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2020 Sunday Trail Markers: Dems call for Kavanaugh's impeachment

2020 Democrats face off over key issues

Here's what you need to know in politics this week...

  • Biden heads South
  • Sanders restructures his New Hampshire team
  • Kennedy keeps everyone guessing
  • Buttigieg knocks Beto on guns
  • Enter the Steak Fry 
  • Dems descend on South Carolina
  • This week's schedule

BIDEN HEADS SOUTH

Via CBS News Campaign Reporter Bo Erickson: While the Biden campaign is not taking their eyes off of the first two primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, they're also looking to later contests on Super Tuesday and beyond. Coming off his Houston debate performance and a Texas fundraiser swing, the former vice president is bopping from Alabama to Florida to South Carolina. 

On Sunday morning he was warmly welcomed by congregants of the 16th St Baptist Church in Birmingham as the featured speaker at the 56th commemoration of the 1963 church bombing. His speech matched much of what we hear on the trail already about how hatred still lurks in this country, and he linked the church bombing to the Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017, an event he says inspired him to run for president. 

This Southern swing is likely designed to build on Biden's consistent and large lead with black voters. This enthusiasm was evident after Sunday's ceremony as congregants spoke glowingly about Biden's record on racial issues. Eugene Marshall, 77, said Biden "acted as a father to Obama and I thought that was pretty good." 

"I marched in the civil rights movement from Selma to Montgomery so I was deep into civil rights movement and to see a white man support a black man even though he was above him and he was vice president, I thought that we had come into 21st century," Marshall said. 

On Biden's Democratic rivals who criticize him for his record on racial issues, Marshall called them "Johnny-come-latelys" and added "they need just be quiet and talk about the issues that really matter like bringing the races together...and they should be talking more about [President Trump] than a person of their own party."

KENNEDY KEEPS EVERYONE GUESSING

CBS News Associate Producers Ellee Watson and Sarah Ewall-Wice: Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy told reporters on Saturday in Springfield that he hopes to finalize his decision on whether or not to challenge Sen. Ed Markey "soon" but provided no timeline. Kennedy knocked down concerns that a challenge for a safe Democratic seat does more harm than good because of the resources and time required.

"I don't see how an active, engaged race that enables an electorate across the state to make an informed decision about who is going to represent them in the United States Senate for the next six years is a bad thing," Kennedy said. "I think that's exactly what the process is designed to do."

Party activists who attended the state's Democratic convention over the weekend urged Kennedy not to jump in even though a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll found Kennedy leading Markey in a hypothetical five-way primary matchup, 35% to 26%. 

SANDERS RESTRUCTURES HIS NEW HAMPSHIRE TEAM

Via CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga: In a campaign restructuring five months ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary, Bernie Sanders' New Hampshire campaign has replaced State Director Joe Caiazzo with Shannon Jackson, former Northeast Regional Director. Caiazzo, who served as Massachusetts and Rhode Island political director for the Senator's 2016 campaign, has been named Massachusetts state director. 

In a separate move, New Hampshire Senior Advisor Kurt Ehrenberg has parted ways with the Sanders campaign. The changes were announced to New Hampshire staff on Sunday.

The Sanders team is building out infrastructure in Super Tuesday states, deploying leadership to Maine, Oklahoma, Colorado and Minnesota in addition to Massachusetts.

"We've built a great team in New Hampshire and are in a really strong position there," Campaign Manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement. "We are running a 50 state campaign, taking no state or voters for granted and expanding our operations to secure the Democratic nomination."

In a CBS News Battleground tracker poll released last week, New Hampshire saw Elizabeth Warren just slightly up over Joe Biden and Sanders in first-choice preference, effectively making the first-in-the-nation primary a three-way contest. Sanders won the Granite State primary in 2016 by more than 22 points.

BUTTIGIEG KNOCKS BETO ON GUNS

Via CBS News Campaign Reporter Jack Turman and Tim Perry: During a Sunday appearance on CNN, Pete Buttigieg was asked if he thought Beto O'Rourke's views on gun control, which he expressed at last week's Democratic debate, played "into the hands of Republicans."

"Yes," Buttigieg responded.

Buttigieg, who released a gun violence prevention plan last month, added that there is a majority of Americans who support strengthening background checks and banning the sale of assault weapons.

"This is a golden moment to finally do something because we've been arguing about this for as long as I've been alive," Buttigieg said on State of the Union.

Buttigieg, however, has been reluctant to critique the political strategies employed by other candidates. In the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit in July, he said that Democrats shouldn't worry what Republicans say about their policies.

"If we embrace a far-left agenda, they're going to say we're a bunch of crazy socialists," Buttigieg said at the second debate. "If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they are going to do? They're going to say we're a bunch of crazy socialists. So let's just stand up for the right policy, go out there, and defend it."

A Buttigieg campaign spokesperson added that the South Bend mayor thinks the "focus should be on passing" universal background checks, banning assault weapons and passing red flag laws. O'Rourke, meanwhile, has touted mandatory gun buybacks.

"Hell yes," O'Rourke said at last week's debate, "we're going to take your AR-15."

For his part, O'Rourke has been happy to defend his comments from Buttigieg and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Joe Biden supporter. Coons told CNN over the weekend that O'Rourke's gun buyback is not a wise "political or policy move" and that it could be used "at second amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying Democrats are coming for your guns."

O'Rourke responded Sunday on NBC saying, "I think this just shows you how screwed up the priorities in Washington, DC are."  He added, "I refuse to even acknowledge the politics or the polling or the fear or the NRA. That has purchased the complicity and silence of members of Congress." 

The former Texas congressman also criticized Buttigieg for saying, "When even this president and even Mitch McConnell are at least pretending to be open to reforms, we know that we have a moment on our hands." 

"Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell pretending to be interested in something that is literally a life or death issue for 40,000 Americans, that's how many are killed every year through gun violence, is simply not enough," O'Rourke said at an event in Plano, Texas on Sunday. 

ENTER THE STEAK FRY

Via CBS News Campaign Reporters Adam Brewster and Musadiq Bidar: Iowa will return to the political spotlight this week when 18 Democrats descend on Des Moines for the Polk County Democrats' Steak Fry. The event, which used to be hosted by long time Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, could be one of the largest cattle call events held during the 2020 primary cycle. 

As of Friday afternoon, 10,600 tickets have been sold to people in 43 states, according to Polk County Democrats' Executive Director Judy Downs. Candidates will have 10 minutes to speak to the crowd, but Downs says the real value comes with the interactions candidates can have with likely caucus goers.

"It, I think, signifies the spirit of the caucuses," Downs said. "The speeches are really important, but it's really when candidates can meet individuals while they're having their steak or walking around the park that can make a big difference."

In the past, the crowds and energy have stood out more than the speeches, Downs said. She pointed to 2007, when then-Sen. Barack Obama led a march of thousands volunteers to the Steak Fry, which showed he could be a serious contender come Caucus Day.

"It was that moment where the polls didn't represent what was actually happening on the ground in Iowa and we knew Obama's campaign was significant," Downs said. Obama went on to win the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, a victory that made him the front runner for the Democratic nomination. 

This year, 10 campaigns are holding rallies before the Steak Fry and are planning to march to the event with supporters as they try to flex their organizing strength. Downs said the Biden, Buttigieg and Harris campaigns have purchased the most tickets.

"I would look for some surprises," Downs said. "These staffers are thinking really creatively and I think that everyone who's there is going to be entertained."

DEMS DESCEND ON SOUTH CAROLINA

Via CBS News Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell: Four 2020 hopefuls will descend upon the Palmetto State on Monday to make their pitch to rural South Carolina voters in the parking lot of a general store during the historic Galivants Ferry Stump on Monday. Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Bill De Blasio will head to Galivants Ferry, a small unincorporated community with a population of just over 5,000.

The event, in its 143rd year is usually a biennial gathering where politicians come for what one event organizer calls "eyeball to eyeball politickin'." This year, hundreds are expected to be in attendance and will enjoy bluegrass music, folk dancers, and the opportunity to mingle with a person who could be the next President of the United States.

ON THE TRAIL THIS WEEK

9/16 – Bennet in NY, Biden in SC, Buttigieg in SC, de Blasio in SC, Gabbard in IA, Harris in NY, Klobuchar in SC, Mr. Trump in NM, Warren in NY, Yang in MA

9/17 – O'Rourke in CA, Buttigieg in SC, Gabbard in IA, Klobuchar in PA, Ryan in PA, Sestak in PA, Steyer in PA, Williamson in PA, Yang in PA

9/18 – O'Rourke in CA

9/19 – O'Rourke in CA, Biden in IL, Harris in IA; Sanders in NC, Warren in IA

9/20 – Biden in IA, Harris in IA, Sanders in SC, Warren in IA,

9/21 – Bennet in IA, Biden in IA, Booker in IA, Bullock in IA, Buttigieg in IA, Castro in IA, de Blasio in IA, Gabbard in IA, Harris in IA, Klobuchar in IA, Ryan in IA, Sanders in SC, Warren in IA, Williamson in IA, Yang in IA

9/22 – Biden in MO, Sanders in IA

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