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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Bernie Sanders, Democratic front-runner?

Sunrise Movement endorses Bernie Sanders
Sunrise Movement endorses Bernie Sanders 04:33

A new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll has Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leading the race in Iowa 24 days out from Caucus Day with 20% support among likely Democratic caucus-goers. Sanders is followed by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren with 17%, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 16% and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15%.

CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says Sanders' support is up 5 points compared to the Register's poll in November. Warren's support ticked up one point, while Buttigieg's plummeted 9 points and Biden's support did not change. "There's no denying that this is a good poll for Bernie Sanders. He leads, but it's not an uncontested lead," said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll told the Des Moines Register. "He's got a firmer grip on his supporters than the rest of his compatriots."

The poll, which was released four days before the Democratic debate in Des Moines, does not put any new candidates on the stage. The deadline to qualify for the debate is midnight Friday. Biden, Buttigeg, Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, Sanders and Warren have already qualified.  Outside of the top tier of candidates, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar saw her support remain at 6%. She was followed by entrepreneur Andrew Yang at 5% and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker at 3%. All other candidates were at or below 2%.  

The Iowa caucuses, which will be the first nominating contest of the 2020 Democratic primary, will be held on February 3rd. Seven of the last nine Democratic nominees have won the Iowa caucuses, including Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2008.

The survey, which began the day the United States killed top Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani, found that 57% of likely Democratic caucus-goers said foreign policy is an "extremely important issue for them." Meanwhile, respondents also said healthcare (68%), climate change (68%) and the gap between the rich and poor (59%) were extremely important issues. 

The poll, which was conducted from January 2 to January 8, surveyed 701 likely Democratic caucus-goers and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7%.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Before the cameras at a firefighters union hall in Southern California, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday renewed his endorsement of Joe Biden.  CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says the mayor will serve as a national campaign co-chair for the former vice president. 

The announcement is only the latest of a busy week of endorsements for Biden, including another Southern California mayor on Thursday. Garcetti has long been a fan of Biden's, one former senior presidential campaign aide remarking that the mayor "has been team Biden forever."

Also stumping for the former VP is South Carolina state Representative Marvin Pendarvis, who is visiting a different early state this week as he joins former Secretary of State John Kerry and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in Iowa Friday. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that days out from the seventh Democratic presidential debate in Iowa — and just 24 days away from the state's caucuses — Pendarvis said he wants to help display the diversity of the Biden campaign. "Iowa is going to be a critical part in this whole equation and so being out there is going to be important for me as a young leader….just to show the strength and the diversity of the support behind vice president Biden and really shoring that up."

The former O'Rourke backer-turned-Biden supporter is one of multiple endorsements in the state that Biden picked up in December. While Biden has maintained a comfortable lead in South Carolina, the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker showed him in a first-place tie with Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg in Iowa. 

"Iowans look at things in a different light and there's been a number of candidates that have been able to get in that space — operate that space — that Biden has kind of taken up in South Carolina," said Pendarvis. "So it's really just carving out that space of issues that are unique to [Iowa] but also trying to find out what the fabric of the community is there."

PETE BUTTIGIEG

Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled an infrastructure plan Friday that aims to create six million union jobs and ensure access to clean drinking water for every American. The plan also pledges to upgrade and repair at least half of the country's dilapidated roads and bridges by 2030. Greenville County Democratic Party chair Kate Franch told CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell that failing infrastructure continues to be one of the top issues in the South Carolina and that fixing the state's problem includes creating jobs, becoming more climate-friendly, and addressing decades of neglect. 

"Our Republican state leadership from the governor and the State House really has not done anything for at least 20 years or more in terms of just maintaining the status of our roads and bridges," said Franch. "As soon as you cross over the Georgia line or the North Carolina line into South Carolina, you know you're in South Carolina [because] the road changes, the feel of the road completely."

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card, un-repaired roads cost South Carolina drivers $557 per year, while 18% of the state's 77,364 miles of public roads are in poor condition. But roads and highways are just one of the state's several infrastructure challenges. Multiple cities have been dealing with tainted water in South Carolina for decades and reporting by The State in March revealed that 41 small utilities serving South Carolinians had exceeded the federal safety standard for lead in the water at least once since 2011. Buttigieg plans to invest $20 billion to replace three million lead service lines by 2030 in an effort to eliminate lead-contaminated water.

Buttigieg's South Carolina communications director, Lauren Brown, says that one way their team will be spreading this message to voters is including infrastructure conversations into their retail and roundtable events. Brown also adds that the plan aims to help rural residents and minority communities. 

"Few other campaigns are discussing the harm caused by past Department of Transportation and highway expansion projects which often and unfairly target black and brown communities," said Brown. "Pete's plans center the need to mitigate past injustices from transport planning of the past."

TOM STEYER

A new debate-qualifying Fox News poll shows billionaire Tom Steyer jumping ahead of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for second place amongst Democrats in South Carolina. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell explores why Steyer is suddenly looking competitive in the state.

Steyer's South Carolina campaign hasn't been on the ground as long as other teams, but as CBS News previously reported, the campaign has scaled up quickly. According to Steyer's South Carolina spokesperson, Tiffiany Vaughn Jones, the campaign now has 82 paid staffers on the ground — the most of any other presidential campaign in the state. 

"The conventional wisdom has been that certain people that were supposed to have already won in it, have already dropped out," said Steyer's South Carolina state director, Jonathan Metcalf  "You have to go directly to the voters in South Carolina and meet them where they are and Tom's message talks to people in a different way about what their experience is."

STATE-BY-STATE

IOWA

A set of new ads released in Iowa on Friday gives a look at some of the closing messages candidates will make with just over three weeks left until the Iowa Caucuses, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Former Vice President Biden's new ad "Tested" features news clips about the US and Iran, and makes the case that Biden has the experience and ability to lead on day one of his presidency. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, has a new ad hitting on her message of anti-corruption. The ad, titled "Ambassadors," focuses on Warren's pledge not to give ambassadorships to big donors just because they gave money to her campaign. 

And Senator Amy Klobuchar has a set of ads that focus on some of her plans if elected, such as lowering prescription drug prices, and her record of getting bills signed into law. But two of the ads have a local twist, as two of Klobuchar's state legislator endorsers, State Senator Liz Mathis and State Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, appear in the markets that house their districts. Montana Governor Steve Bullock also used a surrogate, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, in an advertisement back in the fall.

Brewster also looked at which campaigns have purchased local advertisements during the Super Bowl, which takes place the night before the Iowa caucuses. According to FCC records already filed, Senator Bernie Sanders leads the way with $65,500 in planned buys, followed by Warren with $43,000 and Biden with $18,000.

NEVADA

Though Julián Castro failed to secure a sizable base in Nevada during his presidential run, CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says the former Obama housing chief boasted a roster of several key progressive backers in the state. So far, only one of his prominent endorsers in Nevada has since publicly followed Castro to support Elizabeth Warren. Another had already made clear her second choice pick for another senator: Cory Booker. 

But many others are actively being lobbied by a myriad of campaigns looking to pick up their support. "I've committed to sit down with each candidate," Assemblyman Edgar Flores told CBS News of his endorsement process, citing a busy schedule of meetings in the coming days with nearly all of the campaigns in Nevada. Flores also thanked two White House hopefuls, Warren and Pete Buttigieg, for making time in their schedules to personally call him.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire's storied polling site, Dixville Notch, will continue its tradition of casting ballots first in the nation this primary season, says CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. As first reported by the Associated Press, the small Granite State community now has the required fifth resident required to vote on Feburary 11th. 

In June 2019, New Hampshire's Attorney General Office warned the tiny town via letter that it lacked the officials required to host an election, sending a letter to town moderator Tom Tillotson. Tillotson confirmed the good news Thursday after Les Otten, a longtime New England developer, said he plans to move to Dixville Notch from Maine ahead of the primary. 

"We're all a go," Tillotson told the Associated Press. 

This primary election marks the 100th year of New Hampshire holding the first presidential primary. Midnight voting will also take place in two other communities of less than 100 people in New Hampshire: Hart's Location, a small town in the White Mountains that began midnight voting to accommodate railroad workers in the 1940s, and Millsfield, just 12 miles south of Dixville Notch.

MONEY MATTERS

ON THE $$$

Small-dollar donations fueled Democratic candidates and progressive causes in 2019 like never before. According to the nonprofit ActBlue, their platform raised $1 billion dollars last year including $343 million raised in the fourth quarter which was the most contributions ever raised in any quarter in ActBlue's history. 

CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says more than six million people used the platform to make nearly 35 million donations to over 13,000 candidates and causes in 2019. Three million people who contributed were first time donors, and 40% of those new donors have given multiple times. It was the most contributions and most donors in any year. The average donation in 2019 was $30.50. While presidential candidates broke records in 2019 with fundraising, donors also raised $100 million for state and local candidates, up 36% from what was raised in 2017.

This comes after ActBlue's Republican equivalent, WinRed, announced it raised almost $70 million in the fourth quarter of 2019 more than doubling its third quarter total of $31 million. WinRed said it saw a surge where donation pages included the word "impeachment" or "impeach." 

WinRed launched in June in 2019. It's now raised more than $101 million in its first six months, which it points out was more than what ActBlue raised in its first five years.  

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez, who is term limited, is looking to make an announcement next week to run as a Republican in Florida's 26th Congressional district. The district is currently held by freshman Democrat Representative Debbie Murcarsel-Powell, who flipped the seat and won by 2 points in 2018. 

Clinton won the district by more than 15 points in 2016, but House Republicans like their chances here with Giménez's name identification and fundraising power. Per the Miami Herald, Giminez has also been in touch with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about running. In anticipation of the run, CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports the Florida Democratic Primary launched an ad calling out the Mayor for a "long history of abusing his power to enrich himself, his family and his wealthy donors."

Down in Kentucky, another GOP candidate is set to officially run. Attorney Todd McMurtry, who represented one of the Covington Catholic High School students, is going to challenge GOP-incumbent Representative Thomas Massie. The Courier-Journal reported that McMurtry is running to give Mr. Trump more support. "The reason that I am in the race is to support President Trump," McMurtry told the Courier-Journal. "I think that's what the people of the 4th District want out of an elected official, a congressman in Washington, and that's what I intend to do." 

DOWN BALLOT

TRAINING DAY

The National Democratic Training Committee (NDTC) held the first day of their "Train-the-Trainer" retreat in Washington D.C. on Friday, to prepare political professionals on how to train local leaders, campaign staff and candidates in all 50 states as part of the NDTC's "Blue Bench" program leading up to the 2020 elections.

In 2019, the NDTC trained nearly 700 people in Virginia, 82 of whom were candidates in local races. Getting more Democrats running in these races was an important spark for the NDTC's creation, which started training people in the fall of 2016, founder Kelly Dietrich said on Friday. He described the NDTC as an important resource for candidates, campaigns and local leaders involved with down-ballot races, which may not receive as much attention or can't afford guidance from other political organizations. 

"They want to make a difference but it's just them. They don't know how many votes they need. They're looking for someone to give them guidance, someone to give them help," Dietrich said. "When I realized that people who were running for office were forced to reinvent the wheel every time on their own, because we as a party, not intentional, had siloed off access to political experience, political wisdom, that knowhow on how to run campaigns."

The NDTC retreat hopes to give the trainers the best tactics on how to train, while using their own experiences to help candidates. Ryanne Olsen is the training and curriculum director at Emerge America, an organization focused on helping Democratic women in public office. Some of their 2018 candidates include freshmen House members Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Lucy McBath of Georgia. 

Olsen told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro she wanted to use her NDTC experience to supplement and widen her training skills. "Traditionally, there hasn't been that much information on how to run, how to make the decision to run, how to run a strong effective campaign. As soon as we reach out to communities that have been less heard. Women, people of color, LGBTQ, it becomes more difficult. So training organizations like Emerge and like NDTC help to break down those barriers," she said.

"The goal of this retreat is to make these political professionals the most effective trainers as possible, so they can help as many candidates, staff and local party leaders across all 50 states be successful," NDTC spokesperson Andrew Feldman added.

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