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2020 Sunday Trail Markers: The state of play in Iowa

Understanding the dispute about Trump, Biden & Ukraine

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

  • The state of play in Iowa
  • Harris takes a "compassionate" turn
  • UN General Assembly puts Trump's foreign policy in the spotlight
  • Kennedy makes it official 
  • Kerry says Iran likely to blame for Saudi attack
  • This week's schedule

THE STATE OF PLAY IN IOWA

Via CBS News Campaign Reporters Adam Brewster and Jack Turman: The Democratic presidential race in Iowa has a new name at the top of the Des Moines Register/CNN Iowa Poll: Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts senator has the support of 22% of likely caucus goers, narrowly beating out Joe Biden's 20%, a difference within the poll's 4-point margin of error. 

Rounding out the top five are Bernie Sanders (11%), Pete Buttigieg (9%) and Kamala Harris (6%). All other candidates were under 5%. Warren has seen a 7 point increase in support since June, the only candidate within the top five to see her support jump. Biden is down 3 points, Sanders fell by 5, Buttigieg dropped by 6 and Harris' support remained even.

Warren saw an even bigger jump in her overall support, with 71% of respondents saying she was their first choice, second choice or that they were actively considering supporting her. That was a 10-point jump from June, the biggest from any candidate in the race. Trailing her are Biden with 60%, a 1 point drop from June, Buttigieg and Harris with 55%, a 3 point increase for both, and Sanders at 50%, a 6 point drop.

Warren's steady rise in Iowa comes after she invested early in the state, building out an experienced team on the ground before many other campaigns hired a large staff. The silver lining for Biden: 26% of those who say the former vice president is their first choice say they've made up their minds and won't caucus for someone else. That's true of only 12% who say Warren is their first choice.

The poll, in fact, found there could be significant shifts in the months to come, as only 20% of likely Democratic caucus goers said their mind is made up for who they plan to support. A clear majority of respondents -- 63% -- say they could be persuaded to support a different candidate. 

Warren had the highest favorably rating in the poll, with 75% saying they found her "very" or "mostly" favorable. And while the poll is something of a mixed bag for Buttigieg, his overall favorability rating jumped 8 points to 69%, the biggest increase among the candidates polling in the top five.

That could be a promising sign for the South Bend mayor, who had one of the strongest showings of support at the Polk County Democrats' Steak Fry in Des Moines on Saturday. Buttigieg, a strong fundraiser, has recently invested heavily in Iowa. He has nearly 100 staffers and more than 20 offices open around the state.

"I'm not too worried about a variation like that," Buttigieg said about his drop in the poll's first choice portion. "I think the important thing is do people know you? Do they know what you're about? And do they like what they see? And you seem to be seeing a lot of encouragement on that front."

Biden's favorability rating has dropped 6 points since June and 16 points since last December, before he entered the race. His favorability rating now sits at 66%. Sanders is down 12 points since June and 16 points since December, and is now at 58% favorability. 

Harris' favorability, meanwhile, remained at 63%. The California senator just wrapped up her first swing to Iowa since August, and her campaign bet big on Iowa this week by vowing to have a third place or better finish in the state.

One aspect of Warren's rise comes from her support among groups that had previously tended to support Sanders. She now leads Sanders 27% to 22% in voters under the age of 35 and leads Sanders 48% to 20% among voters who identified as "very liberal."

HARRIS TAKES A "COMPASSIONATE" TURN

Via Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell: In her first visit to South Carolina in nearly three months, Kamala Harris addressed hundreds at the 102nd Annual NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Charleston on Saturday, delivering what one surrogate called "the most compassionate articulation of her criminal justice record." 

Harris described coming home after graduating from Howard University and receiving perplexed looks from members of her community when she said she wanted to be a prosecutor. She also acknowledged she still receives those looks today because of the role that prosecutors have sometimes played in the criminal justice system. 

"Let's be honest, prosecutors haven't always been or often been part of the solutions we need [and] through the history of our legal system, they've too often presented barriers to justice and an engine for over incarceration and they sure didn't look like me," said Harris. "I said then what I say today, we need soldiers in every phase, layer, and trench of the movement for social justice...We must also do the hard, yes, long and frustrating work, of driving change from the inside as well."

Harris will complete this swing through the state by attending the celebration of life service for the late Dr. Emily England Clyburn—beloved wife of top House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, South Carolina's top Democrat. Elizabeth Warren is also scheduled to be in attendance.

GET READY FOR UNGA WEEK

Via Political Unit Associate Producer Eleanor Watson: President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) annual meeting in New York this week, an event that's likely to put his foreign policy back in the spotlight. In recent weeks, the Trump administration has accused Iran of striking Saudi Arabian oil facilities, pulled out of peace talks with the Taliban, and signaled a potential easing of tariffs on China. At the same, talks in Norway between allies of Nicolas Maduro and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido have broken down while the country's citizens are still suffering.

The Democratic candidates for president, meanwhile, have criticized the Trump administration for not having a coherent global strategy sidestepping how they would handle the issues themselves. This was evident during the debates in Houston, where some of the candidates were asked if they would pull troops out of Afghanistan without negotiating with the Taliban. More often than not, their answers dealt with future conflicts more than current concerns. 

But while the Democratic field may see no political advantage in proposing new solutions to ongoing foreign-policy headaches, it's Mr. Trump who will be defending his record when he addresses the UN this week. Expect Democrats to capitalize on the opportunity and draw contrasts with the president. 

KENNEDY MAKES IT OFFICIAL

Via Eleanor Watson and Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga: Rep. Joe Kennedy III made his Senate challenge official on Saturday with an announcement speech in his ancestors' East Boston neighborhood. His speech targeted President Trump but made no explicit mention of his establishment Democratic rival, Senator Ed Markey.

The 38-year old Kennedy scion is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy, who represented Massachusetts in the Senate for almost 47 years until his death in 2009. Kennedy is considered a rising star in the Democratic party – he was first elected to Congress in 2012 and was chosen to give the party's response to Mr. Trump's 2018 State of the Union.

Kennedy, flanked by his two young children and his wife, told the crowd corralled in a community center that the challenges the country faces are "far too urgent to sit and wait for somebody else to take it on."

"We have a Senate that instead of trying to harness the opportunity of every person in this country, they're trying to pull us back, and I'm running for the United States Senate to tear that down, to fight back," Kennedy said.

KERRY: IRAN LIKELY TO BLAME FOR SAUDI ATTACK

Via CBSNews.com Reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez: Agreeing with the assessment from top Trump administration officials in recent days, former Secretary of State John Kerry said he believes the Iranian government was involved in the recent attacks on an oil processing plants in Saudi Arabia. 

"I believe Iran, one way or another, was behind the attack that took place. That, to me, is obvious," Kerry said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. 

On September 14, two state-owned oil plants in eastern Saudi Arabia were attacked in the early morning hours, forcing the kingdom to temporarily halt a substantial part of its oil production, which rattled global markets. Although the Iran-backed Houthi rebel group in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks, U.S. officials were quick to place blame on Tehran, saying the operation was too sophisticated to have been carried out by the rebels.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL THIS WEEK

9/23 – O'Rourke in IL & IN, Biden in MD, Buttigieg in IA, Sanders in IA

9/24 – O'Rourke in OH, Biden in PA, Buttigieg, in IA, Sanders in IA & IL, Walsh in NY, Weld in NY

9/25 – O'Rourke in OH & PA, Biden in CA, Booker in NH, Sanders in MI & NV, Warren in NH

9/26 – O'Rourke in PA, Biden in CA, Castro in TX, Klobuchar in TX, Yang in NY

9/27 – Biden in NV, Warren in NH, Yang in NH

9/28 – Biden in UT & CO, Booker in VA, Delaney in IA, Sestak in IA, Yang in IA

9/29 – Bennet in MI, Booker in MI, Buttigieg in MI, Harris in MI, Sanders in MI, Warren in MI

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