if they’d be on board for his presidential bid.” Don’t call it a shake-down!
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) got the kind of press he might be hoping to avoid as he mulls a 2020 run: a new Politico story noted that he could be viewed on Wall Street as more reasonable alternative to hard-liners like Warren or Sanders. That might not play well among the party’s far-leftwing base.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) appeared on ABC’s “The View” on Wednesday and defended her positions on Syria and Venezuela, arguing that the U.S. should not be involved in the unrest in either nation.
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro (D-TX) has struggled to make headlines since announcing his presidential exploratory committee, but he’s visiting towns in Northwest Iowa Friday and Saturday and has pledged to visit all 50 states during his presidential campaign.