Skip to main content
ABC News
What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 21

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 less than one month until the first Democratic presidential primary debates, the DNC announced on Wednesday that its third primary debate will be hosted by ABC News in September. It also upped the ante to qualify, raising both the polling and fundraising thresholds, which will make it even more important that candidates make a good impression in the first debate.

The question of whether to impeach President Trump grabbed the national spotlight again after special counsel Robert Mueller made his first public statement in two years on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Some 2020 Democratic candidates like Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren took a direct step toward calling for an impeachment inquiry. Others, including Joe Biden, took a more cautious approach, saying that Congress should “continue to investigate.”

Here’s the weekly candidate roundup:

May 24-30, 2019

Michael Bennet (D)

It isn’t clear whether Michael Bennet will qualify for the first debate in June. He has yet to reach the 65,000-donor threshold and still needs to crack 1 percent in another qualifying poll in the next month. He stated this past week, however, that he will keep going even if he does not qualify for the first debate and will hold out until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary next year.

This weekend, he is making his first stop in South Carolina since launching his presidential bid.

Joe Biden (D)

Biden released the first major policy proposal of his campaign, on public education. His plan would boost federal funding for low-income school districts, increase teacher pay, make preschool universal and increase investment into mental health services for K-12 students.

Biden will make his second campaign trip to Iowa on June 11 — the same day Trump is scheduled to visit the state for a fundraiser.

From ABC News:

Biden: Trump’s insults ‘beneath the dignity’ of office of president

Cory Booker (D)

After Mueller’s public statement, Booker called for impeachment proceedings against Trump for the first time. “Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear,” Booker tweeted. “Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”

The senator has previously expressed hesitation in calling for impeachment, even as other Democratic presidential contenders approved of such a step. This week, Booker made his third trip to Nevada to appeal to swing voters.

Steve Bullock (D)

The Montana governor who declared his candidacy earlier this month is working to catch up to other campaigns, especially in Iowa. This past week, Bullock hired 10 more staffers in the first-in-the-nation caucus state to help build grassroots support.

Pete Buttigieg (D)

On ABC’s “This Week,” Buttigieg told Martha Raddatz that “there is no question” that the president used bone spurs as an excuse to avoid service.

From ABC News:

1-on-1 with 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg

“I think to any reasonable observer that the president found a way to falsify a disabled status, taking advantage of his privileged status in order to avoid serving,” he said.

Buttigieg also criticized Trump for meeting with Kim Jong Un, saying that it gave the North Korean government “legitimacy.” “The way diplomacy works, the way deals work, is you give someone something in return for something … it hasn’t worked at all,” he said.

After Mueller’s statement, Buttigieg tweeted: “This is as close to an impeachment referral as it gets. Robert Mueller could not clear the president, nor could he charge him — so he has handed the matter to Congress, which alone can act to deliver due process and accountability.”

Julian Castro (D)

In a tweet last Thursday, Castro pledged to refuse contributions from oil, gas and coal industry executives. “Since day one, my campaign refused contributions from PACs, corporations, and lobbyists,” he said. “Today I announced we’re also refusing contributions from oil, gas, and coal executives — so you know my priorities are with the health of our families, climate and democracy.”

The former secretary of housing and urban development is also set to participate in a Fox News town hall on June 13. Many Democratic presidential contenders have wrestled with the decision to participate in events hosted by the news network, but Castro will be the fifth to do so.

Bill de Blasio (D)

During CNN’s “State of the Union,” de Blasio said that the 1994 crime bill, which Biden helped pass when he served in the Senate, was a “huge mistake.”

“That crime bill was one of the foundations of mass incarceration in a very painful era in our nation’s history,” de Blasio said. “The [former] vice president and anyone else has to be accountable for every vote they take and what’s on their record, and I think that was a huge mistake.”

De Blasio also said that he understands Trump’s tricks and strategies better than other Democratic candidates and can “get under his skin.”

“I know something about Donald Trump that’s different from the other candidates because I watched him for decades,” the New York City mayor said.

John Delaney (D)

Delaney has made the cut to participate in the first debate, having met the polling threshold for qualification. But he has not met the 65,000-donor threshold. This could complicate his chances to participate if more than 20 candidates qualify because candidates who meet both thresholds will have their spots secured first.

On ABC News’s “The Briefing Room,” he said the debates are “really important” to his campaign’s ability to gain traction and blasted “the crazy DNC methodologies” that might keep him off the debate stage.

From ABC News:

1-on-1 with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney

Delaney also released a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would create seven new infrastructure funds and increase the size of the highway trust fund.

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

Earlier this week, Gabbard, who served in a medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard, criticized some politicians who she said, in a statement to ABC News, exploit the real meaning of Memorial Day.

“Nothing angers me more than the hypocrisy exhibited every Memorial Day by warmongering politicians and media pundits feigning sympathy for those who paid the ultimate price in service to our country while simultaneously advocating for more counterproductive regime-change wars and the new Cold War and arms race,” she said.

The Hawaii congresswoman has made foreign policy a centerpiece of her agenda, highlighting her credentials as a veteran. She also recently signaled during an interview with Fox News that if she were to win the presidency, she would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal.

Gabbard heads to the West Coast this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention and other events.

From ABC News:

As president, I’d end ‘counter-productive and wasteful regime change wars’: Gabbard

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Mueller’s public statement Wednesday moved Gillibrand to explicitly support steps to remove the president.

“It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts wherever they may lead,” she said in a statement. “We cannot let this president defy basic accountability measures built into our Constitution.”

The New York senator also landed her first New Hampshire endorsement this week, from state Rep. Sue Ford, who said she’s “the best person” for the White House.

Kamala Harris (D)

Harris stopped by Wofford College in South Carolina for an MSNBC town hall to outline her plan to confront the spate of anti-abortion laws sweeping across the country. “Are we going to go back to the days of back-alley abortions? Women died before we had Roe v. Wade in place. On this issue, I’m kinda done,” she said.

Harris also joined Booker and Gillibrand in calling for impeachment, tweeting: “Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation.”

Harris returns to her home state this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention and the MoveOn Big Ideas Series.

John Hickenlooper (D)

Hickenlooper unveiled a proposal to “protect the reproductive rights” of women by expanding access to contraception.

“I think that it’s a fundamental inalienable right that women should have control over their own bodies,” Hickenlooper told MSNBC. “What’s going on in Indiana and even Missouri now, I mean so many states, is horrific.”

On Thursday, after Mueller’s statement, Hickenlooper called for impeachment proceedings, telling CNN: “After listening to Mueller, and I wanted to hear what he had to say, I think of myself as an extreme moderate. But I think he laid the responsibility clearly at the doorstep of Congress.”

“I think we have to begin an impeachment inquiry,” he said.

From ABC News:

1-on-1 with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper

Jay Inslee (D)

Inslee announced this week that he had crossed the 65,000-donor mark, virtually assuring himself a spot on the debate stage next month.

At a campaign stop in Nevada, the Washington governor endorsed Marie Newman, who is staging a Democratic primary challenge in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District to oust one of the few pro-life Democrats still left in Congress. Inslee joins Gillibrand as the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to weigh in on the race. Gillibrand endorsed Newman in April.

Inslee is set to address the California Democratic Party’s state convention this weekend.

Amy Klobuchar (D)

At a campaign stop in Iowa over the weekend, Klobuchar recounted to a crowd the day of Trump’s “dark inauguration,” when she was sitting between Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain.

“John McCain kept reciting to me names of dictators during that speech because he knew more than any of us what we were facing as a nation,” Klobuchar said. “He understood it. He knew because he knew this man more than any of us did.”

This prompted a response from McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, who asked Klobuchar to leave her “father’s legacy and memory out of presidential politics.”

From ABC News:

‘This isn’t just some minor little fight’: Klobuchar says at abortion rights protest

Wayne Messam (D)

Messam reiterated his call for impeachment on Wednesday, writing in a tweet that “Congress must now do its job of oversight and do what Mueller wasn’t allowed to.”

Seth Moulton (D)

Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer, disclosed this week that he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Iraq in 2008 — as he announced a new plan to expand military mental health services for active-duty members of the military and veterans.

“I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat,” Moulton told Politico in an interview. “But because these experiences weren’t debilitating … it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have.”

Moulton unveiled his plan as part of a “Veterans Mental Health Tour” on Tuesday in Massachusetts and will continue his tour in Nevada this weekend.

From ABC News:

‘We have a weak commander-in-chief’ in Trump: 2020 candidate Moulton

Beto O’Rourke (D)

The former Texas congressman rolled out a sweeping immigration policy proposal this week that would, among other things, establish a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S., invest $5 billion in foreign aid to “Northern Triangle” countries in Central America, and increase the number of immigration lawyers at the southern border.

“The current administration has chosen to defy this American aspiration, drafted into our Declaration of Independence, welded into the welcome of our Statue of Liberty, and secured by the sacrifices of countless generations,” a memo from the campaign read. “Instead, the current administration is pursuing cruel and cynical policies that aim to sow needless chaos and confusion at our borders.”

Tim Ryan (D)

Ryan tiptoed closer to calling for impeachment proceedings, without explicitly calling on Congress to open an inquiry.

“The President, no President, is above the law,” Ryan wrote on Twitter. “And it’s Congress’ job to make sure we are true to our founding principle that the President is not a King and must answer to the American people.”

From ABC News:

Rep. Tim Ryan says winning elections is key to protecting abortion rights

Bernie Sanders (D)

Before a series of negative headlines about the senator’s second attempt to capture the presidency, Sanders returned to his home state of Vermont for a rally in Montpelier and went on the offensive, turning his attention to taking on Trump.

From ABC News:

Sanders holds first Vermont rally of 2020 cycle

“The underlying principles of our government will not be racism, will not be sexism, will not be xenophobia and will not be religious bigotry — and all the other mean-spirited beliefs of the Trump administration,” Sanders told the crowd.

Sanders’s campaign also took on Biden in emails to supporters. Sanders’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir had previously attacked the Biden campaign for their “high-dollar” fundraisers and did so again.

“These are not grassroots fundraising events. These are high-dollar functions hosted and attended by corporate lobbyists, health care executives, a Republican casino-CEO, and a union-busting lawyer among others,” the email reads. “We can win elections without begging those people for money. And, indeed, we are more likely to win with a candidate who does not.”

Eric Swalwell (D)

Swalwell said that as a white man, he understands when to promote the voices of others.

In a video interview with Vice News, Swalwell said: “A white guy who doesn’t see other identities or understand other experiences should not be president.”

“I do,” Swalwell continued. “And where there would be gaps in my knowledge or my experience, I will pass the mic to people who do have that experience.”

And after Mueller’s public statement Wednesday, Swalwell told MSNBC that he warned other House members to be prepared for impeachment proceedings, without explicitly calling for the start of a probe.

“‘Prepare for impeachment.’ That’s what I’ve told my colleagues,” he said.

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Asked whether she believed Mueller might be convinced to testify before Congress or be drawn to speak out against comments from the president, Warren said on ABC’s “The View” on Thursday that she didn’t take Mueller for someone who would act on impulse.

“I think Mueller’s got a slow pulse. He knows what he’s doing. I don’t think rage is how he rolls,” she said. “I think he’s one of those people who says read the footnotes.” Warren added that she thought this wasn’t about politics for Mueller, saying: “It’s about the Constitution. It’s not only about this president, but it’s about what are the rules for the next president and the next president?”

From ABC News:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks out on Mueller’s first public statement

The Massachusetts senator has not shied away from her proposal to break up big tech companies ahead of her visit to the Bay Area this weekend for California’s Democratic convention. On Thursday, Warren unveiled a billboard that her campaign put up in San Francisco. It says “BREAK UP BIG TECH” next to a photo of her.

Andrew Yang (D)

On Tuesday, Yang signed a pledge to end the “Forever War,” which calls for the end of U.S. involvement in military conflicts overseas in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We’ve continued in a constant state of war for the last seventeen years, and it has cost us tremendously in American lives as well as billions of dollars that could have been used to help families here at home,” Yang said in a statement.

The tech entrepreneur joined fellow 2020 hopefuls Warren, Sanders and Mike Gravel in signing onto the pledge.

Kendall Karson works for ABC News’ political unit.

Sruthi Palaniappan is an ABC News political fellow.

Will Steakin is an ABC News 2020 Campaign Reporter