“The Bernie Sanders vs. Elizabeth Warren primary is on. The run-up to their presidential announcements sparked concern on the left that having both of them in the race would split the activist base and clear the way for a more moderate nominee. Now that they’re both in, the competition between the two promises to be one of the more intriguing subplots of the primary.
“Sanders starts out indisputably ahead. Bolstered by the grassroots army he amassed in 2016, the Vermont senator easily outraised Warren in the first 24 hours of their campaigns. He’s far ahead of her in the polls, too, trailing only former Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn’t announced whether he’ll run.
“Sanders’ camp is treating Warren accordingly. He and his aides are avoiding any whiff of public criticism of Warren. They declined even to respond when her allies argued last week that Sanders entering the race would benefit her.
“Warren’s team downplays the metrics surrounding their campaign launches, instead taking the long view. If Sanders falters after weeks or months as a front-runner—he is guaranteed to draw more scrutiny now than he did in 2016, given his strength from the outset—the Massachusetts senator wants to be seen as a more viable alternative to beat Donald Trump in a general election.
“But the fact remains that the two occupy similar ideological space and will inevitably be competing for many of the same voters. For the time being, they seem intent on avoiding one another.” (Politico)
MORE BERNIE. “Florida Democrats are denouncing ... Sanders for refusing to call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro a dictator—a politically explosive issue in the nation’s biggest swing state.
“Sanders also would not say whether he considered Venezuela’s assembly leader, Juan Guaidó, as the nation’s interim president, which is the position of the United States and a majority of Latin American countries European countries. Both of Sanders’ positions play into the hands of President Trump and the GOP, say Democrats. The president just held a rally in Miami on Monday to denounce Maduro and socialism, an appeal to the state’s growing block of Venezuelan-American voters. Many Venezuelans have flocked to the state as the country’s economy crashed and repression increased.
“Democrats, already alarmed that Trump’s inroads with Venezuelans could help him peel off an otherwise-reliable Democratic voting bloc in a toss-up state, were quick to denounce Sanders’ comments.” (Politico)
Meanwhile, Sanders “served notice to the rest of the 2020 presidential field when his campaign announced that he raised $5.9 million in its first 24 hours of existence. That's million of dollars more than he raised in the first 24 hours of his 2016 bid and millions more than any of his Democratic competitors have so far announced.
“But what does Sanders' impressive haul signal for his chances of winning the nomination? It's a good thing: primary winners do tend to lead in early fundraising. That said, history suggests that fundraising doesn't tell us much in forecasting primary winners once we account for early polling. Put simply: when fundraising tells one story and early polling tells another about who is most likely to win the nomination, early polling is more likely to be predictive.” (CNN)
REID. Former Senate Leader Harry Reid “lauded three of his former staffers now on ... Sanders’ presidential team as ‘prized employees’ but says he won’t take a side in the Democratic primary until after Nevada’s caucus. In an interview, Reid praised Faiz Shakir, a senior Reid adviser turned Sanders’ 2020 campaign manager, as ‘phenomenal.’ Shakir joins two other former Reid staffers—Josh Orton and Ari Rabin-Havt, who the former Nevada senator described as ‘terrific’ and ‘literally a genius,’ respectively—on Sanders’ team.” (Nevada Independent)
BETO. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) “is now on the precipice of running for president” with “losing Senate candidate as the most impressive line on his résumé. It was how he chose to run that campaign last year that sets him apart from his potential Democratic rivals. O’Rourke cast aside the hard-won heirlooms of Barack Obama’s campaigns: a vogue for data science, the grooming of a professional organizing class and a dedication to the humanism of one-on-one tutelage.”
“Instead, his campaign followed principles that more closely resemble what Silicon Valley types call ‘hyperscale’—a system flexible enough to expand at exponential speed, paired with an understanding that getting big quickly can excuse and justify all kinds of other shortcomings.”
“In political terms, it amounted to a massive bet on a strategy of mobilizing infrequent voters instead of trying to win over dependable ones. National campaign strategists are paying close attention to how O’Rourke did it: Few candidates have committed as fully, if a bit recklessly, to the belief that a monomaniacal focus on large-scale turnout is the most powerful tool Democrats have to capitalize on their latent numerical majority in the United States.” (Politico)
BENNET. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) “introduced himself as a possible presidential candidate Thursday night at a small Iowa house party where he called for a new political culture in America, one that rejects the worst of the past decade and builds upon the nation’s greatest success.
“We don’t have to settle for disgraceful politics. We don’t have to settle for being as terrible as Donald Trump,’ he said. ‘We don’t have to settle for Freedom Caucus tactics—those guys are tyrants. We don’t have to accept that. In fact, we can’t and have this country be what this country really can be.’” (Denver Post)
BIDEN. If former Vice President Joe Biden (D) “enters the 2020 race, his more than four-decades-long career in Washington will face fresh scrutiny, including his work on criminal justice and financial reform issues. Biden, who served six terms in the Senate and eight years as vice president under President Barack Obama, has repeatedly said he feels he has ample time to determine whether he'll enter the 2020 race, but those who've spoken with him believe he's likely to launch a third bid for the White House, possibly later this spring.
“His experience could be a boon to his candidacy: A CNN poll this month found that 39% of Democrats and Democratic-leaners find a candidate having the right experience to be president important to them in choosing a nominee in 2020. It was the second most important criteria, just under a candidate having a good chance of beating President Donald Trump. But should he enter the 2020 race, some of Biden's past votes and actions could play differently in the context of today's Democratic Party.”
“Late last year, Biden declared himself the ‘most qualified person in the country’ to be president but also acknowledged possible liabilities in his record.” (CNN)
BOOKER. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) “will deliver a keynote address at Historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma on March 3 as part of the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, commemorating 1965's Bloody Sunday.” (Montgomery Advertiser)
BUTTIGIEG. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D): “As cheeky as it sounds coming from the youngest guy in the conversation, I think experience is one of the things that qualifies me to have a seat at the table.”
“Except cheeky is not how he sounds at all. It is an understatement to say Buttigieg … is a long shot. That does not mean he isn’t a serious candidate.He’s got a point when he notes that the rapidly growing field of 2020 Democratic contenders is thus far light on executive experience. He’s also got a good story to tell about his role in guiding the resurgence of a Rust Belt city.And Buttigieg has what could be a compelling message for Democrats, with a riff that seeks to reclaim one of the right’s favorite words.” (Washington Post)
CASTRO. Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (D) said in Iowa recently that “he stands out in the Democratic field because he’s the ‘antithesis to Donald Trump.’” (Des Moines Register)
HARRIS. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) “will make her first trip to Nevada as a Democratic presidential candidate on March 1, where she will hold a town hall meeting in Las Vegas and participate in the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit.” (release) Harris has hired a seasoned California political strategist to run her campaign in the Golden State, which will be a delegate-rich battleground in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Courtni Pugh will serve as Harris’ California director, leading campaign efforts in the senator’s home state. Harris is the first 2020 presidential candidate to publicly name a director in California.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
HARRIS ON JUSSIE SMOLLETT. “In a Facebook post on Thursday … Harris said she was ‘sad, frustrated and disappointed’ by the turn of events. But other candidates have not publicly revisited their initial views of the case.” (New York Times)
MORE ON SMOLLETT. “Socially fraught incidents” like the Smollett case “are becoming an early test for the growing list of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. Many voters, especially in the fired-up liberal base, expect them to weigh in on matters of cultural concern at the speed of the Internet. But if the apparent facts of a particular episode turn out to be unconfirmed, exaggerated or simply bogus, fast-reacting candidates can find themselves suddenly exposed.” (Washington Post)
DELANEY. Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) “is running for president, pledging to enact a new national service for all young Americans, a ‘national strategy’ to prepare for the impact of artificial intelligence on the labor market and a carbon tax among other measures to fight climate change.
“He is also vowing large but unspecified cuts to the federal debt, a new national health program for everyone younger than 65, and reentering the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal proposed by President Barack Obama but later abandoned by President Trump and congressional Democrats.” (Washington Post)
INSLEE. “A new super PAC launching on Thursday will back Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) potential run for president.The group, Act Now On Climate, said it would back Inslee, who has made climate change a cornerstone of his two terms as governor.” (The Hill)
KLOBUCHAR. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) “is pushing back against some policy ideas favored by the party’s ascendant progressive wing and championed by several of her competitors in the race. She’s thrown cold water on the idea of free college and called the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all more aspirations than realistic goals in meeting the challenges of climate change and health care.
“Klobuchar is betting that bucking the emerging party orthodoxy will pay dividends in a field already crowded with a dozen candidates that’s almost certain to grow in the coming weeks. Virtually all of those in the race so far are positioning themselves to the left of Klobuchar.” (Bloomberg)
SCHULTZ. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (I) “failed to vote in this month’s Seattle school-levy election… The no-show was in line with Schultz’s pattern of ignoring many elections over the decades, even while urging increased civic and political involvement by Americans.” (Seattle Times)