Money, moderates and marijuana: Here's the weekly roundup on the potential 2020 field

Though the field is already large, a few big names could still shake up the race

March 1, 2019, 6:00 AM

There are still a number potential candidates whose entrance into the 2020 field could shake up an already crowded race, and it appears many of them are coming close to revealing their plans.

There's former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who ruled out a 2020 Senate run this week, but whose celebrity status and fundraising ability could catapult him to the top of the field.

There's former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is reportedly looking at New York City campaign office space. And his appeal to political moderates and billions of dollars would allow him to run a self-funded campaign, where he would not be beholden to donors and money would never be a concern.

And there's former Vice President Joe Biden, who said his family is on board, and whose strength in name-recognition and political experience has made him a de facto favorite since the day President Donald Trump won election in 2016.

While other presidential candidates are beginning to settle into their campaign routines, it won't be long until the decisions of these three players, and several more, refresh the field and force everyone else to recalibrate their strategies.

Here's the weekly candidate roundup:

Feb. 22-28, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)

In a podcast interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Abrams said that she is "considering" a run for Senate in 2020 against incumbent Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue.

Michael Bennet (D)

During a trip to Iowa last weekend, Bennet told the Des Moines Register that he is "leaning toward" entering the presidential race. The newspaper also reported that he spent much of his four stops in the Hawkeye State speaking about education -- Bennet was the superintendent of Denver Public Schools for four years.

"I think we need an education president," Bennet told the Register. "There's no public good that's more important than education."

Joe Biden (D)

Biden said Tuesday at a University of Delaware event that his family has signed-off on a presidential run, explaining that after a "family meeting," there was a "consensus."

"The most important people in my life want me to run," the former vice president said.

As for the timeline of his own decision, Biden revealed that he is in the "final stages" of the process and told the New York Times that a potential campaign would begin during the year's second quarter.

"It's something that I have to make sure that I could run a first-rate effort to do this and make clear where I think the country should go and how to get there," he said publicly. "That's the process going on right now. That's as straightforward as I can be. I have not made the final decision, but don't be surprised."

Michael Bloomberg (D)

Bloomberg picked up a preemptive endorsement from fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, who revealed his affinity for the former New York City mayor in an interview with CNBC.

"I think that he knows how to run things, I think that he's got the right goals for America, he understands people, he understands the market system," Buffett said.

Politico reported Thursday that representatives of Bloomberg were beginning to look at office space in New York City and interviewing potential staffers.

Bloomberg stopped in Nevada Tuesday to praise the state's new gun background check law. During a news conference related to the legislation he noted that he was still undecided on a presidential run.

PHOTO: Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg addresses a group of business and government leaders at the Asia Pacific Foundation in Toronto, Jan. 15, 2019.
Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg addresses a group of business and government leaders at the Asia Pacific Foundation in Toronto, Jan. 15, 2019.
Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada via AP

Cory Booker (D)

Booker introduced legislation Thursday that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, and was joined by several 2020 rivals, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who cosponsored the bill.

In a statement, the New Jersey senator noted that the "war on drugs," disproportionately affected "people of color and low-income individuals."

On Tuesday, Booker earned the first endorsement from an Iowa state lawmaker, courtesy of state Rep. Amy Nielsen, who pointed to their shared experiences as mayors and his "message of optimism and unity.”

After making his first visit to Nevada last weekend, Booker travels to South Carolina Friday and Saturday and will speak in Selma, Alabama Sunday in commemoration of the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" march.

Sherrod Brown (D)

Brown took his "dignity of work" message to Nevada earlier this week, where he said that if he chooses to run for president, he'll be "the most pro-union candidate."

"We will have a government on the side of workers, not a government on the side of big corporations,” the Ohio senator told members of the Culinary Union Saturday in Las Vegas.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, however, Brown said he has yet to reach a final decision on a presidential run, but would do so by the end of March.

Pete Buttigieg (D)

During a visit to California, the South Bend, Indiana mayor told the San Francisco Chronicle that Democrats need to talk more about their values, and ultimately could make the presidential election solely a referendum about Trump.

"We’ve got to have a message that makes sense and that recognizes that this president is going to come and go. So it can’t be all about him," Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg heads back to Iowa Monday for his second visit since announcing his presidential exploratory committee, with events in Davenport, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

Julian Castro (D)

Castro described himself as the "antithesis of Donald Trump" in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, saying that he was working to end the country's divisions and demonstrate "honesty and integrity."

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary further said he was going to visit all 50 states as part of his presidential campaign, adding four to his list in the past week with stops in Utah, Idaho and Nevada after a road trip through Iowa last weekend.

PHOTO: Julian Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, speaks at Saint Anselm College, Jan. 16, 2019, in Manchester, N.H.
Julian Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, speaks at Saint Anselm College, Jan. 16, 2019, in Manchester, N.H.
Mary Schwalm/AP

Bill de Blasio (D)

The New York City mayor visited Iowa last weekend, where he spoke to a crowd of 40 people at a union hall and met with former Gov. Tom Vilsack.

De Blasio acknowledged that he is "not a candidate at this moment," but argued that Democrats "have to have a progressive as our nominee."

"We have to be able to speak to working people across our whole country," he continued. "We also have to have a nominee who is believable as a leader in such an important position.”

John Delaney (D)

Delaney visited Clemson University in South Carolina Wednesday where he shared his idea for a national service program, discussed developing a national artificial intelligence strategy and was complimentary of the Trump administration's efforts to engage with North Korea -- though noted he was concerned the president would make a "terrible deal," according to The Greenville News.

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Gillibrand defended a planned fundraiser at a pharmaceutical executive's home where tickets cost upwards of $1,000 during a Fox News interview on Monday, saying that the executive in question was a long-time friend and that it was the influence of corporate political action committees that was more problematic.

"I think you do need to get money out of politics," the New York senator said. "The most important thing we have to do is upend the way our democracy functions. Today, the wealthiest most powerful lobbyists and special interests groups get to write bills in the dead of night."

In the interview, Gillibrand further labelled climate change "the greatest threat to humanity we have" and compared ambitious efforts, such as the Green New Deal, to combat the issue to the challenge of putting a man on the moon in the 1960s.

Kamala Harris (D)

The California senator made headlines Tuesday when she told The Root that she believed sex work should be decriminalized, though cautioned that the issue wasn't "as simple as that."

"There is an ecosystem around that that includes crimes that harm people, and for those issues, I do not believe that anybody who hurts another human being or profits off of their exploitation should be free of criminal prosecution,” Harris said. “But when you’re talking about consenting adults, we should consider that we can’t criminalize consensual behavior.”

After spending last weekend in Iowa, Harris made her first visit to Nevada as a presidential candidate Thursday to hold a town hall and participate in the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit.

John Hickenlooper (D)

The former Colorado governor continues to take steps towards a presidential run, expected to be announced some time in early March. Last weekend, Hickenlooper held meet-and-greet events in Sioux City and Carroll, Iowa, and spoke at the Story County Democrats' Annual Soup Dinner.

A spokesperson for Hickenlooper told the Associated Press that he has raised over $1 million for his political action committee.

PHOTO: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper delivers his annual State of the State address to lawmakers and guests, inside the state legislature, in Denver, Jan. 14, 2016.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper delivers his annual State of the State address to lawmakers and guests, inside the state legislature, in Denver, Jan. 14, 2016.
Brennan Linsley/AP Photo

Larry Hogan (R)

As speculation grows that the Maryland governor could launch a challenge to Trump, Hogan asked in a Washington Post interview why the Republican National Committee was taking steps to declare its support for the president and potentially shutdown primaries.

"If he has unanimous support and everybody is on board, why shut down the normal process?" Hogan said. "It’s almost like a hostage situation."

Referring to the governor specifically on Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said that any other potential challengers to Trump "have the right to jump in and lose."

Jay Inslee (D)

The Washington governor is expected to launch a presidential campaign within days, teasing as much during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" last weekend, and telling NBC that he's made up his mind.

"I've been pleased by what I've been hearing across the country, that people do want a president that will act on a real emergency which is climate change," Inslee said on CBS. "Look, we're fighting real emergencies. The forest fires that are consuming the western United States. They need a president who will rally the nation to a clean energy economy."

The governor went on to say that climate change would be his "number one priority."

Amy Klobuchar (D)

Klobuchar faced criticism after a New York Times report last Friday detailed her treatment of her staff, including throwing binders and phones in frustration and forcing an aide to clean a comb she used to eat a salad on a plane when it was brought to her without a fork. The senator's defenders have characterized the anecdotes as inflated and claimed that as a female politician, Klobuchar was being held to a higher standard of behavior than her male counterparts.

The senator spent last weekend campaigning in South Carolina and New Hampshire, after a visit to Georgia where she met with former President Jimmy Carter.

Beto O’Rourke (D)

The former Texas congressman said Thursday that he has reached a decision about his political future, but that it won't include a challenge of Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for reelection in 2020.

Though O'Rourke did not yet reveal whether that decision includes a presidential campaign, The Dallas Morning News reported that he is likely to enter the race and could make such an announcement in the next few weeks.

Bernie Sanders (D)

During a CNN town hall, Sanders shared rare praise for Trump, ahead of his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, describing the summit as a "good idea" if it leads to eventual denuclearization. The Vermont senator further outlined his Medicare-for-all plan, pledged higher corporate tax rates and said that the allegations of sexual harassment within his 2016 campaign were "very painful" and "will not happen again."

Sanders also pledged to support the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nominee, no matter who that person is, because "Trump has got to be defeated."

Just over one week after launching his campaign, Sanders is holding rallies in Brooklyn and Chicago this weekend, with a stop in between in Selma, Alabama to speak at the Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast, which is honoring his former 2016 rival Hillary Clinton.

PHOTO: In this Oct. 30, 2018 file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally in Bethesda, Md.
In this Oct. 30, 2018 file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally in Bethesda, Md.

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Warren announced Monday that she will not hold private events that are limited to major donors.

"That means no fancy receptions or big money fundraisers only with people who can write the big checks," she wrote in a post on Medium. "And when I thank the people giving to my campaign, it will not be based on the size of their donation. It means that wealthy donors won’t be able to purchase better seats or one-on-one time with me at our events. And it means I won’t be doing “call time,” which is when candidates take hours to call wealthy donors to ask for their support."

In the midst of Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen's testimony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, the Massachusetts senator said that if she is elected president "there will be no pardons for anyone implicated in these investigations."

After visiting New Hampshire last weekend, Warren will spend Friday and Saturday in Iowa, with events in Dubuque, Elkader and Waterloo.

Andrew Yang (D)

In an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire, Yang said he was concerned about the ages of some of his presidential opponents and potential rivals, citing Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Vice President Joe Biden, who are 77 and 76 years old, respectively. He added that Trump's 72 years are "probably playing into his mental health.”

"I do think that given the importance of the position, it would make sense to have some sort of transparency where if someone is past a certain age, then there should be some sort of physical or some sort of health report," Yang added.

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