The Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight poses risks to both Trump, Dems

The Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight poses risks to both Trump, Dems
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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. 

 

LEADING THE DAY: 

Impeachment politics have consumed Washington, pushing the race for the Democratic primary to the back burner as insiders debate the political fallout of the historic event gripping the nation. 

The two parties are placing competing bets. For Democrats, it's that the budding impeachment inquiry in the House will yield a clarifying moment for the country that will prompt voters to overwhelmingly reject President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE, who is accused of using the power of his office to pressure a foreign government to investigate one of his chief political rivals.

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Meanwhile, Republicans are betting that the impeachment episode will look less like 1974, when President Nixon resigned in disgrace, and more like 1998, when a Republican-led effort to impeach President Clinton backfired and Democrats picked up five House seats in the midterm elections.

The winning bet is still unknown, but what's clear is that the fast-moving controversy surrounding Trump's efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Trump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr MORE for alleged corruption has left no facet of the 2020 election cycle untouched.

For Biden in particular, the controversy is something of a double-edged sword. 

On one hand, it has elevated his argument that he poses the greatest threat to Trump's reelection bid and offers an opportunity to go head to head with the president.

But there are also fears among Biden's allies that the Ukraine controversy could weigh down his campaign and raise doubts among some voters about his character and record. Trump has repeatedly suggested that Biden withheld aid money to Ukraine while he was vice president to pressure officials in Kiev to fire a prosecutor investigating a company that Biden's son Hunter Biden was working for.

To be sure, there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens and the president's claims remain unsubstantiated. But some Democrats worry that by merely raising such allegations, Trump may be successful in sowing doubts in Biden among voters. As one Democratic strategist told The Hill's Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes this week: "I think the big fear for Biden is that this turns into Hillary's email controversy. They took a big nothingburger and made it into something."

 

READ MORE:

Joe Biden faces off against Trump in impeachment storm, from Jonathan and Amie. 

Biden: Trump's efforts to 'smear' me 'a tragedy for this country,' from The Hill's Tal Axelrod. 

Warren: Trump will 'continue to commit crimes' if not held accountable, by The Hill's Rebecca Klar.

GOP campaign chief: Backing impeachment will cost House Dems their majority in 2020, by The Hill's Chris Mills Rodrigo.

 

FROM THE TRAIL:

Current and former advisers to Trump see Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-Mass.) as the most formidable Democratic challenger to the president in 2020, describing her as a "movement" candidate with the ability to appeal to voters on the left and in the center, The Hill's Jonathan Easley reports. Still, a handful of Trump allies pointed to Biden as the biggest threat to the president, arguing that he's the only Democratic candidate capable of matching Trump punch for punch in a general election match-up. 

 

Warren's rise has shaken up the Democratic field, write The Hill's Amie Parnes and Niall Stanage. Warren is expanding her campaign into states and districts with tight congressional races, according to The Hill's Tal Axelrod, coupled with a massive 8-figure digital and TV ad buy in the early voting states.

 

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has hinted for weeks that it was on the verge of raising the thresholds to qualify for its November presidential debate. Those new criteria finally came on Monday. To qualify for the fifth debate, candidates will have to collect contributions from 165,000 unique donors and register at least 3 percent in four DNC-approved polls or 5 percent in two approved early-state polls, The Hill's Max Greenwood reports. The tougher requirements are likely to irk some lower-tier campaigns who have already struggled to make it into earlier debates. But the increased thresholds are more modest than some campaigns predicted, and nearly a dozen candidates have already met the donor requirement.

 

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardBiden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage MORE (D-Hawaii) will join at least 11 other candidates on the debate stage in Westerville, Ohio, next month after a Monmouth University poll showed her with 2 percent support in New Hampshire, The Hill's Max Greenwood reports. It was the fourth and final poll she needed to qualify for the October debate.

 

ODDS AND ENDS:

Eugene Robinson: Pelosi must move for an impeachment vote as soon as possible.

Victor Davis Hanson: Impeachment frenzy may strengthen Trump.

William Saletan: The case for Trump's impeachment goes beyond Ukraine.

Michael Goodwin: Pelosi will regret rushing into impeachment.

Frank Bruni: Will impeachment get Trump reelected?

 

POLICY ROLLOUTS:

Warren has come under pressure from her 2020 rivals to spell out how she'd pay for her "Medicare for All" plan (The Hill) ... Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE (I-Vt.) has proposed private credit reporting firms with free public registry ( ) … Sanders is also proposing an "extreme wealth" tax (The Hill) … South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Chicago Mayor Lightfoot to Buttigieg: 'Break that NDA' to have 'moral authority' against Trump Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE is touting his new "Medicare for all who want it" plan in his first paid ads to run in Iowa (The Hill).

 

FROM CONGRESS:

Democratic lawmakers are expressing frustration over the decision from Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyTrump escalates fight over tax on tech giants Sanders's Massachusetts state director 'moves on' from campaign Senate Democrat's bill would allow sanctions for 'egregious' actions causing climate change MORE III (D-Mass.) to challenge Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyThere's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trump administration drops plan to face scan all travelers leaving or entering US Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide MORE (D-Mass.) in a primary next year, setting up one of the most anticipated showdowns of the 2020 cycle, The Hill's Julia Manchester reports.

 

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceIsakson talks up bipartisanship in Senate farewell speech Hundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Warren faces tough choices on 'Medicare for All' funding | Dems demand answers on Tom Price's charter flights | Medicaid expansion nears 2020 ballot in Oklahoma MORE has thrown his name in the ring to replace retiring GOP Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Job growth soars in November The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage Doug Collins on potential 2020 Senate run: I'm not 'ruling it out' MORE (Ga.), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will pick Isakson's successor, who will then face an election in November 2020.

 

Former Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaDuncan Hunter to plead guilty to campaign finance violations Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries MORE (R-Calif.) has launched a primary challenge against Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterDuncan Hunter announces plan to resign The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea MORE (R-Calif.), Roll Call reports.

 

The National Journal: Ranking the most competitive House races.

 

MONEY WATCH:

DEADLINE ALERT: We're three days away from the end of the third fundraising quarter of 2019, and campaigns are in a full-on sprint to secure last-minute donations. But one fundraising pitch that stands out from the pack is from Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-N.J.), whose campaign warned supporters and journalists last weekend that he would almost certainly drop out of the presidential primary unless he's able to raise $1.7 million before Sept. 30.

Booker's allies insist that the warning isn't just a clever fundraising ploy. Without that money, they say, the New Jersey senator won't be able to scale up his campaign in the way he needs to stay competitive. But at the same time, his campaign manager Addisu Demissie told reporters that Booker hasn't running out of money – and isn't even at risk of doing so. What's more, Booker has already qualified for the fourth primary debate in October, and it's unlikely that he would exit the race before then.

Either way, the appeal for money appears to be paying off. In a matter of four days, Booker had hit the $1 million mark, putting him on track to reach his goal before the Monday fundraising deadline.

 

Meanwhile, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro says he'll end his campaign if he doesn't meet the new fundraising and polling metrics for the November debate (The Hill).

 

Great America PAC, a super PAC backing Trump's reelection bid, rolled out a new TV ad on Wednesday urging Congress to investigate Biden's role in the firing of a former Ukrainian prosecutor, The Hill's Jonathan Easley reports. The spot, which is running online and on Fox News, marks an outside effort by conservatives to train attention on the former vice president and away from allegations that Trump used his office to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden.

 

IMPEACHMENT FUNDRAISING: President Trump's reelection campaign and the Republican Party say they have raised $13 million since Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Democrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing MORE (D-Calif.) announced on Tuesday that House Democrats would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

The Trump campaign fundraised after Pelosi's announcement through sending a text to donors asking them to join Trump's "Impeachment Defense Team."  

 

POLL WATCH:

QUINNIPIAC: Warren leads the Democratic primary field with 27 percent support nationally. She's followed by Biden at 25 percent. The three others in the top five: Sanders (16 percent), Buttigieg (7 percent) and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Calif.) (3 percent).

 

SUFFOLK: Biden edges out Warren by nearly 4 points in Nevada, registering at 23.2 percent support. Sanders, meanwhile, comes in third place with 14.2 percent in the early caucus state. Harris and Buttigieg lagged well behind the three top contenders, receiving 3.8 percent and 3.4 percent support, respectively.

 

MONMOUTH: Warren tops Biden 27 percent to 25 percent among registered New Hampshire Democrats and unaffiliated voters who are likely to vote in the crucial first-in-the-nation primary. Only two other candidates, Sanders and Buttigieg, registered double-digit support (12 percent and 10 percent, respectively). Harris finished in a distant fifth place with 3 percent support.

 

DES MOINES REGISTER/CNN: The landmark Iowa poll shows Warren pulling into first place with 22 percent support among likely Democratic caucusgoers, while Biden fell to second place with 20 percent support. Rounding out the top five: Sanders (11 percent), Buttigieg (9 percent) and Harris (6 percent). 

 

HARVARD CAPS/HARRIS: Biden holds a double-digit lead against his closest rivals, but there are signs Biden's support may be slipping.

 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:

There are 129 days until the Iowa caucuses, 137 days until the New Hampshire primary, 148 days until the Nevada caucuses, 155 days until the South Carolina primary and 158 days until Super Tuesday.

 

Several Democratic White House hopefuls will speak at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas, beginning today. Check the full calendar here for appearances by Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeButtigieg picks up third congressional endorsement from New York lawmaker Klobuchar hires staff in Nevada Deval Patrick enters 2020 race MORE (D-Texas), Buttigieg, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down MORE (D-Minn.) and Castro. Also appearing -- Pelosi, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdCNN's Bianna Golodryga: 'Rumblings' from Democrats on censuring Trump instead of impeachment Republicans preview impeachment defense strategy Davis: Congressman Will Hurd, If not now, when? MORE (R-Texas).

 

Biden will attend a community event and a fundraiser in Las Vegas on Friday.

 

Sanders kicks off a tour of college campuses beginning Sunday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, the first of seven events over two days across the Granite State.

 

Buttigieg will make four campaign stops across Nevada on Saturday, followed by an event in Sacramento, Calif., on Sunday.

 

ONE FUN THING

OUTSIDER: Political outsiders have dominated the news cycle over the past four years -- whether it's President Trump's successful foray into politics after a long business career, or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire Ocasio-Cortez: 'Won't you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway' House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump MORE's (D-N.Y.) fresh, progressive ideas that took her from Queens bartender to congresswoman. 

However, one Florida woman wants to give new meaning to the term political outsider through electing a turtle to be mayor of Clearwater. 

No, I'm not joking. 

Elizabeth Drayer says she wants a sea turtle to be elected mayor of the city so nature can be given a voice, according to The Tampa Bay Times. 

The only issue with the plan is that city rules say that only registered voters who reside in Clearwater are eligible to run for mayor -- meaning there aren't any turtles who made the cut.

So Drayer is throwing her name in the ring -- and running as "Elizabeth 'Sea Turtle' Drayer."

And just so we're clear, she's not accepting any financial contributions. 

"The sea turtle cannot be bought," she said. 

On that note -- we'll see you next week for the latest campaign news!