Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:
Take it from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ son on Twitter: “Bernard is seriously contemplating a run in 2020 and I don’t mean a jog.”
Levi Sanders followed up three and a half hours later by joking, “I forgot to mention that he is taking his vitamins and going on long walks.” But the Sanders 2020 talk is serious. We told you last year that Sanders is deepening his early-state roots. Now his political team is putting together an early game plan for the 2020 presidential race.
Politico’s Gabe Debenedetti scooped that Sanders and his top political aides gathered in Washington for a discussion last weekend that included a gut-check on his 2020 decision. Though no decision was or has been made, the invite list offers some useful insight into the shape of Sanders’s campaign-in-waiting – and a level of early organization that was absent from his 2016 bid.
In the room, per Debenedetti: former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, strategists Mark Longabaugh and Julian Mulvey, pollster Ben Tulchin, along with close adviser Ari Rabin-Havt, and two more 2016 names – Revolution Messaging’s Tim Tagaris, who powered the Sanders digital fundraising operation during the primary, and Arianna Jones, another former aide and campaign vet. Also on hand was Our Revolution President Nina Turner, a surrogate in 2016. She now heads the grassroots political organization that would almost immediately have Sanders loyalists around the country ready to roll if he does enter the race.
Wait, wait, there’s more: After the weekend huddle, Sanders hosted a Tuesday night forum on his “Medicare for all” proposal at the US Capitol Visitor Center. The event was live-streamed by progressive digital media outlets and, according to Sanders, drew more than a million viewers. (California Sen. Kamala Harris gave it a boost on Twitter; so did New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.) A frequent guest and debater on CNN’s own town halls, Sanders touted the discussion as one “you’re not likely to see on the mainstream news.” It lasted about two hours and included panelists like Dr. Donald Berwick, an Obama-era administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who said expanding Medicare was simply a matter of “will.”
Worth watching next week: Sanders, Julián Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and DNC Chair Tom Perez will all address the Latino Victory Fund’s Latino Political Summit in Washington on Tuesday. Then, Sanders joins old friend, environmental activist and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben on Wednesday, right after Trump’s State of the Union speech, for a “Climate State of the Union” at George Washington University.
News and notes:
BIDEN ‘DRAFT’ EFFORT LIVE IN IOWA: Per the Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich: “A ‘draft’ campaign aimed at encouraging former Vice President Joe Biden to run for president, could soon open a field office in Iowa, almost two years in advance of the 2020 Iowa caucuses. Two Illinois Quad Cities men, Collin West and Matthew Graf, filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission about three weeks ago to create the Time for Biden super PAC. ‘We realized that there needs to be a change, and to win in 2020 for the Democrats, we really need a superstar who is popular with the people and who also has good policy substance and that guy happens to be Joe Biden,’ West said.”
BOOKER ON IMPEACHMENT: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was asked on MSNBC Friday whether impeaching Donald Trump is a smart campaign message for Democrats in 2018 and 2020 … and sounded like someone who’s thought about his message when he answered. “We have so much more to run on and run for that I don’t want the centerpiece of our elections in ‘18 or ‘20 to be what or who we’re against,” Booker said. “I want to unify people – not people within a party, but the nation.”
2020 POLL: DEM FAVORITES LEAD TRUMP: Former Vice President Joe Biden (57-40), Sen. Bernie Sanders (55-42) and Oprah Winfrey (51-42) all outpace Trump in potential 2020 face-offs, according to a new CNN poll of registered voters. More notable numbers from CNN’s Ryan Struyk: Sanders’ favorables, at 57%, are roughly on par with where they were at the end of the 2016 primary. Biden’s are up since October 2015, when he was last considering a run – to 58% from 51%. Oprah is at 64%. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, all three are super popular: Sanders and Biden are at 82% favorable, and Winfrey is at 83%.
MAYORS VS. WASHINGTON: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – two 2020 prospects – arrived in Washington on Wednesday for the US Conference of Mayors’ annual winter gathering and immediately feuded with the Trump administration over sanctuary cities. The trip allowed mayors to make the case they could run Washington more effectively. “Anybody that’s watched us has to be startled by the difference between watching us work and watching Congress work,” Landrieu said in an interview. Garcetti, meanwhile, delivered a speech urging fellow mayors to make gender equality a top priority.
Should we take mayors seriously as presidential candidates? “I find the prospect of a mayor intriguing,” one Democratic strategist emailed. “They are able to make the competency argument of having actually governed as opposed to the mess of the Trump administration but do it without inheriting the baggage of being part of Washington right now.”
GOVS VS. THE FCC ON NET NEUTRALITY: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo both signed executive orders this week requiring state agencies purchase their internet from broadband providers who operate according to the principles of recently scuttled net neutrality rules. The actions are a clear poke in the eye of the the FCC, which under Ajit Pai has moved to deregulate the industry. Said Bullock: “This is a simple step states can take to preserve and protect net neutrality. We can’t wait for folks in Washington, DC, to come to their senses and reinstate these rules.” Said Cuomo: “The FCC’s dangerous ruling goes against the core values of our democracy, and New York will do everything in our power to protect net neutrality and the free exchange of ideas.”
WARREN’S FAMILY HISTORY GETS A SECOND LOOK: Quite apart from the trolling attacks by Trump, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, her 2020 profile rising, is coming under some renewed scrutiny over her claims of Native American ancestry. In her piece on the issue last week, the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey noted that some of criticism is now flowing from typically friendly places like The Daily Show (which, with Jon Stewart as its host, did a lot to make Warren a household name) and in a Cherokee activist’s piece on ThinkProgress, the opinion and news site attached to the Center for American Progress.
The consensus among strategists quizzed in Linskey’s story is that Warren will need to address the matter again at some point, but more to satisfy Democrats, who will be inclined to take her at her word. Republicans will probably think the worst, regardless of what she does or doesn’t say. Here’s TargetSmart’s Tom Bonier: “From a strategic perspective, taking the live step of taking responsibility and an apology, even while noting that it was not her intention to harm anyone, is important.”
JERRY BROWN IS LOOKING BACK … and most certainly not forward to a presidential run. That’s one of the very clear takeaways from Adam Nagourney’s pair of very enjoyable profiles of lame-duck California Gov. Jerry Brown. “I think it’s getting close to the end,” he told Nagourney. “I think I’m going to be OK with that.”
OPRAH’S NOT RUNNING? It was about as clear and concise a “no, thank you” as a would-be candidate can make: “I don’t have the DNA for it.” That was Oprah Winfrey, taking to InStyle Magazine, about the prospect of running for president. But here’s the thing: The conversation took place three weeks before the billionaire entertainment icon launched Oprahmentum with her stirring speech at the Golden Globes. After that, we got word from two close Winfrey friends that she was “actively thinking” about a bid.
Anyway, here’s the Oprah of about seven weeks ago on whether she’d run: “I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not. And so it’s not something that interests me. I don’t have the DNA for it. (Best friend) Gayle (King) – who knows me as well as I know myself practically – has been calling me regularly and texting me things, like a woman in the airport saying, ‘When’s Oprah going to run?’ So Gayle sends me these things, and then she’ll go, ‘I know, I know, I know! It wouldn’t be good for you – it would be good for everyone else.’ I met with someone the other day who said that they would help me with a campaign. That’s not for me.” (Our follow up question: Wait – who did she meet with?)
Before you go:
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a fierce intra-party critic of President Donald Trump, is planning an April 3 visit to New Hampshire. … Where will former President Barack Obama campaign this year? Those decisions depend on who actually invites him, a former aide says.
CNN’s Caroline Kenny, David Siegel, Sophie Tatum, Saba Hamedy, Ashley Killough and Betsy Klein contributed to this memo.