The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate

The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate
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The Hill’s Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your weekly 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 this week on the campaign trail.



POST DEBATE RUNDOWN: Happy Friday! The third Democratic primary debate is in the books! There were a number of standout moments from the nearly three-hour showdown in Houston, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-Texas) declaring, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro accusing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign cancels fundraiser with Mueller prosecutor Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation MORE of not fulfilling former President Obama’s legacy on health care (Ouch!).


But don’t get too excited about those fiery exchanges. While O’Rourke has gotten attention for talking about gun control in the wake of last month’s El Paso shooting, recent history shows that single-issue candidates (ahem, Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellGloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Grenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state MORE (D-Calif.) and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeInslee says Trump coronavirus response akin to if FDR called Pearl Harbor 'a hoax' Green group proposes nearly T infrastructure and clean energy stimulus plan Washington state bishops respond to Trump's push to reopen churches: 'We will wait' MORE) don’t have the longest shelf lives in campaigns. Plus, O’Rourke has continued to trail in the polls, despite a number of passionate speeches and exchanges on the campaign trail on gun control.

Meanwhile, Castro’s attacks on Biden fell flat, and came across to many as mean and bitter. A number of analysts concluded that one of the lowest moments of the debate came when Castro appeared to hit Biden, 76, on his age, accusing him of forgetting details of health care policy.

So how did the three front-runners fare?

While Biden appeared to go on the offensive more than he has in past debates, he, along with his progressive opponents, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCOVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick MORE (D-Mass.), continued to lay out their plans and policy proposals.

The exchange between the three on health care was one of the high points of the evening, and gave voters a chance to see two different philosophies within the party. If the candidates are smart, they will continue to engage in thoughtful discussions about the future of health care among themselves and with voters.

This proved to be a winning strategy in the 2018 midterms, but the party will first have to mend its divide over the future of health care, i.e. building upon ObamaCare or scrapping it in favor of "Medicare for All." That is the debate to watch out for throughout this primary cycle.

— Julia Manchester



The campaign goes on for those left off the debate stage. The Hill’s Reid Wilson interviews Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Coal company sues EPA over power plant pollution regulation | Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards | EPA watchdog may probe agency's response to California water issues Bullock outraises Daines in Montana Senate race MORE, who is doubling down on campaigning in Iowa.

Five takeaways from Thursday night’s Democratic debate, from The Hill’s Max Greenwood and Julia Manchester.

Wondering who came out on top after last night’s debate? The Hill’s Jonathan Easley has you covered from Houston. 



Trump’s campaign is moving to block three Republicans challenging him in next year’s primary election, cognizant of the potential threat those challengers represent to Trump’s hold on his vaunted Republican base. The Trump campaign has worked for months to limit a challenger’s ability to test him, The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports 

Business Insider will host a debate featuring Trump’s challengers, The Hill’s Joe Concha reports.



Julie Hollar: The Democratic debates should not be in the hands of corporate media.

Goldie Taylor: Gaffes or not, rank-and-file Democrats are ridin’ with Biden.

Krystal Ball: Why the media dislike Sanders, Yang, Gabbard and Williamson.

Karl W. Smith: Trump should be worried about these economic trends.



Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick MORE (D-Calif.), the former attorney general of California, has released a criminal justice reform plan (The Hill) … Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff MORE (D-N.J.) has introduced the Federal Firearm Licensing Act, which would require potential gun purchasers to go through the Justice Department to obtain a gun license. 

Trust me’: Harris makes big play on criminal justice reform. (New York Times)



Max Greenwood reports from Charlotte, N.C. -- Republican Dan Bishop edged out Democrat Dan McCready in the special election on Tuesday to represent North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, narrowly holding on to a House seat that has been in the GOP’s hands for nearly 60 years.

Trump’s campaign advisers immediately took credit for the win. In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, his campaign manager Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE was blunt: “There’s no question that [Bishop is] the congressman-elect this morning because of the personal efforts of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE.”

But the special election results flashed warning signs for both parties, The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports.

While Bishop outperformed former Republican candidate Mark HarrisMark HarrisTrump sparks debate over merits of voting by mail The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate over mail-in voting heats up Bevin says he lost because liberals are 'good at harvesting votes' in urban areas MORE’s margins in a handful of rural counties, McCready tightened his grip on Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte and its immediate suburbs are located. That reaffirmed one of the biggest takeaways from the 2018 midterm elections: the GOP’s once-solid support in the suburbs is still weakening.

For Democrats, however, the election raised questions about what they need to do to turn out their core voters. McCready campaigned as an unabashed moderate, touting the slogan “country over party” and distancing himself from more liberal Democrats in Washington. But whether that will motivate the party’s activist base in 2020 is unclear. 

Warren is getting involved in House primaries, backing challengers to two centrist Democratic House members - Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Daniel LipinskiDaniel William LipinskiLiberal group backs challenger to Engel in Democratic primary The Hill's Campaign Report: Campaigns scale back amid coronavirus threat Dan Lipinski defeated in Illinois House primary MORE (D-Ill.).

GEORGIA SENATE: Former congressional candidate Jon Ossof will challenge. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

CA-50: Former Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaGOP sues California over Newsom's vote-by-mail order Conservative group files challenge to California vote-by-mail order New poll shows tight race in key California House race MORE (R-Calif.) says he will run for Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan HunterLobbying world Duncan Hunter granted delayed start to prison sentence over coronavirus New poll shows tight race in key California House race MORE’s (R-Calif.) seat if he is not confirmed to a top trade post in the Trump administration by Nov. 3.



Biden is holding steady in the polls ahead of the third Democratic presidential primary debate, leading the next closest contender by 15 points, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

ABC News-Washington Post: Five Democratic contenders lead Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up.

Trump is not having it.



UNIVISION: All of the top Democratic White House hopefuls are leading Trump in Texas.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist: Warren has the highest favorability rating in the field.

EMERSON UNIVERSITY: Biden and Warren lead in New Hampshire, as Sanders slips.

Franklin Pierce: Sanders leads in New Hampshire.



Sanders will embark on Sunday on a three-day campaign swing through South Carolina, with stops in Charleston, Galivants Ferry and Hartsville. Castro will also visit the Palmetto State this weekend.

  • There are 143 days until the Iowa caucuses, 151 days until the New Hampshire primary, 162 days until the Nevada caucuses, 169 days until the South Carolina primary and 172 days until Super Tuesday.



WIZARD OF OZ: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tried to make a point about President Trump at Thursday’s debate by invoking the classic flick, "The Wizard of Oz."

"Donald Trump, in office, on trade policy ... he reminds me of that guy in 'The Wizard of Oz,' you know, when you pull back the curtain, it's a really small dude," Harris said.

Here’s the awkward part — Harris was speaking to moderator George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosSanders pushes back on doubts supporters will back Biden Sunday shows - Trump trade adviser knocks Obama, whistleblower, CDC Navarro says whistleblower 'deserted' in an 'American tragedy' MORE, who himself stands at 5 feet, 5 inches tall. 

But the broadcast news veteran took it all in stride. 

“OK,” Stephanopoulos said. "I'm not even going to take the bait, Sen. Harris."

"Oh George, it wasn't about you,” Harris said. 

The internet, in turn, had a field day.   


We’ll catch you next week for more campaign news and analysis!