Impeachment Sidelining Senators While Biden, Buttigieg and Yang Blanket Iowa, Bloomberg Focuses on Texas
WASHINGTON — In most presidential election years, being a sitting U.S. Senator might be considered an advantage a week ahead of the Iowa Caucuses.
Not in 2020, however. Not by a long shot.
That’s due to the ongoing impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, which has sidelined the four Democrats who would rather be anywhere in Iowa, where the midday temperature Monday was a balmy 31 degrees, than sitting silently in the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill.
As jurors in the impeachment trial, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who appeared to be gaining momentum in the polls in Iowa; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who won the Des Moines Register’s endorsement; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who hoped to surprise with better-than expected showings, must sit passively for hours.
Though the rules for impeachment in the Constitution are few, procedures adopted by both the House and the Senate require members to act with solemn reserve.
Want to check your emails and cell phone messages? Forget it. Personal electronics are banned from the room. Want to ask a question? Not allowed. Well, technically not allowed.
Questions may be submitted in writing. Then, it’s up to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, to read them.
In 2008, both Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain dramatically returned to Washington from the campaign trail to vote on measures responding to the onset of the global economic crisis that September — garnering positive press prior to the general election that year.
By comparison, the impeachment hearings are drama on a low simmer.
Without their rivals stumping, former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, have been working overtime to fill the void, criss-crossing the state for town halls and meet-and-greets hoping one last handshake or door knock will make the difference when the caucus results come in.
Ben Halle, Buttigieg’s Iowa communications director, told The Daily Beast recently that the former mayor will be campaigning at a marathon pace for the final two-week stretch before the caucuses.
“We’re getting Pete in front of as many Iowans as possible,” Halle said. “While Pete was speaking to hundreds in Sioux City, we had more than 250 precinct leaders in Des Moines learning what to do on caucus night.”
Biden, meanwhile, reportedly has 28 offices now open in Iowa and a 145 paid staffers supplementing his many appearances in the state.
With so much at stake and the margins among the frontrunning Democrats razor thin, three of the four senators are relying heavily on their operation and campaign surrogates, while the fourth, Bennet, has decided to focus on his New Hampshire campaign.
“I am a mom—I can do two things at once,” Klobuchar said on CBS This Morning as the impeachment trial got under way. “I have a fantastic operation with people who are incredible—in every major town in Iowa. I’ve got my husband and daughter out this weekend in New Hampshire and then on their way to Iowa. And I’m going to be there for three days.”
Klobuchar has 18 offices in Iowa, more than 80 staffers, and 41 surrogates who’ll lead events in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties before caucus day.
The surrogates include state legislators, labor leaders, state Democratic Party activists and, as Klobuchar said, her husband, law professor John Bessler, who has canvassed caucus-goers and held organizing meetings.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has nearly 40 offices in the state and an estimated 150 staffers on the ground in the state, about the same number as Buttigieg.
Although Warren’s campaign says she has several high-profile surrogates, it’s not-so-secret weapon appears to be former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who dropped out of the presidential race himself and endorsed the Massachusetts senator.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, has been relying heavily on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to get his word out.
Not to be outdone, President Trump’s re-election campaign announced Monday that it too will be flooding Iowa with surrogates prior to the Feb. 3 caucus.
In a release it said 80 surrogates, including a who’s who for current and former administration officials, House members, state and local government officials and high profile members of the religious right and anti-abortion movements will appear at caucus locations across Iowa on Monday, Feb. 3, and that hundreds of Iowans have been mobilized to speak on behalf of the president at their personal caucus sites.
The efforts will be led on the ground by Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump 2020 Campaign Senior Advisor Lara Trump, National Chair of Trump Victory Finance Committee and Trump 2020 Campaign Senior Advisor Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Campaign Manager Brad Parscale.
“Our Caucus Day operation is just a preview of what is to come,” Parscale said. “This will be the strongest, best funded, and most organized presidential campaign in history. We are putting the Democrats on notice—good luck trying to keep up with this formidable re-election machine.”
Poll Suggests Ohio Remains Most Right-Leaning Rust Belt State
With so much attention focused on Iowa’s looming primary, the findings of a new poll suggesting Ohio may be the least likely of all Rust States to choose a Democrat over President Trump in 2020, may have been overlooked.
This despite the fact that overall, the survey found Trump facing an uphill climb to win over a majority of voters in any of the four Midwestern battleground states that propelled him to victory in 2016 — especially among women.
The Great Lakes Poll from Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland is purportedly the first presidential poll of 2020 to focus exclusively on Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, states Trump carried by a combined 80,000 votes four years ago.
Voters in all four states indicated they would vote for the eventual Democratic candidate over Trump, though the margin was lower in Ohio than in any of the other three states.
At the same time, a plurality of Ohio respondents gave Trump good marks for the economy, while being nearly evenly split on his job performance.
The spread in the other three states was greater and swung toward disapproval.
“The takeaway is … there is still a lot of uncertainty,” said Tom Sutton, the director of Baldwin Wallace’s Community Research Institute. “The bottom line is I would not write off Ohio as a red state in 2020. We are still in play.”
A critical factor, the poll suggests, and perhaps more so that in the other three state is the identity of the eventual Democratic nominee.
Respondents who are ‘almost certain’ to vote against President Trump led those ‘almost certain’ to vote for Trump by margins of 10-20 points, but about one in 10 say their vote hinges on the Democratic Party’s nominee.
Among Democratic-leaning voters surveyed, former Vice President Joe Biden had the most support for the nomination in Ohio – 32 percent — followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 21 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 11 percent, and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg at 10 percent.
The new poll is the first of four surveys planned for 2020 in the hopes of providing a side-by-side narrative analysis of the four Midwestern states that went for President Obama in 2012 and President Trump in 2016 – three of the four by very slim margins.
The surveys are being done in partnership with Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.
The poll found women were more likely to say they are “almost certain” to vote against Trump (10-12 points higher), while men are consistently higher in support for the President.
“The difference in women’s lack of support for Donald Trump will be critical to the chances of a Democratic nominee winning these states,” Sutton said. “This follows the trend of women supporting Democratic candidates in the 2018 Congressional midterms that resulted in a Democratic majority being elected to the House.”
A plurality of Democrats and Democratic-leaners prefer Joe Biden for the nomination, except for Wisconsin, where Bernie Sanders is ahead.
Could Michael Bloomberg be a compromise candidate? Thanks to his heavy television advertising in the region, he now ranks fourth among Democrats and Democratic-leaners in all four states.
“Once again, the Democratic Party is in a difficult position,” opined Baldwin Wallace University’s Lauren Copeland. “More progressive voters favor Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and dislike Joe Biden. More centrist voters favor Biden and dislike Sanders and Warren because they believe Biden is more likely to win over independent voters. This schism could create an opportunity for Michael Bloomberg to thread the needle, and he has the money to do it.”
“Voters give President Trump high marks for the economy, but disapprove of his handling of health care, the environment, immigration and foreign affairs. This suggests that if the economy falls out, Trump will face a tough bid for re-election. Of course, much hinges on which candidate wins the Democratic Party’s nomination,” Copeland said.
Lastly, a majority of voters in all four states believe presidential elections should be decided by popular vote, not the Electoral College system.
Bloomberg Making Big Push in Texas
Now, one of the biggest questions surrounding Texas is how much of a factor former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg will be in the race.
Bloomberg, who is funding his entire campaign himself, adopted an unconventional electoral strategy, skipping the traditional early voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — in favor of the delegate bonanza that is Super Tuesday, the day Texas will vote along with Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Democrats Abroad, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.
His formula is straight-forward, presenting himself as a data-minded successful businessman who wants nothing more than to fix what ails America — mostly, right now in his view, Donald Trump.
But Bloomberg is not just spending lavishly on television advertising in the state, he also invested early in a Texas campaign headquarters, located in Houston, and 17 field offices, the most recent of which opened in El Paso on Saturday.
The candidate’s stated goal is to amass nearly 150 Texas staffers by the end of this month, and his campaign says it is “hiring daily.”
At campaign stops in the state, Bloomberg occasionally mentions the primary and caucus state’s he’s skipping, but argues his focus on Texas’s 254 counties will give him a decided Electoral College advantage in the fall.
The strategy isn’t dissimilar to the one Beto O’Rourke employed in his unsuccessful bid to oust Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.
At a recent campaign stop in Austin, Bloomberg told listeners that Texans he’s spoken to believe their state is the biggest battleground state of them all and he heartily agrees.
“I’m fighting to win your 38 electoral votes,” he said.
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