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2020 Daily Trail Markers: How the Democratic candidates are prepping for the debate

Democrats prepare for 2020 debates
Democrats prepare for 2020 debates 14:40

It's the first night of the first 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate. Here's how the candidates are getting ready:

A campaign spokesperson told CBS News that during the debates, Beto O'Rourke "will lift up the stories of those he's met all across the country, connect them to the many robust plans he has outlined, and share his vision for how we can bring more people into this democracy to confront the greatest set of challenges we've ever faced."

Sen. Kamala Harris has been prepping in D.C. when she's in town for her Senate duties and has also been huddling with advisers and aides in Miami, prepping today and yesterday. She ordered in Cuban for dinner last night (arroz con pollo) and Caribbean (stewed fish and callaloo) for lunch today. The campaign sees the debate as a huge opportunity to introduce the California senator to millions of Americans who may not know much about her. The campaign says they'll see her commitment to an agenda that isn't focused on ideological debates but tangible solutions that impact people's lives. She will also continue to show why she think's she's the best candidate to prosecute the case against four more years of President Trump.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar jokingly told the crowd at the Planned Parenthood forum in South Carolina that at Rep. Jim Clyburn's fish fry, she was trying to get some of the guys on the debate stage to promise to kneel when she speaks so she looks taller. Klobuchar will be near O'Rourke and Gov. Jay Inslee.

Sen. Cory Booker has been doing a lot of pushups through debate prep, according to a campaign official. Monday's prep session included a La Croix and popcorn after doing some bicep curls between sessions. A memo released by the campaign states that Booker's goal for the debates is to introduce himself to Democrats tuning in for the first time. He will emphasize why he is running for president and his background living in Newark.

Rep. Eric Swalwell's campaign told CBS News that Swalwell "is working with his team of advisers this week to ensure that he makes the most of this opportunity to communicate his vision of a safer, healthier nation in which all Americans share in our prosperity. Time will be limited on this debate stage, but he's confident that a young, experienced leader who lives like Americans do and feels what they feel can make a real impression."

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro has used the last multi-candidate events to prepare for the debate, according to a campaign spokesperson. At these events, he has practiced differentiating himself from other candidates and winning over crowds. The spokesperson also said Castro has been rolling out more policy and working with his team during sessions at their hotel condensing 15-page policy rollouts to one minute bites.

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney plans to go after Sen. Bernie Sanders on healthcare. His campaign believes there will be a Sanders-esque candidate at the end of the primary, whether it's Sanders himself or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and then a moderate candidate. Delaney's team believes he will be that candidate over former Vice President Joe Biden, who the campaign believes has his own lane that's prone to gaffes. To prepare, Delaney has been doing one-on-one questions with his staff and studying the 2016 GOP debates because of the field size, and the 2008 Democratic debates which had the last large field of Democrats.

Author Marianne Williamson's communications director Patricia Ewing said the campaign wasn't worried about standing out on a crowded stage and added, "I would if she were a typical politician but she is not. She stands out in every crowd, like in South Carolina. She has a unique message and voice, that should stand out." In terms of prep, Ewing said Williamson is rehearsing and talking to people about issues.

Gov. Jay Inslee told Stephanie Ruhle in an interview on MSNBC Tuesday that he was looking forward to the debate, saying "it should be fun." He compared his strategy approaching this debate to his time as a basketball player: "I played basketball for many years and during practice you try and beat the other guy one-on-one. When it's game time, you unite. I'm going to show a record of unparalleled success." He also told reporters in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami about how he plans to use his first introductory moment to voters. He said progressive policies "cannot succeed ultimately unless we defeat the climate crisis. Making this pledge that defeating the climate crisis will be the priority of the United States if given this honor. It will be the organizing principle of my administration, proved in Washington you can develop a clean energy economy while improving access to education, healthcare ... We have to put the priority and muscle behind defeating the climate crisis. And that's what I intend to do."

And on the Republican side…

According to White House producer Fin Gomez, some of Mr. Trump's senior campaign and White House aides want him to tweet. The president is uncertain whether he will, but a senior adviser says to expect him to. It may not be a live-tweet format, more just tweeting at his opponents sporadically.  

Mr. Trump said he might live tweet, but also seemed uncertain in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity about six days ago. 

"I wasn't thinking about it, but maybe I will now," Trump said to Hannity. "Instead of fake news, I'll make them correct news. And that's OK." 

The RNC will engage in counter-programming during both nights of the debate. According to an RNC official, the committee will have a war room made up of 10 people monitoring every network, a research and rapid response team blasting fact checks on candidates' responses, a social/digital operation, and surrogates to dominate the airwaves across national and local television as well as radio. In Miami, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel will attend a socialist-focused earned media event as well as a roundtable with Cuban business owners.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Harris announced a fourth endorsement from the Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday. CBS News Campaign Reporter Stephanie Ramirez says this latest endorsement comes from Rep. Lacy Clay, the first elected official from Missouri to endorse the California senator, according to her campaign. Clay wrote in a Tuesday tweet, "Kamala has the #courage , vision and backbone to fight for equal justice, restore our democracy, and unite the American people. She shares my passion to strive for equal justice for all, instead of just for some..." 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: The Warren campaign has sandwiched the Massachusetts Senator's Democratic debate appearance between town halls in Miami and Chicago. CBS News Campaign Reporter Zak Hudak says they're the sort of events she has most excelled at to this point, and a new topic is likely to be the plan she released this morning to combat voter suppression and gerrymandering and to protect from foreign attacks on voting equipment. Among Warren's latest batch of proposals are making election day a national holiday and allowing citizens to vote with a sworn statement rather than an ID. The plan hinges on an agreement she says she would make in which the federal government would pay for all of a state's election administration costs in exchange for the state meeting the various federal standards she hopes to impose.


IN THE MIDDLE: Two sources confirmed a TIME report to CBS News campaign reporters Musadiq Bidar and Adam Brewster that Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called J.D. Scholten, who nearly knocked off Rep. Steve King in 2018, and told Scholten "we don't need a primary" for Iowa's 2020 Senate Race. The Democrats are trying to flip the seat Sen. Joni Ernst won in 2014 when longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin retired. The DSCC and Emily's List have already endorsed Theresa Greenfield in the Democratic primary against businessman Eddie Mauro and attorney Kimberly Graham. Greenfield ran for Congress in 2018, but lost her primary to Rep. Cindy Axne after her campaign manager admitted to forging signatures on documents to qualify for the ballot. Scholten says he will make a decision about his political future once Q2 filings are posted.

UP NORTH: CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga says abortion remains a heated issue in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Democratic Party has launched a digital ad targeting Gov. Chris Sununu following his pro-life pick of Gordon MacDonald for New Hampshire's Supreme Court, a judge with a history of representing pro-life lawmakers and constituencies. The digital advertisement, which will run on Twitter and Facebook, reads "We in New Hampshire and not Alabama." One-in-three Americans rank abortion as a "top issue" in determining how they will cast their ballot in the upcoming 2020 election. According to a Monmouth University Poll released today, most Americans support access to abortion, with 32% who think it should always be legal and 31% who think it should be legal with some limitations. Last week, CBS News attended a meeting of the Greater Ossipee Democrats, attracting nearly 100 Granite Staters in the politically purple area of Tamworth, New Hampshire, for a "panel and community discussion of the medical, societal and personal implications of the recent laws passed in Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia to restrict abortion." The hot topic continues to mobilize female voters from across Carroll and Coos County — areas of the state with a higher concentration of independent voters that both Democrats and Republicans aim to win over in the 2020 presidential election.


LATINO VOTE: The 2020 National Latino Electorate Survey released today by UnidosUS that surveyed 1,854 eligible Latino voters found that Latino voters want to see a candidate who embraces the nation's diversity, has a plan to get things done, and fights for the issues. CBS News notes that this is a Latino organization releasing a survey of all Latino voters (not just Democrats) on the eve of a Democratic debate. Interestingly, CBS News political unit Intern Julia Cherner says a candidate's ability to speak Spanish was consistently found as the least important trait in candidates to Latino voters. When asked what issues an ideal candidate would address (open-ended question), the top three most common answers were jobs and the economy, healthcare, and immigration. Only 50 percent of self-identified Republicans surveyed are certain they will vote for Trump. The full report can be found here.

WOMEN AT WORK: 15 presidential candidates have signed a pledge to guarantee that fifty percent of their national security staff would be women if elected, says CBS News Political Unit AP Ellee Watson. The recently formed Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LWINS) started the pledge and have asked every presidential campaign including Republicans to sign on. Co-founder and former White House official Julianne Smith said in a LWINS statement, "In recent years, women have made many important strides in national security. But they continue to be underrepresented in Congress, on the Sunday talk shows, the boardroom and the Situation Room. LCWINS aims to help women at various stages throughout their career tackle some of the unique challenges they face in the workplace." The 15 candidates who have signed the pledge are: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Seth Moulton, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell and Elizabeth Warren.

THE CLIMATE DEBATE: The Sunrise Movement, a youth environmental advocacy group, held a sit-in outside the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in Washington, D.C. today, continuing their call for a 2020 debate specifically about climate change. Sunrise Movement communications director Stephen O'Hanlon told CBS Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro that at its peak about 100 members were there, and they're prepared to stay the night. He also said the group will be watching the upcoming debates to see if the DNC and media "take [climate-change] seriously and treat it like an emergency."  The group has pushed this debate proposal before, which was rejected by DNC Chair Tom Perez. DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told CBS earlier this month that "While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue." O'Hanlon told CBS News, "All the major candidates think we should have a climate debate...quite frankly, for years the DNC leaders in the party have been taking millions of dollars from oil and gas executives and lobbyists that you can bet, don't want a debate about climate change."  So far, CBS has counted 15 candidates that have endorsed a climate debate, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Vice President Joe Biden.  O'Hanlon said the Sunrise Movement isn't planning to making any presidential endorsements in the near future but will make some closer to the primaries and put activists in key states during the general election. 


***FIRST ON CBS*** BINGO! Tomorrow, the New Hampshire Democratic Party is set to release a "Dem Debate Bingo Card," highlighting values and priorities of the Democratic Party anticipated on the debate stage this week.  

"Every Democratic candidate in the First in the Nation Primary has been talking about rebuilding the middle class, protecting reproductive rights, making sure all Americans have access to affordable quality health care, and much more," said Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party said in a statement. "It's clear that Democrats stand with the middle class. While the details of Democrats' plans may differ, they all are advocating for working Granite Staters, while Republicans are only pushing policies that only help the top 1%."

A "Dem Debate Bingo Card" created by the New Hampshire Democratic Party. New Hampshire Democratic Party

"No matter which Democrat becomes the nominee, Granite Staters will be yelling 'BINGO' - because on issue after issue, Democrats are fighting for the middle class," said Buckley.

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