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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Vulnerable House Democrats back impeachment effort

Trump withheld aid before Ukraine phone call

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

Of the 44 "frontline" House Democrat seats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee designated as important to keep in order to hold the majority, CBS News Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro reports 20 so far have signaled support for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Eight have come out saying they'd like to see more information before committing to an investigation, and 16 have stayed mum or do not support impeachment. 

This is a significant change of pace for freshmen Democrats, many of whom have refrained from talking about impeachment out of concern for their own re-election efforts. The news about Mr. Trump's contact with Ukraine's president in order to obtain politically damaging information on Joe Biden has altered the landscape, however, even for Democrats in Trump-won districts. 

At least six House Democrats in these types of districts have supported an impeachment inquiry, while seven have said they would like to see more information come out first. A Democratic strategist told Navarro it's important for Democrats to distinguish this news about Ukraine from the Russia/Mueller investigation. "It's a question of national security, a question of corruption," the person said. "It speaks to the severity of what the president did, that you have these moderate members making very clear and principled stands around an inquiry." 

CBS News Campaign Reporter Bo Erickson says Biden said again on Tuesday that if the Trump administration continues to block congressional investigations, then Congress has no option but to begin impeachment.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

PETE BUTTIGIEG

Pete Buttigieg wraps up a multi-day campaign bus tour of Iowa on Tuesday, completing a journey that took him from the Iowa Steak Fry in Des Moines last Saturday through smaller northern Iowa towns including Boone, Webster City and Waterloo.

"I think we've got to do well here. I think that definition will become a little clearer in the wintertime, but yes we've got to do well in Iowa," he told CBS News Political Correspondent Ed O'Keefe in Waterloo for an interview that aired Tuesday on "CBS This Morning" and CBSN.

"The best way to settle any question about electability is to win an election somewhere," the South Bend mayor added. "Secondly, Iowa is a very good place for us to campaign. It reminds me of home. It's got a similar feel. And because of the way the caucuses work it really puts a premium on the relationships that only a well organized team can build. And we've got a team that is developing a reputation for being great to work with, having a nice touch."

Two things stand out from our time with Buttigieg on the road that signal the kind of organic interest and support he's amassing.

First, consider what happened Sunday night in Waterloo: With temperatures plunging into the 50s, more than 600 people waited for the mayor at an amphitheater along the Cedar River in downtown Waterloo. Rain falling sideways pelted the crowd in the face — but the Buttigieg campaign's robust advance team distributed ponchos to audience members and wary reporters. As the mayor spoke, very few people left, even as the winds and rain intensified.

Also striking for Buttigieg is how he's already being helped in Iowa by out-of-state volunteers wiling to drop everything back home to help him win.

Elizabeth Karpidas traveled from Dallas over the weekend to stand with Buttigieg at the Steak Fry. She's already hosted fundraisers for Buttigieg in her Texas home after maxing out to his campaign in March when she first learned about the mayor during a vacation with friends in Mexico.

"I haven't been involved in politics in 20 years but that's all changing" because of the mayor, she said. "He's honest. He's sincere. He's ethical. He's young. He needs to reach my kids, who are 26 and 24, who have given up on the world."

Then there's Emilie and George Rankin, who've traveled to Iowa three times from their home in remote Orcas Island, Wash. to campaign for the mayor. Ed first met the Rankins in August when the couple came to Des Moines to help out Buttigieg at the State Fair. He spotted them again Sunday at a campaign bus tour stop in tiny Boone.

The only other time they've ventured thousands of miles from home is back in 2007, to help then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Back then, Emilie insisted "This is the one," George recalled, beaming as he recounted how his wife's got had been proven correct. When she first learned about the mayor in April, she predicted it again: Buttigieg will be the Democratic presidential nominee and the next president.

"He's just so presidential, you know, intellectual, but calming and can explain things that are really complex," Emilie said. "I think he — he excites people as you saw at the Steak Fry. And that sort of energy is what will win the nomination and win the presidency."

George isn't being reluctantly dragged along by his wife. He credits the mayor for being "really, really good" at answering the array of questions Iowa voters are known to ask of candidates.

"Iowans are famous for being able to meet all the candidates which is a wonderful blessing for them I think," George said. "But I think when you come out to Pete you really just see he's the real deal."

MICHAEL BENNET

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet called Mr. Trump a "grifter" after news broke of his telephone call to Ukraine for politically damaging information about Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden. "He feels completely unconstrained by the rule of law…it is a disturbing pattern of treating the place like it is his personal racketing enterprise instead of our republic. It's just one thing after another," Bennet told CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett during an episode for "The Takeout" podcast that comes out Thursday. 

Bennet stopped short of calling for full-out impeachment proceedings and said he'd like to get the inspector general's report about the whistleblower complaint first before making his mind up. "He's holding Congress in contempt, basically. He shouldn't be surprised if Nancy Pelosi finally decides that the time has come to begin formal impeachment proceedings."

CBS News Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro says Bennet has been hovering around 1% in the Democratic primary polls. Still, he made a guarantee to Garrett to campaign through the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. 

In response to the claims that the former vice president pressured the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor in order to benefit his son, Bennet said he didn't think it's an issue. "[T]he prosecutor…is somebody who is globally known for being an incredibly corrupt person. Let's see what the facts are on all this stuff."

ELIZABETH WARREN

Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign announced today that it would begin a $10 million-plus digital and television ad blitz in the four earliest states. A "strategy memo" sent to supporters by Campaign Manager Roger Lau offered a rare public signal from Warren's camp about its future plans. 

But even as the Warren campaign, highly critical of extreme wealth and power, said it would join candidates like billionaire Tom Steyer in the ad race, it pledged to use its resources to help Democratic candidates nationwide. "We're targeting our resources to invest in places that will be critical to keeping the House, taking back the U.S. Senate, and regaining ground in key state legislatures in 2020," Lau wrote in the email. 

On the campaign trail, Warren frequently talks about building a grassroots movement, and passing the majority of her proposals would likely require Democrats to capture the Senate in addition to the White House. In 2018, before Democrats flipped the House, Warren donated to Democrats in all 50 states. Communications Director Kristen Orthman told CBS News Campaign Reporter Zak Hudak that they would now be hiring Warren campaign staff in battleground congressional states.  

"When you organize in states, it helps up and down the ticket," she said.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

PRIMARY CHALLENGERS

On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh will go head to head at the first GOP presidential primary debate of 2020, but noticeably absent will be Mr. Trump. Former Congressman Mark Sanford, who is campaigning in Iowa, will also not be at the debate.  

CBS News Political Unit Associate Producers Sarah Ewall-Wice & Ellee Watson say here's what to watch for during tonight's match-up:

The news of day topic will be about impeachment. Weld is taking it one step further, arguing that by allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Mr. Trump committed treason. "It's treason, pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death. That's the only penalty," Weld said in an interview on MSNBC. While treason and impeachment will be front and center, it's unlikely Weld and Walsh will focus fire on each other rather than going after Mr. Trump. Walsh also argues Mr. Trump needs to be impeached, calling him a "clear and present danger" to the country.

Walsh and Weld will likely take on the Republican National Committee. Both Walsh and Weld have accused the committee of hindering their efforts to challenge to Mr. Trump. The RNC agreed to share its data, polling and infrastructure with the Trump-Pence reelection campaign and form a joint fundraising committee called Trump Victory. In January, the RNC voted to give their full support to the president. Because of the national party's strong backing, several state parties have decided to cancel their nominating processes.

While Mr. Trump is facing three challengers for the Republican presidential nomination, he still maintains strong support among Republicans. According to the latest Fox News poll, he has 86% of support among likely Republican primary voters. Meanwhile, Sanford, Weld and Walsh are each polling at 2% with likely Republican primary voters. At the same time, the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows the President's overall approval rating is hovering at 45% among all voters, and a combined 69% of registered voters say they don't like him personally, indicating that there may be room to siphon off votes. 

EARLY STATES

UP NORTH

A new Monmouth University poll out of New Hampshire reveals Elizabeth Warren has caught up to Democratic challengers, joining Joe Biden as a Granite State frontrunner, says CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga. Among the 401 likely New Hampshire voters surveyed, 27% currently support Warren and 25% support Biden. According to the poll, the Massachusetts senator has siphoned off support from both Biden and Bernie Sanders, who won the 2016 New Hampshire Primary by 22 points.

CBS News Political Unit AP Sarah Ewall-Wice also points out that this poll qualifies Tulsi Gabbard for the presidential debate stage in October, making her the 12th candidate to qualify ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline.

OUT WEST

Former North Las Vegas City Councilman Theron Goynes and his wife Naomi made public their endorsement of Cory Booker this week, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Alex Tin. "Cory has a deep and unique understanding of the issues critical to the Black community," the couple said in a statement. 

Though well-liked among elected Democrats in Nevada, the senator from New Jersey has made little headway in the state his mom calls home. Just 2.4 percent of caucus-goers here picked Booker in a poll released Tuesday, far behind frontrunners Joe Biden (23.2 percent), Elizabeth Warren (19.4 percent), and Bernie Sanders (14.2 percent). 

This comes days after two other Nevada endorsements last week: Reno City Councilman Oscar Delgado announced his backing of Joe Biden and Wells Mayor Layla Walz joined more than 50 mayors in an op-ed endorsing Pete Buttigieg.

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