Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:
Julián Castro isn’t being coy about what his trip to New Hampshire next week to speak to young Democrats in Manchester means: He’s weighing a 2020 presidential run.
“Yeah, I’m interested, but whether or not I end up doing it – I’ll decide that later,” he told CNN on Thursday, after speaking at an event at American University in Washington.
First, Castro said, he plans to use the 2018 cycle to help “young, progressive Democrats” win midterm races. “And then after that, after the November election, I’ll make a decision by the end of 2018 about my own future,” he said. “But during these next few months, I’m going to have a lot of chance to get across the country and listen to what folks are saying and get a sense of what people are thinking.”
There could be a lane for a Latino candidate in the 2020 contest: Nevada is the third state to vote, and delegate-rich California, with huge numbers of Latino voters, moved its primary up to Super Tuesday, immediately following the first four contests.
The 43-year-old former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary is now traveling the country, using his Opportunity First PAC as a vehicle for his political activity while teaching seminars at the University of Texas at Austin and working on a book.
He also offered an optimistic take on Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s race against Sen. Ted Cruz this fall, saying suburbanites are abandoning the GOP in Texas just like they did in elections in Virginia and Alabama late last year. “That’s happening in the suburbs of Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio. So, it’s not just sort of the two-dimensional demographic question we think about in terms of the Latino community. It’s also that you have folks in these big-city suburbs that used to be moderate Republicans that, more and more in Texas, have become independents or Democrats. And (President Donald) Trump has done that, and Cruz is having trouble with them right now.”
News and notes:
THE OBAMAWORLD PRIMARY: Former Attorney General Eric Holder was asked directly at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast this week whether he might run for president and gave a vague answer: “We’ll see.” What’s that mean? Some Democratic strategists think Holder isn’t serious about running for president — he just sees the float as helpful for fundraising for his Barack Obama-backed National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Others say he wouldn’t gain much traction even if he did run.
The big picture: Three close Obama friends and allies — Holder, former Vice President Joe Biden and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — are now all at least showing some interest in 2020 campaigns. It’s the Obamaworld primary, and they could all look to similar universes of advisers, donors and validators within the party. Biden is the universally known, seasoned veteran whose authenticity could be an antidote to President Donald Trump; Patrick is the former David Axelrod client who Obama himself sees as a top-level talent; and if Holder’s push to flip governor’s office and state legislatures this fall is successful, he’ll have credibility for having done the real work of reversing Democrats’ down-ballot fortunes. (Although, asked about Holder, one Democratic strategist said the real figure to watch from the Obama-era Justice Department is Sally Yates. “She is a rock star. He is a band manager,” the strategist said.)
— Biden is ramping up his political travel for Senate incumbents. On Sunday he’ll be in Wisconsin for a fundraiser for Sen. Tammy Baldwin. He’s already made in-state visits for fundraisers for Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, and in March he’ll speak at a Montana Democratic Party event with Jon Tester on the ballot this fall.
— Biden ripped into Trump at a House Democratic event this week, saying Trump is hurting the country with “clannish nationalism” and “phony populism.” “The President is looking out for himself only. The Republican Party seems to only be looking out for the President,” Biden said.
GILLIBRAND REJECTS RUBIO-IVANKA FAMILY LEAVE PLAN: The plan being floated by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is working with Ivanka Trump, would allow people to draw from social security after the birth of a child in exchange for delaying those payments when retirement comes. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has sponsored the more comprehensive and generous FAMILY Act, dismissed the GOP framework in a statement Wednesday as “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” On Thursday, she sent out a list-building email with that as the subject line.
CUOMO UNDER ATTACK: The GOP opposition research super PAC America Rising is pounding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo again this week, launching a web campaign to highlight the ongoing federal corruption trial of former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco. Cuomo hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, but his proximity to the Percoco, a longtime ally and former campaign manager, has made the proceedings an almost daily headache.
America Rising press secretary Scott Sloofman explained why the group wants to make it worse: “A large impetus of work that we’ve done last year and this year is related to him likely running in 2020,” he told Fox Business. “We believed that since he’s running for re-election this year, it’s the perfect time to start going after him.”
SETH M. MEETS SETH M.: Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton played to a national audience on Wednesday night, during a visit NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Talking about his 2014 run, Moulton took a shot at the “national Democratic establishment,” which he said discouraged him from challenging nine-term incumbent John Tierney. “Fundamentally what they were saying to me, as a veteran, was, ‘Do not participate in the democracy you risked your life to defend.’ And that’s wrong.” He added: “The party establishment has gotten us into a terrible position right now. We don’t control anything in Washington and so I think it’s time for a new generation of Democrats to step up and run.”
ANOTHER PREVIEW OF THE COMING HEALTH CARE BRAWL: Andy Slavitt, acting CMS administrator under Obama and leading defender of the Affordable Care Act during the GOP’s 2017 push to gut it, unveiled a new initiative this week to build bipartisan consensus around health care policy. The group, a nonprofit, is called “United States of Care” and it immediately came under attack by the progressive left, which is accusing Slavitt, a former UnitedHealth Group executive, of working to undermine the single-payer movement. The group’s site talks a lot about “access” and “fiscal responsibility,” which activists read as code for some version of the status quo.
Still, its roster of liberal and independent backers is estimable: former Obama speechwriter and “Pod Save America” host Jon Favreau, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, New York City first lady Chirlane McCray, former Obama OMB director Peter Orszag, and former top Obama domestic aide Cecilia Muñoz are all lending their support. Emily Barson, who spent nearly eight years at Obama’s HHS, is the executive director. Not formally connected, but offering his tweet of approval on Wednesday: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
Before you go:
Facebook hired a full-time pollster to monitor Mark Zuckerberg’s approval rating. … Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is among a group of senators demanding EPA administrator Scott Pruitt recuse himself from making any rules regarding the Clean Power Plan. … Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren commemorated the one-year anniversary of “nevertheless she persisted” with a video.
CNN’s Saba Hamedy, Ashley Killough, Sophie Tatum, Caroline Kenny, David Siegel and Betsy Klein contributed to this memo.