“The Sanders Institute, a think tank founded by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ wife and son, is shutting down, at least for now, amid criticism that the nonprofit has blurred the lines between family, fundraising and campaigning.
“The Vermont-based institute has stopped accepting donations and plans to suspend all operations by the end of May ‘so there could not even be an appearance of impropriety,’ Jane Sanders told The Associated Press.
“The unexpected move by the institute’s board of directors comes as Bernie Sanders, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, prepares for a wave of intense scrutiny into his political network and his family’s role in its operation.” (AP)
MORE BERNIE. In South Carolina, “Sanders received the kind of fawning reception to which he has become accustomed in larger and more liberal American cities. The crowd, 1,600 strong, according to Sanders’ campaign, welcomed him with chants of 'Ber-nie' and roars of support that initially made it hard for him to complete his sentences.”
“Sanders has worked hard in the intervening years to strengthen his political network in South Carolina, and to reconfigure his message and campaign apparatus to better cater to black voters. Although Sanders did not have a political candidate to stump for in South Carolina during the 2018 midterm elections, he made a point of stopping in the state capital of Columbia for a Medicare for All rally during a nine-state tour in October.” (HuffPost)
ABRAMS AND BIDEN. 2018 GA GOV nominee Stacey Abrams (D) had breakfast Thursday with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and later met with former Vice President Joe Biden (D). “She is being heavily recruited to run for the Senate in 2020, but she’s not ruled out making a presidential bid herself. She also could be considered as a vice presidential running mate.” (AP)
BETO. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) “muscled into Iowa on Thursday, climbed onto a café counter amid a crush of supporters and declared that in the teeming crowd, ‘I see the future of America, right now, right here.’ In the first and earliest test of the Texas Democrat’s appeal outside his home state, O’Rourke chewed through the news cycle, attracting crowds and a deluge of media attention that followed him from coffee shops to town halls to sidewalks in southeastern Iowa.”
“The scene delivered a sense of his potential, but also signaled the dangers ahead for his campaign. The celebrity splash that marked his first day as a presidential candidate—his visit was preceded the evening before by a Vanity Fair cover story—generated a backlash among some Democrats frustrated by the fanfare surrounding his launch, and by what they viewed as a double standard applied to O’Rourke in a field flush with women and candidates of color.” (Politico)
We’ll soon find out if Beto “is for real—maybe as soon as his first 72 hours of being a presidential candidate now that he’s joined the 2020 race. What made O’Rourke a star in 2018, and what gives him promise in 2020, was his ability to raise money ($80 million for a Senate candidate) and to draw big crowds. So can he come close to the nearly $6 million Bernie Sanders raked in during his first 24 hours as a 2020 candidate? Can he exceed or double the $1.5 million Kamala Harris raised in her first day?” (NBC News)
On impeachment, which O’Rourke previously supported: “It's beyond a shadow of a doubt to me that, if there was not collusion, there was at least the effort to collude with a foreign power, beyond the shadow of a doubt that if there was not obstruction of justice, there certainly was the effort to obstruct justice… How Congress chooses to address those set of facts and the findings which I believe [we] are soon to see from the Mueller report is up to them… I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020, and perhaps that's the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions." (CBS News)
BETO’S PAST. Before he became a rising star in the Democratic party, O’Rourke “relied on a core group of business-minded Republicans in his Texas hometown to launch and sustain his political career. To win their backing… O’Rourke opposed Obamacare, voted against Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader and called for a raise in the Social Security eligibility age.”
O’Rourke “resists adopting political labels—though at a house party Thursday night… he called for ‘bold, progressive ideas.’ He carries a background that stands apart from Democratic presidential contenders who can tout a lifetime of devotion to progressive and party causes.”
“In a party increasingly defined by its opposition to big corporations, billionaires and Republicans, Mr. O’Rourke’s all-come-together message could be as much a liability in the primary as it might be a benefit in a general election against President Trump.” (Wall Street Journal)
BIDEN. Trump “has publicly expressed confidence that he could easily best Joe Biden in a 2020 battle. But behind closed doors, the president has fixated on Biden, while top aides have tried to assure their boss that the former vice president is doomed.
“In recent weeks, Trump has peppered aides on more than one occasion for updates on how Biden is faring in early Democratic primary polls—a sign of how seriously Trump takes the potential candidacy. Indeed, Biden has topped several recent battleground state polls, as well as a national survey released Monday, marking him as an early Democratic presidential front-runner.
“Those close to the president have also calmed Trump, though, by insisting that even if Biden would be a strong general election candidate, there’s a considerable chance he won’t make it to the party’s nominating convention next July. Despite the early polling, they’ve argued the increasingly left-leaning Democratic primary electorate won’t settle on a 76-year-old white man already facing renewed scrutiny over his prior record on issues like criminal justice and race.” (Politico)
BOOKER. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) in New Hampshire Friday said that if he wins the nomination, “there will be a woman on the ticket.” (WMUR) He will also “return to Iowa for a series of public events on Saturday, March 16th and Sunday, March 17th.” (release)
BROWN. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) “had a less-than-rousing reaction when asked Thursday about ... O’Rourke’s decision to join the crowded Democratic field for the party’s nomination in 2020. ‘I have no reaction. Just one more, one more, one more gets in the race,’ Brown said during an appearance on CNN. ‘Bring ’em in, and it’ll be an interesting primary fight.’” (Washington Post)
BUTTIGIEG. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) “has eight years of military service and a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan under his belt. So when former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is exploring a 2020 run for president, said he spent more time with the military than any candidate running for president, the Navy Reserve veteran had a response.
Buttigieg, on Twitter early Thursday: "I remember a Green Beans Coffee at the exchange at Bagram, and a decent espresso machine run by the Italian NATO element at ISAF HQ. But I don’t recall seeing any Starbucks over there…” (Indianapolis Star)
Schultz responded to Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI): “I apologize to @PeteButtigieg and @TulsiGabbard who served our country honorably,” Schultz tweeted. ‘In that moment I made something that should unite us all, about me. I made a mistake and I apologize.’” (Politico)
CASTRO. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro (D) “will visit all of the first four early primary and caucus states— Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina—in the month of March.” (release)
DELANEY. Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) “will personally donate $2 to charity for each new donor who contributes to his campaign, according to an announcement posted online Thursday. His campaign said the unusual arrangement is designed to meet a rule established by the Democratic National Committee this cycle, which requires candidates to have 65,000 donors from 20 states to appear in official debates. Candidates can also qualify for debates by drawing 1 percent support or more in at least three polls.” (CNBC)
HARRIS. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) “will campaign in Georgia later this month. In Atlanta on March 24, she will rally voters and share her vision for America. Georgia will award more than 100 delegates in the 2020 Democratic primary.” (release)
Harris “said Thursday that there should be a federal moratorium on executions, a day after “California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) “granted reprieves to 737 death row inmates and signed an executive order placing a moratorium on executions.” (AP)
Arguably the Harris campaign’s biggest early dilemma: Her “time in the national spotlight has arguably been the shortest of any of her declared competitors. She was elected to federal office only two years ago after serving six years as California’s attorney general and eight as the district attorney of San Francisco before that. Nonetheless, after a closely watched campaign launch in January, early polls have routinely placed her among the party’s top four candidates.” (The Guardian)
HICKENLOOPER. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) “told a crowd of oil executives Thursday climate change required that society move ‘hard and fast.’ Asked whether he supported the so-called Green New Deal as proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., he said he supported its ‘urgency.’”
“Since declaring his candidacy via Twitter last week, Hickenlooper has sought to define himself as the moderate.” (Houston Chronicle)
INSLEE. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) “signed a measure Thursday moving the state’s presidential primary from May to March. Next year’s primary will now be held on the second Tuesday in March, something Inslee said will strengthen the state’s role in the national democratic process. The measure cleared the Legislature days after Inslee announced his presidential campaign.” (AP)
RYAN. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) “is a man containing multitudes. He is … a dedicated practitioner of hot power yoga and a meditation evangelist, but he sells himself as a champion of the American worker, and he speaks with the plain, sometimes brusque language of his mostly blue-collar constituents. In Congress, he has endorsed tax cuts for corporations, but he also supports progressive goals such as Medicare for all. And he’s a congressional backbencher—a relatively unknown Democrat from a rapidly reddening state. But he says he’s ‘very much looking’ at running for president.” (The Atlantic)
STEYER. Mega-donor Tom Steyer (D) on March 18-19 “will visit South Carolina to meet with local activists, host an impeachment luncheon in the Lowcountry and host a town hall in Columbia to talk about the need for Democratic leaders to act quickly and support impeachment.” (release)
SCHULTZ. In Seattle, where Schultz has been building his pre-campaign, “his political team is digging into a posture of unbudging defiance as the world’s fury rains down on them on television, on Twitter, and in face-to-face confrontations. The anger, they keep telling each other, shows that Schultz has a point. They may be facing political exile and risking professional ruin. But, they keep insisting to their petrified friends, Howard Schultz is doing this, so you might as well forget your electoral college calculations and relax.” (New York Magazine)
YANG. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang (D) “has been getting a lot of calls lately. His inquirers—donors, supporters, journalist—usually want to talk to him about robots and free money and something he calls 'human-centered capitalism.' But first, they all ask some version of the same thing: ‘So, who is Andrew Yang?’And it’s a fair question. Because most people don’t know the answer.”
"But this week, Yang … became the latest—and, perhaps, least likely—Democratic presidential candidate to meet the requirements necessary to appear in the party’s first debate in June. It’s quite the coup for an insurgent, little-known 44-year-old running in his first-ever campaign, and it may reveal as much about our current political juncture as it does about Yang himself. The 2016 election blindsided the establishment and blew up its ideas about who can run for office—and it also may have paved the way for another neophyte to wind up on a crowded debate stage, next to a half dozen senators and a former vice president.” (Washington Post)