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What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 15

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.


While all eyes were fixated on the the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report Thursday, the Democratic presidential field continued to plug away, despite roundly criticizing Attorney General William Barr’s press conference and expressing a desire to learn more about redacted portions of the report. As was the case in 2018, Democrats appear to be aware that their strongest pitch to voters is one focused on issues like health care, the economy and immigration — so despite the developments in the investigation, the report continues to play only a peripheral role.

Here’s the weekly candidate roundup:

April 12-18, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)

The former Georgia gubernatorial candidate said she would make a decision on a potential 2020 Senate run in the next few weeks, but that a decision on a presidential campaign could take longer.

“I do not believe that there is the type of urgency that some seem to believe there is,” Abrams said in an interview with The Root.

She was also critical of the media’s coverage of her 2018 race, refraining from ascribing the issues she saw to “racism,” but saying there was “a very narrow and immature ability to navigate the story of my campaign.”

Joe Biden (D)

Biden eulogized the late South Carolina Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings on Tuesday, discussing, apparently in reference to Hollings’ one-time pro-segregation views, the ways that “people can change.”

“We can learn from the past and build a better future,” the former vice president added.

President Trump predicted that Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders would be a “finalist” to run against him in next year’s election. “I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God Rest Their Soul!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

On Thursday, Biden traveled to Massachusetts where he took part in a rally in support of striking Stop & Shop supermarket workers.

From ABC News:


Cory Booker (D)

An analysis by the Associated Press found that Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris have each missed the most Senate votes this year among their colleagues running for president. The pair has missed 16 of the chamber’s 77 votes this session.

The New Jersey senator announced a plan to expand the earned income tax credit during an event in Iowa on Monday, saying that it would boost the economy and benefit more than 150 million people. Booker’s plan pays for the credit by increasing taxes on capital gains.

From ABC News:


Booker additionally called for voting rights reforms during a visit to Georgia on Wednesday, including automatic voter registration, making Election Day a national holiday and restoring the Voting Rights Act protections that were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Pete Buttigieg (D)

Buttigieg officially launched his presidential campaign last weekend with a rally in his native South Bend, Indiana, where he acknowledged — even as his popularity grows — “the audacity of [running for president] as a Midwestern millennial mayor.”

It is “more than a little bold — at age 37 — to seek the highest office in the land,” he said.

The South Bend mayor also encountered some of his campaign’s first hecklers this week, as he was confronted in Iowa by anti-gay protesters, and announced that he and his husband are interested in having a child at some point in the near future.

Julian Castro (D)

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary raised a relatively meager $1.1 million during the year’s first quarter, placing him behind nearly every major candidate in the Democratic field.

The New York Times reported on Castro’s struggle to catch on with voters at this point in the campaign, noting that the candidate himself doesn’t seem bothered by his position in the field.

“People are going to have their moments,” he said. “I would rather have my moment closer to the actual election than right now.”

John Delaney (D)

Delaney and Booker’s campaign were involved in a minor dust-up after a Booker fundraising email earlier this week made reference to “one of the other Democrats in this race… giv[ing] over $11 million of his own money to his campaign,” a fact that can only be attributed to Delaney.

A spokesperson for the former Maryland congressman jabbed back, saying, “If I had Booker’s numbers, I’d go negative too.”

On Tuesday, Delaney announced a plan to create a cabinet level Department of Cybersecurity, noting in a press release, “Currently our cybersecurity efforts are spread across multiple agencies, but by creating a new department we can centralize our mission, focus our goals and efforts, and create accountability.”

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

In visit to Iowa this week, Gabbard touted her experience in the National Guard and said she was disappointed in Trump’s decision to veto a bipartisan congressional resolution calling for an end to U.S. military involvement in Yemen.

The Hawaii congresswoman also criticized Trump in a Fox News appearance, saying that his administration’s efforts to force “regime change” in Venezuela were “directly undermining” its effort to denuclearize North Korea. In the same interview, Gabbard said that it is “impossible for Kim Jong Un to believe [the Trump administration] when they tell him, ‘Don’t worry. Get rid of your nuclear weapons. We’re not going to come after you.'”

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Gillibrand’s $3 million raised from donors for 2020 during the year’s first quarter placed her last among the group of six U.S. senators running for the presidential nomination; but she also transferred nearly $10 million from her 2018 Senate committee into her 2020 campaign, placing her among the top tier of candidates in cash-on-hand entering the second quarter.

BuzzFeed News reported Monday that the New York senator is endorsing proposals included in a new report that analyzes the racial wealth divide. The proposals include postal banking, government run trust accounts and the formation of a commission to study slavery reparations.

Kamala Harris (D)

Harris admitted that she regrets the support she lent an anti-truancy law while serving as California’s attorney general — specifically the law’s threat to prosecute parents for their children’s absences. The senator noted, however, that her office never jailed a parent for a violation of the law.

Harris released 15 years of tax returns earlier in the week. Harris and her husband, attorney Douglas Emhoff, reported nearly $1.9 million in income in 2018, paying an effective tax rate of 37 percent.

John Hickenlooper (D)

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, Hickenlooper, the state’s former governor, met with survivors as he campaigns on his gun control record, including a ban on high-capacity magazines and private sale background check requirement.

Hickenlooper additionally discussed mental health measures with the group, citing recent suicides by survivors of last year’s shooting at Parkland High School in Florida.

Larry Hogan (R)

Amid speculation that he might run against Trump in the 2020 Republican primary, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to be in the New Hampshire next week. Hogan will headline the New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “Politics and Eggs” on April 23.

Jay Inslee (D)

In a New York Magazine interview, the Washington governor, who is running a campaign prioritizing climate change, said that any attempt by Trump to run on his environmental record “would not be successful.”

Inslee was also critical of one of his constituents, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering an independent presidential run. Inslee pointed to Schultz’s scant voting history.

“The son of a gun doesn’t even vote,” Inslee said. “You want to be president and you don’t even vote? You know, that’s just for the little people. In Howard’s life, voting is just for the little people. I don’t think his candidacy is going to soar.”

John Kasich (R)

On the heels of former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld’s announcement to officially enter the GOP race, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich said on CNN that he still hasn’t ruled out his own primary challenge to Trump.

“All of my options remain on the table,” said Kasich, who previously ran for president in 2016. “I don’t wake up every day looking at polls or thinking about me and my political future. I just want to be a good voice.”

Amy Klobuchar (D)

The Minnesota senator made her second trip to Florida as a presidential candidate this week, speaking about health care in Miami and meeting with Democratic leaders from the state House in Tallahassee.

Fox News also announced that Klobuchar will appear on the network for a forum on May 8. The Klobuchar appearance follows a Sanders town hall on Fox News on Monday.

Terry McAuliffe (D)

McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, announced on Wednesday evening that he would not run for president, choosing instead to assist Democrats in his home state trying to win back the state’s legislative chambers.

Despite his decision, McAuliffe said he feels he would have been able to beat Trump “like a rented mule,” but that he was concerned about the problems he sees plaguing Virginia — an apparent reference to the blackface scandal and sexual harassment allegation that rocked Democratic leadership earlier this year.

Seth Moulton (D)

Moulton, who was spotted in his Massachusetts hometown this week filming a presidential announcement video, is hiring staff for a potential campaign, Politico reported; he is expected to make a public announcement next week.

Beto O’Rourke (D)

The former congressman continued his breakneck-paced campaign this week, making stops in South Carolina and the Super Tuesday battleground of Virginia.

Like other 2020 Democrats, O’Rourke spent most of the week defending the contents of years of tax returns. One headline emerging from the 10 years of filings that O’Rourke dropped on Monday: He appears to have given the smallest percentage of his family’s income to charity out of the 2020 field ( 0.3 percent in 2017), according to ABC News.

A voter confronted O’Rourke about his stingy charitable donations on the trail Wednesday, and the 2020 hopeful responded by saying:

“I’ve served in public office since 2005. I do my best to contribute to the success of my community, of my state, and now, of my country. There are ways that I do this that are measurable and there are ways that I do this that are immeasurable. There are charities that we donate to that we’ve recorded and itemized, others that we have donated to that we have not.”

Tim Ryan (D)

Ryan took a page out of Elizabeth Warren’s book this week and introduced legislation which would require the Justice Department to create training in a variety of areas for law enforcement officers.

He also took a veiled shot at some of the more progressive Democrats in the 2020 field, telling CNN that he’s “concerned” about a growing socialist wing of the party.

“I’m concerned about it. Because if we are going to de-carbonize the American economy, it’s not going to be some centralized bureaucracy in Washington, DC, that’s going to make it happen,” Ryan said. “It’s going to be part targeted government investments that do need to be robust. But it’s going to be the free market that’s going — at the end of the day — is going to make that happen.”

Bernie Sanders (D)

Bernie Sanders had a big week. Not only did he release years of tax returns, but Sanders also seems to have kick-started another Democratic trend: appearing on Fox News.

From ABC News:


According to tax filings released by the campaign, Sanders, who has made a career out of railing against the ultra wealthy, is officially now a millionaire himself.

The runner up for the 2016 Democratic nomination reported an adjusted gross income of nearly $561,293 in 2018, and paid $145,840 in taxes for a 26 percent effective tax rate. And in 2016 and 2017, Sanders reported raking in $1.06 million and $1.13 million in adjusted gross income, respectively, paying a 35 percent and 30 percent effective rate, according to ABC News.

Tax filings aside, Sanders’ Fox News town hall on Monday broke ratings records for the 2020 cycle so far. And it looks like more Democrats are set to follow his lead, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar quickly announcing her own Fox town hall.

Eric Swalwell (D)

Rep. Eric Swalwell held another kick off rally in his hometown of Dublin, California, on Sunday, days after he officially kicked off his campaign a few miles away from last year’s school shooting in Parkland.

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Warren continued her string of major policy proposal announcements, which have defined her campaign and aspects of the entire 2020 Democratic race as of late. She introduced the “Accountable Capitalism Act” this week, a bill that “aims to reverse the harmful trends over the last 30 years,” according to the senator’s website.

Bill Weld (R)

It’s official — Trump won’t run unopposed for reelection in 2020. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld jumped into the race on Monday, becoming the first Republican to challenge a sitting president for the party nomination since Pat Buchanan ran against President George H. W. Bush in 1992.

From ABC News:


Weld, who ran for vice president in 2016 on the Libertarian ticket under Gary Johnson, told ABC News that he would’ve been “ashamed of myself if hadn’t raised my hand and said count me in.”

The former two-term governor also said he’ll focus on Republican primaries where independents can vote, while hoping his pitch that the president is ignoring key issues like climate change and the debt will resonate with moderate Republicans.

“The president is just not dealing with serious issues such as global warming and climate change. That’s a real threat to us as a country,” Weld said. “And for the president to just say it’s a hoax, that’s not responsible government.”

Weld spent his first week on the trail campaigning across New Hampshire.

Marianne Williamson (D)

Democratic presidential hopeful and spiritual book author Marianne Williamson participated in her first CNN town hall on Sunday.

On health care, Williamson saidd that her approach as president would be broader than just Medicare for All, according to CNN.

“That will save a lot of money. There’s so much about our diet, our lifestyle and so much about the economic stress that actually causes the very conditions that produce illness. That’s why if we’re going to talk about health in America, we have to talk about the foods, toxins. We have to talk about our environmental policies. We need to go a lot deeper.”

Andrew Yang (D)

Andrew Yang held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Monday, drawing a “large and diverse crowd,” according to Business Insider.

“The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” Yang told the raucous crowd.

The D.C. rally came on the heels of perhaps Yang’s biggest media appearance yet with his CNN town hall on Sunday.

On combating the opioid epidemic, Yang said he supports decriminalizing heroin and other opiates. “We need to decriminalize opiates for personal use,” Yang said. “I’m also for the legalization of cannabis,” he said during Sunday’s town hall.

 

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

Will Steakin is an ABC News 2020 Campaign Reporter

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