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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Republicans face tough races in Kentucky, Mississippi

One year left until 2020 election

Less than 24 hours before the polls in Mississippi open, Republican candidate Tate Reeves, the state's lieutenant governor, brought in Vice President Mike Pence for a quick rally on the state's Gulf Coast. During his speech, Reeves tried to illustrate some similarities between himself and Pence, says CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro

"Mr. Vice President, you have cut regulations in Washington, and I have cut regulations in Mississippi – and low and behold our economy is booming," Reeves said. "It's not just happenstance, it's because conservative policies work."

On Tuesday, Reeves will face Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood – who has held the AG's office since 2004. Hood has competed and kept this race tight, with the latest Mason-Dixon poll showing Reeves with a three-point lead in a typically conservative state that voted for Trump by 17 points in 2016. 

University of Mississippi political science professor John M. Bruce told Navarro Hood's statewide success in the past makes the race interesting. "From a political science perspective, this would be a really neat experiment to see if somebody who clearly has a statewide constituency and name recognition, if they're office bound. Can you move his personality and his record out of the AG's office, and still make a play?"

During his speech, Pence criticized Hood for his work as AG and tried to tie him to his national party. "The Democratic Party of Jim Hood is dominated...it's dominated by left wing radicals who want higher taxes, green new deal, Medicare for All," Pence said. "Jim Hood doesn't represent the values of Mississippi."

Meanwhile in Kentucky, President Trump is headlining another rally to support a Republican governor in a competitive race. After visiting Mississippi on Friday, he is back in the South to support incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin. 

Bevin is competing against Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, whose father Steve Beshear was governor from 2007-2015. Bevin won against the Democrat in 2015 by nine points, but since then, he has received high disapproval ratings and had fights with teachers over pension funds. During the debate, Bevin called the teachers "selfish and shortsighted." 

Mr. Trump's visit is meant to drum up excitement for Bevin, but outside the rally, supporters of the president were tepid about their support for Bevin. "I'm voting for Bevin because he's the lesser of two evils," Sue Mardis of Lexington, Kentucky told CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson.  

One of Mr. Trump's supporters in line told Watson that he will be voting for the Democrat on Tuesday. "Because Mr. Bevin is not for public education, and I'm a teacher" James Payne said. Payne came to support Mr. Trump and expects most of the rally will be about the president, not Bevin. When asked why the race is competitive, Silas Carty from Magoffin county said, "Because of the teachers - they're siding with Beshear."

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT in Mississippi and in Kentucky from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. 

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOHN DELANEY

Former Representative John Delaney was one of two presidential candidates to officially file for the New Hampshire primary today, appearing at the State Capitol in Concord to present declarations of candidacy and bank certified checks to Secretary of State Bill Gardner. Delaney, who has campaigned for nearly 2.5 years in the Granite State said he's in it to win, has ruled out a third-party bid if he loses the Democratic nomination. Asked if Democrats can win a general election by raising taxes on the middle class, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says Delaney declared, "It makes it harder. I'll leave it at that."

KAMALA HARRIS

CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says workers from two unions in southern Nevada - the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 - will question Kamala Harris this Friday in Las Vegas. Some 200 members are expected to attend the town hall, the first of a series planned with presidential candidates in Nevada. Among the topics likely to come up with the senator from California: "Medicare for All." 

As candidates have continued to court the influential labor group, the Culinary union has made clear their hesitation over such single-payer healthcare proposals. "I don't think that's the solution for them. I don't think that the members will listen to me about that," Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the union local's top official, told PBS last month.

BERNIE SANDERS

Ninety-nine days ahead of the New Hampshire primary, Senator Bernie Sanders' New Hampshire campaign continues to plug its statewide grassroots efforts. In a memo obtained by CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga, State Director Shannon Jackson writes, "Senator Sanders has visited all 10 counties in New Hampshire, held 32 events, and spoken to over 14,000 people." 

The campaign also boasts 90 staff members, according to the memo, more than any other presidential campaign team in the Granite State. Over 9,000 New Hampshire residents have contributed to Sanders' campaign, according to the campaign, with organizers knocking on 100,000 doors for the Vermont lawmaker. In February of 2016, the Sanders campaign had over 105 full time staff, according to a former 2016 campaign aide. The Vermont lawmaker won the 2016 New Hampshire Primary by over 20 points, adding his name to the ballot for a second time, last week in Concord.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON

Author Marianne Williamson also filed for the New Hampshire primary on Monday. Sganga says Williamson announced to reporters and supporters in Concord she plans to release a comprehensive healthcare plan in the coming days. "I have for so long felt that Bernie is not quite everything I want. Elizabeth is not quite everything I want. Pete and Amy – that to me is just another cover for same old, same old. So I found my hybrid. I have experts working on it."

ANDREW YANG

Andrew Yang says he will release his tax returns in "the next number of days," CBS News political unit associate producer Ben Mitchell reports. In a one-on-one interview in Iowa, Yang says his team has been in the process of preparing his returns for some time. 

Yang also talked about his Medicare for All plan, and why he adopted the label but not all of the policies associated with other candidates' plans, like eliminating private insurance. 

"Medicare for All as a policy platform, to us, is very straightforward, which is just everyone can have access to Medicare or Medicare like public program. To me, it's not necessarily baked into the definition of 'Medicare for All' that we get rid of private insurance wholesale," Yang said. 

When asked if he would eliminate the employer-insurance model, Yang said he would not, in part to protect the plans of union workers who bargained for their insurance benefits. "Over time, the goal is to show workers around the country that the public option, the public program, is superior in many ways to what employers are paying for," Yang said. "None of those things are free. You're paying by accepting lower wages, as in the case where many many union workers and negotiate for health care benefits, and we're all paying because these health care insurance costs are baked into the prices that we pay every day." 

STATE-BY-STATE

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Tomorrow marks municipal elections for New Hampshire, with a key mayoral contest shaping up in Manchester. The Granite State's largest city is hosting a tight race between incumbent Democratic Mayor Joyce Craig and Republican challenger Victoria Sullivan. 

"We like to toss around the term #Friendship2020 here in New Hampshire," New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley announced this morning on a call with reporters. "This week, staffers from more than eight presidential campaigns have come together to knock doors and help elect local Democrats on Tuesday. And staffers for different campaigns a few weeks ago stood in the rain at 6 a.m. shoulder to shoulder to support local Democrats."

Sullivan, who served as co-chair of Senator Rand Paul's 2016 campaign, has been endorsed by Kentucky lawmaker. Sganga says Manchester is located in Hillsborough County, a "Trump-Obama pivot county" and politically diverse region of New Hampshire. President Trump won Hillsborough County by a slender margin of .2%, while President Obama won in 2012 and 2008 by margins of 1.1% and 3.7% respectively.

DIGITAL DIVIDE

ONLINE AD SPENDING

A progressive digital strategy firm is partnering with Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager in an effort to counter President Trump's digital advertising blitz, Mitchell reports. PACRONYM, the Super PAC affiliated with the firm ACRONYM, says it plans to spend $75 million on an advertising campaign called "Four is Enough," a multi-platform effort to communicate with voters on the issues before the Democrats pick their Presidential nominee. 

The campaign will be helmed by Tara McGowan, founder of PACRONYM and ACRONYM, and advised by David Plouffe. PACRONYM says it will target voters in Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, while relying on "a rigorous testing component to increase engagement and measure message effectiveness." The group notes that the Trump campaign has already spent over $26 million on Facebook and Google ads alone, and so far no group affiliated with the Democrats has been able to counter the Trump campaign's massive digital spend. "This election is already being fought and it's being fought online. There will be no magic message, ad, or candidate. We are going to have to grind out this victory the hard way, and it will take time to learn how to build the most effective case to the right voters. This is a DEFCON 1 situation," Plouffe said in a statement. 

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

Kweisi Mfume, a former president of the NAACP, has entered the race to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Congressman Elijah Cummings, CBSNews.com's Caroline Cournoyer reports. Mfume announced his candidacy on Monday at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore. He said Cummings' death spurred him into action. "A month ago, I would have never imagined that I would be before you this afternoon in this capacity," Mfume said in a speech posted on his Facebook page. "Today we're here without Elijah, but his memory and his spirit to fight on is alive and flourishing, it is out of that unpredictable reality that I stand before you." 

Cummings died October 17 at the age of 68. He won his seat in Congress after it was vacated by Mfume, who resigned to lead the NAACP.

MONEY MATTERS

2020 MERCH

Small-dollar donations are a driving force in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, and in a primary cycle where, for the first time, making the debate stage also depends on meeting small-donor thresholds, campaigns are getting creative with merchandise. That's because when it comes to merch, candidates do not have to separate purchases made from their online stores or at events from other donations when filing with the Federal Election Commission, so every purchase appears as another small-dollar donation. It turns out, having supporters spend $35 on a hat or just $4.99 on a set of stickers could go a long way. 

So what are campaign's selling? CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice found out what some of the top sellers have been so far in 2019. From Andrew Yang's MATH hats to Pete Buttigieg's "Boot Edge Edge" and limited edition t-shirts, the donations are adding up to the tens of thousands and beyond.  

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