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What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 19

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.


The massive field of Democrats vying to unseat President Trump in 2020 swelled this week with two more entries into the field. On Tuesday, Montana’s Steve Bullock, the two-term governor of a state Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016, announced his candidacy for president, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the race on Thursday. But former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the pack as the early polling front-runner.

This week, candidates also traded barbs over climate change, speculated about which rival would make the best running mate come the general election, and reacted to an anti-abortion bill signed into law in Alabama.

Here’s the weekly roundup.

May 10-16, 2019

Michael Bennet (D)

Bennet campaigned in Iowa and New Hampshire during the second full week of his presidential campaign and continued to highlight education issues.

“I really worry, as a former school superintendent, that my generation is at risk of being the first generation of Americans to leave less opportunities to the people coming after us,” Bennet said at a campaign stop in Bedford, New Hampshire, on Sunday.

In an interview with CBS News’s Face the Nation, Bennet called Trump “the most fiscally irresponsible president we’ve had in generations.”

Joe Biden (D)

The former vice president responded to attacks this week from rivals both inside and outside his party.

On Monday, Biden defended his son Hunter against Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has made a number of efforts to investigate the work Hunter Biden did for a Ukrainian energy company while his father was working in the Obama administration. Giuliani had planned to travel to the Ukraine for more information but canceled his trip on Saturday.

Facing criticism from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jay Inslee over his record on climate change after a report in Reuters claimed that he was seeking a “middle ground” solution on the issue, Biden said: “I’ve never been middle of the road on the environment. Tell her to check the statements that I made and look at my record and she’ll find that nobody has been more consistent about taking on the environment and a Green Revolution then I have.”

Bill de Blasio (D)

The New York City mayor officially announced his campaign on Thursday and then appeared on “Good Morning America” for his first presidential campaign interview.

De Blasio said: “Donald Trump is playing a big con on America. I call him ‘Con Don’ — every New Yorker knows we know his tricks, we know his playbook. I know how to take him on.”

But de Blasio faced pushback in the first hours of his campaign. As he spoke on “Good Morning America,” protesters outside chanted “liar” and blew whistles loud enough to be heard inside.

Cory Booker (D)

Booker continued to outline his sweeping proposal to combat gun violence this week, rolling out a new slate of ideas geared toward addressing gun suicides.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Booker compared the fight against gun violence to the civil rights movement.

“People thought [civil rights legislation] was impossible, but they changed the terms of the debate by expanding the moral imagination of this country,” Booker said.

In that same interview, Booker bashed a proposal from Elizabeth Warren to break up big tech companies as not befitting a president and sounding “more like a Donald Trump thing to say.”

Steve Bullock (D)

Bullock launched his presidential campaign this week. “As a Democratic governor in a state Trump won by 20 points, I don’t have the luxury of only talking to people who agree with me,” Bullock said in an announcement video posted Tuesday morning. “I go all across our state’s 147,000 square miles and look for common ground to get things done.”

ABC News got an inside-look at Bullock’s campaign launch and followed along with him to the high school he attended in Helena, Montana.

Pete Buttigieg (D)

Buttigieg continued to keep a steady pace, making headlines in California as he courted Hollywood stars to build on his impressive fundraising totals from the first quarter of the year, even as he may be seeing his initial surge of support in the polls fade.

Politico reported Wednesday that Buttigieg hired Larry Grisolano and John Del Cecato of AKPD Message and Media, the same firm that helped propel Barack Obama to victory in the Democratic primary in 2008.

Julian Castro (D)

Castro unveiled a sweeping education plan that would create a national federally funded prekindergarten program, eliminate tuition at public universities and community colleges, and alter the student-debt repayment process.

“What I see out there is that the United States right now is falling further and further behind other nations in terms of making sure that our children are well-educated and have the knowledge and the skills that they need to succeed in the 21st century global economy,” Castro told Boston radio station WBUR on Monday.

John Delaney (D)

In an interview with the live-streaming news network Cheddar, Delaney criticized Trump’s trade policy toward China.

“In many ways, he’s the mirror image of the Chinese,” the former Maryland congressman said. “They don’t sell a set of values, they don’t sell kind of a global order if you will, they don’t sell allies, they sell transnational relationships.”

Delaney returns to Iowa next week for a three-day campaign swing that includes an immigration roundtable, community meet-and-greets, a tour of flood damage and recovery, and a tour of a mental health facility, according to his campaign.

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

In an interview on ABC News’s “The Briefing Room,” Gabbard offered a sharp critique of Trump’s foreign policy, specifically toward Iran.

The congresswoman from Hawaii and Iraq War veteran said the Trump administration is exaggerating the threat that Iran poses to the world. “There hasn’t been a comprehensive presentation of the intelligence that the administration keeps citing,” Gabbard said. “What we have heard so far has been shallow and superficial at best.”

Gabbard compared the dialogue coming from the administration with what happened in the lead-up to the Iraq War. “The reality of what we’re seeing here is it appears John Bolton is using that same playbook once again to lead our country into war with Iran.”

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Gillibrand criticized the Democratic National Committee’s 65,000-individual-donor threshold for making the first primary debates, telling CNN that it is an “odd measurable” to gauge the strength of a candidate. “Like, why do you make that your measurable as opposed to ‘have you won elections before’ and ‘have you ever run statewide before’ and ‘how many votes have you gotten before’ and ‘have you passed legislation and are you effective in your job’?” Gillibrand said.

The New York senator traveled to Georgia on Thursday and met with a group of women leaders to assail what Gillibrand has called a “horrific” anti-abortion measure that Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed into law.

Kamala Harris (D)

In a not-so-subtle jab at Biden, Harris on Wednesday slammed recent talk that she would be a great running mate. “Sure, if people want to speculate about running mates, I encourage that,” Harris said. “Because I think Joe Biden would be a great running mate.”

She added: “As vice president, he’s proven he knows how to do the job, and there are certainly a lot of other candidates that would make for me a very viable and interesting vice president.”

The California senator announced Tuesday that if she becomes president, she will take executive action to ban imports of all AR-15-style assault.

John Hickenlooper (D)

Hickenlooper continued to pitch himself as a proud capitalist, telling Yahoo Finance: “When I was a kid, capitalism provided security and opportunity. That challenge, of how do we make capitalism work for everyone again, is critical to the future of American democracy.”

The former Colorado governor made a point of separating himself from Elizabeth Warren’s decision not to participate in a town hall event with Fox News — before an appearance on the network, he tweeted that while he agrees media is “too polarized,” he does not “believe we should stop talking to people who don’t agree with us.”

Jay Inslee (D)

Inslee unveiled the second leg of his sweeping proposal to combat climate change: a $9 trillion investment in jobs, clean energy and modern infrastructure.

The Washington governor also signed into law legislation that makes the state the first to enter the private health insurance market with a universally available public option, according to The Associated Press.

Amy Klobuchar (D)

Klobuchar became the latest 2020 candidate to visit Puerto Rico this week. She also sat for a lengthy interview with Elle Magazine, in which she discussed her career in public service and decision to run for president.

When asked about a now-infamous story about her eating a salad with a comb after realizing that she didn’t have a fork, the Minnesota senator said that there will always be crazy stories that come out when running for public office but that she’s focused on winning over Democratic voters.

“You just have to stay grounded in the reason that you’re doing it: For your neighbors and fellow Americans across the country who want to see someone in office who’s going to bridge the divide and work to get things done — which is what I’ve done my whole life,” she said.

Beto O’Rourke (D)

Amid a spate of stories that depicted a campaign eager to reset the narrative, O’Rourke gave two highly publicized national interviews, including a sit-down with ABC’s “The View,” during which he acknowledged some early missteps in his presidential bid.

O’Rourke said his decision to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair before his campaign launch was a mistake. “Yeah, I think it reinforces that perception of privilege and that headline that said I was, ‘I was born to be in this’ — in the article, I was attempting to say that I felt that my calling is a public service. No one’s born to be president of the United States of America.”

The former Texas congressman will reenter the national spotlight next week with a live town hall on CNN from Des Moines, Iowa, slated for Tuesday evening.

Tim Ryan (D)

Ryan, who’s working to position himself as the blue-collar Democrat in 2020, weighed in on Trump’s escalating trade conflict with China this week, telling PBS that imposing tariffs “needs to be part of a larger strategy.”

“I’ve been at the epicenter of deindustrialization” Ryan said. “What makes me different is that I have that experience, but also that I’ve been thinking about how to improve economic opportunity.”

Bernie Sanders (D)

Sanders became the latest 2020 hopeful to join the chorus of candidates calling for big tech companies like Facebook to be broken up. “The answer is ‘yes of course,’” Sanders told Politico. “We have a monopolistic — an increasingly monopolistic society — where you have a handful of very large corporations having much too much power over consumers.”

Sanders’s comments follow Warren’s push to “break up our biggest tech companies” to remedy what the Massachusetts senator views as an imbalance of power and lack of competition.

Howard Schultz (I)

After weeks of downtime, Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO, is reportedly still considering a presidential run. His decision could come as late as next year.

Eric Swalwell (D)

Although some Democratic candidates have said they won’t appear on Fox News, Swalwell said he’d love to be on the cable news network — it just won’t have him.

“I would absolutely do a Fox town hall,” Swalwell told CNN. “But they told us we can’t have one, which is a little bit confusing to us because they have given them to people who are polling at the same place as us.”

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Warren this week became the first Democrat running for president to denounce appearing on Fox News. She said she wouldn’t participate in a town hall event with the network and slammed Fox News as a “hate-for-profit racket.”

“Fox News balances a mix of bigotry, racism and outright lies with enough legit journalism to make the claim to advertisers that it’s a reputable news outlet,” Warren wrote on Twitter. “It’s all about dragging in ad money — big ad money.”

Warren’s fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made waves last month when he sat for a Fox News town hall.

Warren also pledged that if elected, she would select a public school teacher to head the Education Department, taking aim at Trump’s appointee. “I’ll just be blunt: Betsy DeVos is the worst secretary of education we’ve seen,” Warren said.

Marianne Williamson (D)

Williamson’s campaign said the author has qualified to participate in the first Democratic primary debates, reaching the 65,000-donor threshold. However, Williamson has yet to receive 1 percent in three qualifying national polls, which is the other way that a candidate can reach the debate stage.

Andrew Yang (D)

Yang joined other Democratic presidential candidates in suggesting thatbig tech companies should be broken up into smaller entities. Speaking to ABC News’s Mary Bruce and Rick Klein on the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, Yang said: “I think in many cases they are too big. … We would be well-served by having them break themselves up into different parts of their businesses.”

But Yang said the issue is “more nuanced” than just breaking them up. “It doesn’t actually solve many of the problems,” he said.

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

John Verhovek is an ABC News 2020 Campaign Reporter

Will Steakin is an ABC News 2020 Campaign Reporter

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