Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says – present tense – she’s not a 2020 candidate. “I am not running for president in 2020,” she told CNN’s Jim Acosta this weekend.
But many of her recent actions suggest otherwise.
Warren announced last week at a Democratic National Committee gala that she’d sent a check for $5,000 to all 50 state parties – $250,000 total. “I want a Democratic Party strong enough to compete for every vote, in every race, at every level, in every state, in every election – and I’m willing to do my part to help make that happen,” she said.
While Warren was bolstering her state-level ties, she was warring with fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Fighting against a bank bill Tuesday, after the vote to advance the legislation, she retweeted a list of Democrats who backed it, adding: “Senate Republicans voted unanimously for the #BankLobbyistAct. But this bill wouldn’t be on the path to becoming law without the support of these Democrats. The Senate just voted to increase the chances your money will be used to bail out big banks again.”
The upshot: Warren is certainly aware that the short-term awkwardness with colleagues could pay off in 2020, when the party’s primary electorate is likely to be well to the left of the Senate Democratic caucus.
News and notes:
DNC MOVES TO CURB SUPERDELEGATES: The fight over exactly what role superdelegates should play in the 2020 nominating process won’t be resolved until this summer – but the Democratic National Committee voted over the weekend on a big-picture goal: Reducing them. The full DNC accepted a recommendation to “revise the role and reduce the perceived influence” of superdelegates. What that means, exactly, will be sorted out by the Rules and Bylaws Committee ahead of a June deadline to prepare a final proposal for the August DNC meeting.
What to watch: The 21-member Unity Reform Commission recommended a 60% reduction in superdelegates – binding DNC members to their states’ results on the first ballot but allowing elected officials and former presidents and vice presidents to retain their unpledged status. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ allies are pushing to go further – doing away with unpledged delegates altogether, at least on the first ballot.
The campaign that never ends: Sanders on Friday told CNN’s Jake Tapper that superdelegates should be eliminated entirely. In a statement on the DNC’s moves Saturday, Hillary Clinton praised other reforms but didn’t mention superdelegates at all.
BERNIE SANDERS IN TRUMP COUNTRY: Since Donald Trump’s election, Bernie Sanders has visited 28 states (not counting his home in Vermont), often headlining multiple events in different cities over the course of just a few hours. He’s keynoted events with progressive groups opposing Obamacare repeal and the GOP tax bill, done a book tour, and – increasingly as the midterms near – endorsed and stumped with congressional candidates.
The reasoning is simple, Sanders said this week before heading for Texas and Arizona: “We have put a significant effort into going into states that Trump won. Not exclusively, but most of the states that I’ve visited have been states that Trump won. The reason for that is, I think it’s important for people who voted for Trump to understand that many of the promises that he made on health care, on taxes, on many other issues, are promises that he did not keep.”
– On Trump’s new tariffs – 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminum imports – Sanders, who campaigned on protectionist policies like Trump, said: “Do we need radical changes in our trade policy to rebuild American manufacturing and protect the American worker? Absolutely, positively. That’s exactly what I campaigned on. Do I think that Trump’s approach of just putting tariffs on steel and aluminum, is gonna solve the problem? The answer is no, it is not. We need a more comprehensive approach.”
– Asked if Congress should get more involved in the process, he said: “Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. I will credit Trump, which I very rarely do, to put his finger on a real problem. I do not want to see the continued de-industrialization of the loss of good paying jobs, whether it’s steel, aluminum, or any other industry. We need serious legislation.”
BIDEN ISN’T SLOWING DOWN: Former Vice President Joe Biden’s busy week began with campaign stops in Pennsylvania, where he stumped for Democrat Conor Lamb before Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. It ended on Friday with a speech at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he spoke about economic opportunity.
Biden’s stop in western Pennsylvania was not just a stump speech, but an opportunity to offer a glimpse of how he’d approach 2020 if he runs for president again: by working to rebuild a Democratic coalition that includes white, rural, blue-collar voters. He slammed Trump for the tax bill, saying it would lead to cuts in Medicare and Social Security, and tried to appeal to voters dissatisfied with the President in a district he won by 20 points in 2016.
KAMALA’S PLANS: In a Politico dive into California Sen. Kamala Harris’s positioning in the Senate, she discussed being approached to run in 2020 – without actually tipping her hand about whether she’ll do it. “I have seen so many people along the way focused on that thing out there, and they trip over the thing in front of them. And the thing in front of us is so important,” Harris said. “I’m going to let everybody else sit around and think about things that have yet to approach.”
MERKLEY ‘KEEPING THE OPTION OPEN’: Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley told local radio station KOIN he is “keeping the option open” for a potential 2020 run – but that his planned March 24 trip to New Hampshire doesn’t mean he’s in. “My main focus is the fight for 51, to get a Democratic majority in the Senate that can stop some of the worst of Trump’s policies and also the packing of the courts,” Merkley said.
A NIXON TO EXCITE THE LEFT? Cynthia Nixon, that is. The actress and activist, a staple of New York City progressive politics for some time now, is inching closer to a primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s seeking his third term – and could, with a rout, put himself in a position to run in 2020. But Nixon, who’s getting advice from strategists Rebecca Katz (a longtime top aide and ally of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio) and Bill Hyers, poses two kinds of threats to Cuomo: 1) To actually beat him. She has the name recognition and the right politics to flank him on the left; and 2) By coming close, to put a major dent in Cuomo’s standing with liberals, who already have their qualms.
Asked on a conference call last week whether he thought de Blasio was encouraging Nixon into the race, Cuomo offered this: “I think it was either the mayor of New York or Vladimir Putin. I am going to leave it to you great investigative reporters to follow the facts and ferret out the truth.”
GARCETTI ON LATE NIGHT: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Tuesday and spoke about his passion for local politics – and slammed national politicians in Washington, which is something he’s been repeatedly doing through his stops and visits around the country in early primary states. He specifically called out Washington for not acting on the issues of homelessness and DACA – both of which strongly impact his city.
Meyers did ask him about his 2020 prospects, and what he would say about the attacks on him from the right calling him the Hollywood candidate. “We do have more Kardashians than anywhere else, but most of us are not Kardashians … so I can relate to that conversation on a local level with the mayor in Dayton, a mayor in Columbia, South Carolina, mayor in South Bend, Indiana, like Mayor Pete (Buttigieg) … and we speak the language I think of America. It’s Washington that’s that swamp and it’s only getting swampier.”
ELLISON GRABS THE SINGLE-PAYER TORCH: Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the DNC deputy chair, is the new lead sponsor of the House single-payer health care bill, taking over the title from former Rep. John Conyers. The House allowed the largely symbolic switcheroo by unanimous consent on Wednesday, but it was an important one for folks who didn’t want the legislation attached to Conyers’ name after his resignation amid sexual harassment allegations last year. “The movement carries on,” Ellison said in an interview that afternoon. “I remain a staunch advocate of the ACA, but we can imagine a world in which we can have universal health care styled on a ‘Medicare for all’ bill.”
What now? “We are in the middle of a very critical national conversation and we’re going to incorporate into the next iteration that which we learn – so we expect the bill to get better, with more flesh on the bones,” he said. (The text of the bill remains unchanged.) You can also expect Republicans to use Ellison’s title with the DNC – which is also mostly symbolic – to allege the party is moving too far left. It’s worth noting, though, that single-payer is a long ways away from being adapted by a DNC platform committee.
From the right:
FLAKE CALLS FOR A TRUMP CHALLENGER: During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake again called for a Republican to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. Flake has long been a Trump critic, and has said he himself would not rule out a 2020 challenge to Trump.
Flake’s upcoming visit to New Hampshire next weekend is stoking speculation that Flake is considering being that Republican challenger to Trump in 2020. The senator will address the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at their “Politics & Eggs” event on Friday, which has become a popular stop for potential presidential contenders.
Before you go:
Continuing his re-entrance into the political world, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will be speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Thursday at an event called “Renewing the Founders’ Promise.”
CNN’s Sophie Tatum, Ashley Killough, Saba Hamedy, David Siegel and Betsy Klein contributed to this memo.