Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 129 days until the Iowa caucuses and 403 days until the 2020 presidential election.
Support for both the impeachment inquiry of President Trump and his potential removal from office has risen this week, according to polls taken since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s formal announcement late Tuesday.
In none of the polls is a majority in favor of action, and the language of the surveys vary — some are asking for support of the inquiry, others are asking for support of removal from office — but several show a clear-cut plurality, and in most the trends are moving in that direction.
A HuffPost/YouGov poll found that respondents support impeaching and removing Trump from office by 47-39, up from a 2-point spread earlier this month. Per HuffPost, “The shift this month appears mainly due to increased support among Democrats, whose support for impeachment rose from 74% earlier in September to 81% in the latest poll.” A Quinnipiac poll found just 37 percent saying Trump should be impeached and removed from office, but that’s a jump from July, when only 32 percent of respondents even thought Democrats should begin impeachment proceedings.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found Americans very narrowly in favor of pursuing the inquiry, 49 percent to 46. A Politico/Morning Consult poll was tied at 43-43 on the question of pursuing the process — but the 43 percent who approved was up by 7 percentage points from the previous week after Pelosi’s announcement Tuesday.
The full scope of the impeachment inquiry is still up in the air. Some Democrats from swing districts are pushing for a quick process focused on Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, hoping to make a simple case that will resonate with the public and can be wrapped up in a couple of months. Others have made the argument that it would be a dereliction of duty for the House to fail to investigate the full range of potential crimes, including obstruction of justice, violations of the emoluments clause, offering pardons in advance of lawbreaking, tax fraud, insurance fraud, pressuring staff to give security clearances to family members and failure to carry out the law on immigration policy.
Trump wasn’t the only 2020 candidate with a bad week. Joe Biden slipped in the polls this week (more on who gained below), as his interactions with the government of Ukraine in 2016 were in the news again. Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, didn’t succeed in making the story about Biden’s alleged pressuring of the president of Ukraine on a matter of potential interest to his son Hunter. There is no evidence to support the charge, and back in May a Ukrainian prosecutor cleared the Bidens of any wrongdoing. But the scandal did remind voters that while Biden was vice president and representing the administration in its efforts to bolster Ukraine in its war with Russian-backed separatist guerrillas, his son got a fairly cushy appointment to the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company at a reported fee of $50,000 a month. Will the matter come up in debates? Tom Steyer, the billionaire long-shot Democratic presidential candidate who has been an outspoken supporter of impeachment, told Yahoo News Thursday that he didn’t think it should.
“This is an attempted smear by the Trump campaign. Just the way he tried to smear Hillary Clinton,” Steyer said. “I think that Mr. Biden should be left out of this. I don’t think he’s done anything wrong. I think a bunch of newspapers looked at it and decided he hadn’t done anything wrong.”
Another good week for Warren
One winner from this week’s focus on impeachment was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, not just because she was one of the first candidates to call for Trump’s impeachment following the release of the Mueller report and because the party has moved to her position, but because attacks being lined up by her opponents were drowned out by news from Washington. Warren has started to come under more scrutiny from her rivals — over the details of her Medicare-for-All plan and her background as an erstwhile Republican and a lawyer representing corporate clients — because she is surging in both early state and national polls, a trend that continued this week.
It started in Iowa, where 42 percent of respondents to a Des Moines Register/CNN poll listed her as their first or second choice in the caucuses, versus 30 percent for Biden and 21 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the same survey. It’s a 13 percent bump for Warren since the same survey’s June results. Warren also led a Monmouth poll in New Hampshire, with 27 percent to Biden’s 25, Sanders’s 12 and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 10. Biden led a Suffolk/USA Today poll of Nevada with 23 percent, but Warren was second with 19 percent, outpacing Sanders at 14 percent but behind the 21 percent who were undecided. Biden is still strong in South Carolina, the fourth Democratic primary state, although one pollster told Politico this week that the former vice president’s lead there was shaky.
Warren also did well in the latest Quinnipiac national poll, which showed her leading Biden 27-25, with Sanders at 16 percent. It’s a big jump from results in August, when Biden was ahead 32-19. One of the reasons for Biden’s slippage may be that he is seen as more of a status quo candidate: The Quinnipiac survey also found that “50 percent of Democratic and Democratic leaning voters want to see the Democratic nominee support policies that would result in major changes but would be more difficult to pass into law, while 42 percent want to see the Democratic nominee support policies that would result in minor changes but would be easier to pass into law. “
According to the RealClear Politics national polling average, Warren has halved her gap with Biden since the beginning of the month, from a 30-16 deficit to 28-21. Sanders has remained consistent at approximately 17 percent, while no other candidate is in double digits.
Gabbard, now qualified for the debate, throws Warren shade
Earlier this week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard qualified for next month's Democratic presidential debate when she received 2 percent support in a Monmouth University poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters — putting her in a five-way tie for sixth place with Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar and entrepreneurs Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang, and some 25 points behind first-place Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The Hawaii congresswoman, who failed to qualify for the last Democratic debate, seemed to be workshopping a line of attack against Warren in an interview with The Hill TV on Wednesday.
Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who continues to serve in the Hawaii Army National Guard, was asked if she believes Warren is qualified to be commander in chief.
"I haven't seen much come from her in the way of leadership and decision making," Gabbard said. "As a soldier and an American, that is very concerning."
In the same interview, Gabbard said she does not support the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, calling it "terribly divisive,” a position she reversed just two days later, joining the overwhelming majority of her Democratic colleagues and a bare majority of the entire House.
Gabbard, Warren and 10 other candidates will all be on the same stage next month. The Democratic National Committee announced Friday that even though the number of qualified candidates had reached a dozen, it was going to keep the October debate to one night.
Campaigns running into cash trouble
Last Saturday, Addisu Demissie, Sen. Cory Booker's campaign manager, sent an ominous memo to supporters warning that if the campaign did not raise $1.7 million in the subsequent 10 days, the candidate might be forced to drop out of the race.
"Without a fundraising surge to close out this quarter, we do not see a legitimate long-term path forward," Demissie wrote. "The next 10 days will determine whether Cory Booker can stay in this race."
Three days later, Yahoo News reported that the campaign had raised more than $850,000 — more than half of its goal with a full week to go.
Through June, Booker had raised $12 million for his presidential bid, and had more than $5 million in cash on hand — leading some observers to wonder whether the desperate plea was part of a thinly veiled fundraising stunt, coming near the end of its third quarter. (The Federal Election Commission requires all campaigns to submit fundraising reports each quarter.)
But Demissie dismissed the idea.
“It was a leap of faith to do this," Demissie said. "It was definitely not a stunt.”
Booker would not be alone in having campaign cash trouble. In an email to supporters Thursday, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said his campaign will end if he's unable to raise enough money to qualify for the November debate.
To qualify, the Democratic National Committee is requiring candidates to show at least 3 percent support in at least four approved national or early state polls, or 5 percent in two early state polls, and receive individual donations from at least 165,000 people, with at least 600 unique donors in each of at least 20 states.
"I need to be completely vulnerable with you. I just left an emergency meeting with my team," Castro wrote. "They told me point blank: The DNC’s new debate threshold will be the end of the road if we can’t get more money in the door — immediately."
Through June, Castro had raised more than $4 million, but was left with just $1.1 million cash on hand, according to FEC data.
Tougher road to fifth debate
What does this mean for the stage in November? Five candidates are almost certain to clear the threshold: Biden, Warren, Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris and Buttigieg. Booker is close in polling, but his campaign said it needed additional donors to qualify. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, billionaire Tom Steyer, Castro and Gabbard have all hit the donor mark but still need some help in the polling department.
“The misguided Democrat impeachment strategy is meant to appease their rabid, extreme, leftist base, but will only serve to embolden and energize President Trump’s supporters and create a landslide victory for the President.”
— Brad Parscale, Trump 2020 campaign manager, after Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry announcement Tuesday
“I think if she can show that the tax code of 2017 was basically nonsense and only helped corporations, Wall Street would not like the public thinking about that.”
— An anonymous hedge fund executive speculating on the possibility of a Warren presidency to CNBC
“I don’t think it’s any cause for concern. You’re always going to have some changes, obviously, across demographics, but we still think he appeals to young people.”
— Biden deputy campaign manager Pete Kavanaugh to Yahoo News when asked if the campaign was worried about how well the former vice president was polling among younger voters
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