Some notable news items popped up over the weekend, and here’s an attempt to round them up as we head into another busy week on the 2020 campaign trail.
The candidates have begun spending regular time in Iowa, among the other early states, and their campaign stops sometimes make news depending on what questions they get asked or what topics they choose to address.
Beto’s Second Iowa Trip
Beto O’Rourke spent the weekend crisscrossing Iowa (in a 20-mile radius) making several campaign stops as he begins to fill out some much-needed infrastructure in the Hawkeye State such as setting up campaign offices.
The Des Moines Register gives us some reporting on Beto’s weekend activities:
The former Texas congressman, who is vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, made six stops in the Des Moines metro Saturday, the busiest day on his four-day, 15-event trip to Iowa. Behind the wheel of a rented, red Dodge Grand Caravan, O’Rourke and his team covered more than 50 miles.
His 12-hour day began and ended in Des Moines — after roughly six hours of stump speeches and voter questions, handshakes and hugs, at least 100 more photo requests, and several of the same anecdotes.
All within a 20-mile radius.
The pace was too much for the schedule. O’Rourke often ran late, leaving attendees (and the crush of media that follows him around) waiting. At some events, Beto didn’t start until nearly 45 minutes from when the event was scheduled.
Delays were often from long lines for selfies and questions, according to O’Rourke’s campaign.
“We want to give all Iowans — and everyone — the chance to see him and meet him, personally,” Geoff Burgan, Iowa communications director for O’Rourke, told the Register.
O’Rourke is already bringing in the crowds, but the excitement has dwindled somewhat from his prior visit. Perhaps voters are simply not ready to get into campaign-mode or they’re reconsidering Beto as a national candidate versus a Texas candidate.
Bernie Says “No” to Open Borders
Bernie Sanders made some waves this weekend by appearing to mimic some of President Trump’s rhetoric about why the United States simply cannot have an open border. He took some criticism from immigration groups over his comments as Newsweek reports:
Senator Bernie Sanders pushed back to clarify his position on immigration on Sunday after he was asked in Iowa about his reported support for open borders.
“I’m afraid you may be getting your information wrong,” said Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is currently seeking the Democratic nomination to unseat President Donald Trump in 2020, The Washington Post reported. “I think what we need is comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.
“Oh my god, there’s a lot of poverty in this world, and you’re going to have people from all over the world. And I don’t think that’s something that we can do at this point. Can’t do it,” the senator added.
Some immigration advocates and progressives have pushed for open borders, however, and many were quick to criticize Sanders’s response on social media. Many said he sounded like Trump on immigration, while others argued that the U.S., as a wealthy nation, should show more concern about the plight of migrants.
Sanders tries to make the point that “open borders” is not a progressive idea, but an idea that originates from “big business” and often cites statements from Charles Koch, one of the billionaire GOP donors making up the infamous Koch brothers, along with his, brother David Koch.
Sanders, however, has long criticized open borders. In 2015, he referred to them as a “right wing proposal” pushed forward by the wealthy Koch brothers. “You’re doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don’t think there’s any country in the world which believes in that,” he said in an interview with Ezra Klein of Vox.
The senator is correct in saying that the Koch brothers, longtime Republican donors, have supported open borders. As recently as last week, Charles Koch spoke in California promoting the idea.
Sanders is arguing that open borders would hurt American citizens by driving down wages since it would give employers a pool of low-skilled labor willing to work for minimum wage.
Warren Struggles in Massachusetts
Elizabeth Warren is making news based on the results of a Massachusetts primary poll, but for all the wrong reasons. Candidates usually aim to have a strong showing in their home state, but for Warren, her home state is anything but friendly at the moment:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Sunday placed third in a 2020 presidential poll of her home state of Massachusetts, trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden.
In a poll of likely Democratic primary voters in the state, 14 percent picked Warren as their preferred Democratic nominee for president.
Sanders led the field with 26 percent of support, followed closely by Biden, who had the support of 23 percent of likely Massachusetts voters.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg was the only other candidate to clear 10 percent of support in Massachusetts, with 11 percent.
Warren is having trouble making a solid case for her candidacy. She’s heavy on policy ideas and proposals, but very weak when it comes to attributes such as charisma and charm that many successful presidential candidates manage to cobble together. Furthermore, she’s already gotten in the mud with Donald Trump and walked away on the losing end, by most accounts, when it comes to her claims of Native American heritage. She has floundered since announcing her presidential campaign and this poll from her home state illustrates the challenges she has before her.
Buttigieg Attacks Pence
Pete Buttigieg made some statements on Sunday which took a direct line of attack against Vice President Mike Pence. Buttigieg hails from Indiana, the state where Pence served as Governor from 2013 to 2017, so he has some personal beef to settle. CBS News reports on Buttigieg’s decision to single out pence on the issue of gay marriage:
Potential 2020 Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, delivered a pointed message for Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, telling him to raise his objections with the gay community with God.
Buttigieg, in a speech at LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in Washington, D.C., referenced the vice president’s less-than-welcoming attitude toward members of the LGBTQ community when discussing his marriage to his husband Chasten. He called marriage equality a moral issue, saying his marriage of two years has made him a “better human being.”
“My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man and yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God,” said Buttigieg, a devout Episcopalian.
“I can tell you, that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade,” he added, to a room full of loud cheers. “And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pence’s of the world could understand, that if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
Buttigieg hasn’t shied away from being the first major openly-gay candidate to start getting serious attention on the national stage. In fact, he has attempted to use it to his advantage by coupling the issue with his personal faith, and go on the attack in a way that pits the “religious left” versus the “religious right.”
White, Working-Class Voters
Finally, the Associated Press ran an article on Sunday pointing out that despite the diversity in the Democratic field, there still remains a desire by some voters to settle on a white male candidate to strike back at Donald Trump’s working-class appeal:
“The white male vote is indispensable, it’s a part of any winning coalition,” said Democratic pollster Ronald Lester, who worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. He noted that successful national Democrats perform well with white men, and that includes Barack Obama, whose strength among white men in the Rust Belt helped fuel his White House victories in 2008 and 2012.
Several candidates have jumped in with their own suggestions of how to do that.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn’t said whether he is running, spoke to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in an appearance Friday that seemed designed to show how he could win back white working-class voters. Biden said some of his “sophisticated friends” don’t understand the need to treat laborers with respect.
“How the hell do we get to the place where a lot of you think the rest of the country doesn’t see you, or know you?” Biden asked the mostly male crowd.
When Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, announced his campaign earlier in the week, he said his more centrist approach could appeal to working-class voters like those in his district, which embodies the Rust Belt terrain that Trump won.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said her no-frills style has delivered white Midwestern voters before. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, uses his star appeal that helped him in Texas’ well-educated suburbs. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has said his economic populism will bring rural white voters back to the Democratic fold.
Polling makes clear why Democratic are searching for the right messenger.
In other words, each candidate recognizes how Donald Trump won in 2016 by peeling away voters in Democratic strongholds, and they each believe they have a strategy to take on the challenge.
The Democratic primary is now well underway and each weekend will bring a fresh round of campaigning as candidates leave their day jobs on Monday through Friday and hit the campaign trail hard on Saturday and Sunday.