The Hill's Campaign Report: Four-way sprint to Iowa finish line

The Hill's Campaign Report: Four-way sprint to Iowa finish line
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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. 

 

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LEADING THE DAY:

BREAKING: Former Maryland Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyNevada caucuses open with a few hiccups Lobbying world The Hill's Campaign Report: Four-way sprint to Iowa finish line MORE ended his presidential bid ahead of Monday's Iowa Caucuses, telling CNN's New Day that he did not have sufficient support to hit the 15 percent viability threshold needed in the Hawkeye State. Delaney also said he did not want to risk peeling away support from other moderate candidates like former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket MORE, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket The Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina MORE and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. The Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing MORE (D-Minn.). 

Read more: Delaney ends White House bid

 

We're three days away from the first round of voting in the 2020 Democratic nominating contest, and we're still looking for answers.

The Iowa caucuses will be held on Monday, and Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDNC warns campaigns about cybersecurity after attempted scam Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Biden looks to shore up lead in S.C. MORE (I-Vt.) are running in a dead-heat for first place. But Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Push for national popular vote movement gets boost from conservatives MORE (D-Mass.) aren't far behind. There's also the possibility of a surprise finish by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who just this week snuck into double digits in a Monmouth University poll. 

To be sure, Iowa isn't necessarily a must-win state for the eventual nominee, whomever it may be (although no Democratic nominee since Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton6 ways the primary fight is toughening up Democrats for the fall general election Rahm Emanuel: 'Panic would be the adjective to describe the mood' over Sanders Do Trump and Sanders hate America? MORE has won the nomination without taking the top prize in Iowa). But Monday's vote will give us a clearer indication of who has momentum in the race – and what Democratic voters are actually looking for in a candidate. Will Biden's claim that he's the candidate best equipped to beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE in November be the message that wins over the party? Or will Sanders's premise that voters are more progressive than once thought prove true?

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Iowa could matter more for some candidates than it will for others. Klobuchar, for example, has ramped up her efforts in the state in recent months in hopes of pulling off a better-than-expected finish on Monday. The same holds true for Buttigieg, who has polled well for months in Iowa and New Hampshire, both predominantly white states, but has lagged in more diverse states like Nevada and South Carolina, meaning that an under-par performance in the Hawkeye State could portend trouble for his campaign. 

There's also the question of how recent changes to caucus rules could affect the overall results. Unlike in past cycles, caucusgoers that join the "uncommitted" groups at the beginning of the night could get stuck there if those groups are considered viable (in most precincts, that means notching at least 15 percent support). And for the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party will report three numbers at the end of the night: which candidate had the most votes at the beginning of the caucus process, which candidate had the most votes at the end and the total number of delegates won by each candidate – a change that raises the possibility of multiple candidates declaring victory in the state. In years past, the party only reported how many delegates each candidate won.

All this adds up to an uncertain Caucus Night, but one that will say a lot about the state of the race. 

The Hill's Niall Stanage was on the ground in Iowa for President Trump's campaign rally on Thursday 

Niall reports on Trump's strategy of stealing Democrats' thunder ahead of Monday's caucuses in The Memo

 

READ MORE:  

The Iowa Democratic caucuses, mapped, by The Hill's Reid Wilson and Ashley Perks

 

FROM THE TRAIL:

Biden's allies are growing anxious about former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergGiuliani: Bloomberg 'jeopardized' stop and frisk by 'overusing it' Bloomberg calls on Trump to implement firearm background checks The Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina MORE, believing he will siphon off Biden's centrist support on Super Tuesday and pave the way for Sanders to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes report.

 

Some Democratic National Committee (DNC) members and supporters of Sanders are venting frustration at DNC Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE over his initial appointments to the committees that will oversee the rules and party platform at the nominating convention in Milwaukee later this year. Jonathan Easley reports.

 

The Hill interviewed former Massachusetts Gov. William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldBoston Globe endorses Trump's GOP challenger Bill Weld Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Buttigieg expands on climate plan with new proposals MORE (R) about his longshot bid to defeat President Trump in the GOP primary.

 

Bloomberg told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that he is willing to participate in the Democratic presidential debates, but will not change his policy on self-funding his campaign in order to meet the DNC's debate requirements. 

 

The Hill's Rebecca Klar was on the scene with Bloomberg and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser following her endorsement of the former New York City mayor on Thursday. 

 

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PERSPECTIVES:

Sanders surges while Warren wanes, by Brad Bannon 

Could Biden steamroll the Democratic field? by Keith Naughton

Bloomberg really gets under Trump's skin -- and that's good for Bloomberg, by Albert Hunt

 

FROM CONGRESS AND THE STATES:

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Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler releases new ad targeting Sanders's 'socialism' The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats reckon with Sanders's rise House Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid MORE (R-Ga.) announced on Wednesday that he will challenge Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerLoeffler releases new ad targeting Sanders's 'socialism' The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats reckon with Sanders's rise House Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid MORE (R-Ga.) in Georgia's special Senate election this year, setting up a ferocious intraparty fight that Republicans in the state fear will weaken them in 2020. 

There's a lot to unpack here. Collins applied to fill the seat of former Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler releases new ad targeting Sanders's 'socialism' House Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid Progressive group backs Senate candidates in Georgia, Iowa MORE (R-Ga.) last fall, but was ultimately snubbed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who tapped Loeffler, the wealthy CEO of an Atlanta-based financial services firm, for the seat in December. That appointment infuriated some conservatives, who questioned the fairness of the application process. Loeffler was sworn in earlier this month and has since sought to prove her conservative bonafides by tying herself to Trump, even running ads in her home state touting her support for the president. But Loeffler remains a relatively unknown quantity in Georgia, and recent polls showed her trailing Collins in favorability. 

Under the state's current rules, there will not be partisan primaries to determine the Republican and Democratic nominees in the November special election. Instead, candidates from all parties will appear on the same ballot – a process known as a jungle primary. If no candidate scores at least 50 percent of the vote, it will trigger a runoff election, currently slated for January 2021. That system works to the advantage of Loeffler, because it gives her more time to introduce herself to voters and build a reputation in the Senate.

But Collins' allies in the Georgia state legislature could complicate things for Loeffler. The state House Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday advanced a measure that would require Georgia to hold a partisan primary for Loeffler's seat in May instead of the all-party jungle primary. In that scenario, Collins would likely have an advantage. He's already known in Georgia Republican circles, and he's likely to have the support of the conservative activist base he'll need to emerge victorious in a partisan primary. 

Here's what one longtime GOP operative in Georgia told Max this week: "I don't think it's a question that Doug is absolutely 100 percent built for a Republican primary. The fact that the Republican base is energized by him is definitely going to be problematic for Loeffler. It's absolutely the right move for him because he's not on good terms with the governor anyway. He has nowhere to go but up or out."

Collins' entrance into the race, however, is threatening to tear a rift in the Republican Party. Loeffler has the support of McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), while Collins is hoping to rally the support of Trump's allies and the conservative base. Kevin McLaughlin, the executive director of the NRSC, issued a statement on Wednesday condemning Collins' Senate campaign, arguing that it would weaken Republicans' hold, not just on Loeffler's seat, but on Sen. David Perdue's seat and the White House. "Doug Collins' selfishness will hurt [Sen.] David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come. All he has done is put two senate seats, multiple house seats, and Georgia's 16 electoral votes in play."

The Hill: Prominent Democratic pastor jumps into Georgia Senate race.

The Hill: Conservative group running ads against Collins.

 

Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosHouse GOP campaign arm mocks Democrats after stumbling upon internal info on races Julián Castro endorses Rep. Cuellar's primary opponent in Texas Vulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders MORE (D-Ill.), the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), has reached out to a handful of her party's former presidential candidates to help boost down-ballot Democrats in 2020, Max reports. She told reporters at a meeting on Thursday that she had reached out to Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. House passes historic legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (D-Calif.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian CastroJulian CastroThe Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg to face off with rivals at Nevada debate How the media fall in and out of love with candidates Key Latino group endorses Sanders ahead of Nevada caucuses MORE in recent weeks. Another former candidate, Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeCNN signs Andrew Yang as contributor Krystal Ball: Voters are coming to their own judgements about who is electable Warren campaign to host series of events in Texas MORE (D-Texas), got in touch with the DCCC to offer his support after he dropped out of the presidential race in November. "He called me shortly after he got out of the presidential and said 'I am at your disposal. You let me know what you need from me, if I can be of help in any way,' which is a very generous offer," Bustos said. "It means a lot, especially in Texas."

 

The Hill's Alex Gangitano reports that the joint fundraising committee, McConnell for Majority Leader, is hosting a fundraiser in the Miami area over Super Bowl weekend. A source said the event was scheduled "months ago," but did not specify whether McConnell would attend. The fundraiser is slated to last for an hour and requires a personal contribution of up to $20,600 per individual to the fundraising committee. 

 

Sanders endorses 9 progressive House candidates, by The Hill's Tal Axelrod 

McConnell challenger McGrath endorses Biden, by The Hill's Julia Manchester 

Bloomberg lands Utah's lone Democratic rep as sixth congressional endorsement, by The Hill's Julia Manchester 

 

MONEY WATCH:

Senate Majority PAC (SMP), the super PAC affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Democratic mega-donor reaching out to Pelosi, Schumer in bid to stop Sanders: report Trump administration freezes funding for study of hurricane barriers: report MORE (D-N.Y.) raised $61 million in 2019, The Hill's Tal Axelrod reports. It's a record for the group in a nonelection year. Democrats are hoping to cut into the Republican Senate majority in a year where the GOP is defending 23 seats.

 

POLL WATCH:

MONMOUTH IOWA

Biden: 23 percent (-1)

Sanders: 21 percent (+3)

Buttigieg: 16 percent (-1)

Warren: 15 percent (+/-0)

Klobuchar: 10 percent (+2)

Steyer: 4 percent (+/-0)

Yang: 3 percent (+/-0)

 

QUINNIPIAC NATIONAL

Biden: 26 percent (+1)

Sanders: 21 percent (+2)

Warren: 15 percent (-1)

Bloomberg: 8 percent (+2)

Klobuchar: 7 percent (+3)

Buttigieg: 6 percent (-2)

Yang: 3 percent (-2)

Steyer: 2 percent (+1)

 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:

There are 3 days until the Iowa caucuses, 11 days until the New Hampshire primary, 22 days until the Nevada caucuses, 29 days until the South Carolina primary and 32 days until Super Tuesday.

 

ONE FUN THING: 

TOTS2020: Klobuchar has been recognized for her retail politicking abilities in her neighboring state of Iowa since she entered the Democratic primary last year, but the Minnesota senator also knows the way to voters' hearts through their stomachs. 

The Minnesota Star Tribune highlighted Klobuchar's Taconite Tater Tot Hot Dish this week, reporting that the dish has been "conscripted" to help Klobuchar win her party's presidential nomination. 

The dish, which was named for a rock that is mined in Minnesota's Iron Range, has become a sort-of staple of small gatherings for Klobuchar supporters, known as Hot Dish House Parties.

Klobuchar first started spreading the recipe around last year in New Hampshire. The dish has a pretty patriotic history and was developed around WWII to help families save meat. 

And while Sanders, Warren and Michael BennetMichael Farrand Bennet Biden proposes 0B housing plan Nevada caucuses open with a few hiccups Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan MORE have had to rely on surrogates while they've been in Washington for the impeachment trial, Klobuchar has relied (somewhat) on Taconite Tater Tots. 

We won't know the actual impact the tots had on voters until Monday's caucuses, but be sure to check in with us on Tuesday afternoon, when we start giving you a daily dose of campaign news leading up to Election Day in November! 

BRB going to get some tots.