2020 Campaign
June 18, 2019

President Trump will officially launch his re-election campaign at a rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday night, somewhat paradoxically pitching himself as a political outsider who has kept his promises during his 29 months as president, according to advisers. Trump has already described his audience Tuesday night as record-setting, and he is expected to fill the 18,500-seat Amway Center — some fans are already camping outside. He will reportedly tout the strong economy and his actions on taxes, military spending, and confirming conservative judges.

Trump will be joined onstage by wife Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and members of his family and 2016 campaign. He is struggling in the polls — both public and leaked internal ones — apparently angry about the leak, his approval rating has hovered around 40 percent all term, and his campaign's abrupt firing of three of its five pollsters has only highlighted the chaos and internal strife inside the Trump orbit. One of the fired pollsters ran the firm started by senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, "and advisers said the ouster of the three firms was primarily targeted as a jab at her," supported by senior Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, The Washington Post reports.

Trump's campaign says the president's campaign is in good shape, his loyal base doesn't care about internal campaign dynamics, and the polls are meaningless this far out from the 2020 election. "Nothing will get in the way of the tremendous kickoff and the momentum the president will have and sustain through Election Day next year," said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. Peter Weber

May 22, 2019

Beto O'Rourke has spent the first two months of his presidential campaign driving around Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, interacting with voters at more than 150 town halls, or up to three a day. On Tuesday, before his first televised town hall on CNN, O'Rourke said he wasn't bothered that his local, meet-and-greet campaign has been rewarded with shrinking poll numbers. "In terms of the assessment, who the hell knows this far out from the first caucuses or elections," he said. But a big goal of his CNN town hall, at Drake University in Des Moines, was to reintroduce himself to a national audience.

O'Rourke's town hall experience showed, said Politico's David Siders. "Though he's slumped in polls, his performance served as a reminder of why O’Rourke was able to galvanize Democrats in his near-upset of Sen. Ted Cruz last year. He has an uncommon command of a stage — and an increasingly precise policy platform."

O'Rourke backed legalizing marijuana, universal gun-purchase background checks, and a ban on selling "weapons of war." He promised that as president, he would ensure "every nominee to every federal bench, including the Supreme Court, understands and believes the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land." And he endorsed immediate impeachment proceedings against President Trump, looking past any "short-term consequences to the consequences to the future of this country."

"If we do nothing because we are afraid of the polls or the politics or the repercussions in the next election, then we will have set a precedent for this country that in fact, some people, because of the position of power or public trust that they hold, are above the law," O'Rourke said. "We cannot let that precedent stand. There must be consequences, accountability, and justice. The only way to ensure that is to begin impeachment proceedings." Watch him tackle impeachment and two other issues below. Peter Weber

May 16, 2019

There are still some elected Democratic officials in the U.S. who are not running for president, but second-term New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't among them anymore. De Blasio jumped in the race Thursday morning, aiming to explain why he is joining the almost comically overcrowded Democratic primary field in a 3-minute launch video.

De Blasio is running on the slogan "Working People First," arguing that there is plenty of money in America but it's in the wrong hands. The 6-foot-5 mayor also says he can beat President Trump because he's beat him in court and understands how to take on a New York "bully." On Monday, de Blasio stood outside Trump Tower and announced that eight Trump Organization buildings would owe New York City $2.1 million a year if the Trumps don't make their towers more energy-efficient.

His first campaign stop is Friday morning in Gowrie, Iowa, and he'll head to South Carolina on Saturday and Sunday. Peter Weber

May 13, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden is the only Democrat in the 2020 race who has run for president more than once before. And as he "grows accustomed to the front-runner status he never enjoyed in his two previous White House bids," Jonathan Martin writes at The New York Times, his campaign is struggling with how best to showcase "Biden's never-met-a-stranger persona without exposing him to an environment where he may commit a gaffe."

So far, their effort has been largely successful, Martin argues:

The most notable feature of his campaign may be what hasn't happened: He has not blurted anything out that delights his rivals, horrifies his aides and reinforces his image as "Uncle Joe," America's there-he-goes-again relative who makes you smile and wince in equal measure. It is early yet — which even Mr. Biden's friends allow as they hold their breath — and precedent offers good reason to question whether his streak of mostly error-free days can last. [The New York Times]

Biden's staff has minimized the risks by sticking close to him and limiting questions. But so far, Biden is proving to be his best handler, the Times says, showing "uncharacteristic restraint in the face of temptation."

Biden doesn't take the bait when supporters insult President Trump, he offers supporters "selfies as often as embraces," and "when he does hug a supporter, it is usually when he is asked for one or after he asks permission," the Times reports. "When a woman yelled out, 'You can hug and kiss me anytime!' at a rally near Las Vegas last week, Mr. Biden smiled, made the sign of the cross and, after a pause, simply said, 'That's nice, thank you very much.'"

This low bar is presumably not why Biden is the clear Democratic front-runner. And not all Biden friends and allies think this restrained Joe is — or even should be — sustainable. You can read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

April 29, 2019

A new Democratic political group, Future Majority, has launched with a $60 million mission to help rebrand the Democratic Party before the 2020 election, especially in Midwestern states that have been leaning more Republican in recent elections, Politico reports. The nonprofit will offer strategic advice to other Democratic groups, as it started quietly doing leading up to the 2018 midterms, and do its own branding and communications efforts, including countering conservative messaging.

The Democratic Party is trying to figure out its own identity, and Future Majority seems to have an opinion on that battle. "It's no great secret that the presidential race will be won or lost in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio — if we can win back the narrative that the word 'Democrat' equals people who are fighting for folks who work hard every day, we can continue to win elections," says executive director Mark Riddle. "If [Democrats] get defined as being about socialism and these other words people can hear about out of Washington, then I worry."

It isn't just about distancing Democrats from words like socialism, though — Future Majority also wants to associate the party with words like "freedom" and "opportunity," Politico says. Based on Midwestern focus groups, Future Majority said in a March memo, "there is an opening to defeat Trump with the right candidate and the right message, but Democrats must rehabilitate their image in these states first," the memo reads. That means focusing on a few top issues, not a "laundry list" of proposals, and calling government spending "investments," for example, "so voters can see that their tax money is being put to good use." You can read more about Future Majority, its staff and advisers, and its funding at Politico. Peter Weber

April 25, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden announced in a video Thursday morning that he's making a third bid for president. Unlike in 1988 and 2008, though, he starts out as one of the frontrunners in a diverse field of 19 other Democrats. In a conference call with donors on Wednesday, Biden stressed the importance of notching strong fundraising numbers in the first 24 hours of his campaign, Politico reports. But in his launch video, Biden steered away from the prosaic, vowing to protect the core values and ideals that America stands for from President Trump, centering his pitch on Charlottesville, Virginia,

Biden, 76, starts out with strong name recognition, support from organized labor and other Democratic constituencies, and strong ties to former President Barack Obama, who is not endorsing anyone in the Democratic primary. He is expected to officially kick off his campaign at a Pittsburgh union hall on Monday. Peter Weber

April 24, 2019

On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) traveled to New Hampshire to talk politics at St. Anselm College, but unlike many politicians who visit the Granite State, he wasn't declaring his candidacy for president. In fact, Hogan announced that he won't challenge President Trump in the 2020 GOP primary unless he sees "a path to victory."

"I'm not going to launch some sort of suicide mission," Hogan said. Unlike former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (R), the only other Republican in the race, "I have a real day job that's important to me, the people of Maryland." It's true that "a lot of people have been approaching me" and asking "me to give this serious consideration," he said. "I'm listening, coming to New Hampshire and listening to people is a part of that process. I've been to 10 states in the past few months and have 16 more on my schedule . . . but I'm not at the point where we're ready."

Hogan is one of the country's most popular governors, but Trump has high approval ratings among Republicans nationally and the Republican National Committee has also put up structural barriers to any candidate who wants to primary Trump in 2020, voting to give its "undivided support" to Trump. Hogan said he "was pretty critical" of the RNC's machinations. "To change the rules and to insist 100 percent loyalty to the dear leader," he said, "it didn’t seem much like the Republican Party that I grew up in." Peter Weber

April 23, 2019

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is performing enviably in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary polls and he's getting glowing press, but his record isn't spotless. And at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire on Monday night, he got a question about an incident from 2012 involving his demotion of South Bend's first black police chief. CNN's Anderson Cooper set up the question by noting that the former police chief, Darryl Boykins, had allegedly ordered people to secretly record racist comments by senior white police officers.

A student asked Buttigieg what was on Boykins' tapes. "The answer is I don't know," Buttigeig said, explaining that the way the tapes were recorded potentially violated the federal wire tap act. "That's a law punishable by a term in prison and so I'm not going to violate it, even though I want to know what's on those tapes like everybody else does," he said. Buttigieg said he demoted Boykins after learning he "was the subject of a criminal investigation, not from him but the FBI, and it made it very hard to me to trust him as one of my own appointees."

Buttigieg conceded that he didn't handle the situation perfectly and said he learned a lot about the need to seek input from various communities and improving relations between communities of color and police.

Buttigieg also mused about whether coming out as gay earlier would have derailed his public-service career, pointed out that "God doesn't have a political party," argued that it's a good thing not to "drown people in minutia before we've vindicated the values that animate our policies," and said that while Trump has "made it pretty clear he deserves impeachment," that's up to "the House and Senate to figure out" and he thinks the most decisive way to "relegate Trumpism to the dustbin of history" is to hand Trump "an absolute thumping at the ballot box." Peter Weber

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