The Hill's Campaign Report: Second debate lineups set up high-profile clash

Welcome to The Hill's Campaign Report, your 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 Jonathan Easley, Max Greenwood and Julia Manchester, here's what we're watching this week on the campaign trail. 



The stage for the second Democratic primary debates is set for Detroit, complete with one rematch and a progressive face-off. Former Vice President Joe Biden will share center stage with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on July 31, the second night of the forum, roughly a month after the California senator confronted Biden head-on about his civil rights record. 

Harris's strategy during the last debate appeared to pay off, at least in the short term. She saw a bump in the polls, as well as fundraising. The former vice president even said he was surprised by Harris's move, telling CNN earlier this month that he did not expect her to come after him the way she did on civil rights and busing.


Interestingly enough, Biden will also be placed next to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who recently attacked Biden for comments last month about his working relationship with two former segregationist senators. Booker, who is known for his charisma, is in need of a breakout moment, and could seek to do so by reigniting his criticism of Biden. But he could also go after his Senate colleague, Harris, who is leading him in the polls. Booker and Harris will try to put a wrench in the Biden strategy of theoretically running in a two-man race with Trump. Watch out for this trio on the second night. 


Political observers will also finally get to witness a potential face-off between progressive heavyweights Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The two senators have, for the most part, played nice on the campaign trail, and have avoided attacking each other. But there's no denying that their progressive base is split, and that Warren is taking Sanders's thunder. Remember, Sanders was the only progressive on the debate stage during the 2016 primary debates. Now he has Warren, who has climbed in the polls through artfully laying out her progressive proposals, telling voters "I have a plan for that." While Sanders and Warren may keep it civil, expect these two to compete to be the top progressive on the stage.


The lineup for the second two-night debate event appears to reflect an effort by the Democratic National Committee to equally disperse the number of candidates from each tier on each debate stage. Last time, Harris, Biden and Sanders held the same stage, while Warren alone was the top candidate on the other night -- though she had the advantage of standing out among a group of lesser-known contenders. 


Here's a run-down of the rest of the lineups for the debate on CNN: July 30: Sanders, Warren, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas), Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio), Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Rep. John Delaney (Md.) and author Marianne Williamson. 

July 31:  Biden, Harris, Booker, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii). 

--Julia Manchester 




Sanders's campaign made history this year when it announced that it would become the first major presidential campaign to unionize. Now, the campaign's field organizers are locked in a battle with its management over what they say are substandard salaries. A draft letter prepared by union members and obtained by The Washington Post estimates that field organizers have been working a minimum of 60 hours per week, making their average hourly pay less than $13 per hour. It's unclear whether Sanders, one of the most vocal champions for a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage, is aware of the dispute, The Post's Sean Sullivan reports.


Delaney's senior staff told him earlier this month that he should drop out of the Democratic nominating contest by mid-August, Axios's Alexi McCammond reports. Delaney reportedly expressed openness to the idea, but still intends to participate in the second round of debates in Detroit later this month. The former Maryland congressman has been campaigning longer than any other candidate in the contest (he launched his campaign in July 2017), but has so far failed to gain traction among primary voters. His campaign has largely been self-funded; this year alone, he has loaned more than $19 million to his operation. 

BUT WAIT: Delaney's campaign released a statement on Friday morning disputing the Axios report: "Alexi McCammond's report on our campaign this morning is incorrect. No one on my team asked me to drop out of the race and I have no plans to drop out of the race." 



Sanders isn't laying off his signature issue. In a speech in Washington on Wednesday, he delivered a forceful defense of "Medicare for All," all the while calling on his rivals in the Democratic primary contest to reject campaign contributions from health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. The remarks appeared to be an implicit swipe at Biden, who has held large-dollar fundraisers with wealthy contributors from the health care industry, The Hill's Jessie Hellmann and Jonathan Easley report.

This may prompt some flashbacks for Democrats. Speaking at an AARP presidential forum in Iowa this week, Biden insisted that, under his new health care proposal, people who like their current insurance coverage can keep their plans, The Hill's Nathaniel Weixel reports. "If you like your health care plan, your employer-based plan, you can keep it. If in fact you have private insurance, you can keep it," he said. The remark echoed the now-infamous "if you like your doctor, you're going to be able to keep your doctor" claim employed by former President Obama in his pitch for the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010.

A staffer for Texas Rep. Filemon Vela (D) revealed this week that former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) will run for Texas Rep. Chip Roy's (R) seat in 2020. "Wendy spoke to the congressman directly that she plans on running," Vela's press secretary Abigail Sheppard told the Austin American-Statesman. 

FLASHBACK: Davis first made national headlines in 2013 when she led a 13-hour filibuster against anti-abortion legislation. She also took on Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for the governor's mansion in 2014, but lost by roughly 20 points. 


NBC NEWS/SURVEYMONKEY: Biden still leads the Democratic pack with 25 percent, but Warren and Sanders are tied at 16 percent, with Harris on their tails at 14 percent. Buttigieg trails at 8 percent, while Booker and O'Rourke came in with 3 percent each. 

GALLUP: Trump's job approval rating is near its all-time high and his second quarter average is the best of his presidency. From mid-April to mid-July, Trump's 10th quarter in office, the president had an average approval rating of 42.7 percent. That topped his previous best quarter of 41.9 percent, which came during his sixth quarter in office. Trump's current job approval is off its high mark of 46 percent -- reached in mid-April -- and stands at 44 percent as of July 12. 

The Gallup data does not account for the period surrounding Trump's latest controversy, in which he attacked four Democratic women of color in Congress, saying they should "go back" to other countries. And it's the second-lowest 10th quarter average on record for an incumbent president heading into a reelection year. Obama was 4 points higher than Trump, at 46.8 percent approval.

QUINNIPIAC: Harris leads in her home state of California, but not by much. The poll of Golden State voters put her at 23 percent support, 2 points ahead of Biden. Sanders and Warren are separated by only 2 points, scoring 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Buttigieg came in a distant fifth place with 3 percent support.

THE ECONOMIST/YOUGOV: Biden holds the lead with 23 percent support. He's trailed by Warren at 15 percent and Sanders at 13 percent. Harris and Buttigieg round out the top five with 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

MORNING CONSULT: Biden takes first place with 32 percent support among Democratic primary voters, while Sanders holds the second-place spot with 19 percent. Warren and Harris are in a statistical dead heat with 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Buttigieg finished in fifth with 5 percent support.



FROM 1600 PENN:  

President Trump is claiming he tried to stop the crowd at his campaign rally in North Carolina this week from chanting "send her back," a reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is a U.S. citizen. "I was not happy with it. I disagree with it," Trump told reporters on Thursday. "I think I did. I started speaking very quickly." But video of the event shows Trump waiting 13 seconds before continuing his address to the crowd. The chant has raised alarm bells among bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

This is the latest episode in Trump's attacks on progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Omar, who refer to themselves colloquially as "the squad." Trump faced intense backlash earlier this week after he launched a personal attack on the women, telling them to go back to other countries. All of the women are American citizens, and three of them were born in the U.S. 

While many political observers are questioning how much damage the president has done to himself with these tweets, The Hill's Niall Stanage reports that fears of violence are growing following Trump's comments and the chants at his rally. Meanwhile, The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that Republican lawmakers are concerned about the rhetoric and trying to chart a path forward. 



NO PLACE FOR THAT: Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), denounced Trump rallygoers on Thursday for chanting "send her back," in reference to Omar, saying that "there's no place for that kind of talk." But he didn't extend the same criticism to the president, The Hill's Max Greenwood reports. "What he was trying to say, he said wrong," Emmer said. "What he was trying to say is if you don't appreciate this country, you don't have to be here. That goes for every one of us. It has nothing to do with your race, your gender, your family history."

BATTLEFIELD 2020: With the 2020 census -- and the redistricting that will follow -- drawing close, the House battlefield could be the most expansive in generations. Population shifts and party realignments have reshaped the country's political landscape, a phenomenon that may put as many as 1 in 5 seats in play in 2020. That means that both Democrats and Republicans will likely find themselves defending seats in unexpected areas. Of course, it's not unusual for the electoral battleground to shift throughout the course of a decade. But the change is perhaps more prominent this time around, particularly in the Sun Belt, which has absorbed droves of new residents over the past seven years, The Hill's Reid Wilson writes.



THE MONEY RACE: Monday offered us our first full look of the presidential candidates' second-quarter financial reports. And while the top fundraisers didn't come as a surprise -- Buttigieg soared to the top, followed by Biden, Warren, Sanders and Harris -- the filings underscore the widening gap between the Democratic primary contest's frontrunners and the rest of the pack.


Unsurprisingly, the biggest fundraisers are also the race's biggest spenders. Sanders tops that list, having spent nearly $13.9 million between April 1 and June 30. Meanwhile, Biden and Warren spent similar amounts in Q2 -- $10.6 million and $10.5 million respectively. Buttigieg dropped $8.5 million, while Harris spent $7.4 million. 


While the top fundraisers spent the most, several lower-tier candidates burned through their war chests at a much faster rate, including 11 who spent more money than they brought in during the second quarter.


Here's a look at who has the most cash on hand going into the third quarter of the year.




6 p.m. EDT: Bennet attends a house party in Salem, N.H. 



1:30 p.m. EDT: Castro will be in South Carolina for a series of events focused primarily on criminal justice issues.

3 p.m EDT: Buttigieg will be at the AARP Presidential Candidates Forum in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

2:30 p.m.. EDT: Biden will be in Las Vegas for a Day of Action phone banking event. 


  • There are 192 days until the Iowa caucuses, 207 days until the New Hampshire primaries, 218 days until the Nevada caucuses, 225 days until the South Carolina primaries and 228 days until Super Tuesday.



WARREN ON WALL STREET REFORM: The plan calls for a "21st Century Glass-Steagall Act" that would reestablish a firewall between commercial and investment banking, as well as new rules on executive compensation, among other reforms. Read Warren's full proposal here.


BIDEN'S PLAN FOR RURAL AMERICA: The proposal seeks to reconfigure U.S. trade policy to increase exports. It also seeks to make American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions. Here's the full plan.


HARRIS ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES: The plan takes aim at the rising prices of prescription drugs by setting a "fair price" for what pharmaceutical companies can charge for medication. Pharmaceutical companies that sell a drug above the "fair price" would have their profits taxed at a rate of 100 percent. Read the full proposal here.


BIDEN'S HEALTH CARE PLAN: The proposal would preserve the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while creating a government-run public health insurance option. The plan also takes several steps that the Biden campaign says would lower prescription drug prices. Here's the full proposal.




Harris showcased her incisive rhetorical skills at last month's Democratic presidential debate when she confronted Biden over his opposition to federally mandated school busing in the 1970s. But her struggle to articulate clear positions on some key policy issues, as well as questions about her record as a former prosecutor, could open her up to criticism, Albert Hunt writes.


Calls to nominate a Democratic presidential candidate capable of uniting a politically divided country may be well-intentioned. But doing so appears out of reach for any eventual nominee, given soaring political tensions that have become difficult to soothe, B.J. Rudell writes.




Unlike NBC's announcement of their debate lineup, CNN put on a television special to announce the lineup of their debates, complete with multiple panelists and hosts. The network's anchors drew names and nights from a box for each tier of candidates, and were even filmed from multiple angles during the draw to ensure full transparency. 

In true CNN fashion, the special included panels galore, with a number of talking heads bookending each draw with their analysis. 

Viewers had a field day on Twitter, documenting the primetime event.



The special kind of reminded me of reality TV -- "The Hunger Games" comes to mind...

See you next time! And may the odds be ever in your favor.