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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Biden campaign sees opportunity in Ukraine issue

Daily Trail Markers: Buttigieg focusing Iowa voters

Don't expect Joe Biden to lead the charge on presidential impeachment as he seems to be playing a long game, CBS News Campaign Reporter Bo Erickson writesRemember, the former vice president has already been through two impeachment processes during his time in the Senate so he knows what he is looking for.

Since May, Biden has consistently said the decision on whether to impeach President Trump is up to House Democrats. A senior campaign official told Erickson that the campaign would not recalculate it message on impeachment, although Biden has been sharply critical of Mr. Trump's decision to reach out to the Ukrainian government about his son Hunter Biden.

The younger Biden had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company when his father was vice president. In a July phone call, Mr. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to "look into" whether Joe Biden encouraged Kiev to fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son. The House impeachment inquiry is expected to focus on whether Mr. Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens.

But even as they outwardly project an untroubled attitude in tangentially dealing with this impeachment inquiry, the Biden campaign is not letting this opportunity float by. The campaign has fundraised off this episode at least four times since Saturday. One senior campaign official said this is because "we're under attack" and donating is one ways supporters fight back.

Some in Biden's orbit, like two of his long-time fundraisers, argue that the Ukraine issue will benefit his campaign because it indicates Mr. Trump sees the former vice president as his most formidable opponent.

Something else to consider: Will the House impeachment proceedings wrap before the 2020 election? Erickson tweets the historical context:

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Separately, CBS News Campaign Reporter Alex Tin says Biden's campaign sponsored Wednesday's influential "Shepherd's Breakfast" in Las Vegas, with supporter Chris Scott praising Biden's record as vice president to the monthly gathering of black pastors and community leaders. While campaigns have flocked to support the monthly summit in the 11 years since Pastor Bill McDonnell founded it, Biden's campaign is the first of the 2020 candidates to help foot the bill. 

Courting Nevada's black church community could be key to protecting Biden's lead among African Americans in Nevada. A poll this week from the Reno Gazette Journal and Suffolk University found the former vice president netting 34 percent among black likely caucus-goers in the state, with only Bernie Sanders (16 percent) also clearing double digits.  

CORY BOOKER

New Hampshire lawmakers and Democratic activists are rallying around Senator Cory Booker following the release of a campaign memo indicating the presidential contender needs to raise at least $1.7 million dollars by the end of the third fundraising quarter ending September 30, in order to compete in the latter stages of the Democratic presidential campaign. "I'm undecided, but @CoryBooker is on my shortlist. He needs to stay in the race!" New Hampshire State Senator Cindy Rosenwald announced on twitter Saturday.

One of Booker's top supporters, veteran Democratic campaign operative Jim Demers, tells CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga a winnowed field and two-night debate may aid the New Jersey lawmaker, should the campaign make their end-of-the-month fundraising deadline. "It's going to give the candidates a chance to answer substantively on the issues," Demers said. 

The former Obama senior advisor recalls then Illinois then-Senator Barack Obama's "take-off moment" in November of 2007 at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, Iowa. "We're heading into that same kind of time period where the voters have paid attention, but they haven't really locked up a decision." He added, "I'm really hopeful that we see a similar situation where Cory Booker has his moment and then takes off."

"It's like the Kentucky Derby," New Hampshire State Senator David Watters, an early Booker backer, tells Sganga. "Every horse finishes the race, but you want to be at the front of the pack. You don't want to finish 20 legs back." His presidential pick, Watters attests, has the kind of energetic New Hampshire ground game and message required to finish in the pack.  

Booker has received the backing of three New Hampshire state senators and thirteen state representatives in a presidential cycle that has seen few early political endorsements relative to years past. The household name to many in New Hampshire's political class fostered goodwill by fundraising upwards of $170,000 during the 2018 elections for New Hampshire's Democratic ticket, according to a senior adviser. 

The former Newark Mayor was the only presidential contender to campaign for down ballot candidates, ignoring instructions from party leaders to skip New Hampshire's midterms. The senator returns to the Granite State on Thursday to participate in a "first-in the-nation" staple, Politics and Eggs. The event, organized by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, will put the New Jersey Senator before an audience of local political kingmakers, business leaders and students four days before the third-quarter fundraising deadline.

MARK SANFORD

Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford wrapped up a four day swing in Iowa on Wednesday with retail stops at a farm equipment dealership in Ankeny and an Arby's in Des Moines, where he chatted with people enjoying some lunch. At his stop in Ankeny, CBS News Campaign Reporter Adam Brewster says Sanford commented on the release of the call summary from the President's conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling it "troubling." 

"When you have the President of the United States in essence offering the aid of the Attorney General to a foreign government in their help of investigation of a political opponent, that in our form of government is crossing a red line," Sanford said. "I would just encourage my Republican colleagues or former Republican colleagues to look at this and say 'how would I react if a Democratic president was doing the same?'" 

Sanford wouldn't say whether the transcript itself showed an impeachable offense, adding that it had to play out in institutions like the House before that could be decided.

Sanford's trip to Iowa featured mostly retail stops, where he spent time without cameras at restaurants, grocery stores and other places talking to voters about issues they face and how they feel about Mr. Trump. Three people who spoke to Sanford at the Arby's told reporters later that they are Republicans, and at this point plan to support Mr. Trump. In March, a Des Moines Register/CNN poll found the president had an 81% approval rating with Republicans in the state.                                  

EARLY STATES

IN THE MIDDLE

A new Des Moines Register/CNN poll shows likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers are split on whether it's more important for Iowa to retain its first in the nation caucus status or switch to a primary to increase participation. CBS News Campaign Reporter Adam Brewster says 42% of respondents said it's more important for Iowa to remain first, even if it means "not everyone who wants to can participate," while 44% say it's more important to hold a primary so "everyone can vote," even if it comes at the expense of Iowa's first in the nation status. 

Another 14% said they're not sure. The poll has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points. 

New Hampshire state law requires New Hampshire to be the first primary state, meaning a switch by Iowa could jeopardize its status as the first state to express presidential preference. The Democratic National Committee required caucus states, including Iowa, to find ways to increase voter participation in the 2020 cycle. The Iowa Democratic Party initially proposed a "telecaucus" system to do that, but the idea was rejected by the DNC's Rules & Bylaws Committee over security concerns. 

Last Friday, Iowa proposed a "satellite caucus" system, essentially allowing caucuses to be held outside of the preset precincts, which was conditionally approved by the DNC. Iowa's Democratic and Republican parties have consistently presented a united front that Iowa should retain its first-in-the-nation caucus status and have vowed to push back on anything that may alter that.

ISSUES THAT MATTER

TO YOUR HEALTH

As health care remains a top priority among voters and 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, the 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey released Wednesday found family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose 5% to an average of more than $20,000 this year. 

On average, workers contribute $6,015 toward the cost of family coverage while employers pay the rest. CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Sarah Ewall-Wice notes that, according to the survey, what employers and workers pay toward health care premiums continues to rise more quickly than workers' wages and inflation. 

Since 2009, average family premiums have increased 54% and workers contributions has increased 71%. The survey also found that while the 2020 Democratic primary has been highlighting the role of employer-sponsored health benefits, workers at firms with many low-income employees face some of the biggest challenges when it comes to affording care for their families. This is in part due to employers offering benefits to smaller shares of their workforces and requiring workers to pay higher premiums.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

On Wednesday, the Senate voted again to terminate Mr. Trump's national emergency at the border, reports CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ellee Watson. Congress voted in March to terminate the declaration but did not have enough votes to override the president's veto. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a digital ad campaign targeting incumbent Republican senators who did not vote to terminate the emergency declaration that will divert millions from defense projects in their states, according to estimates by the Department of Defense. The ads against six incumbent GOP Senators will run primarily on Facebook.

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