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2020 Daily Trail Markers: House Democrats embrace impeachment despite political risk

Daily Trail Markers: Sanders on impeachment

A majority of freshman Democrats who won House districts held by Republicans in 2018 now support an impeachment inquiry, spurred by the whistleblower complaint about President Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian president. As of Thursday afternoon, CBS News Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro counts that 35 of the 43 freshman Democrats who flipped districts in last year's midterm elections had expressed support for an impeachment inquiry or believe the president's actions rise to the level of impeachable offenses if the whistleblower's claims prove to be true.

It's a notable shift, as most of these freshmen had tight elections in 2018 and were previously tight-lipped on impeachment, partly out of concern for their own re-election efforts.

In interviews with CBS News, some of these lawmakers acknowledged the political risk their actions could have in their reelections. Representative Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said "every day is a political risk," but called the whistleblower complaint "deeply troubling" and a threat to the integrity of future elections.

Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan: "I understand that there may be political risk, but I can't be basing decisions of integrity based on that." Vaughn Derderian is Democratic county chair of Oakland County, which is within Slotkin's district. To him, impeachment doesn't add that much more of a challenge. "If you were already planning on a hard election, if you were planning for an election to be an 8 to a 9 on difficulty scale, how much can impeachment add to that? Nine to 9.5? That's not too much."

Republicans are hoping the impeachment shift could boomerang and hurt House Democrats in 2020. The National Republican Congressional Committee issued press releases criticizing each new member who took a stance on impeachment, and chairman Tom Emmer said in a statement that "backing impeachment will cost the Democrats their majority in 2020."

Republican Party of Texas spokesman Sam Pohl said it could hurt two freshmen in Texas, Representatives Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher. "They've become more focused on that than they are on solving tough issues facing Texas," Pohl told Navarro. "I think they're stuck between a rock and a hard place — far left folks saying, 'Hey we need impeachment. We need it now.' But if these polling results are accurate, a majority of folks don't want it."

Spanberger won by 2 points in Virginia's 7th Congressional District, one that Trump won by over 6 points. She currently has two Republican challengers filed, though she has close to a million-dollar lead. 

"In a district like mine, everything's risky, right?" Spanberger said. "Everybody disagrees with me, everybody agrees with me. It's a mix. So this is an issue of duty, this is an issue of constitutional responsibility."

FROM THE CANDIDATES

ELIZABETH WARREN

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday offered a rare critique of Senator Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for All" bill, for which Warren is a co-sponsor, CBS News Campaign Reporter Zak Hudak reports. "What we've got in Medicare for All is a framework, and it doesn't have the details," Warren in Keene, New Hampshire, told a man with multiple sclerosis who worried aloud about losing coverage during the transition to Medicare for All. 

Sanders senior adviser Warren Gunnels fired back Thursday. "#MedicareForAll isn't a framework. It's a 100-page bill. There have been 2 white papers released on how to finance it & a 200-page study from UMass showing our financing options more than cover the expense," he tweeted

The issue of health care is a potential weakness for Warren, who despite being known for her laundry list of plans and proposals, has backed Sanders' plan without releasing one of her own. But her "framework" comment on Wednesday showed that she may be willing to break from Sanders in the future when it comes to Medicare for All implementation. 

CORY BOOKER

While campaigning in Goffstown, New Hampshire, Senator Cory Booker said his campaign put out a fundraising all-call because, "we got to a point where we saw candidates that were raising multiples of what we were raising. They had 100% name recognition, and we were not going to be able to stay in competition with them." 

CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga says the New Jersey lawmaker implored Granite State voters to pitch in, noting if he does not hit his $1.7 million fundraising goal by end of quarter filing deadline Monday, "I am likely not going to be in this race." As of 9 a.m. this morning, the campaign raised over $1.1 million dollars, according to a spokesperson. 

IN THE STATES

NEVADA

Pete Buttigieg's campaign announced Thursday that it would base two members of its national staff in Las Vegas: Travis Brock, national caucus director, and Juan Carlos Perez, national Latinx engagement director. The South Bend mayor's Nevada team has also grown, naming a new senior adviser, Martin Fitzgerald, deputy political director Katie Davis and communications director Olivia Bercow.

Though still far smaller than Nevada's largest campaign teams, CBS News Campaign Reporter Alex Tin says Sanders expects to have nearly 70 people on payroll in the "first in the West" caucus state by the end of the month, ahead of Warren's total of "more 50 paid staff." Buttigieg has also recently ramped up, totaling 35 paid staff in the state.

CALIFORNIA

Tin says the National Union of Healthcare Workers split its endorsement Thursday between Warren and Sanders, after majorities of its 15,000 California members voiced support for both candidates. Under state director Nicole DeMont, the Warren campaign's sole paid California staffer, the Massachusetts senator surged to a lead in a Berkeley IGS poll this week at 29% among Golden State Democrats, peeling off likely voters from Kamala Harris, Buttigieg and Biden. 

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

Former House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, who retired last year, is running for Congress once again, reports Navarro. The California Republican announced Thursday he will campaign for the House seat currently occupied by Duncan Hunter, a GOP congressman who faces federal charges over alleged misuse of campaign funds. Issa had launched an exploratory committee in late August, during which he said he received more than 2,400 letters and checks averaging $82 asking him to run. 

"In politics, when thousands respond to 'I'm looking at this ... I'm exploring it,' you pay attention," he said at his press conference in El Lujan, California. Hunter's trial was originally slated for September 10 but was moved to January 14, 2020 — less than two months before California's multi-step primary, in which the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party, are chosen to face off in the general election. 

Issa shied away from discussing Hunter's charges, and said he mainly just wanted to keep the seat red. Hunter had consistently won the district by wide margins but faced a close reelection in 2018. Issa himself also faced a tight race in 2016, which he said was a factor in his retirement announcement before the 2018 midterms and his former district, California's 49th, was flipped by Democrat Mike Levin in 2018. Another Republican challenger, Carl DeMaio, said he is staying in the race and has raised over $900,000 within the first 25 days of their campaign. 

Campa-Najjar, the leading Democratic contender for the seat, blasted Issa, who was once the wealthiest member of Congress. 

"It's pretty obvious what's happening here. We currently have a congressman who is facing a criminal trial and completely unfit to serve, so a bunch of other politicians — including those who don't even live here — see it as an opportunity to advance their own careers," he said in a statement.

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