04:50 - Source: CNN
Will Biden's old-school endorsement strategy pay off?
Washington CNN  — 

Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the week ahead, in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast.

1. Biden’s retro endorsement strategy

From CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:

Joe Biden is banking on some old school rules as he hits the campaign.

The former vice president cannot keep up with several of his rivals when it comes to a new test in American politics: the ability to raise impressive sums of money from small-dollar contributions online.

But he hopes to pressure his rivals with a more traditional tool: big-name endorsements.

A handful of prominent New Hampshire Democrats, for example, were quick to join Team Biden, including former Gov. John Lynch.

“He’s a person of strong moral character, ethics, and integrity, and that’s what I think we need in the White House,” Lynch told Manchester’s WMUR.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is another, and Team Biden views his backing as a two-fer: it is a gateway to a proven fundraising network and a blow of sorts to another 2020 Democrat, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Biden also picked up some congressional endorsements right out of the gate, and hopes in the early days and weeks to add some key labor backing.

Any politician can tell you most endorsements don’t pack the power they might have in another age.

And if there is somehow a downside, candidates like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are adept at suggesting establishment elites are trying to put their thumbs on the scale.

But Team Biden sees the upside as far greater, especially as it tries to answer skepticism that he will be able to build a stronger, and deeper, organization than in his prior two runs for the Democratic nomination.

2. Biden’s Iowa test

Biden heads to Iowa this week for the first time as an official 2020 candidate, with stops planned across the state that holds the first caucuses next year.

“It’s a critical state for him,” CNN’s Jeff Zeleny said. It’s his third presidential bid – he withdrew well before Iowa in the 1988 cycle, and got out immediately after a poor showing there in 2008.

“So as he heads to Iowa this week … stopping in at least four different cities, talking to a lot of activists. … I’m told he’s going to be announcing some endorsements when he’s out there. There are a lot of people who liked Joe Biden in 2008, and who liked him earlier in the year, but then they went with that Obama guy,” Zeleny said. “So keep an open mind about Joe Biden in Iowa.”

3. 2020 gloves come off

With 20 Democrats running for their party’s presidential nomination, things are bound to turn negative as candidates try to win attention and stand out from their rivals. And as we move closer to the first debates, we’re beginning to see attacks on frontrunners Biden and Sanders.

“I was reminded of that old “Real World” slogan, ‘you’re going to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real,’” New York Times reporter Lisa Lerer said.

“This had been a crowded primary, but a very polite primary. They were always saying ‘my friend this’ and ‘my friend that.’ And we’re starting to see that shift a little bit,” Lerer said.

Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren both hit Biden for holding a high-dollar fundraiser hosted by a Comcast executive. And in a New York Times interview, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg questioned whether Sanders can beat President Donald Trump.

“We’re gonna see a lot of what … the political professionals like to call ‘drawing contrasts,’” Lerer said. “The question is going to be whether the tone of this race does weaken these candidates and prevent them from achieving what Democrats really hold as their most passionate, sacred goal in this thing, which is defeating Donald Trump.”

4. A new presidential debate record

We’re two months away from the first Democratic presidential debates – “debates” plural, since the party plans two on consecutive days to allow more candidates to share the stage.

The Democratic National Committee says any candidate who meets certain polling or fundraising thresholds can participate – and that will include nearly all the 20 candidates officially in the race. The party plans to divide the field randomly over back-to-back nights.

“We have 16 Democrats who qualify for the debates so far,” FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon said. “So the thing to watch, if you want to see more candidates debate – which may not be everyone’s dream – is Eric Swalwell and Seth Moulton,” two congressmen who recently jumped into the race. “Those two are the next two who might qualify, and then they’ll beat the record the Republicans set in 2016,” when 17 Republicans qualified for the debates, Bacon said.

5. Will Bill Barr show up?

Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to testify twice this week about the Mueller Report before the House and Senate Judiciary committees. A procedural dispute with Democrats may postpone his House testimony, but either way expect some blockbuster moments this week, Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian said.

“What’s going to be really interesting is how Democrats try to hold him to account for the public statements he made about the Mueller Report,” Demirjian said, adding that “some people think he was lying on behalf of the President” about what was in the report before the public had a chance to see the redacted version of it.

“Many of the Democrats think he was shilling for the President, and are going to challenge him basically on, did you tell us lies intentionally, to obfuscate what was in the report? The tone that is set clearly has implications for the subpoena battle, but it also has implications for everything else that goes through DOJ, which is a massive portfolio of issues,” Demirjian said. “If there’s no trust between the attorney general and the Hill this early on, that’s a problem for a while to come.”