Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:
It’s as if former Vice President Joe Biden never really left the political stage.
President Donald Trump rolled out an Afghanistan strategy Monday night that looked eerily like what Biden advocated unsuccessfully in the early days of former President Barack Obama’s administration: A heavy focus on Pakistan; no nation-building efforts; an emphasis on training the Afghan army and a precise, surgical focus on eliminating terrorists.
On Thursday, Biden unveiled the title – “Promise Me, Dad” – and a bit about his book due out November 14. It’ll be heavily focused on his son, Beau Biden, who died in 2015. The former vice president told People: “Honor, duty, responsibility: the values that Beau held dear are the things that continue to inspire us as a family every day. I wanted to share that. And in sharing it, I hope I can help others who have endured what we’ve endured to find hope, solace and purpose.”
Biden’s kept an active travel schedule, too. He’ll speak at Guilford College in North Carolina on September 17, and then at a Charleston NAACP dinner in South Carolina on September 23. There’s the “American Promise” book tour kicking off November 13 in New York City – a website promoting the book lays out the dates. Then there’s a series of leadership conferences in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal that will take him to Canada three times in October and November.
Last time Biden weighed in on politics on Twitter was August 12, taking a swing at Trump over his Charlottesville, Virginia, comments. “There is only one side,” Biden tweeted.
News and notes:
SANDERS’ ‘FIGHT FOR $15’ PUSH: The Service Employees International Union and the grassroots “Fight for $15” effort it supports are launching a new campaign to bolster organized labor ahead of the 2018 midterms – and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to be its face. In a video released Friday morning, Sanders speaks direct to camera for more than two minutes. “There are only two ways for workers to win higher pay,” he says, highlighting the struggles of a nursing assistant in Iowa. “Number one, we’ve got to increase the minimum wage. And second of all, we have got build strong trade unions.”
It’s no surprise that Sanders would back the SEIU here; he’s a longtime proponent of labor rights and unions. More interesting is how tightly the SEIU, which endorsed Hillary Clinton in November 2015 even as she wavered in backing a $15 minimum wage, is hugging Sanders as it seeks to reassert organized labor power in states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan. It’s one sign that Sanders as a 2020 candidate would command a lot of union support.
CUBAN ON 2020: ‘IT’S POSSIBLE.’ When Business Insider emailed Mark Cuban about a poll that shows him leading Trump, the Dallas Mavericks owner responded, in part: “I would only run if I can come up with solutions for health care, the plight of working families, and reducing the stress levels of our country. It’s possible. When I have something to offer, I will.”
CASTRO SEES A 2020 LANE: LATINOS. Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere has a story on how former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro’s 2020 ambitions could prevent his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, from running for Texas governor in 2018. One interesting 2020 tidbit, from Dovere: “Julian has talked to many people about the lack of national Democratic figures to channel the rising power of Latinos, and how well-positioned he believes he is to occupy that space.”
TIM RYAN NOT RULING OUT 2020: In an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan left the door wide open to a 2020 presidential campaign. He said: “I like being out around the country. I like talking about this. I like crafting the message, and I think, you know, maybe the country needs somebody from a place like Youngstown, Ohio, that has tried to develop the local economy at the local level.”
— How would Ryan fare? Here’s a note one Democratic operative sent: “He was in Polk County recently and, in a room full of progressive Democrats, spoke out against talking about the minimum wage and instead talking about high-paying jobs of the future. He got a great ovation and many liked his candor and bluntness – he talks like a real person and people like the fact he’s willing to take on the establishment.”
— But Ryan would still have to build an organization – something it’s not clear he can do. Challenging Nancy Pelosi for House Democratic leader as a conservative alternative could hurt him with the primary electorate, too. And another Democratic operative offered a dimmer view of Ryan, saying: “Ryan likes to complain about the Democratic Party and Party leadership but he’s never done anything to help.” That operative said Ryan compares negatively to Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who also criticizes party leadership but is seen as playing a larger fundraising and recruiting role. Both will be in Iowa in late September for the Polk County Steak Fry.
VILLARAIGOSA: HARRIS IS RUNNING. Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was blunt on MSNBC last weekend when asked whether California Sen. Kamala Harris has a stake in the state’s gubernatorial election, in which Villaraigosa is a candidate. “She’s going to be knocking on doors in Iowa, I expect,” he said.
INSLEE ON DACA: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee – who many Democratic operatives are quick to mention as an emerging voice in the party – combined the debate over Confederate monuments with warnings that the Trump administration could end Obama’s protections for “Dreamers.” He wrote in a CNN op-ed: “Are we a confident, forward-looking nation that builds monuments – like DACA – to hope and determination? Or are we a nation that is turned inward, lauding monuments to intolerance and division?”
STEYER’S GROUP’S LATEST EFFORT: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen America is pumping seven figures into a national immigration Legal Services Network, the super PAC announced this week. The group, Steyer said, “will not silently stand by as the Trump administration tries to tear families apart.” It’s another indication of what Steyer told us recently, amid speculation about a run for office: His head is fully in national issues.
From the right:
WILL TRUMP FACE A PRIMARY? The President is plotting against Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. And Flake is striking back. Asked in a radio interview about whether Trump will face a GOP primary challenge in 2020, Flake said: “I think that the way that – the direction he’s headed right now, just kinda drilling down on the base rather than trying to expand the base – I think he’s inviting one.”
PREPARING FOR 2020: Trump’s orbit is informally monitoring the activities of a large roster of potential Democratic 2020 prospects — the usual suspects, plus names like former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, reports Politico’s Alex Isenstadt in a look at how Team Trump is gearing up for re-election. The Republican Trump world is most focused on as a potential challenger: Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Speaking of which…
UNITY TICKET? Kasich and Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have entertained the idea of forming a unity presidential ticket to run for the White House in 2020, a source involved the discussions tells CNN’s Mark Preston. Under this scenario, Kasich and Hickenlooper would run as independents with Kasich at the top of the ticket, said the source, who cautioned it has only been casually talked about.
The week ahead:
Saturday, August 26 — Jason Kander, the Let America Vote president, headlines the Louisiana Democratic Party’s True Blue Gala in New Orleans, starting at 7 p.m. CT. (UPDATE: This event has been postponed due to Hurricane Harvey.)
Monday, August 28 — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at the King Center in Atlanta at 6 p.m. ET at an event called “Women…the Soul of a Nation.”
Thursday, August 31 — Bernie Sanders talks about his new book at the University of Iowa, at a 7 p.m. CT event sponsored by Prairie Lights, the Iowa City independent book store.
Thursday, August 31 — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar visits Iowa State University in Ames to speak at 7:30 p.m. CT in the Memorial Union Great Hall, as 2017’s recipient of the Mary Louise Smith Chair of Women in Politics.
Sunday, September 10 — One a little farther out, but worth having on your radar: Michelle Obama speaks at Beth El Synagogue in Minneapolis about her tenure as first lady, in a moderated forum kicking off at 7 p.m. CT.
Before you go:
The podcast featuring Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s recent discussion with NBC’s Seth Meyers was posted this week. In it, Franken said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is funny – and Trump is not. At all. “The fact that he exists is in certain ways funny, but not really,” Franken said. … Conservative website Townhall went after California Sen. Kamala Harris for tweeting her opposition to a Joe Arpaio pardon – another example of Harris making what Democratic primary voters are likely to view as the right kinds of enemies.
CNN’s Greg Krieg, Sophie Tatum, Ashley Killough, Caroline Kenny, Miranda Green, Saba Hamedy and Betsy Klein contributed to this memo.