Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “has spent the past year making a series of below-the-radar moves that would put her in prime position to run for president in 2020 if she decides to. The liberal icon and Republican bete noire has amassed more money in her campaign war chest than nearly any senator in modern history, groomed political connections with Democrats who’ve been skeptical of her in the past, and worked to bolster her bipartisan and foreign policy bona fides.
“It’s part of a conscious break from the heads-down posture that Warren purposefully maintained during the first five years of her Senate career. … And it’s representative of Warren’s tricky navigation between the wishes of advocates who want her cutting a clear path to 2020, and supporters who think her best bet is to run up the score in her reelection race this year. The balancing act is evident everywhere, as Warren takes steps she never did when activists were pressuring her to jump into the 2016 presidential race.”
“Warren has stocked her political staff with a research team directed to scour her past for political vulnerabilities—an undertaking that appears aimed at a national bid. But the group of five aides is also monitoring a gaggle of potential Republican reelection opponents in Massachusetts, where hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, a top backer of President Trump, has funded a super PAC assailing her.” (Politico)
2020 in 2017. “As prospective candidates jockeyed for attention last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did more than perhaps anyone else to gain national attention and maintain momentum. … Bernie was a guest on the Sunday morning talk shows for a whopping 21 out of 52 weeks this year. No other potential candidate appeared more than four times. Sanders also was the star of four prime-time CNN town halls, three since September.
“He leveraged his out-sized media platform and fervent grass-roots base to exert influence over the party. He single-handedly got nearly the entire prospective presidential field to embrace single-payer health insurance. He prompted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to propose an anti-monopoly economic reform package. And he is on track to make the Democratic National Committee reduce the number of superdelegates for the 2020 convention. And he did all that while still refusing to become a Democrat.”
Meanwhile, “the only prospective candidate who aggressively elevated her position in the invisible primary was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, thanks to her seizing of the sexual misconduct issue,” which helped “her distinguish herself from a very crowded, nascent field.” (Politico)
MORE ON GILLIBRAND. “For most Democratic senators, you can get a good idea of how often they’ll vote for Trump’s agenda by looking at their career voting record or Trump’s performance in their state. But for Gillibrand, these relationships only partly explain her anti-Trump stances during Trump’s first year in office. We need some other factor to explain her particularly anti-Trump stance—like positioning herself to be the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2020, running to the left.” (Washington Post)
CASTRO: Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (D) will launch a PAC Tuesday called Opportunity First “that aims to support Democratic Party efforts to take control of the U.S. House and groom younger candidates.” Castro, when asked if this is about 2020: “The thrust of Opportunity First will be to support people who are running in the 2018 cycle. I’m happy to do it.” (Texas Tribune)
LESSER KNOWNS. “The usual early trickle of potential presidential candidates into Iowa and New Hampshire is already a full-on flood ahead of Trump’s reelection bid. And in the place of the traditional assortment of senators and governors is an ever-expanding hodgepodge of long shots—from mayors to House members to state-level bureaucrats—each absolutely convinced they hold the key to kicking the president to the curb come 2020.”
Rep. John Delaney (D-MD 13) “has already held more than 90 events in Iowa and New Hampshire since announcing his run in July.” Meanwhile, “a quartet of mayors have joined the fray: New York’s Bill de Blasio visited Des Moines for a progressive organization’s year-end fundraiser last month, while Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti has stopped in both New Hampshire and Nevada, the fourth-voting state, while making plans to visit South Carolina, the third. New Orleans’ Mitch Landrieu has also inched toward a run, appearing at last month’s South Carolina Democratic Party conference, while Pete Buttigieg, the 35-year-old leader of South Bend, Indiana, popped up in Iowa in September.” (Politico)
LEANING LEFT. “A whole host of potential presidential hopefuls are racing to represent the liberal grass roots on their issues of the day—and pulling the Democratic Party’s center of gravity further to the left.
“The trend was apparent throughout the fall among the half-dozen Democratic senators drawing the loudest buzz for 2020—aside from Sanders … the group includes … Gillibrand … Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) … Warren … and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
“First they flocked to Sanders’ single-payer health care proposal. And then, almost in unison, they adopted two other stands popular among the Democratic base: Refusing to vote for any budget plan that didn’t include help for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and calling for Donald Trump’s resignation over sexual harassment claims leveled against him last year by multiple women. The six Democrats also have been the most frequent foes of Trump’s nominees.”
“The clustering could make for a crowded lane of very progressive candidates in 2020, a space that Sanders had virtually to himself in 2020. And if the trend continues and extends to other topics and candidates, it could allow Trump to more easily attack his reelection opponents as puppets of the activist left.” (Politico)
BIDEN. Former Vice President Joe Biden “would be the oldest candidate to run for president; he would turn 78 a few days after the election. (Trump is now 71.) It would also be his third presidential bid. His 2008 campaign against Obama and Clinton fizzled in Iowa; his once-promising 1988 effort ended quickly when he was caught plagiarizing a speech by then-British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. This time, he’s got a much bigger fan base, but one that can be fickle.” (Newsweek)
But some think the path would be clear for Biden, should he decide to run. Former DNC Chair Ed Rendell, for example, recently said: “To me it’s clear-cut: Joe Biden is our superstar,” Rendell said. “If he decides to run I think he will win overwhelmingly.” (New York AM 970)
Biden “plans to raise money for Senate Democratic incumbents, campaign for Democratic challengers in Republican-held House districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and engage in state-level races where the pickup of a couple of seats could flip control of a legislative chamber.” Biden’s PAC director Greg Schultz: “You’re going to see him all over the place.” (NBC News)
CUBAN. A recent poll showed billionaire Mark Cuban, “if he were to run as a Democrat in 2020, beating … Trump in a prospective race in deep-red Texas … by a 47% to 44% spread.” (Public Policy Polling)
MOULTON. “Massachusetts Reps. Joe Kennedy III and Seth Moulton take different approaches to their work in Washington. But as Democrats focus on retaking the House next year, these lawmakers in their late 30s are getting a fresh look as potential future leaders in a party where many in the senior ranks are well into their 70s.”
“Privately, some House Democrats say Kennedy is going about his next steps in a more methodical and collegial way, traveling to districts to help raise money and awareness on issues. Moulton is viewed by some as more eager to elevate his own profile, appearing regularly on cable outlets and repeatedly criticizing his own leadership.” (CNN)
BETTING ODDS. “Just about everyone is wondering who the Democrats could rally behind to challenge Donald Trump in 2020. So far, … Sanders is in the lead, according to PredictIt, a political prediction stock market.”
“PredictIt translates prediction market data into US cents, with the highest price signalling the most likely outcome at a particular time. Sanders … is seen as the likely nominee at 21 cents a share. … Harris is next at 17 cents, followed by … Warren at 15 cents.
“Three of the top-five potential candidates are women—Gillibrand comes in fourth at 14 cents, just ahead of … Biden at 13 cents.” (Quartz)
Meanwhile, “at a ceremony to swear in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for his second term,” Sanders “held up his hometown as a bastion of progress and a template for what Americans should strive for in the face of the Trump administration’s policies.”
“‘In this city, the largest city in our country, the people of New York under Bill de Blasio have chosen to move government in a very different direction than what we’re seeing in Washington,’ Sanders told the crowd.” (HuffPost)
MORE ON DE BLASIO. “De Blasio began his second term Monday by decrying a ‘new dawn of divisiveness’ in the United States and suggesting that ‘a new progressive era’ had begun in the country’s largest city.’”
“The mayor made several less-than-subtle references to President Trump’s administration, describing New York City as a bulwark against it. … With a second term secured, de Blasio has stepped up his own national political advocacy. During a trip last month to meet with Democrats in Iowa, de Blasio told The Washington Post that he would campaign wherever the party needed him if it could help win Congress and state legislatures in the 2018 midterm elections.” (Washington Post)
FLORIDA. “Scrambling to raise money headed into the 2018 midterms, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo last week asked county-level Democratic leaders for financial assistance to pay for the salaries of eight newly-hired regional staffers. Since that request, only six out of the 67 county committees have made a donation.
“While FDP officials paint this request as a fundraising effort, the move is a clear sign that the party, fresh-off two pricey victories, is struggling financially.” (FloridaPolitics.com)
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"The Justice Department inspector general referred its finding that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators who were examining a media disclosure to the top federal prosecutor in D.C. to determine whether McCabe should be charged with a crime." The referral occurred "after the inspector general concluded McCabe had lied to investigators or his own boss, then-FBI Director James B. Comey, on four occasions, three of them under oath." The referral does "not necessarily mean McCabe will be charge with a crime ... although the report alleged that one of McCabe’s lies 'was done knowingly and intentionally.'"
A federal appeals court in Chicago "upheld a nationwide injunction against making federal grant funding contingent on cooperation with immigration enforcement." The three Republican appointees ruled that the Trump administration "exceeded its legal authority in trying to implement the new conditions without approval from Congress ... One judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel, Reagan appointee Daniel Manion, said he would narrow the injunction solely to protect Chicago. However, the two other judges assigned to the case said the nationwide injunction appeared to be justified."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley "decided Thursday to delay markup" on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller until next week. But he remains steadfast in his support for a committee vote, despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's "pledge to kill it" if it gets to the floor.
North Korea has expressed its commitment to 'complete denuclearisation' of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday. ... South Korea announced on Wednesday that it is considering how to change a decades-old armistice with North Korea into a peace agreement as it prepares for the North-South summit this month." The leaders of the respective countries are also expected to connect a phone line so they can communicate directly.
"California reached an agreement with the federal government that the state’s National Guard troops will deploy to the border to focus on fighting transnational gangs as well as drug and gun smugglers, Gov. Jerry Brown said. ... Brown said Wednesday he secured federal funding for terms similar to those outlined in last week’s proposed contract: The Guard cannot handle custody duties for anyone accused of immigration violations, build border barriers or have anything to do with immigration enforcement."