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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Democratic candidates urge caution after Iran shoots down drone

Tensions escalate with Iran

Eight of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates responded to U.S. tensions with Iran on Thursday, after U.S. officials say Iranian forces shot down an American military surveillance drone. Here's a round-up of what they had to say, thanks to CBS News Political Unit associate producer Ellee Watson and intern Julia Cherner:

Joe Biden

"President Trump's Iran strategy is a self-inflicted disaster. Two of America's vital interests in the Middle East are preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and securing a stable energy supply through the Strait of Hormuz. Trump is failing on both counts.  He unilaterally withdrew from the hard-won nuclear agreement that the Obama-Biden Administration negotiated to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Trump promised that abandoning the deal and imposing sanctions would stop Iran's aggression in the region. 

"But they've only gotten more aggressive. Trump also promised that walking away would somehow lead to a better deal – instead, the predictable has happened: Iran is building back up its nuclear capability. It's sadly ironic that the State Department is now calling on Iran to abide by the very deal the Trump Administration abandoned. By walking away from diplomacy, Trump has made military conflict more likely. Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need.

"Make no mistake: Iran continues to be a bad actor that abuses human rights and supports terrorist activities throughout the region. But what we need is presidential leadership that will take strategic action to counter the Iranian threat, restore America's standing in the world, recognize the value of principled diplomacy, and strengthen our nation and our security by working strategically with our allies."

Bernie Sanders

Julián Castro


Kirsten Gillibrand

Kamala Harris

Amy Klobuchar

Seth Moulton

John Delaney

"Withdrawing from the Iran agreement, alienating our allies, and ramping up the pressure on Iran without a clear strategy has created an inherently dangerous situation in the region and is a foreign policy failure by the Trump administration.  Make no mistake about it, Iran is a horrible actor - they sponsor terror, undermine the interest of the U.S. and our allies, and work to actively destabilize the Middle East.  If they shot down a U.S. asset over international territory, they must be held accountable.   We need a President with a strong and stable hand and strategic approach; we should not contribute mindlessly to conditions which could spark a crisis, put the extraordinary men and women of the U.S. military at risk, and undermine the interests of the citizens of the United States."


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Harris told reporters she might talk to Biden about his comments about his past working relationship with segregationist senators if she sees him, reports CBS News campaign reporter Stephanie Ramirez. She was asked about the former vice president's Wednesday night defense of his comments, when he also said Sen. Cory Booker should apologize. Harris told reporters, "I think they were misplaced and frankly misinformed, so I've said how I feel about it ... But I might when I see him." 

There may be more than one opportunity for the two to see one another in the coming weeks. Both are slated to appear at the South Carolina Democratic Convention and Rep. James Clyburn's World Famous Fish Fry this weekend, as well as on the debate stage in Miami next week.

Biden criticized for remarks on segregationist senators

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor, recently admitted he is "face blind" in a video with NowThis. Prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, is an impairment in the recognition of facial identity, according to the Prosopagnosia Research Center, says Ramirez. In the video, Hickenlooper says he could spend two hours with someone at night and when he would see that person the next day, he could not recognize them. He called this a "nightmare" working in the restaurant business and in politics. 

"But you learn to adapt. If someone looks at me like they know me, I just treat them like an old friend ... that overcompensation actually turns out to be, I think a good life skill. More of us probably could benefit from being friendlier when we first meet people," Hickenlooper said in the video. 


IN THE MIDDLE: As campaigns prepare for a busy July in the Hawkeye state, there continue to be announcements about adding staffers and expanding operations across the state, report CBS News campaign reporters Musadiq Bidar and Adam Brewster. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's campaign announced a big expansion of the Iowa staff today. 

By the end of the month the campaign will have over 30 paid staffers, including 26 organizers. The organizing effort will be led by Kevin Groh, who directed Stacey Abrams' get-out-the-vote effort in Georgia. The additions also include Julie Stauch, a veteran Iowa operative, as political director. 

In a statement, Iowa state director Brendan McPhillips said, "Since Pete announced his candidacy, we've seen a 20 times increase in volunteers in Iowa. Our ability to organize this energy in Iowa is central to the success of our campaign. That's why we are fully investing in organizing efforts by building a robust and talented team that will resource, train, and channel this grassroots energy. We plan to engage Iowans where they are, in every precinct across the state."

Also on the organizing front, the Warren campaign is opening 3 new field offices tonight and will open 4 more between tomorrow and next Tuesday. Warren's team has been one of the largest on the ground for many months in Iowa and is expanding its infrastructure ahead of summer. In a statement, Warren state director Janice Rottenberg said, "Across the state, our organizers are investing in communities and connecting with Iowans on Elizabeth's plans. Opening these seven field offices allows us to grow our operation from the precinct-level up."


MORE MOORE: Roy Moore announced he will be running for U.S. Senate in Alabama after losing to Democrat Doug Jones in a special election in 2017. Watson notes that Jones only beat Roy Moore in 2017 by 1.7 percentage points despite accusations against Moore of inappropriate conduct with women. 

In his press conference today, Moore blamed the loss on false accusations against him and the disinformation campaign by The Birmingham Project, which supported Jones without his knowledge. Moore's announcement elicited criticism from Donald Trump Jr and the Senate Leadership Fund super-PAC which is affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

KEEPING THE HOUSE: House Democrats have their 2020 eyes set on Texas to help keep and boost their majority, according to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chair Rep. Cheri Bustos. Bustos said nationwide, there are 33 battleground districts the DCCC is eyeing with six in Texas. 

"If you want to pinpoint one area where we think we have some tremendous opportunity, it would be Texas. Texas will be the California of 2018," Bustos told CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe. Bustos said the DCCC has four offices already set up in Texas, and that Rep. Will Hurd's district — one that Hillary Clinton won in 2015 and Hurd won by .5 point in 2018 — is of particular interest. 

CBS News Political Unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that the Illinois representative also talked about Biden's recent comments about working with a segregationist senator. "I mean, I don't care if you're a Democrat, an independent or a Republican, should denounce racism at any level. So I think that's number one on this. But the second part of it is working together, bipartisanship is a good thing. And I don't think, you know, the old compromise is not a dirty word," Bustos said. 

When asked what her ideal 2020 Democratic candidate would look like, she emphasized compromise and someone that can reach out to the communities the president won in 2016. 

"They would talk about the things that we're talking about right now, they would say that they do want to try to work together because I think that's important to everyday people. Most people do not see themselves through a lens of I'm a Democrat, I'm a Republican, they see themselves as I just want to do right by my family," she said.

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