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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Bloomberg embraces straight-talking style to appeal to voters

Bloomberg says Dem debates don't "really matter"

WELCOME TO 2020. CBS NEWS' TRAIL MARKERS IS BACK.

HERE'S SOMETHING YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg is embracing a straight-talking, New York style on the campaign trail, which could appeal to voters looking for authenticity, CBS News political director Caitlin Conant and CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry report. A similarly blunt style was something that worked well for President Trump, another New Yorker, in 2016.

When answering a question in Fayetteville, North Carolina about whether the United States should reinstate the draft one day after the killing of the Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani, Bloomberg said that Americans weren't in good enough shape to fight.

"If I talk to the generals, 25 percent of all the people that come in physically can't do it," Bloomberg said in Fayetteville, the home of Fort Bragg. "Americans are getting soft and we're overweight, and we don't exercise and don't get good education, which you need to join the military in this day and age."

Bloomberg has also dismissed attacks from fellow Democrats regarding his personal fortune, which CBS News estimates is north of $50 billion.

"They're criticizing me for it. I don't know, ask them what they're doing. Why didn't they do that? They had a chance to go out and make a lot of money. And how much of their own money do they put into their campaigns?" Bloomberg recently told "CBS This Morning" co- host Gayle King.

Rather than shying away from it, Bloomberg leans into his billionaire status. A frequent refrain in his stump speech is that the massive donations he made in 2018 House races were pivotal in Democrats regaining control in the House. His campaign contributions, he said at an event in San Diego on Sunday, put "Nancy Pelosi in charge, and she has started to hold [Mr. Trump] accountable in the impeachment process. So it really made a difference."

The day after the House impeachment vote, Bloomberg held an event in Nashville. While the other candidates were duking it out on the debate stage in Los Angeles, Bloomberg was taking credit for the impeachment vote, saying it wouldn't have been possible without his financial involvement in the 2018 midterm elections.

At this same event, when protesters criticized Bloomberg for what they saw as his more moderate stances, he was quick to fire back.

"I'm doing more on the climate than you've even dreamed of. I've put a fortune into this thing, and we're still doing it," Bloomberg retorted.

Members of Bloomberg's own campaign have not been spared from his sharp tongue. At an event in Alexandria, Virginia, Bloomberg criticized his staff after they led him outside for a photo op in front of a closed-down coal factory. 

"This is one of the dumbest things we've ever done," Bloomberg said.

You won't find the blunt-speaking Bloomberg in his campaign TV ads, which are currently saturating the airwaves in much of the country.

But with a news cycle focused on impeachment, Iran, and the early-state contests he's skipping, will Bloomberg's straight talk help him break through the noise?

With the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll showing close contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bloomberg is hoping that he can convince voters in March's Super Tuesday states that he's the only candidate tough enough to defeat Mr. Trump.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports that with less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, Joe Biden is continuing to overwhelmingly target rural communities throughout the state. In fact, the last event he held in Des Moines before his current bus tour was in November, when former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and wife Christie Vilsack, endorsed him. On Monday, he wrapped his fourth bus tour in the state.

"We feel good about where this Iowa operation is and we feel good about where we are one month out," Biden campaign senior adviser Anita Dunn told Erickson, adding it's a "mistake" for campaigns to focus only on "larger population areas."

But the Biden campaign will be relying on ads to bring his message home in those areas, with $4 million in television and digital ads throughout the Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities and Sioux City areas. 

His campaign recently reportedly canceled ad spending in South Carolina between now and January 27, where he has been leading in recent polls. Campaign aides tell CBS News the strongest pockets of Biden's support in the state are in eastern Iowa, specifically the towns of Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Waterloo and Clinton. 

ELIZABETH WARREN

Mere days after dropping out of the race himself, Julian Castro endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president, reports CBS News Campaign Reporter Zak Hudak

"There's one candidate I see who is unafraid to fight like hell to make sure that America's promise will be there for everyone," Castro said in a video posted on Twitter that announced the endorsement.  

Although Castro's campaign never found momentum, it was praised by the left wing of the Democratic party. In a field with dwindling diversity, he was also the only Latino candidate.

But a Warren-Castro affiliation had been long anticipated. The two have tended to move in the same lane, both literally, when Castro stepped into Warren's photo line for a picture with the senator at Iowa's Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, and in policy, when Warren followed Castro in calling for the decriminalization of unlawful border crossings in July. 

Castro, who was considered a potential vice presidential pick long before he left the race, could prove a valuable surrogate for Warren in January, especially if she's held up in Washington for President Trump's impeachment trial. However, with less than a month until the Iowa caucus, potential supporters may remember that Castro spent much of November arguing that Iowa and New Hampshire should not be first-in-the-nation states.

MIKE BLOOMBERG

The verdict is in. Judy Sheindlin, best known as Judge Judy, is officially endorsing former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for president and has released an advertisement for his campaign, CBS News' Melissa Quinn wrote Monday.

The endorsement marks Sheindlin's first of a presidential candidate and comes after the famed judge of daytime television announced her support for Bloomberg in October, before he launched his campaign for president and after he vowed to sit out the race.

"I like to say you can judge someone's character by what they've done. Mike Bloomberg has done amazing things and will be a truly great president," Sheindlin says in the 30-second ad. "No one comes close to Mike Bloomberg's executive achievement, government experience and impactful philanthropy. His steady leadership will unite our country and bring us through these very challenging times."

Sheindlin, 77, served as the supervising judge of Manhattan Family Court before launching a television career with the Emmy-award winning show "Judge Judy," which debuted in 1996. A 2016 survey found that 10% of college graduates believe Sheindlin is on the U.S. Supreme Court.

STATE BY STATE

NEW HAMPSHIRE

In New Hampshire's first county-wide endorsement, Carroll County Chair Knute Ogren announced his support for Pete Buttigieg Monday, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga.

"As a person of faith, I appreciate how Pete speaks intelligently and authentically about faith in a way that drives all of us, regardless of our personal faith or lack of faith, to rebuild our community — a rare thing in today's politics," Ogren said in a statement. "With our nation so divided, he inspires us to serve and to be compassionate to one another — something our country desperately needs. And as a mayor and a veteran, he has embodied a humble life of service, and we can all learn from his example."

Carroll County, a largely rural home to just a sliver of New Hampshire's Democrats, voted for Donald Trump by a slender margin in 2016, with 50.3% casting their ballot for the President. Primary voters backed Sanders with 63%, picking the Vermont lawmaker over Secretary Hillary Clinton who won over just 36% of Carroll County. 

The county has experienced a shift in politics in recent years. While in 2016, Republicans occupied 12 of Carroll County's 15 seats, the GOP lost five of those seats to Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections. 

NEVADA

One of Joe Biden's earliest endorsers in Nevada is stepping up to a new role for his campaign: Nevada State Senator Yvanna Cancela, who once served as political director for the influential Culinary Union, was named a Nevada senior adviser on Monday, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Though the legislature isn't scheduled to reconvene for another year, Cancela cited her Southern Nevada constituents in explaining the move.

"They deserve better than Donald Trump and his attacks on immigrants, health care, and the environment — we all do. That is precisely why I'm on Team Joe: we must all do our part to defeat Donald Trump and I know by helping Joe win in February, we will be one step closer to making that a reality," she said in a statement released by the campaign

Also in Nevada, Tin reports that with less than two months until voting begins in Nevada's presidential contest, the state Democratic party has released the final list of thirteen candidates who have successfully filed for its caucus. Missing from Nevada's menu of candidates is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Even as competitors are ramping up staff, rolling out new endorsements, and buying air time in the "first in the West" caucus, Bloomberg's campaign has since made clear its plans to entirely skip the first four early states - including Nevada - and focus on Super Tuesday's mammoth haul of delegates

SOUTH CAROLINA

After hosting numerous town halls and roundtable discussions with half a dozen Democratic candidates this cycle, South Carolina Senator Marlon Kimpson has announced he's backing former Vice President Joe Biden for president. Kimpson told CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell Monday that after months of hosting events with candidates, Biden's ability to draw diverse crowds and the steady momentum he's maintained went into his final decision.

"I took some time over the holidays to digest all the information gleaned from the town halls," said Kimpson. "[Biden has] overwhelming support consistently in the African-American, which is the predominant demographic in my district."

One of just two Democratic senators representing South Carolina's Charleston County delegation, Kimpson's support could prove helpful in garnering the support of the more than 60,000 registered voters in his majority-black Senate district, which is comprised of both Charleston and Dorchester counties. Kimpson said that while some have accused him of showing favoritism even ahead of this endorsement, he just thought it was important that run-up to the primary contests was fair and said he thought some of the early criticisms that Biden received were unfair. In July, Kimpson was one of several African American leaders who met with Biden ahead of Representative Jim Clyburn's "World Famous Fish Fry," just days after he received criticism from Democratic rivals for comments about his ability to work with known segregationists. 

Kimpson spoke with reporters after the meeting, which was closed to the press, and CBS News reported at the time that the popular state senator said the former vice president's history showed that he's been a champion for civil rights.

He said ultimately, he decided to endorse now because he felt it was time to take a more active role in the process. "I took the job of vetting the candidates and requesting that the candidates engage with the citizens in my district very seriously and I kept an open mind pretty much throughout the whole process," Kimpson told CBS. "I just felt a need to get off the sidelines and make sure that I get involved in helping influence the election."

FOREIGN POLICY

REACTIONS TO SOLEIMANI STRIKE: CBS News associate producer Eleanor Watson and CBS News associate producer Ben Mitchell report that the Democratic candidates over the weekend and on Monday expressed concern over the long-term consequences of the U.S. strike killing Iranian Military Leader Qasem Soleimani. Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg both said there should be no weeping for Soleimani, but the United States needs to know if President Trump has a plan. Buttigieg initially called the strike an "assassination" as Warren and Bernie Sanders have done, but he walked that back in an interview on CNN Sunday, saying "I'm not interested in the terminology." Former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Sunday night criticizing the Democratic candidates "yes, but.." approach, saying that it is reasonable to ask questions about the decision but Trump should receive credit for taking out a guy like Soleimani.

AD WARS

EARLY CONTEST BUYS: CBS News associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports that Democratic presidential candidates are upping their TV and radio ad buys ahead of the first contests in the 2020 presidential primary race next month. According to Kantar Media tracking, Elizabeth Warren is leading the pack in regards to planned ad buys in early states with nearly $7 million in future reservations including more than $2.5 million in Iowa, more than $1.5 million in each New Hampshire and South Carolina and more than $1 million in Nevada.  

At the same time, Joe Biden has $3.8 million in TV ad buys planned with nearly $1.5 million in Iowa, more than $1.1 million in South Carolina, more than $830,000 in Nevada and $300,000 in New Hampshire. Bernie Sanders also has more than $3 million in ad reservations planned including nearly $2.5 million in Iowa, while Tom Steyer has more than $2.2 million in ad reservations in the early states with less than $1 million in each. Pete Buttigieg has nearly $600,000 in reservations in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Mike Bloomberg has them all beat in terms of dollars with nearly $10 million in ad reservations right now, but he is not competing in early-voting states. Bloomberg's biggest reservations are currently in California, Texas and Florida, with more than $1 million in each state. He also has more than half a million dollars in reservations in New York and Pennsylvania.

These expected buys come after candidates broke presidential race ad buy records in 2019, with billionaires paving the way. After jumping in the race, Mike Bloomberg spent more than $135 million on TV ads through December 31 of last year. Tom Steyer was right behind with $113 million on TV and radio ads in 2019. 

Other candidates didn't even come close. Bernie Sanders spent more than $10.5 million, Pete Buttigieg spent nearly $10 million, Andrew Yang spent $6.5 million, Elizabeth Warren spent $3 million, Joe Biden spent more than $2.5 million and Amy Klobuchar spent more than $2 million. By comparison, Donald Trump spent just over $7 million in 2019.

DIGITAL: Starting today, Google's updated policy on political advertisements goes into effect across its various platforms, CBS News Associate Producer Ben Mitchell reports. 

The company will ban or limit certain types of microtargeted ads that political campaigns use to reach specific voters based on information specific to a voter or certain voting groups. The change comes as social media and digital media companies grapple with how best to moderate and combat misinformation during elections. 

Google's platforms, which include YouTube as well as traditional page ads, have largely taken a backseat to Facebook in the eyes of the media, due in part to Facebook's outsized role in the spread of misinformation during the last presidential election.

But Google's influence can't be ignored. One need look no further than the digital spending footprint of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spent more than $14 million on ads hosted by Google's platforms since entering the race in November, surpassing the total President Trump has spent this entire election cycle. By comparison, Bloomberg has spent just $5.4 million on Facebook ads to date. That's in part because Bloomberg is not as focused as his peers on grassroots fundraising, something Facebook ads are exceptionally good at driving.  But Google's changes may not make a massive difference in the long run: the company will still allow campaigns to buy ads based on gender, race and zipcode, three very potent tools when targeting ads to critical voting groups.

IN THE SENATE

 SENATE FUNDRAISING

According to numbers released by his campaign, Representative Joe Kennedy raised around $2.4 million in the final fundraising quarter of 2019 in his U.S. Senate bid. Kennedy announced in September he would challenge incumbent Democrat Ed Markey. Markey's campaign told CBS News associate producer Eleanor Watson that the senator's reelection campaign raised over $1.4 million during the fundraising quarter, which is an increase of over 30 percent from the prior quarter. 

Topping his previous fundraising haul, South Carolina Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, who's waging a campaign to unseat Republican incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham, announced another "record-breaking" quarter, raising more than $3.5 million in Q4, according to LaCrai Mitchell.  This total not only surpasses the $2.1 million that Harrison's team brought in for Q3 but also exceeds the $3.29 million that Graham raised in Q3. Touting over 67,000 total individual contributors, Harrison's cash on hand total of $4.6 million is just over half of what Graham had in the bank at the conclusion of Q3.

Mitchell reports that in a press release Monday, Harrison said he's running to be the change that he says South Carolina deserves. "This campaign is about bringing hope back into the lives of the people of the Palmetto State and bringing a spirit of public service back to the Senate."

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