Bernie Sanders healthcare rally 9-13-2017
Sanders announces 'Medicare for all' plan
01:31 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Democratic leaders are debating whether a 'Medicare-for-all' is energizing Republicans

Former Vice President Joe Biden is getting involved in early primary states' politics

Washington CNN  — 

Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:

Did Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (and his 16 Democratic co-sponsors) jump the gun by introducing his single-payer health care bill before the end-of-September window had closed on Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare?

It’s the debate Democratic party leaders and operatives were having after CNN announced that Sanders and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar would take on Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana — the architects of the GOP’s last-chance bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act before the window to do so under the 51-vote “reconciliation” threshold closes — in a live debate over health care Monday night.

The fear: Sanders is making it easier for Republicans to vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill because he’s making it a contrast with single-payer — an easy bogeyman on the right — rather than with existing law. “I’m not sure single payer vs Graham-Cassidy is the debate we want right now,” tweeted Obama veteran Tommy Vietor.

Sanders’ camp is pushing back hard against this view, arguing that he’s been an effective advocate for Obamacare in recent months’ fights, and that introducing a bill that is generally more popular than the GOP’s repeal efforts won’t hurt anything. And Sanders’ allies, including the National Nurses United’s Chuck Idelson, are furious, with Idelson calling it an “orchestrated campaign” reminiscent of 2016 primary attacks.

High-level Democratic strategists who were granted anonymity to speak openly were divided on whether the fears are founded.

One said yes, emailing that “this takes the focus off the Republicans and helps make it more likely Graham-Cassidy crosses the finish line.” Another said no and called the notion “ridiculous,” in part because there was “little to no awareness” among the general public that Sanders had even introduced the bill.

“Cassidy-Graham is being considered so the Republicans can have one last shot at getting Medicaid cuts they need to pay for tax cuts for rich people. Period. End of story,” that strategist said.

A third strategist’s take: It depends on whether Graham-Cassidy passes next week. If it does, Sanders will face intense blowback because the timing of his bill was one of the few factors in the overall health care equation that Democrats could control. If it doesn’t, this will be quickly forgotten.

News and notes:

BIDEN HITS THE TRAIL: Former Vice President Joe Biden is hitting the campaign trail for Doug Jones, the Democrat who will take on the winner of Tuesday’s Alabama Senate Republican primary runoff. Biden will be at the Sheraton in downtown Birmingham on October 3, Jones announced. The two have known each other for years.

But that’s not all. Biden recorded a robocall for Annette Taddeo, the Democratic candidate in a state senate special election being held in Florida next week. And he’ll be in South Carolina — where he has deep political relationships — on Saturday night for the Charleston NAACP’s centennial.

SANDERS’ FOREIGN POLICY VISION: Bernie Sanders was in Missouri on Thursday to deliver a foreign policy speech that he hopes will drive the Democratic conversation. He used the speech to connect economic inequality with authoritarianism worldwide. “There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population – 3.7 billion people,” Sanders said.

ZUCKERBERG ON RUSSIAN ADS: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose cross-country travels have kicked up some 2020 speculation, said Thursday that he doesn’t want “anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy.” Zuckerberg was announcing that Facebook would try to bring more transparency to digital political ads after the company revealed that it had sold ads to a Russian troll farm during the 2016 election.

SCHULTZ SOUNDS LIKE A CANDIDATE: Starbucks’ Howard Schultz didn’t exactly give a strong denial of his interest in politics when he told The Washington Post this week that he has “no plans to run for office.” When pressed on whether that could change, he said, “That’s the way I feel today.”

Here’s a candidate-sounding line from Schultz: “The worst thing that we all, whether we be businesspeople or private citizens — we should not be embracing indifference right now,” Schultz said at the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative. “We have to be engaged, we’ve got to speak out, we’ve got to be involved, we gotta stand up for the things that we know are true. And I think the country, in many ways, is in need of a moral, a cultural and an economic transformation.”

WARREN VS. EQUIFAX: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren touted a bill she introduced last week with Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz on the Senate floor while hammering credit monitoring agency Equifax, which recently acknowledged that hackers stole more than 150 million Americans’ personal information. The bill would create essentially a “Do Not Call” list for credit files. “The basic idea is simple: Equifax doesn’t pay you when they sell your data. You shouldn’t have to pay Equifax to stop them from selling it,” Warren said.

THE VAST LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY: Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere chatted with Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. It’s pretty widely known on the left that Merkley regularly convenes a host of progressive groups to coordinate messaging and strategy. But one interesting tidbit is who on the Senate side attends those meetings. Dovere writes: “Merkley circulates invitations among senators. Among the regulars: Warren, Hawaii’s Brian Schatz, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Minnesota’s Al Franken. A rotating cast of others, including New Jersey’s Cory Booker, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy and California’s Kamala Harris, have been known to stop by. Sanders is always invited, but he never comes, instead sending a staffer and people from his Our Revolution group. In recent months, a staffer from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has started joining.”

O’MENTUM? Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor and 2016 presidential candidate, is headed to New Hampshire next Wednesday to speak to Salem Democrats and attend a fundraiser for Joyce Craig, who is running for Manchester mayor. Craig is becoming a frequent ally for 2020 Democratic prospects: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was already there campaigning with her over the summer.

GOOD NEWS FOR SANDERS IN IOWA: CNN’s Greg Krieg emails: There are signs of momentum this week for Cathy Glasson, one of the Sanders-friendly Democrats running to be the next governor of Iowa. It’s a crowded primary field, so the endorsement — and with it fundraising and strategic support — she got from the small but influential Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is nice get for Glasson. A nurse and Service Employees International Union local leader, she backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 (at least in part because the SEIU did), but has been working to woo Hawkeye state Berniecrats. She was visible making the rounds during Sanders’ first return to Des Moines since the election over the summer at the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund Convention.

If Sanders decides to run in 2020, it sure wouldn’t hurt to have the state’s new Democratic governor in his corner. As she told me back in July, “We want to change the dynamic in 2018 (with midterms wins)” and “set the frame for presidential candidates when they start coming through. It’s the very start of something fantastic that can happen right here in our own state to drive a national agenda as well.”

The week ahead:

— Friday, September 22: Bernie Sanders is in San Francisco and is participating in a health care-focused town hall with CREDO at 1:15 p.m. ET. It’ll livestream here. Sanders then speaks at the National Nurses United convention at Yerba Buena Gardens at 4 p.m. ET. Catch that stream here.

— Saturday, September 23: Joe Biden visits South Carolina for the Charleston NAACP’s 100-year celebration fundraiser. The event starts at 7 p.m. ET.

— Saturday, September 23: Maryland Rep. John Delaney is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the Horry County Democratic Party’s SHORE Dinner starting at 6 p.m. ET.

— Tuesday, September 26: The Alabama Senate Republican runoff between Sen. Luther Strange and Roy Moore takes place. The winner faces Democrat Doug Jones in December.

— Wednesday, September 27: Michelle Obama delivers the keynote address at the Inbound 2017 conference in Boston. She speaks at 9 a.m. ET.

— Saturday, September 30: Reps. Cheri Bustos, Seth Moulton and Tim Ryan appear at the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines.

Before you go:

Republican megadonor Robert Mercer is pumping money into a super PAC that is taking on Elizabeth Warren, who is up for re-election next year. … Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is planning an October Iowa trip. … Former President Barack Obama swiped at Donald Trump — but not by name — at an event sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

CNN’s Gregory Krieg, Caroline Kenny, Sophie Tatum, Ashley Killough, Miranda Green, Saba Hamedy and Betsy Klein contributed to this memo.