Warren, slumping in the polls, attacks Biden and Buttigieg


Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 52 days until the Iowa caucuses and 326 days until the 2020 presidential election.

With polls showing her once steady rise to the top tier of the Democratic race stalling, Sen. Elizabeth Warren went on the attack on Thursday in a speech at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, taking thinly veiled swipes at both Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“Unlike some candidates for the Democratic nomination, I’m not betting my agenda on the naive hope that if Democrats adopt Republican critiques of progressive policies or make vague calls for unity that somehow the wealthy and well-connected will stand down,” Warren said in a rebuke of her more moderate rivals.

“Unlike some candidates for the Democratic nomination, I'm not counting on Republican politicians having an epiphany and suddenly supporting the kinds of tax increases on the rich or big business accountability they have opposed under Democratic presidents for a generation,” she continued.

Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg
From left: Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. (Photos: Nic Antaya/Boston Globe via Getty Images, Preston Ehrler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images, Preston Ehrler/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Without mentioning their names, Warren accused Biden and Buttigieg of catering to big-money donors, saying they are “selling access to their time for money.” She called out Biden specifically for assuring wealthy donors at a fundraiser that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he is elected, and Buttigieg for offering special access to his “national investors circle.”

“I know I will have to compromise, but that’s not where we start,” Warren added. “The choice for the Democratic Party in this primary is the same choice it faces in every primary: Will we bet on more of the same, or will we bet on change?”

Warren’s more combative tone comes on the heels of recent national and state polls that show a dip in support for the progressive firebrand from Massachusetts. A WBUR survey of Democratic voters in neighboring New Hampshire released on Wednesday showed Warren (12 percent) in fourth place behind Buttigieg (18 percent), Biden (17 percent) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (15 percent).

A Quinnipiac University national poll released earlier this week had Warren (15 percent) in third place behind Biden (29 percent) and Sanders (17 percent). That’s quite a fall from October, when the same poll conducted showed Warren leading the field with 28 percent support among Democrat and Democratic-leaning voters.

Warren did, however, pick up a notable endorsement from the sports world this week: U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Trump might skip the 2020 debates

Democrats still haven’t picked a presidential nominee to face off against President Trump in 2020. Yet Trump is reportedly already looking ahead to next year’s presidential debates — and right past them.

The New York Times reported this week that Trump is “discussing with his advisers the possibility of sitting out the general election debates in 2020.” According to the Times, Trump and his team are less concerned about which Democratic candidate he would face onstage than about the Commission on Presidential Debates itself. The president supposedly believes the nonprofit organization will somehow treat him unfairly, perhaps by choosing a moderator he deems insufficiently friendly.

Or at least that’s what Trump is telling his advisers, and what his advisers are, in turn, telling the Times, in what may be a preview of the spin they will use if and when Trump decides to duck the debates.

In 2016, Trump blamed a “defective mic” for one of his underwhelming debate performances and clashed with the commission over his scheme to seat in his VIP box a group of women who had accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct — an unprecedented maneuver intended to psych out Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.

If Trump does bail, Democrats would surely be disappointed. In their own party’s 2020 primary debates, potential nominees have repeatedly boasted about their ability to go “toe-to-toe” with Trump onstage. After eviscerating Biden over his opposition to federally mandated busing and his past cooperation with segregationists, Kamala Harris got a huge boost in the polls, and she spent the remainder of her campaign — ill-fated though it was — arguing that she was uniquely qualified, as a former prosecutor, to do the same thing to Trump. Buttigieg has surged in Iowa and New Hampshire largely on the strength of his strong debate performances.

Buttigieg, a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar who speaks in complete paragraphs, has admitted to fantasizing about the possibility of trading barbs with Trump, who talks at the lowest grade level of the last 15 presidents. (“Everyone in Democratic politics, whether they’ll admit it or not, has fantasized about the moment,” Buttigieg said in a recent podcast interview. “It would satisfy some deep itch to be able to say, ‘Look, the difference between me and this guy is you know I’m faithful to my spouse. When it was my turn to serve, I did not fake a disability in order to get out. I went. And I look people in the eye when I’m hiring or firing them.’”)

And Warren may be the only presidential candidate in recent memory who has described debating as her “one talent” in high school; she even won the state championship as a senior and attended college on a full debate scholarship.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump during the third presidential debate of 2016, in Las Vegas. (Photo: John Locher/AP)

Trump, meanwhile, has not fared so well on the debate stage. During the 2016 GOP primaries, he managed to hold his own, but the intense, one-on-one general-election format did not suit him. Though Trump claimed in July that “according to the polls” he “won EVERY debate” against Clinton, post-debate surveys showed that respondents believed it was Clinton who bested Trump every time, with margins of victory ranging from 5 points to 40 points. A Gallup poll conducted after the third debate, for instance, found that 60 percent of viewers thought Clinton did a better job; 31 percent chose Trump.

Trump went on to win the election, so debates aren’t everything. Even skipping them might not cost him all that much, given how fixed the public’s opinion of his presidency has become (and how he has conditioned the country to expect the unexpected). Democrats will surely cry foul, but there’s no law saying one party’s nominee has to debate the other’s — just tradition. In fact, previous incumbents have also passed: LBJ did not tussle with Barry Goldwater in 1964, and eight years later, Richard Nixon declined to debate George McGovern. Both won the following November.

Still, skipping presidential debates would be a risky move. As hard as Trump leans into his the-fake-news-moderators-will-treat-me-very-unfairly! defense, swing voters would likely interpret the sitting president’s refusal to debate as a sign of weakness rather than proof of media bias. That’s why the most plausible outcome might be something in the middle: Float the no-debate strategy first, then settle for the limited exposure of a single encounter.

“Not doing any would not be strategically smart,” Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton adviser, told the Times. So “he’ll bluff that he won’t do any with the goal of only having to do one.”

A Democratic presidential debate
Candidates at the Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta last month. (Photo: Melina Mara/Washington Post via Getty Images)

Democrats head west for final debate of 2019

On Thursday, Democrats will gather in Los Angeles for their final debate of 2019. With the first voting less than two months away and many early-state polls showing a tight race among the top four candidates, it will be an opportunity for candidates to try to break through the impeachment news cycle, busy holiday season and opening night of the newest “Star Wars” movie.

The seven Democrats who qualified for the stage are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. (Sanders, Warren and Biden say they will sit out the debate if a labor dispute between union workers and host Loyola Marymount University is not resolved first.)

For the first time this primary cycle, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker will be absent from the stage. Harris withdrew from the race earlier this month, and Booker failed to qualify. For the second straight debate, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro also did not qualify, meaning that the stage will be without a black or Hispanic candidate in a party that relies on those two constituencies. If not for Yang qualifying just before the deadline, the stage would be entirely made up of white candidates.

[Who’s running for president? Click here for Yahoo News’ 2020 tracker]

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has moved to fifth place in an average of primary polls, failed to qualify because he did not cross the 200,000-donor threshold. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii fell one poll shy of qualifying for the debate stage but said she would have not attended even if she had qualified. Instead of heading to Los Angeles next Thursday, Gabbard intends to continue campaigning in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

This week the Democratic National Committee announced four more early-primary-state debates: Jan. 14 in Iowa, Feb. 7 in New Hampshire, Feb. 19 in Nevada and Feb. 25 in South Carolina. It did not specify how candidates would qualify.

— Christopher Wilson

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders takes batting practice at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, in August. (Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Bernie’s pitch to save minor league baseball

This weekend, Bernie Sanders is heading to Iowa, where he is holding an unusual campaign event: batting practice with minor league baseball players.

It’s not as random as it sounds. Sanders is among those leading the fight against a Major League Baseball proposal that would strip 42 minor league baseball teams of their big league affiliations, including three in Iowa: the Burlington Bees, the Clinton LumberKings and the Quad City River Bandits.

Owners of minor league teams worry that the proposal, which would effectively fill their rosters with undrafted and released players, would ultimately force them to shut down.

Sanders met with Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred about the issue last week.

“This has nothing to do with what’s good for baseball and everything to do with greed,” Sanders tweeted before their sit-down. “It would destroy thousands of jobs and devastate local economies.” (He later expressed hope that the two sides can “resolve their differences and maintain professional baseball in all the communities that currently have it — while addressing concerns about facilities, working conditions and wages for minor league players.”)

This weekend’s meeting (and BP!) will take place Sunday morning at FunCity Turf in Burlington, Iowa.

In August, the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist made a campaign stop at the site of the 1989 Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams” in Dyersville, Iowa, where he hosted a softball game between his campaign and members of the press.

After the game, Sanders drew a parallel between the film’s “If you build it, they will come” message and the progressive movement he’s helped champion.

“If we stand together for a common purpose, we can fulfill that dream,” he said.

Sanders will return to Iowa later this month to host a New Year’s Eve rally in Des Moines.

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg talks to prospective voters in Denison, Iowa, last month. (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)


“Today is a solemn and sad day. For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president.”

— Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the committee's chairman, after Friday’s historic vote

“Look what happens when the Labour Party moves so, so far to the left. It comes up with ideas that are not able to be contained within a rational basis quickly.”

— Joe Biden, after Conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s overwhelming victory in Thursday’s U.K. elections

“I was a big fan of Bernie Sanders when I was 18 years old.”

— Pete Buttigieg on “CBS This Morning” on Thursday, when asked about his own struggles attracting young voters

“I’m less upset than some of the other candidates at Tom and Mike spending all this money, because I think it’s going to be a dud.”

— Andrew Yang on the massive ad buys of billionaire Democratic hopefuls Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg, during a bus tour of Iowa on Thursday

“The single most important investment we can ever make is in our nation’s children.”

— President Trump at a White House summit on child care on Thursday, hours after he attacked 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter


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