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What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 11

Welcome to a weekly collaboration between FiveThirtyEight and ABC News. With 5,000 people seemingly thinking about challenging President Trump in 2020 — Democrats and even some Republicans — we’re keeping tabs on the field as it develops. Each week, we’ll run through what the potential candidates are up to — who’s getting closer to officially jumping in the ring and who’s getting further away.


With everyone still waiting on former Vice President Joe Biden to decide if he’s running (and the added speculation that he might pick Stacey Abrams as his running mate), the field did see one more official entry this week. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand transitioned her exploratory committee to a full-fledged campaign on Sunday and officially joined the groundswell of candidates in the 2020 Democratic field. She also scored her first home state endorsement from New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney. But Gillibrand is struggling to gain traction in a field that has already seen record fundraising hauls and a collection of bold policy proposals — a reminder that it’s increasingly difficult for many of the candidates running to stand out.

Here’s the weekly candidate roundup:

March 15-21, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)

After meeting privately with former Vice President Joe Biden last week, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate signaled that she is willing to meet with any of the Democratic hopefuls in the 2020 presidential contest, but she said she has a couple of ground rules. “My two requirements,” Abrams said Tuesday at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, according to The Associated Press. “One, you have to tell me what you’re going to do about voter suppression. And two, you have to believe Georgia is a swing state.”

Abrams, who is considering a presidential bid of her own, is — for now — returning to her roots as an organizer and promoting the nonprofit group she founded to advance voting rights, Fair Fight Action.

On Thursday, Abrams’s spokesperson Lauren Groh-Wargo addressed rumors that close advisers to Biden are pitching a pre-packaged ticket with her as his vice president. “Abrams continues to keep all options on the table for 2020 and beyond,” Groh-Wargo said in a statement to ABC News. “She has met with over half a dozen presidential contenders to discuss their commitment to voting rights and to investing in Georgia.”

Michael Bennet (D)

Although several Democratic presidential candidates have expressed an openness to expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court, the Colorado senator literally slammed his head on a table when asked about it, according to The Washington Post. “Having seen up close just how cynical and how vicious the tea party guys and the Freedom Caucus guys and Mitch McConnell have been, the last thing I want to do is be those guys,” Bennet said, referring to some Republicans’ efforts in recent years to alter Washington rules and traditions. “What I want to do is beat these guys so that we can begin to govern again.”

Bennet, who said he’ll decide whether to officially enter the race within weeks, told the Post: “I guess I’m starting to think strongly that we need a voice in this primary that’s willing to make the kind of case that I think that I would make.”

Joe Biden (D)

For a brief moment Saturday, it appeared as though the former vice president had inadvertently revealed that he had decided to run for president: At a Delaware Democratic Party fundraiser, he said that he had “the most progressive record of anybody running.”

The audience launched into applause, but Biden quickly corrected himself, explaining that he meant “of anybody who would run.” Even so, those close to Biden, including Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, continue to report that Biden is telling them he is all-but-certain to enter the race.

CNN reported on Monday that Biden discussed with advisers the possibility of choosing a running mate early in the primary to “keep the focus of the primary fight on the ultimate goal of unseating Trump.” That running mate might be Stacey Abrams, according to Axios.

Cory Booker (D)

The New Jersey senator this week contended with a barrage of questions about his love life. After actress Rosario Dawson confirmed to TMZ that she and Booker are dating, the former Newark mayor told Ellen DeGeneres on her show on Wednesday that Dawson “is just a deeply soulful person and has taught me a lot of lessons about love already.”

Despite the focus on his personal life, Booker managed to resurface an issue that had fallen out of the news a bit when he indicated he was willing to consider eliminating the filibuster.

“I’m going to tell you that for me that door is not closed,” he said on “Pod Save America” on Wednesday.

Booker will return to the trail this weekend, making his third campaign sweep through South Carolina since officially declaring his candidacy for president.

Steve Bullock (D)

The Montana governor, who is still deciding whether to enter the presidential race, traveled to Iowa to support state Senate candidate Eric Giddens, who won a special election on Tuesday.

Bullock sat with Giddens over beers last weekend, according to Politico.

Bullock’s trip to Iowa will be followed by a visit to another early primary state, New Hampshire. Bullock is expected to celebrate New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes’s birthday in Concord on Sunday, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Pete Buttigieg (D)

Over the weekend, Buttigieg, who is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, qualified for the first Democratic debate — hitting the 65,000-donor threshold.

In an appearance on MSNBC, Buttigieg made his case for why a mayor of a city of 100,000 people should be president. Buttigieg said becoming president is “a tremendous leap for anybody,” adding that he thinks “this is an executive position that requires executive experience.”

He joins ABC’s “The View” on Friday before heading to South Carolina for his first trip to the state since announcing his exploratory committee in January.

Julián Castro (D)

At a campaign stop in Las Vegas this week, Castro said he had read an article in which he was called “the other Texan” of the Democratic presidential field, according to the The Associated Press. “I’m the one from the other side of the tracks,” Castro said. “I’m the one that didn’t grow up as a front-runner.”

His comments appeared to be a jab at fellow Texan and Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke. But Castro pushed back against that interpretation during an interview with MSNBC, saying that he was just speaking for himself.

The former secretary of Housing and Urban Development said he is “confident” that he will qualify for the first primary debate in June and that he will be a front-runner “by the time the Iowa caucus comes around.”

Bill de Blasio (D)

Potentially gearing up for a presidential bid, the New York City mayor toured New Hampshire over the weekend. His trip got off to a lackluster start, however. The New York Post reported that only 20 people showed up to his roundtable on mental health — the 14 people who were on the panel and six audience members.

Asked by the Post when he will make a decision about a bid, de Blasio said, “Sooner rather than later.”

John Delaney (D)

Asked in an interview with CNN about whether he is in favor of eliminating the Electoral College and electing a president via the popular vote, Delaney said: “If I were starting from scratch, I would do that. It requires a constitutional amendment. … I’d much rather focus on things that can get done and affect the American people. I’d much rather focus on lowering drug prices, building infrastructure, creating digital privacy legislation in this country, expanding pre-K, that every kid has that opportunity, making sure community college is free for every kid in this country.”

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

Gabbard kicked off the week with visits to Fremont, California, and Las Vegas, where she delivered a message of peace. The U.S. House member from Hawaii, who was twice deployed to the Middle East as part of the Army National Guard, told the crowd in Las Vegas that if elected, she would end the “wasteful regime-change wars,” according to the The Associated Press.

In California, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Gabbard said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drained “trillions of dollars out of our pockets for health care, infrastructure, education, for clean energy.”

Gabbard is ending the week in New Hampshire.

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

After launching a presidential exploratory committee in January, the New York senator officially joined the race last weekend. In a video posted to her social media channels, Gillibrand also revealed that she will be holding an event outside of the Trump International Hotel in New York City on Sunday.

Gillibrand participated in an MSNBC town hall Monday that touched on immigration policy, her plans for a national paid leave program, her involvement in the resignation of Democratic Sen. Al Franken from his Senate seat in December and her belief that she “should have done more” on gun control earlier in her career.

Kamala Harris (D)

Harris edged up the candidate leaderboard this week: In a new CNN poll, she climbed into third place, with 12 percent support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. This was a significant increase for the California senator, whose support was 4 percent in December. Biden and Bernie Sanders captured first and second place, respectively.

Harris also joined ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week and said she believes that voters want a nominee who holds the ability to “prosecute the case” against President Trump.

The Associated Press reported that two of Hollywood’s elite, Shonda Rhimes and J.J. Abrams, were hosting a fundraiser for Harris, with tickets costing $2,800 per guest. Harris visits Texas this weekend for a campaign rally in Houston and an event hosted by Tarrant County Democrats in Grapevine before heading to Atlanta.

John Hickenlooper (D)

Hickenlooper joined CNN for a town hall in Atlanta on Wednesday night, taking questions from Dana Bash and directly from voters on a range of issues, including marijuana and the death penalty. Bash also asked the former governor of Colorado if he would vow to put a woman on the ticket like some of the other male contenders in the race, and he answered, “Of course.”

“I’ll ask you another question,” he said. “But how come we’re not asking, more often, the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’”

Hickenlooper plans to crisscross New Hampshire and Vermont this weekend, with stops in Manchester, Concord, Lebanon, Burlington, Littleton, Plymouth and Newmarket.

Jay Inslee (D)

In an an appearance on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” Inslee said: “I’m finding people who really want to see a president who believes in science, who believes the number one job of the Untied States is to defeat climate change. People are telling me that’s the right message.”

When asked why he would “risk it all” on this single issue as he competes for the nomination against a sprawling pool of candidates, Inslee responded that “you can’t solve other problems unless you solve climate change.”

John Kerry (D)

Kerry, who has left the door open for a presidential bid, received 4 percent of the support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in the CNN poll this week.

In an appearance with Condoleezza Rice, another former secretary of state, at Notre Dame on Tuesday, Kerry criticized the Trump administration. Trump “hasn’t made anything better,” Kerry said, according to the South Bend Tribune. “Not the Iran Deal, not the Paris Climate Accord, not TPP, not (the war in) Afghanistan and not Syria,” Kerry said. “He was teed up to prove to the world what a great negotiator he was.”

Amy Klobuchar (D)

Klobuchar stopped in California this week, joining community leaders in San Francisco for a conversation about the effects of climate change.

In her first visit to the state since announcing her presidential candidacy in February, the Minnesota senator also hosted a “high-dollar fundraiser” in the San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood, according to CNN.

The cost to attend the event was up to $5,600 a chair, CNN reported. Klobuchar joins the Rye Democrats for a town hall in New Hampshire on Saturday.

Terry McAuliffe (D)

During a visit to South Carolina Tuesday, the former Virginia governor fueled speculation that he might enter the field of Democratic hopefuls.

“I’ve said clearly, in the next couple of weeks, I’ll make the final determination,” McAuliffe said, according to the Associated Press.

Seth Moulton (D)

Moulton kicked off his week in New Hampshire to meet with the tri-city New Hampshire Young Democrats. He told the audience that he expects to make a decision about a presidential run next month, according to The Salem News.

“Ultimately the decision for me will come back to one simple question: How can I best serve the country,” he said.

Moulton also stopped in another early voting state, South Carolina, and is set to visit Iowa next week for a roundtable with veterans.

Beto O’Rourke (D)

O’Rourke continued his campaign sprint across the country this week, traveling to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire (where he hit all 10 counties in 48 hours).

At a stop in Pennsylvania, the former Texas congressman was asked about delivering more than “platitudes and nice stories” on the stump.

“I’m going to try to be as specific as I can,” he said. “In every single policy area, I’m trying to describe not just the goal and the aspiration, but the path we will take to get there.”

The breakout political star, who fell just short in his 2018 Senate bid against Ted Cruz, reported raising $6.1 million in the first 24 hours of his presidential campaign, which surpassed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ $5.9 million and the rest of the Democratic field His record haul came from 128,000 unique contributions for an average donation size of $47. None of the donations came from PACs, corporations or special interests, according to his campaign.

O’Rourke brings his off-the-cuff and frenetic campaign style through South Carolina this weekend with eight events in Rock Hill, Columbia, Orangeburg and Charleston.

Bernie Sanders (D)

Sanders committed this week to offsetting emissions from his travel and events by partnering with a carbon offsets provider that will support renewable energy and carbon reduction projects.

This effort follows the Vermont senator’s announcement that his workers will be the first presidential campaign staff to unionize.

Sanders holds rallies in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco starting Friday as he makes his first visit to California since launching his second presidential campaign.

Howard Schultz (I)

As Schultz continues to test the waters of an independent bid for president, he holds a series of town halls in Denver where he will hold a roundtable discussion at a startup incubator called Techstars Boulder Accelerator, according to the Denver Post.

The Post also reports that Schultz’s schedule includes a stop at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a town hall event with the athletes.

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Warren, known for her pace-setting policy proposals, started a swing through the South in Memphis, Tennessee, before heading to Jackson, Mississippi, for a CNN town hall on Monday and unveiled her support for a bold proposal.

“My view is that every vote matters,” she said. “And that means getting rid of the Electoral College,” she went on, to applause from the audience.

“Presidential candidates don’t come to places like Mississippi, they also don’t come to places like California or Massachusetts, because we’re not the battleground states.”

The Massachusetts senator then headed to Alabama for two stops in Selma and Birmingham this week. She returns to New Hampshire this weekend for a conversation on the opioid crisis in Littleton and a pair of meet-and-greets in Berlin and Conway.

Andrew Yang (D)

Yang said there were 3,000 people in attendance at his rally in San Francisco last Friday. In a blog post recounting the event, the entrepreneur said “huge rallies” would help him build name recognition and that he’d be launching a national tour to draw crowds.

“Think Bernie 2.0 but with better music,” he wrote.

The New York Times reported on Yang’s internet popularity Wednesday, noting that his supporters, who have been nicknamed the “Yang Gang,” are harnessing memes and inside jokes to promote the candidate much in the way that Trump supporters did in 2016.

On Monday, Yang holds an event in Chicago.

Kendall Karson works for ABC News’ political unit.

Adam Kelsey is a reporter for ABC News’ political unit.

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