Speeches, speculation and snowstorms: Here's the weekly roundup on the potential 2020 field

Fractures emerged among Democrats on Medicare-for-all and the "Green New Deal."

February 15, 2019, 6:01 AM

Though a large number of the 2020 presidential election-related headlines continue to focus on the questions that surround major names like former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Sherrod Brown and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, those who have already declared their candidacies or launched exploratory committees are beginning to receive more substantive inquiries on their platforms and positions on the debates dominating Washington's attention.

While Democrats are generally unified on immigration -- denouncing President Donald Trump's proposed border wall and arguing that the money could be better spent elsewhere -- fractures are forming around Medicare-for-all proposals and the "Green New Deal." The two progressive favorites have faced some pushback from the field's centrists who believe that their aims could be achieved alongside private insurance or in a more incremental fashion, respectively.

Here's the weekly candidate roundup:

Feb. 8-14, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)

Abrams is visiting Washington on Friday where she will deliver a speech at the DNC's Winter Meeting and participate in a discussion about race and political power in the United States at the Brookings Institution.

Michael Bennet (D)

The Colorado senator hinted at a presidential run during an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday. "We've got a million people that are going to run, which I think is great," he said, adding, "I think having one more voice in that conversation that's focused on America's future, I don't think would hurt."

Bennet discussed his diverse professional background as one of the ways he was different than the field's current candidates, explaining that he had a "different set of experiences than the other folks in the race," citing his time in business and as Denver Public Schools superintendent.

On policy, he joined many Democrats in supporting a health care public option, but broke from Sen. Kamala Harris in saying that such a plan did not necessarily mean that private insurance should be eliminated.

Joe Biden (D)

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Biden is still undecided about a presidential campaign, noting that he originally intended to decide by the end of 2018 but that the self-imposed deadline continues to be pushed back.

On Wednesday, CNBC wrote that Biden is signaling to several Democratic donors that he is leaning toward joining the presidential field but that his decision is not yet final.

The former vice president eulogized the late Rep. John Dingell on Tuesday, saying that the long-time Michigan congressman was one of only a few people he "looked up to."

"He gave me confidence. He made me believe more in myself more than I had," Biden said. "John had that special capacity to do so. Because when you are with him, you knew you were with greatness."

Michael Bloomberg (D)

The billionaire former New York City mayor is prepared to spend at least $500 million during the presidential campaign cycle to defeat President Trump, Politico reported Wednesday.

"That'll get us through the first few months," said Kevin Sheekey, one of Bloomberg's top aides, noting that Bloomberg put $100 million into his last mayoral election.

Last Friday, Bloomberg told The Associated Press that he would reach a decision on a presidential run of his own by the end of February, and pushed back on speculation that he would not run if Joe Biden launched a campaign.

"My decision doesn't depend on what other people are going to do," he said. "My decision depends on whether or not I think I can make a difference."

PHOTO: Michael Bloomberg appears on "The View," Dec. 12, 2018.
Michael Bloomberg appears on "The View," Dec. 12, 2018.

Cory Booker (D)

Booker visited Iowa and South Carolina during his first weekend on the campaign trail as a declared presidential candidate. In Iowa, the New Jersey senator continued to pitch his theme of unity and optimism to voters, while in South Carolina he addressed racial discrimination, saying that the country needed a leader who is "telling the truth about racism, not participating in racist statements, demeaning and degrading people like we're seeing now."

In an interview with MSNBC Tuesday, Booker said that if he wins the Democratic nomination, he will "be looking to women first" when he considers a running mate.

"I believe there should be a woman president right now and I worked very hard to get one," he said of his time campaigning for Hillary Clinton, who considered him to be her running mate in 2016.

"We have such a great field of leaders. I think that you will rarely see a Democratic ticket anymore without gender diversity, race diversity," Booker said. "I think it's something that we should have."

This weekend, Booker visits New Hampshire for six events across the state from Saturday through Monday.

Sherrod Brown (D)

Brown said that he's "not ready to jump" into the presidential race during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Tuesday. But he has given himself a March deadline to come to a "joint decision" with his wife, journalist Connie Schultz.

The Ohio senator rolled out two bills Wednesday with Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill: One, a "cost-of-living refund," which would double the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a second that would lower the Medicare eligibility age to 50, allowing people at that age to buy in voluntarily.

Steve Bullock (D)

The Montana governor will visit Iowa this weekend as Politico reports that he is approaching a decision about a presidential campaign. Bullock has said that he is unlikely to make any public announcement about a campaign until later in the spring following Montana's state legislative session.

Pete Buttigieg (D)

The mayor of South Bend joined MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Thursday morning for a lightning round of questions on where he sits on the ideological spectrum, to the late-term abortion law passed in New York and Virginia, to American capitalism.

"I consider myself a pretty strong progressive but I don't consider the left center spectrum to be the most useful way to look at our politics right now," he said.

Last weekend, Buttigieg made his first trip to Iowa since announcing his presidential exploratory committee, during which he shared his support for Medicare-for-all and the "Green New Deal," while continuing to play up his military background and executive experience as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in response to questions about his youth.

In an interview with New York Magazine, Buttigieg expanded on how his local experiences could translate in Washington, D.C., comparing South Bend's sewer system to more headline-grabbing issues.

"They're so important that we make sure they work basically all of the time. Which is why you never think of them — that's kind of the point," he said. "But it's not that different from national security. It's like I say, people experience the more freedom the less they think about it."

In both the New York Magazine story and an interview with CNN, Buttigieg was critical of Vice President Mike Pence's social views, saying to CNN that "politically [Pence] is a fanatic and he damaged our city and our state through choices that his social extremism led him to make."

PHOTO: Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks with an AP reporter at his office in South Bend, Ind., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks with an AP reporter at his office in South Bend, Ind., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Julian Castro (D)

Castro downplayed the idea that he is the Latino presidential candidate in a CNN interview Saturday, acknowledging that it had "special meaning" for the Latino community but that his message was intended to be all-encompassing.

"I'm also aware that I have to have policy proposals and a vision that includes everybody," said Castro, who acknowledged that being relatively unknown could be viewed as an "opportunity" in the race. Castro was also the secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration.

Politico noted Thursday that while Castro remains the only Latino candidate in the 2020 field, only one member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- his brother Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) -- has endorsed his campaign.

Bill de Blasio (D)

De Blasio was scheduled to visit New Hampshire Friday, renewing speculation that the New York City mayor was contemplating a presidential campaign. But he cancelled the trip after a New York City police detective was killed during a robbery Tuesday night.

John Delaney (D)

The former Maryland congressman and first major entrant into the 2020 race spent the first half of the week in New Hampshire, his 14th trip to the state, where he opened an office in Manchester and attended a "Politics and Eggs" breakfast at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics -- one of 10 events in three days.

Delaney broke with several other Democratic presidential contenders by revealing he was opposed to the proposed "Green New Deal."

"The reason is that I want to do something about fixing climate change tomorrow. I don't want to tie it to fixing health care," he said, while still complimenting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who proposed the idea.

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

During her first visit to Iowa as a presidential candidate, the Hawaii congresswoman and National Guard Major touted her dedication to service and outlined her views on foreign policy, responding to criticism over her recent comments about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, labeling him a "brutal dictator" but stating that she didn't feel the United States should be "the world's police."

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Gillibrand toured South Carolina, with seven stops across the state, from Friday through Sunday, including meetings with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who leads the National Conference of Mayors, and a group of women leaders.

The New York Times highlighted Gillibrand's "feminist campaign" Tuesday, describing how advocacy for women has already become a centerpiece of her candidacy and one that differentiates her from fellow female Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren thus far.

This weekend, Gillibrand is again visiting New Hampshire for a collection of meet-and-greets, walking tours and town halls, after having traveled to the Granite State just two weeks ago.

Kamala Harris (D)

Harris attracted a number of headlines Monday after she admitted during a New York radio interview to having smoked marijuana in college.

"I did inhale," the California senator said. "It was a long time ago, but yes."

The remarks came during a larger discussion about marijuana, during which Harris said it was "not true" that she opposes its legalization, joking that "half my family's from Jamaica." She stated her support for legalization but noted her "concerns," saying its effects on users should be researched.

PHOTO: Sen. Kamala Harris speaks to students at Drake University, Jan. 28, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Sen. Kamala Harris speaks to students at Drake University, Jan. 28, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall/AP

John Hickenlooper (D)

The former Colorado governor visited New Hampshire Wednesday and Thursday and said he's going to decide on a presidential run in the next "six weeks."

During his stop at a Manchester house party, Hickenlooper joked about his unusual surname and how it taught him in his childhood how to "deal with bullies" -- a reference to how he would approach running against President Donald Trump.

Hickenlooper added that he still wants to learn more about the "Green New Deal" and criticized Trump's proposed southern border wall while also acknowledging that there are "border security issues" to solve.

Eric Holder (D)

Following a speech at Drake University in Iowa Tuesday, Holder, the former U.S. attorney general, said he would reach a decision on a presidential run in the next three to four weeks.

"I'm concerned about the direction of the country," Holder said. "I think I've got some ideas and visions that I think would be useful to the nation."

On the issues, Holder said during the Iowa visit that the U.S. was "at a point where we should think seriously about [marijuana] legalization" and said he supports the "Green New Deal," labeling it "our generation's moonshot."

Amy Klobuchar (D)

Klobuchar launched her presidential campaign Sunday during a snowy outdoor event in Minneapolis, at which she outlined her humble political roots and described her motivations for getting into the race.

"I'm running for every parent who wants a better world for their kids," she said. "I'm running for every student who wants a good education. For every senior who wants affordable prescription drugs. For every worker, farmer, dreamer, builder. For every American. I'm running for you."

In a subsequent appearance Monday on "Good Morning America," the Minnesota senator defended herself against allegations that she was abusive toward her Senate staff, conceding that she is "tough" and "push[es] people," but it was because she holds "high expectations."

She further mocked the president after he, referring to her kick-off rally, tweeted that it was "bad timing" that she was "talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures."

"I'm sorry if it still snows in the world," Klobuchar said on "Good Morning America" on Monday. "But the point is that we know climate change is happening."

Next Monday, Klobuchar will participate in a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, then will travel to Iowa on Thursday.

Jeff Merkley (D)

Merkley is "still exploring" a run for president, he told Northwest Labor Press this week, and denied that his decision will be based on whether Sen. Bernie Sanders, who he endorsed in 2016, decides to run.

Seth Moulton (D)

After telling BuzzFeed News Monday that he is thinking about running for president, Moulton confirmed the sentiment publicly Tuesday during question-and-answer sessions following a foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

"I'm thinking about running for president," Moulton said in the BuzzFeed interview. "I'm not definitely running, but I'm going to take a very hard look at it. A very serious look at it. Because I believe it's time for a new generation of leadership, and we gotta send Donald Trump packing."

The Massachusetts congressman added that his decision will not be based upon who else launches campaigns, saying he doesn't "look at this as a horse race."

PHOTO: Congressman Seth Moulton addresses the crowd during a Stand With Planned Parenthood rally at the Boston Common in Boston, Mass., March 4, 2017.
Congressman Seth Moulton addresses the crowd during a Stand With Planned Parenthood rally at the Boston Common in Boston, Mass., March 4, 2017.
Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe via Getty Images

Beto O'Rourke (D)

As Trump held a campaign rally across town, O'Rourke defended his hometown of El Paso, Texas, during a protest march Monday, criticizing the president for his inflammatory rhetoric regarding immigration.

"We are making a stand for the truth, against lies and hate and ignorance and intolerance," O'Rourke said. "El Paso has been the safest city in the United States of America not in spite of the fact that we're a city of immigrants but because we are a city of immigrants."

During Trump's event, he used the El Paso setting to discuss the former Texas congressman, referring to him as "a young man who's got very little going for himself, except he's got a great first name."

Politico reported Wednesday that O'Rourke met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to discuss a possible run for Senate against Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in 2020.

Tim Ryan (D)

Ryan is "seriously considering" a presidential run, he said on CNN's "Erin Burnett Outfront" Wednesday.

The Ohio congressman, perhaps best known for his 2016 challenge of Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats, added that he doesn't "feel any pressure for any timeline at this point."

"The country is divided," Ryan said. "We can't get anything done because of these huge divisions that we have, and people in communities like the ones I represent… are suffering because of this division. You can't win the future divided."

Bernie Sanders (D)

Sanders is leaning towards announcing a presidential campaign by the end of February, Fox News reported Thursday, citing two sources close to the Vermont senator.

Earlier in the week, amid the controversy that engulfed Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., over a tweet interpreted to be anti-Semitic, Sanders called the freshman congresswoman to offer his support, The Daily Beast reported.

Howard Schultz (I)

The former Starbucks CEO continued to face criticism from Democrats over his potential independent bid for president and Schultz returned the favor, discussing his misgivings with both Democrats and Republicans at a CNN town hall Tuesday.

"Both parties today on the far left and the far right are more interested in partisan politics, revenge politics," Schultz said. "I think we could be doing so much better than we are."

During the event, Schultz acknowledged that his "business experience is not qualification to run for president," but argued that he could bring a pragmatic, results-focused approach to combating problems like climate change and economic inequality.

PHOTO: Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks appears on ABC's "The View," Jan. 29, 2019.
Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks appears on ABC's "The View," Jan. 29, 2019.

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Sen. Warren officially jumped into the 2020 race, announcing her candidacy for president at a rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts, last Saturday.

Before a crowd of 3,500 supporters packed into Everett Mills -- the site of one of the most famous labor strikes that catalyzed massive changes to labor rules -- Warren said, "Millions and millions and millions of American families are also struggling to survive in a system that has been rigged by the wealthy and the well-connected. Hard-working people are up against a small group that holds far too much power ... Like the women of Lawrence, we are here to say enough is enough!"

"The fight to build an America where dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone. I am in that fight all the way," she continued.

Warren took the stage to Dolly Parton's "9 to 5," before making her official announcement and kicking off a seven-state tour through several early voting states. She made her debut as a presidential candidate in Dover, New Hampshire, before heading to Iowa on Sunday. She continues on to South Carolina, Georgia, Nevada and California this weekend.

Bill Weld (R)

Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts and 2016 Libertarian vice presidential candidate, is attending a New Hampshire Institute of Politics "Politics and Eggs" event on Friday.

WMUR reported Wednesday that Weld's remarks at the event will include a "substantial move towards a challenge to President Trump," citing Republican sources. Weld recently re-registered in Massachusetts as a member of the Republican party.

Marianne Williamson (D)

Williamson, a popular self-help author and one-time congressional candidate, was profiled by ABC News' "Nightline" this week, where she explained her desire to get into the presidential race, despite her lack of political experience.

"I think what we need in the White House is more a visionary than just a political mechanic," she said. "America is morally off course ... More than anything else in America today, we need a moral and spiritual awakening."

"We need an awakening of American minds," Williamson added. "Show me any traditional politician who's had a 35-year career at that kind of awakening. That's a skill set. That's experience. That's expertise. And I believe it is a qualification that would -- you would do very well to put in the White House."

Andrew Yang (D)

Yang is spending his own money to demonstrate his proposed "Freedom Dividend," a form of universal basic income that would pay all Americans 18 years or older $1,000 per month. One family each in Iowa and New Hampshire are already receiving $1,000 per month from the entrepreneur, according to CBS News.

ABC News' Kendall Karson contributed to this report.

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