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What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 5

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 maintained its 2019 pace of at least one new entrant per week, with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker announcing his run last Friday and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard making her previously disclosed campaign official with a kick-off rally in Honolulu.

But in addition to those candidates making formal inroads, a few new names popped up in the periphery of consideration, hints and speculation, including Stacey Abrams and Bill Weld, who are each making their first appearance on this watch list.

Feb. 1-7, 2019

Stacey Abrams
Fresh off her State of the Union response, which received strong reviews from her fellow Democrats, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate didn’t rule out a presidential run during an interview with BuzzFeed News on Thursday.

“I’m thinking about everything — I gave myself a deadline of the end of March to make a decision about what I’m going to do next,” Abrams said. “I don’t believe in cutting off opportunities or forgoing ideas. But often what you find is if you think about something beyond your scope, there’s something in the middle you never thought about.”

Abrams has also been the subject of speculation about a run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Georgia Republican David Perdue.

Michael Bennet (D)
Asked if he was still considering entering the presidential race, the Colorado senator told 5280 Magazine that he did not have any updates to provide.

Joe Biden (D)
Biden was the top performer in a Monmouth University poll gauging presidential preferences among registered Democrats. The former vice president received 29 percent support, with the next-closest finisher earning 16 percent. He also earned the highest net favorability rating, with 80 percent of registered Democrats viewing him favorably and 9 percent viewing him unfavorably.

A CNN poll Wednesday showed that a majority of Democrats — 62 percent — wanted Biden to enter the presidential race.

Politico reported Thursday that Biden was nearing a decision on a run and was reaching out to Capitol Hill allies, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Chris Coons of Delaware, as well as Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

On Tuesday, during a private lunch with television anchors before the State of the Union, President Trump reportedly described Biden as “dumb” and said he hoped to run against him. According to sources cited by The New York Times, the president said: “Biden was never very smart. He was a terrible student. His gaffes are unbelievable. When I say something that you might think is a gaffe, it’s on purpose; it’s not a gaffe. When Biden says something dumb, it’s because he’s dumb.”

Michael Bloomberg (D)
The former New York City mayor decried the subsidies provided to Amazon to attract it into building its much-publicized HQ2 in Long Island City, Queens, as unnecessary, aligning him with left-leaning city representatives, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who herself has been critical of billionaires like Bloomberg.

On Friday, Bloomberg will deliver the keynote address at the Americans for Immigrant Justice’s 23rd annual awards dinner in Miami.

Cory Booker (D)
Last Friday, Booker entered the presidential race with the release of a video describing a platform of optimism and a slew of media interviews that touched on his career path from Newark, New Jersey, councilman to U.S. senator. “I think a lot of folks are beginning to feel that the forces that are tearing us apart in this country are stronger than the forces that tie us together — I don’t believe that,” Booker said in an interview on “The View.” “So I’m running to restore our sense of common purpose, to focus on the common pain that we have all over this country.”

On Tuesday, the New Jersey senator, who is not married, confirmed that he has a girlfriend, or, “a boo,” as he put it.

This weekend, Booker, who picked up an endorsement from fellow New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez shortly after his announcement, heads to Iowa for six events on Friday and Saturday, before continuing on to South Carolina on Sunday.

Sherrod Brown (D)
Brown told CNN on Tuesday that a decision on a presidential campaign is “probably” coming in March. On Wednesday, the Ohio senator received the support of Jim Obergefell, who filed the lawsuit that led to the 2015 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right of same-sex couples to marry. Obergefell called Brown “one of the best advocates” for the LGBT community in the Senate.

After touring Iowa last weekend, Brown continues his “Dignity of Work” listening tour this weekend in New Hampshire, where he will stop in Hampton, Berlin, Laconia, Concord and Manchester for a variety of roundtables and meet-and-greets and to attend the New Hampshire Young Democrats’ 2019 Granite Slate Awards.

Steve Bullock (D)
Politico reported last Friday that Bullock is likely to wait until the end of Montana’s legislative session on May 1 before making a decision on a presidential run. After describing the governor’s bipartisan efforts in the Big Sky State, Politico quoted a former Montana Republican state representative who said of a potential Bullock campaign: “I’d go so far as to say he wouldn’t suck.”

Pete Buttigieg (D)
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, defended his White House run at the age of 37, saying that the job was “a leap for anybody,” in an interview with “This Week” on Sunday. Buttigieg further drew a line of differentiation between the “Medicare-for-all” ideas being touted by some Democratic presidential hopefuls, saying that he didn’t feel as though the idea necessitated the end of the private insurance industry.

This weekend, Buttigieg visits Iowa for the first time since launching his presidential campaign. His trip includes meet-and-greets in Ames, Grinnell, Ankeny and Johnston over the course of Friday and Saturday.

Julian Castro (D)
Appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Tuesday, Castro said he wasn’t interested in being another Democrat’s running mate should he not capture the nomination for himself, explaining that he’s “been there and done that last time,” in reference to his 2016 vetting by Hillary Clinton.

Last weekend, Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, told New York magazine that he anticipated that the presidential campaign would be centered around immigration because Trump uses the issues “as a political ploy to drum up his base” and that “he’s convinced that’s the only way he can win this election.

John Delaney (D)
Delaney is opening his first office in New Hampshire next Monday, WMUR reported. That will coincide with a visit by the former Maryland congressman, who will stick around to campaign in the state early in the week. The trip follows one taken by Delaney to Utah on Wednesday to speak at the Sorenson Winter Innovation Summit in Salt Lake City.

Tulsi Gabbard (D)
Gabbard officially launched her presidential campaign last weekend with a Honolulu rally before running into a number of controversies later in the week, including receiving the unwanted endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who he has long admired the Hawaii senator for her foreign policy positions.

“I have strongly denounced David Duke’s hateful views and his so-called ‘support’ multiple times in the past and reject his support,” Gabbard responded to the New York Post.

She then defended her oft-criticized 2017 meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by telling MSNBC on Wednesday that “Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States.”

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Gillibrand toured New Hampshire last weekend, with five stops in two days, and revealed to the Concord Monitor that she was on the verge of hiring staff in the state.

Though the New York senator has downplayed her moderate past since entering the presidential race in January, she pledged to “find common ground” with Republicans while in New Hampshire, though said she was angered by Trump’s actions to divide the country.

During Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, Gillibrand had a viral moment featuring her exasperated response to Trump’s speech, off of which she later tried to fundraise, which may or may not have been in violation of congressional rules.

On Wednesday, a fellow New York Democrat, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, was pessimistic about Gillibrand’s presidential chances, telling the New York Daily News that she didn’t feel Gillibrand could win in Midwestern states like Ohio. Maloney later partially walked back the comments, issuing a statement noting that Gillibrand is an “outstanding senator and would be an exceptional president” and that she was “simply commenting on the importance of winning back previously blue states and having a strategy for doing so.”

Kamala Harris (D)
Harris delivered a pre-emptive response to the State of the Union on Tuesday, criticizing Trump’s “insincere appeals to unity.”

“I want everyone to remember this: The strength of our union has never been found in the walls we build,” the California senator said.

During a conversation with historically black colleges and universities leaders Thursday, Harris was critical of the way gender has played a role in the Senate, citing the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as an instance in which she was treated differently than her male colleagues.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found enthusiasm for a potential Harris nomination to be nearly equal to that of Biden, with 58 percent and 60 percent of respondents, respectively, saying they would be excited for the two to emerge victorious from the primaries.

John Hickenlooper (D)
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Hickenlooper visited South Carolina, where he conversed with voters and spoke to the state’s hospital association. Speaking to reporters, the former Colorado governor said voters were interested in a candidate’s record of achievement, something that has become the centerpiece of his stump speech ahead of a potential announcement.

Eric Holder (D)
Next Tuesday, Holder will visit Des Moines for a speech at Drake University’s Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement.

Jay Inslee (D)
Inslee told CNBC this week that a presidential campaign decision is coming “in weeks, not months” and continues to pitch himself as the potential candidate most focused on environmental issues.

“Both by experience and passion and commitment, I have had a long, demonstrated vision statement for economic growth around clean energy that is unique amongst potential candidates.” Inslee said.

Amy Klobuchar (D)
In a video posted to her social media accounts on Wednesday, Klobuchar said she will make “a little announcement” in Minneapolis on Sunday. Minnesota Public Radio reported Monday that if Klobuchar enters the presidential race, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will endorse her.

“If Sen. Klobuchar chooses to go, I’m with her,” said Walz, a former member of the U.S. House. “It’s in our best interest to have multiple choices out there, but I would argue that as more Americans get to know Amy Klobuchar, she’ll prove to be the person that they may want to get with.”

Klobuchar was the subject of a scathing HuffPost report Wednesday that included claims she mistreats her Senate staff, frequently describing their work as “the worst,” leading to high turnover in her office. Some former staffers pushed back in the story, arguing that the senator had high standards and suggested that male senators would not face such criticism for similar behavior.

Mitch Landrieu (D)
Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu all but ruled out a 2020 presidential run in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday, although he added a “never say never” caveat. Landrieu, who released a book last year and has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump in television appearances this year, cited the influx of “great candidates in the race” and said that the race was “getting filled up.”

Asked what other potential candidates are “filling the lane that you would have been interested in,” Landrieu cited Bloomberg, Biden and Beto O’Rourke. He also had high praise for Abrams’s State of the Union response, saying that he felt she would make a “really good candidate.”

Terry McAuliffe (D)
Though he still has not reached a final decision, the former Virginia governor told CNN last weekend that he’d “like to” run for president and said, as he has before, that a decision would come by the end of March.

Seth Moulton
Following a brief appearance before the Bedford, New Hampshire Democrats last weekend, Moulton toldreporters that he was “not here to talk about 2020,” and instead focused on “spend[ing] the next two years making sure President Trump wasn’t reelected.” He conceded, however, that he was “not sure what that means for me.”

Beto O’Rourke (D)
O’Rourke admitted to “thinking about running for president” during a conversation with Oprah Winfrey in New York City Tuesday and said, of the prospect of helping to unify the country, “I’m so excited at the prospect of being able to play that role.” He said he would announce his decision about a run “before the end of the month.”

Pressed on what was preventing him to declare a candidacy on the spot, the former Texas congressman said that his family was an important consideration.

“For the last seven years, my family hasn’t seen me,” he said. “That’s the far more important responsibility.”

A New York Times profile Wednesday detailed O’Rourke’s mid-20s, which he spent living in New York. The newspaper described him as “adrift,” comparing his “quarter-life crisis” of soul-searching to his ongoing contemplation of a presidential campaign and recent travels through the country’s interior.

Bernie Sanders (D)
Though he has given unilateral responses to the State of the Union in the past, Sanders faced criticism this year over the belief that he was distracting from Democrats‘ official responses, delivered by Stacey Abrams and Xavier Becerra — though he did describe Abrams’ address as “extremely effective” at the top of his speech.

In his remarks, Sanders called attention to the struggles of the nation’s middle class and took issue with Trump’s avoidance of climate change and other progressive priorities.

Howard Schultz (D)
The former Starbucks CEO continued to rebut the criticism that his potential run as an independent could pave the way for Trump’s reelection, explaining that he wanted to pay forward the success he was able to achieve and help others do the same, previewing a theme he would touch on in an appearance at Purdue University Thursday.

Ralph Nader, whose own third-party presidential run in 2000 is still blamed by some Democrats for preventing Al Gore from winning that year’s election, wrote for Time this week to both defend and attack Schultz’s moves, arguing that “‘spoiler’ charges” constituted “political bigotry,” but that the billionaire’s policy positions were closer to those of the GOP, rather than being centrist, as he claims.

Next week, Schultz will participate in a CNN town hall in Texas on Tuesday, before continuing on his book tour in Philadelphia on Wednesday and Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

Elizabeth Warren (D)
Warren again faced backlash this week for her past claims of Native American heritage. After the Washington Post revealed Tuesday that the Massachusetts senator wrote on her State Bar of Texas registration card in 1986 that she was “American Indian.”

“I can’t go back,” Warren told the Post in response. “But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted.”

Questioned further about the situation on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Warren explained that the claim was a result of her “family story” and again apologized.

“When I was growing up in Oklahoma, I learned about my family the same way most people do. My brothers and I learned from our mom and our dad and our brothers and our sisters. They were family stories,” she told reporters. “But that said, there really is an important distinction of tribal citizenship. I’m not a member of a tribe. I have apologized for not being more sensitive to that. It’s an important thing.”

The controversy arose just days before Warren was set to make a major announcement Saturday in Lawrence, Massachusetts, before embarking on a campaign swing through the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Bill Weld (R)
Weld, the former Republican Massachusetts governor and 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate, re-registered as a GOP voter, according to the Massachusetts secretary of state’s online voter registration status lookup.

The Boston Globe earlier reported that Weld was strongly considering a Republican primary challenge to Trump.


From ABC News:

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

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