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What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 20

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 Democratic presidential field seems like it’s close to being set. And while the candidates try to differentiate themselves on issues like health care, climate change, education and whether President Trump should be impeached, Joe Biden continues to lead in polls.

Here’s the weekly roundup.

May 17-23, 2019

Michael Bennet (D)
The Colorado senator released his plan to combat climate change Monday. It sets a 2050 goal for the U.S. to reach net-zero emissions, calls for the expansion of zero-emission energy options for American households and businesses, and — among other initiatives — includes a pledge to host a global climate summit in the first 100 days of a Bennet presidency.

Next Thursday, Bennet will take part in a CNN town hall in Atlanta.

Joe Biden (D)
At a campaign rally in Philadelphia last weekend, Biden defended his bipartisan outlook on governance, pitching his experience of working across the aisle and arguing that it isn’t too late to unite Americans across the political spectrum.

Biden brought in over $2 million through a pair of fundraising events in Miami and Orlando this week, showing a willingness to engage with big-money donors from which much of the Democratic field has shied away.

The former vice president’s campaign took part in a back and forth with North Korea after an opinion piece that was posted on the website of KCNA — the North Korean news agency — said Biden was “misbehaving” and criticized him as someone “who likes to stick his nose into other people’s business and is a poor excuse for a politician.”

Biden’s campaign responded, saying that “it’s no surprise North Korea would prefer that Donald Trump remain in the White House.”

Cory Booker (D)
The New Jersey senator issued a plan to “protect reproductive rights” Wednesday in which he pledged to create a “White House Office of Reproductive Freedom” if he is elected. It would coordinate the advancement of “abortion rights and access to reproductive health care” across his administration.

Booker was scheduled to take part in an MSNBC town hall in Iowa on Thursday, but it was rescheduled so that he could remain in Washington for Senate votes. He’ll still travel throughout the Hawkeye State this weekend.

Steve Bullock (D)
Bullock’s first week as a presidential candidate included an NPR interview in which he played up his ability to win over voters in his red home state of Montana.

“I’m probably the only one in the race that actually won in a Trump state,” he said. “I mean, I got reelected in 2016. Donald Trump took Montana by 20 points. I won by 4. Twenty-five to 30 percent of my voters voted for Donald Trump.”

After spending three days in Iowa last week, the Montana governor returns to the state next Tuesday for four events.

Pete Buttigieg (D)
Buttigieg garnered headlines for his performance in a Fox News town hall last weekend, renewing the debate over whether it is beneficial for Democratic candidates to appear on the news network that is often criticized for its conservative bent.

During his appearance, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, took aim at a pair of the network’s right-wing commentators, arguing that Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham were “not always there in good faith,” pointing specifically to their views on the ongoing immigration policy debate.

After stops in Florida, New York and Washington, D.C., this week, Buttigieg will campaign over the weekend in New Hampshire, with events in Londonderry, Exeter and Keene on Friday and Saturday.

Julian Castro (D)
As the Democratic field railed against abortion restrictions passed by legislatures in several states, Castro promised to appoint “an entirely pro-choice cabinet,” saying that the issue transcends any one executive branch department.

Castro appeared on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and responded to criticism that either he or Beto O’Rourke could make a greater political impact by challenging Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn next year. “I think Beto would be a great Senate candidate,” he joked.

Bill de Blasio (D)
A Quinnipiac University poll had some bad news for the New York City mayor. It showed de Blasio with a net favorability rating (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) of -37 percentage points among voters overall.

Last Friday, de Blasio made his first campaign stop in Iowa, where he toured an ethanol plant with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. During the visit, he lashed out at Trump, saying: “Time and again, when there’s an opportunity to help the biofuels industry grow and to create jobs in places like rural Iowa, the Trump administration has favored big petroleum companies, and that has to end.”

John Delaney (D)
The former Maryland congressman rolled out a climate action plan with a $4 trillion proposal on Thursday. The central aspect of his plan is a fee on carbon emissions that he says will reduce them by 90 percent by 2050.

“We have to act on climate, and we have to act now,” Delaney said in a statement. “We need a real plan to hit our goals, and we have to listen to actual scientists. This is a real plan that all Americans can support. It is full of new ideas and massive investments in innovation that will both deal with climate change and create jobs in the heartland and all across our country.”

Delaney, however, is not among the slate of Democratic contenders backing the Green New Deal.

Tulsi Gabbard (D)
Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, continued to push her campaign’s focus on foreign policy. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” Gabbard said Trump is “leading us down this dangerous path towards a war in Iran.”

She further cautioned that a war in Iran “would actually undermine our national security, cost us countless American lives, cost civilian lives across the region, exacerbate the refugee crisis in Europe and it would actually make us less safe by strengthening terrorist groups” like ISIS and al-Qaida.

“As president, I will end these counterproductive and wasteful regime-change wars, work to end this new cold war and nuclear arms race, recognizing how wasteful and costly these are,” she said.

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Gillibrand unveiled a plan on Wednesday termed the “Family Bill of Rights” to invest heavily in maternal and child health, paid family leave and universal prekindergarten. This proposal is part of Gillibrand’s focus on women, children and families. She is also working to position herself as the most outspoken proponent of abortion rights within the Democratic field.

On Tuesday, she spoke at a rally with other Democrats to protest the new abortion restrictions that states such as Alabama and Georgia have passed. Later in an interview with NPR, she said, “I think President Trump and these very extreme Republican legislators around the country, they are taking this country in a direction that it does not want to go.” She added, “I believe that if President Trump wants a war with America’s women, it’s a war he will have and it is one he will lose.”

Kamala Harris (D)
The California senator rolled out a bill to address racial discrepancies in maternal health care, calling for investment in training to reduce bias among health professionals and the early identification of high-risk pregnancies.

On “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Wednesday, Harris accused Trump of holding the nation’s infrastructure “hostage.” Earlier in the day, the president abruptly ended a White House meeting on the issue with Democratic leaders in response to the party’s efforts to continue investigating him.

John Hickenlooper (D)
The former Colorado governor pushed back against calls for candidates like him to run for the Senate instead of the presidency, telling Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that he’d be a “difficult candidate as a senator.”

“I’ve spent my whole life putting teams together both as an entrepreneur in the private sector, but also as a mayor and as a governor,” Hickenlooper said. “And by building those teams, we’ve been able to bring people together and do the big progressive things that people said couldn’t be done.”

“That’s the only way we’re going to … be able to bring some common sense to Washington,” he added.

Jay Inslee (D)
The Washington governor’s push for a 2020 debate focused on climate change picked up steam this week, with Elizabeth Warren adding her support. “Yes! We need to do everything we can to save our planet,” Warren tweeted.

in April, Inslee wrote: “We have barely a decade to defeat climate change. And whether we shrink to this challenge, or rise to it, is the central question of our time — and it deserves a full DNC debate.”

Amy Klobuchar (D)
Klobuchar, who’s attempted to position herself as a moderating voice in the Democratic field, joined demonstrators on the steps of the Supreme Court this week to protest anti-abortion bills that have passed in states like Alabama.

The Minnesota senator said: “I think one of the things I’ve seen in my state is that there are people that hold their own individual beliefs. … But they don’t believe that that means you put those beliefs on other people. And that is exactly what this president has done.”

Seth Moulton (D)
Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, announced a plan this week to encourage young Americans to serve their country. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” the Massachusetts representative called the proposal “the kind of forward-looking policy that I think we need to meet the challenges of a changing world, to address climate change, to bring broadband to rural communities and to say to America we need a common mission.”

Beto O’Rourke (D)
O’Rourke continued his campaign reboot. He appeared on CNN for a town hall, in which he called for impeachment proceedings against Trump. “We should begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump — not something that I take lightly,” he said.

Tim Ryan (D)
Ryan, who was once against abortion but flipped his stance a few years ago, called for bipartisan solutions to address women’s reproductive rights this week.

“I met women for the first time in my life that had an abortion,” Ryan said at a protest on the Supreme Court steps on Tuesday. “I met women who had to deal with very difficult, complicated circumstances in their pregnancies. And over time, because of the courage of the women who came into my office and who wanted to help craft legislation, I changed my position.”

Bernie Sanders (D)
The Vermont senator rolled out a comprehensive education plan that would halt federal funding for charter school expansion, set a teacher pay floor at $60,000, and provide universal free lunches, among other investments.

At a South Carolina event announcing the plan, Sanders drew a connection between education reform and social injustice, noting that changes to public education in recent decades have disproportionately affected African Americans and increased school segregation.

In a CNN interview on Wednesday, Sanders expressed his strongest support yet for an impeachment inquiry, saying that if Trump “continues to not understand the Constitution of the United States” and blocks further subpoenas of staffers and former aides, “it may well be time for an impeachment inquiry to begin.”

Eric Swalwell (D)
On the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the California representative joined seven other 2020 Democratic hopefuls and protesters to speak out against abortion bills that have recently passed at the state level.

Swalwell also appeared on the liberal podcast “Pod Save America” and argued that Democrats shouldn’t dismiss Trump voters, speaking about his parents’ support for the president.

Elizabeth Warren (D)
Warren continued to introduce policy proposals. This time, she offered up a platform aimed at protecting women’s reproductive rights. Warren’s plan would “block states from interfering in the ability of a health care provider to provide medical care, including abortion services,” according to her policy rollout.

The senator had a viral moment when she responded to a Twitter user who asked her for relationship advice. “DM me and let’s figure this out,” Warren replied.

The senator apparently went on to call a number of Twitter users asking for advice. “Guess who’s crying and shaking and just talked to Elizabeth Warren on the phone?!?!?” one user tweeted.

Bill Weld (R)
Still the sole Republican challenging Trump in the Republican primary, Weld revved up his attacks on the president. “I celebrate that America has always been a melting pot,” Weld said at a speaking event. “It seems he would prefer an Aryan nation.”

Speaking to ABC News after the event, Weld said: “It’s not just that I’m feeling more like going on the attack; it’s also that the president is moving to a deeper level of irresponsibility.”

Marianne Williamson (D)
The spiritual adviser and author made her case for the presidency on ABC News’s “The Briefing Room,” arguing that she’s not running just to “elevate a conversation.”

“It’s important that I absolutely be prepared to win and that I make the effort to win,” Williamson told ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer. “I’m not here just to elevate a conversation. We need to elevate this country”

Andrew Yang (D)
Yang was the subject of a Politico Magazine profile that examined his candidacy and ability — thus far — to gain a relatively substantial following through non-traditional media interviews while pushing his universal basic income plan and cautioning about the economic dangers of automation.

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

Will Steakin is an ABC News 2020 Campaign Reporter

Sruthi Palaniappan is an ABC News political fellow.

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