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. Trump’s Louisiana lesson
From CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:
Once again, a ruby red state declined to grant President Donald Trump his big wish.
This time it was Louisiana, where voters on Saturday reelected Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
“God bless his heart,” Edwards said of the President as he claimed victory late Saturday.
Trump visited the state twice in the final 11 days, and also used his Twitter platform to urge votes for Republican Eddie Rispone.
In his final rally in Louisiana, the President referenced the impeachment debate and told voters “you really need to send a message to the corrupt Democrats in Washington.”
But, as was the case in Kentucky two weeks ago, Democrats were the winners for governor – despite the Republican pedigree of those states, the late Trump visits and the giant Trump victory margins in Louisiana and Kentucky in 2016.
Both races had strong local dynamics, so it would be a mistake to overstate the Trump effect. But it is also a mistake to understate, or discount, the meaning of the Democratic wins in red state elections the President and both GOP candidates for governor tried to nationalize.
In the short term, as the President tries to keep Republicans in line in the impeachment fight, any demonstration of political power is helpful. The Kentucky and Louisiana losses don’t necessarily hurt the President’s standing in his own party, but wins would have helped.
The longer-term perspective is another conversation within the GOP. The 2017, 2018 and now 2019 elections were miserable for the Republican Party, even in some red states and especially in the suburbs. And 2020 is just around the corner.
2. Trump’s hopes for an Oregon trail to reelection
Trump’s 2016 electoral victory largely relied on Florida and key Midwest states, and that looks unlikely to change in 2020.
Wall Street Journal White House Reporter Michael Bender reports that the Trump campaign recognizes it can’t afford to put all of its eggs in one basket and is trying to develop backup plans elsewhere.
“To that end, they started laying ground work in states he lost in 2016,” Bender says. “The President was seen campaigning more recently in states he lost – in New Mexico, Minnesota, and now add Oregon to the list.”
Bender says campaign manager Brad Parscale will head to the Pacific Northwest this week with Lara Trump, senior adviser to the campaign and the President’s daughter-in-law, for a series of fundraisers and to test the waters for the President’s reelection bid.
Despite those efforts, Bender said it’s unlikely Trump can expect to gain much ground in the region.
“He lost Oregon by 11 points the first time around, and earlier this year his approval rating was 16 points underwater,” Bender said, “worse than any other state he won in 2016.”
3. Klobuchar’s centrist playbook in Iowa
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg may be leading in the latest CNN-Des Moines Register Iowa poll, but CNN Senior Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson reports that another moderate Democrat sees plenty of reasons to feel good, too.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar saw her support double in the new poll, jumping three points since September to 6% - a small gain, but enough to put her firmly in the top five of presidential candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s endorsement.
“Her team feels pretty good about where they are in Iowa,” Henderson said. “They feel like she’s in the centrist lane in Iowa.”
Henderson credits Klobuchar’s Iowa ground game and stronger performances in recent debates as helping boost her support in the state. Last time around, Klobuchar took aim squarely at the liberal wing of the party.
In the next debate, however, she may have a different target in mind.
“It will be really interesting to see if she brings some of the fire she aimed at (Massachusetts Sen.) Elizabeth Warren in this last debate at Pete Buttigieg,” Henderson says, “the other person in the centrist lane.”
4. The shifting timeline for an impeachment vote
House Democrats have floated the possibility of holding an impeachment vote by Christmas, but New York Times Congressional Editor Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports that timeline is beginning to look overly-optimistic.
“I think that’s still a hope among House Democratic leaders,” Davis says. “But the fact-finding phase of this impeachment is not over.”
Davis points to testimony this past week by State Department official David Holmes, describing a critical phone conversation between Trump and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland. That testimony adds to the growing scrutiny of Sondland ahead of his scheduled Wednesday testimony, and could result in Democrats calling Holmes to testify publicly.
That, along with a busy schedule of testimony in the week ahead, makes the idea of a Christmas vote seem less and less likely.
“And then you’re looking at a potential Senate trial right up against, potentially, the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire and a lot of crucial campaigning time for the Democratic senators who are campaigning for president,” Davis said. “So it’s all becoming a politically difficult and, frankly, just logistically difficult calculation” for both sides of the Capitol.
5. Potential GOP break with Trump over Turkey sanctions
With Washington consumed with talk of impeachment, Ukraine and Russia, the focus on places like Turkey and Syria has somewhat faded.
But Washington Post Congressional Reporter Karoun Demirjian says that concerns over Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish territory are still very much simmering in the background.
“Erdogan, the Turkish President, was at the White House this week, and there was a meeting with five Republican senators in which he really didn’t win any friends,” Demirjian says.
Erdogan reportedly showed the senators what appeared to be an anti-Kurdish propaganda film, and expressed defiance over his decision to purchase missiles from Russia.
The House approved Turkish sanctions last month, and while the issue has stalled in the Senate, some Republicans have been trying to find a workaround – opening the door to a potential GOP rebellion against Trump when he needs their support the most to fight impeachment.
“The timing of this couldn’t be worse for the President,” Demirjian said. Turkey sanctions are “the one issue that could make the GOP start to lose their patience with him across the board, and if they actually vote on sanctions, that’s a signal they need to let some of the frustration out.”