Rallies, roundtables and ranch dressing: Here's the weekly roundup on the 2020 field

Sen. Bernie Sanders entered a much different race this week than in 2016.

February 22, 2019, 6:00 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders' long-anticipated announcement of a presidential run came this week alongside an air of vindication as he described the ways in which the Democratic party has embraced several of the policies around which he based his 2016 run, including Medicare for all, free college tuition and an increase of the highest marginal tax rates to address income inequality.

But while Sanders might consider it a partial success that components of his platform has been embraced by several presidential candidates, it may also make it more difficult for the independent senator to differentiate himself this cycle. While there is a clear divide with the Democratic Party's moderates, like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a crowded field means that the primary is no longer a binary choice and the senator from Vermont may have to more clearly define himself in a political world in which the labels "progressive" and "socialist" are no longer a novelty.

Here's the weekly candidate roundup:

Feb. 15-21, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)

In a speech to the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting last week, Abrams joked about her political future, saying that she is "going to run for something," but that it might be president of her home owners' association.

Michael Bennet (D)

Bennet traveled to Iowa Thursday for a house party in Dubuque, and will remain in the Hawkeye State through Saturday for two more house parties, a meeting with the Polk County Democrats and a roundtable with farmers. A press release earlier this week announcing the visit, acknowledged that the senator is considering "whether to enter the race for president."

Joe Biden (D)

People close to the former vice president told ABC News this week that they believe Biden will enter the 2020 race. The sentiment is shared by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who was left with that feeling after she met with Biden last week. Feinstein has previously said she would support Biden if he were to enter the race.

Biden avoided specifically commenting on the 2020 election during an event at the University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, but was highly critical of the Trump administration's immigration policy, describing "hysteria at the southern border" and arguing that the president's beliefs were rooted in "xenophobia."

On Tuesday, Biden will participate in a discussion at the University of Delaware.

Michael Bloomberg (D)

On Tuesday, Politico reported that Bloomberg's advisers were beginning to reach out to the recipients of support from Bloomberg's philanthropy to gauge their willingness to back a potential presidential run.

Cory Booker (D)

The New Jersey senator visited New Hampshire last weekend, during which he pushed back against criticisms of his nice-guy approach and described himself as "someone who’s strong, who’s tough, who will fight for a cause and fight for people but also finds common ground."

Booker, along with fellow presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, were questioned about their immediate responses to the January attack on actor Jussie Smollett as police uncovered information indicating Smollett may have staged the incident. The senator said, "I'm going to withhold until all the information actually comes out from on the record sources." He previously labeled the attack a "modern-day lynching."

On Thursday, Booker announced endorsements from a score of New Jersey politicians, including Gov. Phil Murphy and all 11 Democratic members of the state's House of Representatives delegation. He'll travel to Nevada Sunday for a an event in North Las Vegas.

PHOTO: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during a meet and greet with local residents, Feb. 9, 2019, in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during a meet and greet with local residents, Feb. 9, 2019, in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall/AP

Sherrod Brown (D)

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, Brown said that the odds of him joining the 2020 field have increased to "51-49."

The Ohio senator told Politico Wednesday that if he does enter the race he will decline corporate PAC money, a decision in line with nearly all of the Democratic candidates thus far, but a departure from his Senate campaigns.

Julian Castro (D)

Castro spoke to WBUR's "Here and Now" about his support for a Medicare-for-all-style health care plan, describing how Medicare helped his grandmother, who had diabetes. He said that universal health insurance would be the first piece of legislation that his administration would advocate for, should he be elected.

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary made his first visit to Iowa since announcing his presidential candidacy Thursday, the first day of a road trip that will take him to Des Moines, Exira, Sioux City and Ames through Saturday.

John Delaney (D)

Shortly after Sen. Bernie Sanders' entrance into the 2020 race Tuesday, Delaney issued a statement in which he said voters would have to choose "between socialism and a more just form of capitalism."

"I don’t believe top-down, government-only approaches are the right answer," the former Maryland congressman continued. "But I do believe in a clear role for government in creating institutions and policies that ensure equality of opportunity and basic human dignity."

Delaney elaborated in an interview with CNN Wednesday, arguing that if Democrats "want to win and we want to beat Trump, we should not put up a candidate who embraces socialism." He said, "That’s not what the American people want."

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

In a mostly foreign policy-focused interview on "The View" Wednesday, Gabbard defended her non-interventionist platform, saying that her experience serving in Iraq influenced her belief that "the cost on the people in the countries where we intervene, as well as the trillions of dollars, our taxpayer dollars," were not worth foreign entanglements.

The Hawaii congresswoman went on to express her support for Medicare for all and a free college tuition plan, but balked at endorsing the proposed Green New Deal, explaining that she felt the legislation was too vague.

Gabbard visited Iowa Thursday for two events in Iowa City and will remain in the state Friday for a stop in Council Bluffs.

PHOTO: Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, addresses an audience during a meet and greet, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in North Hampton, N.H.
Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, addresses an audience during a meet and greet, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in North Hampton, N.H.
Steven Senne/AP

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Gillibrand found herself in the middle of one of the 2020 cycle's first viral moments this week when a woman at an Iowa restaurant, where the senator from New York was speaking Monday, interrupted her to squeeze past as she sought out ranch dressing.

Video of the "ranch girl" moment topped 1 million views on Twitter. The woman who sought the dressing and described herself as "left-leaning," has embraced her newfound fame. But she said that there was no political reason prompting her encounter with Gillibrand.

Prior to her stop Monday in Iowa, Gillibrand spent the weekend in New Hampshire and then continued on to Texas on Wednesday and Thursday. In Dallas on Thursday, she referred to her family as one of the reasons she is running, saying that she "will fight for other people's children and their families and their communities as hard as I would fight for my own."

Patch in Beverly Hills, California reported Thursday that Gillibrand is headed to the city next month for two fundraisers, including one that will be co-hosted by Will Ferrell.

Kamala Harris (D)

During a visit to New Hampshire earlier this week, Harris pushed back against the suggestion that she would not focus her attention on the New England state's first-in-the-nation primary to instead concentrate on South Carolina or her home state of California. She said that she intends to "spend time here" and "shake every hand that I possibly can."

"I want to talk with you, I want to listen to you, I want to be challenged by you," she added.

Harris was ultimately challenged during the week for her immediate reaction to the attack against actor Jussie Smollett. In January, she described it as a "modern day lynching." Additional details now suggest the crime was staged by Smollett. In response, she said she would no longer comment until all of the facts of the incident were known.

Harris' campaign additionally declined to comment on a critical statement made by her father to Jamaica Global Online referencing the senator's past comments about marijuana and her Jamaican heritage. Donald Harris labeled the linking of the drug to her ancestry a "travesty" adding that their deceased relatives "must be turning in their graves" over being connected to a "fraudulent stereotype" "in the pursuit of identity politics."

The California senator stops in Iowa for six different events this weekend and then travels to Nevada on Thursday and Friday.

Amy Klobuchar (D)

During a CNN town hall Monday in New Hampshire, the Minnesota senator staked out her position in the middle of the political spectrum, refusing to endorse some of the progressive proposals, like Medicare for all, the Green New Deal and free college tuition, that her presidential rivals have made tentpoles of their campaigns.

"If I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would," Klobuchar said of free college tuition, continuing, "I've got to tell the truth. We have this mounting debt that the Trump administration keeps getting worse and worse. I also don't want to leave that on the shoulders of all these we've got to do a balance."

She said, of the Green New Deal, that "big ideas" were "important," but predicted that compromises would have to be made to advance the legislation.

Klobuchar stopped in Iowa Thursday to headline the Ankeny area Democrats’ Winter Banquet.

Terry McAuliffe (D)

The former Virginia governor said he is "close to making a decision" about a presidential run during an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, explaining that he's "made hundreds and hundreds of calls across the country" and "talked to potential staff."

After saying that he was not waiting on former Vice President Joe Biden's decision, McAuliffe described his desire for a "progressive governor who was very jobs-oriented, very successful in economic development" in the race.

"They're not mutually exclusive," he said.

PHOTO: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gestures as he delivers his State of the Commonwealth Address before a joint session of the 2016 Virginia Assembly at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Jan. 13, 2016.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gestures as he delivers his State of the Commonwealth Address before a joint session of the 2016 Virginia Assembly at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Jan. 13, 2016.
Steve Helber/AP Photo

Beto O’Rourke (D)

As he accepted an "El Pasoan of the Year" award from a local newspaper Tuesday, O'Rourke said that he is still "trying to figure out how I can best serve this country" and "where I can do the greatest good for the United States of America," including a run for president.

Though the former Texas congressman described a desire to reach a decision on his future by the end of February, he also gave himself leeway to continue his deliberations about a potential White House run or challenge to Republican Sen. John Cornyn. Probed further by a reporter about other opportunities, O'Rourke did not rule out serving as the eventual Democratic presidential nominee's running mate.

"I’m going to consider every way to serve this country," O'Rourke responded in Spanish. "And, yes, that will include anything.”

Tim Ryan (D)

During a trip to New Hampshire Wednesday, the Ohio congressman warned his fellow Democrats of appearing "hostile to business" as they campaigned for president.

"We’ve got to come together. And that includes being engaged with the business community," Ryan, who said he is "getting close" to a decision about a campaign of his own, said. "You can be hostile to greed, you can be hostile to income inequality, you can be for raising raises ... but you can’t be hostile to businesses because 98 percent of businesses are small business people.”

Bernie Sanders (D)

Sanders launched his presidential campaign Tuesday with an online video and interviews with Vermont Public Radio and CBS News.

In the CBS interview, the Vermont senator predicted victory on the back of a "grassroots movement" "unprecedented in modern American history." He further took aim at Trump in an email to supporters, writing that "we are living in a pivotal and dangerous moment in American history."

"We are running against a president who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction," he continued.

Trump, wished Sanders well in a tweet, though referred to him as "Crazy Bernie."

In the first day of his campaign, Sanders raised nearly $6 million, his campaign announced. More than 223,000 people contributed an average of $27.

On Monday, Sanders is scheduled to participate in a CNN town hall.

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.

Howard Schultz (I)

As he continues to consider an independent campaign for president, Schultz posted an open letter to Medium Tuesday entitled "Our path."

"Thousands of Americans have reached out -- people who want common-sense solutions to the problems we face, people who are frustrated with our broken two-party system, people who want to hear the truth from their leaders, and people among the exhausted majority of Americans who want genuine leadership and cooperation in Washington," Schultz wrote, while also acknowledging the backlash he's received from Democrats fearful that he could play spoiler in the 2020 race.

Schultz's book tour continued this week with an event in Los Angeles moderated by Maria Shriver Thursday. He will stop in Cleveland next Wednesday.

Eric Swalwell (D)

During a trip to Iowa last weekend, Swalwell said that he would make a presidential decision "fairly soon" and noted that he has staff in the state and was establishing a team in South Carolina.

Elizabeth Warren (D)

The Massachusetts senator announced a plan Tuesday to make child care and early childhood education from birth through school age more affordable, with prices capped at 7 percent of a family's income.

"Today, more than half of all Americans live in child care “deserts” -- communities without an adequate number of licensed child care options," Warren wrote in a Medium post outlining her plan, adding, "We shouldn’t be denying our kids the kind of care and early learning they need to fulfill their potential."

This weekend, Warren once again visits New Hampshire where she will headline the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s 60th McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner and attend a house party, an organizing event and a meet-and-greet in Laconia, Plymouth and Nashua, her campaign announced.

Bill Weld (R)

Last week, Weld announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, becoming the first notable Republican to take public steps toward a primary challenge of Trump.

"I think our country is in grave peril and I can no longer sit silently on the sidelines,” Weld said at a New Hampshire Institute of Politics "Politics and Eggs" breakfast where he outlined a decidedly moderate platform, just over two years after he ran as the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate.

"To compound matters, our President is simply too unstable to carry out the duties of the highest executive office -- which include the specific duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed -- in a competent and professional matter," Weld added.

In an interview on "This Week" Sunday, the former Massachusetts governor explained that his potential bid was not simply about weakening the president ahead of the general election but was intended to avoid "six more years of the antics frankly, for want of a better word, that we've seen the last two years."

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