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2020 Sunday Trail Markers: Kamala Harris says she's "practically living in Iowa"

The ground game in Iowa: Harris' 2020 caucus plan
The ground game in Iowa: Harris' 2020 caucus ... 02:37

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

  • Kamala Harris says she's "all in" and "practically living in Iowa" after shuttering her field operation in New Hampshire
  • Warren campaign clarifies whose taxes would be raised to pay for Medicare for all plan
  • Beto O'Rourke is out of presidential race and doesn't plan Senate bid in 2020
  • Bernie Sanders says Elizabeth Warren's plan to fund "Medicare for All" could be bad for jobs
  • Pete Buttigieg has a response to Jim Clyburn's suggestion that the fact that Buttigieg is gay will be an issue for older black voters

Kamala Harris says she's "practically living in Iowa"

Harris says she is "all in" on winning the Iowa caucuses and will end up "doing very well" in the first contest of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

In an interview on Saturday with CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe, Harris explained the reasoning behind a recent campaign shakeup, in which her campaign shuttered field offices and laid off staff elsewhere to focus its efforts on Iowa. 

"I'm practically living in Iowa to do the work that is necessary to make sure that I earn the support and have the folks in the caucuses who are standing in Kamala's corner," Harris said in an interview Saturday.

In a memo to staffers and top donors on Thursday, campaign manager Juan Rodriguez outlined a plan to cut salaries, reduce staff at the campaign headquarters in Baltimore and in some early states and double down on Harris' plan to campaign in the Hawkeye State. On Friday, campaign aides told CBS News the campaign was closing all field offices in New Hampshire and laying off more than half of the staff in the state.

"It was a very difficult decision. But let me tell you, I care about New Hampshire," Harris said. "We still have folks in New Hampshire. I have spent time in that state. I care about the people of that state. And we know that Iowa being the first state, you know, you got to be all in here in order to be able to get to the point that we can actually get to New Hampshire and other states later."

Read more here

And watch her full interview with Ed O'Keefe here.

Full interview: Kamala Harris on Iowa ground ... 11:02

 Whose taxes would be raised to pay for Medicare for All? Warren campaign clarifies

Warren told CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak Saturday night that her plan to pay for Medicare for All won't raise taxes for anyone with less than $1 billion, which contradicts the details of the plan she released Friday. 

"It doesn't raise taxes on anybody but billionaires. And you know what? The billionaires can afford it, and I don't call them middle class," Warren said, in response to a question about how she defines the middle class when she promises not to raise taxes for people in that income range. 

It is true that the increased wealth tax in her Medicare for All funding plan only affects billionaires, but the plan also includes a tax on capital gains for the top 1%, which includes people making far less than $1 million annually. According to the Economic Policy Institute, those making $421,926 annually are in the top 1% of income earners.

Warren communications director Kristen Orthman explained the discrepancy by saying Warren "was referencing the wealth tax, which is only on billionaires," but she acknowledged that Warren's capital gains tax increase would affect that group of top 1%-earners.  

Beto O'Rourke out of presidential race and doesn't plan Senate bid in 2020

Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke was the biggest name to drop out of the race Friday, a decision that stunned many of his supporters, CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry reports.  Speaking to a tearful crowd just hours before the start of the Liberty and Justice and Justice Celebration in Des Moines, O'Rourke said, "We have to clearly see at this point that we do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully and that my service will not be as a candidate nor as the nominee of this party for the presidency."

An O'Rourke campaign aide tells Perry that senior staffers found out about O'Rourke's decision Thursday morning, and O'Rourke made a phone call to the entire team an hour before news broke announcing the end of his presidential bid. Faced with financial constraints, the campaign would alternatively have had to lay off some staffers, which the aide said "was not an option."
While his departure has raised speculation about whether O'Rourke might make a late attempt at another Senate run, spokesman Rob Friedlander told the New York Times, "Beto will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas in 2020."

Bernie Sanders says Elizabeth Warren's plan to fund "Medicare for All" could be bad for jobs

Sanders says that his approach to funding "Medicare for All" is "far more progressive" than primary opponent Elizabeth Warren's, and he opined that Warren's plan might have a "very negative impact" on job creation, CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte noted

The Vermont senator remarked on the single-payer system that both he and Warren advocate during an interview with ABC News' Rachel Scott. While he said that he and Warren agree that the purpose of health insurance is to provide health care and "not to make $100 billion in profits for the insurance companies and the drug companies," he said, "We do disagree on how you fund it. I think the approach that (I) have, in fact, will be much more progressive in terms of protecting the financial well being of middle income families."

Sanders also told Scott that he had spoken on the phone with Warren after she released her plan. 

CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports that Warren, who was in Davenport, Iowa, today, said she and Sanders "are headed in exactly the same direction" on Medicare for All, though they "may have a different vision of how to pay for it."

Warren released her approach to funding Medicare for All late last week.

Pete Buttigieg on whether his being gay will be an issue for some voters 

CBS News political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns, who's traveling on Buttigieg's Iowa bus tour, interviewed Buttigieg Sunday evening. 

In the interview, Buttigieg commented on the fact that white candidates are leading the polls despite a historically diverse field. 

"Everyone has to put best message forward. All candidates represent some historic first," said Buttigieg. "What's important now is not just diversity, but the answer's we're offering. That's what voters will make decision on. My job is to make sure there's no confusion on any issues in terms of what will happen in my White House."

Look for more from her interview on Monday morning on CBSN.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, of South Carolina said in a CNN interview Sunday morning that South Mayor Pete Buttigieg's sexual orientation may be an issue for older black voters in South Carolina.

"There's no question about that," Clyburn said. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you otherwise, because I think everybody knows that's an issue."

Buttigieg commented on the quote on his second Iowa bus tour, referencing his Douglass plan to combat systemic racism and his team's outreach, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. "The thing about outreach is that you can transcend a lot of barriers," Buttigieg said. 

A recent report featured in The State at the end of October highlighted that African American voters in South Carolina have indicated that it might be an issue. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell noted that the sample size of the survey — conducted by a polling group that Buttigieg's team works with — was relatively small. In conversations Michell had with a few older African American men after the release of the survey, Buttigieg's sexuality may not be as large of an obstacle, because as one man put it, "everyone has someone in their family" who is gay. Mitchell also adds that while Buttigieg has continued to poll below 10% in state polls, in a recent Post & Courier/Change Research poll, he rose 4% to make it to 9%.


Primary countdown: 100 days until New Hampshire primaries

Today marks 100 days until the "first-in-the-nation" primary, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. New Hampshire celebrates 100 years of voting in the nation's first primary in 2020. Secretary of State Bill Gardner technically has not yet set the date, but primary day is presumed to be February 11.

As of today, Ian Moskowitz, New Hampshire state director for Joe Biden announced in a memo obtained by CBS News that the campaign has organized 2,000 canvass launches, phone banks, and events across New Hampshire. The memo adds, "We have knocked on over 50,000 doors, made over 275,000 recruitment calls, and have dozens of volunteer leaders confirmed across the entire state." 

Last week, a New Hampshire CNN poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire found Bernie Sanders at 21%, Elizabeth Warren at 18%, Joe Biden at 15% and Pete Buttigieg at 10%.

The pitch for bipartisanship: #NoLabels takes New Hampshire

Today, hundreds gathered in Manchester for the "No Labels" Conference in downtown Manchester, reports Sganga. The event featured Democratic presidential contenders Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, and Marianne Williamson, plus Republican candidate Bill Weld.

"United we stand. Divided we fall. And we must stand together," Gabbard told audiences gathered in the spirit of bipartisan problem solving. "We are one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice."

Asked why she did not attend Iowa's Liberty and Justice Dinner, Gabbard told reporters she did not want to pour the resources into qualifying for the stage. "Something that that has not been reported is that it costs, I think, $150,000 to buy the voter file from the Iowa Democratic Party. I had to have a couple of field offices, a certain number of paid staffers there." Gabbard added, "Look, I'm dedicated to put every resource that we have towards directly reaching voters over this hyper partisanship in Washington."

Virginia state legislative races 

On Tuesday, all 140 seats in the Virginia state Senate and House are up for reelection. Currently, Republicans hold a majority in both chambers, but Democrats' success in flipping 15 House seats in 2017 has given the party hope that it can flip both chambers this cycle, reports CBS News Political Unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. Since the governor is Democrat Ralph Northam, if Democrats flip the chambers, they would control all three branches of government for the first time in 25 years. A trifecta would allow Democrats to determine where redistricting lines are drawn following the 2020 census. 

Democrats are looking at the 2017 results as a beacon of a potentially successful 2019, but following the flipped seats and Northam's reelection in 2017, old photos of Northam in blackface surfaced earlier this year, ensnaring him in a weeks-long controversy that put Virginia in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Northam will not be on the ballot Tuesday, but he would be at the helm of whatever coalition Democrats piece together on Tuesday. 

Virginia was also in the national spotlight earlier this year for a state House bill that would have reduced the restrictions on conducting third-trimester abortions. Northam, in a radio interview, mangled the defense of the bill. He was asked what would happen if a baby was born following a failed abortion, and he said, "The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother." Afterwards, a spokesperson for Northam released a statement saying he was only trying to describe the "tragic or difficult circumstances" involved in a late-term abortion. 

The bill was voted down by a Virginia House subcommittee, but it sparked a conversation nationwide. 

One of the other issues on voters' minds as they head to the polls is gun violence. The issue came into focus in May when a disgruntled employee shot and killed 12 people and wounded four others in Virginia Beach. Following the shooting, Northam called a special legislative session to address gun violence in June, but nothing came of it because the Republican majorities in the state legislature adjourned without taking up a single bill. 

The elections on Tuesday have drawn some big names from both parties to get out the vote. On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence attended a rally in Virginia Beach where he reminded voters of the importance of 2021 redistricting and promised that Republicans would "always stand for the right to life." On the Democratic side, former President Barack Obama endorsed 17 Democratic candidates for the legislature, and former Vice President Joe Biden headlined on Sunday a canvass kickoff in Sterling with former Governor Terry McAuliffe. 

Texas state House election

The state has ten constitution amendments on the ballot and three state house special elections on Tuesday, though only one is realistically competitive, says CBS News Political Unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Democrats and Republicans are looking at Texas House District 28 in the Houston/Sugarland area, which is poised to be a bellwether race for the state 2020 legislature races and redistricting.

The race was called after Representative John Zerwas decided to step down and join the University of Texas system. Since then, six Republicans have filed and one Democrat, educator Eliz Markowitz.

Markowitz is hoping to build off changing politics in the district, looking at U.S. Senator Ted Cruz's narrow 3-point win in 2018 as an encouraging sign. She has raised more than $294,000 since the election was called in late September, and state and national Democrats are hoping she can flip one more state House blue and make it an eight-seat gap for the House majority.

Ben Wexler-Waite from Forward Majority, an organization dedicated to flipping state legislatures ahead of redistricting in 2020, said the state is the "crown jewel of redistricting" and could potentially gain four U.S. Congressional seats. 

"There's no excuse for Democrats not to compete aggressively in districts like this, that could determine the makeup of Congress for years to come," Wexler-Waite told CBS News. 

National politics has found its way into this race, with some mailers last week from the United for Texas PAC showing a picture of Markowitz alongside images of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

The six Republicans looking to keep Zerwas' seat red include anesthesiologist Anna Allred, former City Council member Tricia Krenek and retired Drug Enforcement Administration official Gary Hale. Education has been the main issue driving this race, with most candidates arguing for higher teacher salaries and easier access. 

"Redistricting is the 'big elephant in the room,' not to be funny. Whichever party controls the legislature in 2020 has a leg up in redistricting," Neal J. Katz, executive director of suburban Dallas Collin County's Republican Party, told CBS News earlier in October. "A lot of people are thinking about redistricting, too, when they're voting, about how important it is."

Kentucky gubernatorial election 

Republican incumbent Governor Matt Bevin is attempting to do what no other Republican governor in Kentucky has done: Win re-election. While the state has been trending Republican as of the last decade, it does have a history of Democratic governors including Steve Beshear, the father of current Democratic candidate and Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Bevin had a surprise win in 2015, defying polls and defeating Democrat candidate Jack Conway by 9 points. However heading into this campaign season, Bevin has had to deal with high disapproval ratings- he was the most unpopular governor in the nation for the most of the summer- and alienating spats with teachers over their pension fund.

Beshear has pounced on this political opening, building off the support of teachers and state workers. Kentucky-native and 2018 state Republican representative candidate Robert Goe said that support has helped Beshear keep it a close race. 

"You take your state workers, you take your teachers, you take friends and family- that's a lot of votes. That's why I think it's close," he told CBS News political unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro.

Goe said Bevin's pro-life stance and support for the second amendment are big reasons for his support. Bevin used these Republican calling card issues on the ground in the weekend before the election, as well as his ties with President Trump.

"Every candidate on this side, pro-life, pro-second amendment, pro-President, pro-America, pro-working class individual. On the other side, the same is just not true," Bevin said Saturday night at an event in Clark County.

Beshear has kept it to Kentucky issues, such as education and healthcare, and has framed the race as a referendum on Bevin. 

"You all know what's on the line: the future of education because it doesn't survive another four years under Matt Bevin," Beshear said at the annual Carl D. Perkins Memorial Breakfast in Pike County. "The future of rural healthcare because it doesn't survive another four years under Matt Bevin. We've got a governor that brags about prosperity but do you see it right here?"

Mississippi gubernatorial election 

The latest Mason-Dixon polls show Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves with a 3-point edge over Democratic candidate and Attorney General Jim Hood, according to CBS News Political Unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. At a rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, Mr. Trump said he "can't believe this is a competitive race."

"It's like embarrassing. I'm talking Mississippi. I'm talking Mississippi. I can't believe it. I don't think that [Hood] should be the right guy. I think the guy you want is Tate Reeves," he said. 

Hood has cruised to the Democratic nomination while Reeves has had to face a primary and a runoff. The differences in social issues between the two are not as visible as in Kentucky, both Hood and Reeves are pro-life and pro-second amendment. Hood has even used Mr. Trump's "Drain the Swamp" premise for his own campaign. 

"I can't do anything about the swamp that the president is trying to clean up in Washington with all that bickering and things going on, but I can drain the swamp here that Tate Reeves has created," Hood told reporters Friday.

The battle between the two has instead leaned on state issues like education, medicaid expansion and gas taxes. 

CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ellee Watson talked to Chuck Mauney of Booneville, Mississippi at Friday's rally. He refused to say anything bad about Hood but is voting for Reeves because "it would do no good" to vote for someone who wouldn't work with Trump.

In the backdrop of Tuesday's election in Mississippi is a Jim Crow-era law that requires a candidate to have both the majority popular vote and the majority of the vote in the state's 122 House districts. If a candidate doesn't get either, the State House of Representatives gets to pick the gubernatorial candidate- Republicans hold a 74-45 majority in the House. Last week, a federal court judge in an opinion about the lawsuit and expressed "grave concern" with the rule but stopped short of a preliminary injunction or stoppage of the electoral vote. 


11/4 – Buttigieg in IA, Klobuchar in PA, Steyer in NV, Trump in KY, Warren in IA, Williamson in NH, Yang in VA

11/5 – Biden in PA

11/6 – Bennet in NH, Biden in DC, Harris in NH, Klobuchar in NH, Yang in NH

11/7 – Biden in DC & MA, Harris in NH, Warren in NC, Yang in NH

11/8 – Biden in NH, Booker in SC, Buttigieg in SC, Harris in SC, Sanders in SC, Steyer in SC, Yang in NH

11/9 – Biden in VT, Gabbard in NH

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