Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.
We’re Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here’s what we’re watching today on the campaign trail.
LEADING THE DAY:
BLOOMBERG’s DEBATE DEBUT: Michael BloombergMichael BloombergEngel scrambles to fend off primary challenge from left It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Liberals embrace super PACs they once shunned MORE will face one of the most crucial tests of his nascent presidential campaign on Wednesday when he takes the debate stage for the first time in Las Vegas, a forum that threatens to drag him into the political fray that he has spent months avoiding.
The former New York City mayor, who only declared his candidacy in November and failed to make the cut for earlier presidential debates, qualified for the upcoming forum early Tuesday morning after notching 19 percent in an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Maris poll.
But when he takes the debate stage on Wednesday, Bloomberg is almost certain to face scathing criticism from his Democratic rivals, who have already sharpened their attacks against him in an effort to slow the growing momentum of his presidential bid.
In a potential preview of what Wednesday’s debate might hold, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) accused Bloomberg at a rally over the weekend of trying to buy his way to the Democratic presidential nomination.
And in a tweet on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.) said that having Bloomberg on the debate stage would allow the other candidates to show “how we each take on an egomaniac billionaire.”
It’s a shame Mike Bloomberg can buy his way into the debate. But at least now primary voters curious about how each candidate will take on Donald Trump can get a live demonstration of how we each take on an egomaniac billionaire. https://t.co/H02radEZcv
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 18, 2020
For his part, Bloomberg hasn’t been on a debate stage since 2009 when he ran for his third and final term as mayor, and it’s unclear how he’ll perform under a national spotlight. His campaign has so far centered around advertisements casting him as a successful businessman and formidable challenger to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE. Whether he can maintain that image of himself on stage will be one of the big questions of the evening.
Bloomberg set to debate in Nevada after qualifying in new poll, by Julia
Warren: Bloomberg making debate will show how other candidates handle ‘an egomaniac billionaire,’ by The Hill’s Zack Budryk
The Memo: Vegas debate gives Democrats last chance to swing Nevada voters, by The Hill’s Niall Stanage
FROM THE TRAIL:
Democrats are preparing a case against President Trump over entitlement spending, revisiting a strategy that has handed triumphs to both parties at one point or another, The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports. Groups like Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC, are planning to seize on Trump’s own rhetoric suggesting that entitlement programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, could be brought to the chopping block if he’s allowed to stay in the White House for another four years. Republicans are already telegraphing their defensive strategy: accusing Democrats of misleading attacks. “President Trump has made clear that he will protect the benefits of people who rely on programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s campaign spokesman, said. “Because of President Trump’s stellar record of success for all Americans, all that Democrats have to run on is fear and misinformation. It won’t work.”
Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, said on Monday that she wants to be the running mate of her party’s eventual presidential nominee, The Hill’s Rebecca Klar reports. “Of course I want it. Of course I want to serve America. Of course I want to be a patriot,” Abrams, who’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid propelled her to political stardom, said in an interview with ABC’s “The View.” Asked whether she would one day seek the White House herself, Abrams was blunt. “Absolutely,” she said. “I want to do good, and there is no stronger platform than president of the United States, and that’s a position I want to one day hold.”
After technical difficulties roiled the Iowa caucuses and led to a days-long delay in the results, Democratic officials in Nevada are under pressure to avoid a debacle of their own. But The Hill’s Maggie Miller reports that experts and officials are raising concerns about the state Democratic Party’s plans to use a custom Google calculator accessed through a web form to help tally votes from the upcoming caucuses. Alana Mounce, the chair of the Nevada Democratic Party, sought to reassure worried party members in a memo that officials are confident in our backup plans and redundancies. But skeptics say that the state party’s caucus plan could put the results at risk and lead to a repeat of the chaos that has marred the caucuses in Iowa. “The caucuses need to learn that the integrity of the election process is on everybody’s mind now, and if you are going to use processes like this, you better have them vetted over and over again,” Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyDemocrats call for probe into ouster of State Dept. watchdog Bipartisan lawmakers call for global ‘wet markets’ ban amid coronavirus crisis EPA defends suspension of pollution monitoring in letter to Congress MORE (D-Ill.) said. “I get the desire to be high-tech, but if you are going to do this process, you better get it right.”
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Despite former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHarris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden Valerie Jarrett: ‘Democracy depends upon having law enforcement’ MORE’s lingering popularity among Democrats, the presidential candidates who emerged from his political orbit have so far fizzled in their quest for their party’s nomination, The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports. That trend is evident in the unsuccessful campaigns of Julian CastroJulian CastroNew York legislature votes to release disciplinary records for officers Trump calls New York Times ‘fake newspaper’ after headline change Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention MORE, Obama’s former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, and Deval PatrickDeval PatrickIt’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Top Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden Andrew Yang endorses Biden in 2020 race MORE, the former Massachusetts governor and a friend of the former president. Even Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE, who served as Obama’s vice president for eight years and is counted among his personal friends, is struggling to regain the preeminence he held in the Democratic nominating contest for most of the past year. “You can talk a lot about Obama, but you’re still not Obama,” Eddie Vale, a Democratic strategist, said.
Lara M. Brown: Bernie Sanders’s Super Tuesday problem
Joshua Spivak: What happens during a contested Democratic National Convention?
Joe Ferullo: How the media fall in and out of love with candidates
Bloomberg has spent upwards of $124 million on advertising in Super Tuesday states, The Los Angeles Times’ Michael Finnegan reports, a total that equates to more than 10 times what his top rivals have spent in those states. By comparison, Sanders, the only other candidate to advertise in most of the March 3 primary states, has just less than $10 million. The spending underscores the extent to which Bloomberg has tied his presidential ambitions to Super Tuesday, when more than a third of pledged delegates will be up for grabs. He has declined to compete in the four early primary and caucus states that typically kick off presidential nominating contests and has instead spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an operation that looks more like a general election campaign, expanding his operations into crucial battleground states.
NPR/PBS NEWSHOUR/MARIST – NATIONAL
Sanders: 31 percent (+9)
Bloomberg: 19 percent (+15)
Biden: 15 percent (-9)
Warren: 12 percent (-5)
Klobuchar: 9 percent (+5)
Buttigieg: 8 percent (-5)
Steyer: 2 percent (+2)
MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY – VIRGINIA
Bloomberg: 22 percent
Sanders: 22 percent
Biden: 18 percent
Buttigieg: 11 percent
Klobuchar: 9 percent
Warren: 5 percent
MARK YOUR CALENDARS:
There are 4 days until the Nevada caucuses, 11 days until the South Carolina primary and 14 days until Super Tuesday.
CNN will host town hall events with five Democratic presidential candidates this week ahead of the Nevada caucuses. The first round of forums will begin on Tuesday. Here’s the full lineup:
TUESDAY, FEB. 18
8 p.m. EST: Bernie Sanders
9 p.m. EST: Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE
10 p.m. EST: Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE
THURSDAY, FEB. 20
8 p.m. EST: Joe Biden
9 p.m. EST: Elizabeth Warren
The Democratic National Committee announced the date and location of the penultimate presidential primary debate on Friday, revealing that it would be held in Phoenix on March 15. Here’s the upcoming debate schedule:
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 19 in Las Vegas
TUESDAY, FEB. 25 in Charleston, S.C.
SUNDAY, MARCH 15 in Phoenix, Ariz.
We’ll update you as soon as the DNC announces the date and location of the 12th (and final) Democratic primary debate.
SHOWDOWN IN MASS: On the Senate front, Massachusetts Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyEngel scrambles to fend off primary challenge from left Markey touts past praise from Kennedy: ‘He does an incredible job’ Progressive Caucus co-chair endorses Kennedy in Massachusetts Senate primary MORE will face-off against Massachusetts Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyMassachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy says Patriots ‘should sign’ Kaepernick Markey touts past praise from Kennedy: ‘He does an incredible job’ Progressive Caucus co-chair endorses Kennedy in Massachusetts Senate primary MORE in the Bay State’s first Democratic primary debate tonight on WGBH in Brighton, Mass. It’s the first glimpse we’ll get into what will likely be a competitive primary race in the deep blue state. Markey, an establishment favorite, is defending his seat from Kennedy, who is looking to hold the Senate seat once held by both of his great-uncles — former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former President John F. Kennedy. Markey so far has the support of activist groups, while Kennedy has garnered the support of the union class. We’ll be covering the race ahead of the September primary.
ONE FUN THING:
CAMPAIGN FASHION: Professional womenswear company M.M. LaFleur is extending its services to the campaign trail and offering to loan women candidates clothes for the campaign trail for free.
The company made the announcement in an email, according to Business Journals.
The initiative has resulted in widespread support online, as well as from other women candidates.
“One less thing to worry about and the ability to focus on delivering my message,” a candidate said in the email.
The announcement comes as Sens. Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), as well as Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process 125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic MORE (D-Hawaii), run for president four years after Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE nearly become the first woman elected to the office.
It also follows the gains made by women elected to the House, Senate and state offices across the country in 2018.
Women often have to deal with more scrutiny than men when it comes to their appearances on the campaign trail, so it’s important that a womenswear company is working to take one more burden off of their shoulders.
We’ll see you tomorrow for coverage of the Democratic Debate, where Jonathan Easley is on the ground in Las Vegas!