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What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 6

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.

Although there was a lot of attention this week in the media on whether major names like Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke will get into the Democratic presidential race, candidates who have already been on the official campaign trail staked out positions on big issues that have been in the news. Although Democrats are generally unified on immigration — denouncing President Trump’s proposed border wall — fractures are forming around “Medicare-for-all” proposals and the “Green New Deal.” Progressive candidates have faced some pushback from the field’s centrists, who believe that their aims could be achieved in a more incremental fashion.

Here’s the weekly candidate roundup:

Feb. 8-14, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)
On Friday, Abrams is visiting Washington, where she will deliver a speech at the Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting and participate in a discussion about race and political power in the United States at the Brookings Institution.

Michael Bennet (D)
The Colorado senator hinted at a presidential run during an appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “We’ve got a million people that are going to run, which I think is great,” he said. “I think having one more voice in that conversation that’s focused on America’s future, I don’t think would hurt.”

Bennet discussed his diverse professional background as one of the ways he was different from the field’s current candidates, citing his time in business and as Denver Public Schools superintendent.

On policy, he joined many Democrats in supporting a public health care option but said that such a plan did not necessarily mean that private insurance should be eliminated.

Joe Biden (D)
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Biden was still undecided about a presidential campaign, noting that he originally intended to decide by the end of 2018.

On Wednesday, CNBC wrote that Biden is signaling to several Democratic donors that he is leaning toward joining the presidential field but that his decision is not yet final.

The former vice president eulogized the late Rep. John Dingell on Tuesday, saying that the longtime Michigan congressman was one of only a few people he “looked up to.”



From ABC News:


“He gave me confidence,” Biden said. “He made me believe more in myself more than I had. John had that special capacity to do so. Because when you are with him, you knew you were with greatness.”

Michael Bloomberg (D)
The billionaire former New York City mayor is prepared to spend at least $500 million during the presidential campaign cycle to defeat Trump, Politico reported Wednesday.

“That’ll get us through the first few months,” said Kevin Sheekey, one of Bloomberg’s top aides, noting that Bloomberg put $100 million into his last mayoral election.

Last Friday, Bloomberg told The Associated Press that he would reach a decision on a presidential run by the end of February and pushed back on speculation that he would not run if Biden launched a campaign. “My decision doesn’t depend on what other people are going to do,” he said. “My decision depends on whether or not I think I can make a difference.”

Cory Booker (D)
Booker visited Iowa and South Carolina during his first weekend on the campaign trail as a declared presidential candidate. In Iowa, the New Jersey senator continued to pitch his theme of unity and optimism to voters. In South Carolina, he addressed racial discrimination, saying that the country needed a leader who is “telling the truth about racism, not participating in racist statements, demeaning and degrading people like we’re seeing now.”



From ABC News:


In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Booker said that if he wins the Democratic nomination, he will “be looking to women first” when he considers a running mate. “I believe there should be a woman president right now, and I worked very hard to get one,” he said. “We have such a great field of leaders. I think that you will rarely see a Democratic ticket anymore without gender diversity, race diversity.”

This weekend, Booker will be in New Hampshire for six events across the state.

Sherrod Brown (D)
Brown said that he’s “not ready to jump” into the presidential race during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Tuesday. But he has given himself a March deadline to come to a “joint decision” with his wife, journalist Connie Schultz.

The Ohio senator rolled out two bills Wednesday with Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill: The first is a “cost-of-living refund,” which would double the Earned Income Tax Credit; the second would lower the Medicare eligibility age to 50, allowing people to buy in voluntarily.

Steve Bullock (D)
The Montana governor will visit Iowa this weekend. Bullock has said that he is unlikely to make a public announcement about whether he will launch a campaign until later in the spring, after Montana’s state legislative session.

Pete Buttigieg (D)
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, joined MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday morning for a lightning round of questions on where he sits on the ideological spectrum. “I consider myself a pretty strong progressive, but I don’t consider the left-center spectrum to be the most useful way to look at our politics right now,” he said.

Last weekend, Buttigieg made his first trip to Iowa since announcing his presidential exploratory committee. While there, he shared his support for “Medicare-for-all” and the Green New Deal (which seeks to make massive public investments to combat climate change) while continuing to play up his military background and executive experience.

In an interview with New York magazine, Buttigieg expanded on how his local experiences could be helpful in the Oval Office, using South Bend’s sewer system as an example. “They’re so important that we make sure they work basically all of the time. Which is why you never think of them — that’s kind of the point,” he said. “But it’s not that different from national security. It’s like I say, the more freedom [people experience], the less they think about it.”

In both the New York magazine story and an interview with CNN, Buttigieg was critical of the social views of Vice President Mike Pence (a former Indiana governor and U.S. House member), saying to CNN that “politically [Pence] is a fanatic and he damaged our city and our state through choices that his social extremism led him to make.”

Julian Castro (D)
In a CNN interview Saturday, Castro said that even though he knows his candidacy has “special meaning for the Latino community,” his message is intended to be all-encompassing. “I’m also aware that I have to have policy proposals and a vision that includes everybody,” said Castro, who is a former mayor of San Antonio and served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration.

Bill de Blasio (D)
De Blasio was scheduled to visit New Hampshire on Friday, renewing speculation that the New York City mayor is contemplating a presidential campaign. But he canceled the trip after a New York City police detective was killed during a robbery Tuesday.

John Delaney (D)
The former Maryland congressman spent the first half of the week in New Hampshire, his 14th trip to the state. He opened an office in Manchester and attended a “politics and eggs” breakfast at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics — one of 10 events in three days.

Delaney broke with several other Democratic presidential contenders by revealing that he was opposed to the Green New Deal.

Tulsi Gabbard (D)
During her first visit to Iowa as a presidential candidate, the U.S. House member from Hawaii and National Guard major touted her dedication to service and outlined her views on foreign policy, responding to criticism over her recent comments about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In Iowa, she said he was a “brutal dictator” but said that she didn’t feel the United States should be “the world’s police.”

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Gillibrand toured South Carolina, with seven stops across the state, from Friday through Sunday, including meetings with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who leads the National Conference of Mayors, and a group of women leaders.

The New York Times highlighted Gillibrand’s “feminist campaign” Tuesday, describing how advocacy for women has already become a centerpiece of her candidacy and one that differentiates her from fellow female Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren thus far.

This weekend, Gillibrand is again visiting New Hampshire for a collection of meet-and-greets, walking tours and town halls, after having traveled to the Granite State just two weeks ago.

Kamala Harris (D)
Harris attracted headlines Monday after she admitted during a New York radio interview to having smoked marijuana in college. “I did inhale,” the California senator said. “It was a long time ago, but yes.”

The remarks came during a larger discussion about marijuana, during which Harris said it wasn’t true that she opposes its legalization. She said that she supports legalization but has “concerns” and that its effects on users should be researched.

John Hickenlooper (D)
The former Colorado governor visited New Hampshire on Wednesday and Thursday and said he’s going to decide on a presidential run in the next “six weeks.”

During his stop at a Manchester house party, Hickenlooper joked about his unusual surname and how it taught him in his childhood how to “deal with bullies” — a reference to how he would approach running against Trump.

Hickenlooper added that he still wants to learn more about the Green New Deal and criticized Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border while also saying that there are “border security issues” to solve.

Eric Holder (D)
After a speech at Drake University in Iowa on Tuesday, Holder, a former U.S. attorney general, said he would reach a decision on a presidential run in the next three to four weeks. “I’m concerned about the direction of the country,” Holder said. “I think I’ve got some ideas and visions that I think would be useful to the nation.”

On the issues, Holder said that the U.S. was “at a point where we should think seriously about [marijuana] legalization” and that he supports the Green New Deal, labeling it “our generation’s moonshot.”

Amy Klobuchar (D)
Klobuchar launched her presidential campaign Sunday during a snowy outdoor event in Minneapolis. She outlined her humble political roots and described her motivations for getting into the race. “I’m running for every parent who wants a better world for their kids,” she said. “I’m running for every student who wants a good education. For every senior who wants affordable prescription drugs. For every worker, farmer, dreamer, builder. For every American. I’m running for you.”

In an appearance Monday on “Good Morning America,” the Minnesota senator defended herself against allegations that she was abusive toward her Senate staff, conceding that she is “tough” and “push[es] people” but said that it was because she holds “high expectations.”



From ABC News:


She mocked the president after he, referring to her kickoff rally, tweeted that it was “bad timing” that she was “talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures.”

“I’m sorry if it still snows in the world,” Klobuchar said on “Good Morning America” on Monday. “But the point is that we know climate change is happening.”

Next Monday, Klobuchar will participate in a CNN town hall in New Hampshire. She will then travel to Iowa on Thursday.

Jeff Merkley (D)
Merkley is “still exploring” a run for president, he told Northwest Labor Press this week. The Oregon senator denied that his decision will be based on whether Bernie Sanders, whom he endorsed in 2016, decides to run.

Seth Moulton (D)
After telling BuzzFeed News on Monday that he is thinking about running for president, Moulton confirmed the sentiment publicly Tuesday during question-and-answer sessions after a foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

“I’m thinking about running for president,” Moulton said in the BuzzFeed interview. “I’m not definitely running, but I’m going to take a very hard look at it. A very serious look at it. Because I believe it’s time for a new generation of leadership, and we gotta send Donald Trump packing.”

The Massachusetts congressman added that his decision will not be based on who else launches campaigns, saying that he doesn’t “look at this as a horse race.”

Beto O’Rourke (D)
As Trump held a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, O’Rourke defended his hometown during a protest march Monday, criticizing the president for his rhetoric on immigration. “We are making a stand for the truth, against lies and hate and ignorance and intolerance,” O’Rourke said. “El Paso has been the safest city in the United States of America not in spite of the fact that we’re a city of immigrants but because we are a city of immigrants.”



From ABC News:


Trump mentioned O’Rourke during his event, referring to the former U.S. House member as “a young man who’s got very little going for himself, except he’s got a great first name.”

Politico reported Wednesday that O’Rourke met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss a possible run for Senate against Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, in 2020.

Tim Ryan (D)
Ryan is “seriously considering” a presidential run, he said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett Outfront” on Wednesday.

The Ohio congressman, perhaps best known for his 2016 challenge to Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats, added that he doesn’t “feel any pressure for any timeline at this point.”

“The country is divided,” Ryan said. “We can’t get anything done because of these huge divisions that we have, and people in communities like the ones I represent … are suffering because of this division. You can’t win the future divided.”

Bernie Sanders (D)
Sanders is leaning toward announcing a presidential campaign by the end of February, Fox News reported Thursday, citing two sources close to the Vermont senator.

Earlier in the week, amid the controversy that engulfed Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, over a tweet interpreted to be anti-Semitic, Sanders called the freshman congresswoman to offer his support, The Daily Beast reported.

Howard Schultz (I)
The former Starbucks CEO continued to face criticism from Democrats over his potential independent bid for president, and Schultz returned the favor, discussing his misgivings with both Democrats and Republicans at a CNN town hall Tuesday. “Both parties today on the far left and the far right are more interested in partisan politics, revenge politics,” Schultz said. “I think we could be doing so much better than we are.”

During the event, Schultz acknowledged that his “business experience is not qualification to run for president.” But he argued that he could bring a pragmatic, results-focused approach to combating problems like climate change and economic inequality.

Elizabeth Warren (D)
Warren officially jumped into the 2020 race, announcing her candidacy for president at a rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts, last Saturday. Before a crowd of 3,500 supporters packed into Everett Mills — the site of one of the most famous labor strikes that catalyzed massive changes to labor rules — Warren said: “Millions and millions and millions of American families are also struggling to survive in a system that has been rigged by the wealthy and the well-connected. Hard-working people are up against a small group that holds far too much power. … Like the women of Lawrence, we are here to say enough is enough!”



From ABC News:


Warren took the stage to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” before making her official announcement and kicking off a tour through early-voting states. She made her debut as a presidential candidate in Dover, New Hampshire, before heading to Iowa on Sunday. She continues on to South Carolina, Georgia, Nevada and California this weekend.

Bill Weld (R)
Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts and 2016 Libertarian vice presidential candidate, is attending a New Hampshire Institute of Politics “politics and eggs” event on Friday.

Citing Republican sources, WMUR reported Wednesday that Weld’s remarks at the event will include a “substantial move toward a challenge to President Trump.” Weld recently re-registered in Massachusetts as a member of the Republican Party.

Marianne Williamson (D)
Williamson, a popular self-help author and one-time congressional candidate, was profiled by ABC News’s “Nightline” this week. She explained her desire to get into the presidential race, despite her lack of political experience.



From ABC News:


“I think what we need in the White House is more a visionary than just a political mechanic,” she said. “America is morally off course. … More than anything else in America today, we need a moral and spiritual awakening.”

“We need an awakening of American minds,” Williamson added. “Show me any traditional politician who’s had a 35-year career at that kind of awakening. That’s a skill set. That’s experience. That’s expertise. And I believe it is a qualification that would — you would do very well to put in the White House.”

Andrew Yang (D)
Yang is spending his own money to demonstrate his proposed “Freedom Dividend,” a form of universal basic income that would pay all Americans 18 years or older $1,000 per month. One family each in Iowa and New Hampshire are already receiving $1,000 per month from the entrepreneur, according to CBS News.

ABC News’s Kendall Karson contributed to this report.

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

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