Obama issues his first slate of 2020 endorsements.
Former President Barack Obama issued his first slate of 2020 endorsements on Monday, backing 118 candidates in 17 states with the aim of helping Democrats maintain their majority in the House, win back control of the Senate and flip key state legislative chambers ahead of the 2020 redistricting.
Mr. Obama, who remains one of the most popular and unifying figures in the Democratic Party, has taken on a growing profile in the 2020 campaign, aggressively raising money for his former vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and delivering a sweeping call for changes to voting laws last week in a speech at the funeral of Representative John Lewis.
His new endorsements — including 52 for the House of Representatives and five for the Senate — come in key battlegrounds for control of Capitol Hill, according to a list provided to The Times’s Shane Goldmacher and posted on Medium. A second set of endorsements is planned for states whose primaries have yet to be held.
“Our country’s future hangs on this election,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.
Initially, he is backing Democratic challengers running for the Senate against Republican incumbents in five states: Colorado, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Mr. Obama, whom the Republican Party found great success vilifying in down-ballot races during his presidency, is not so far endorsing Senate candidates in some more conservative states, including Montana, Kentucky, Georgia and Texas, where it is less clear his support would help statewide.
But he is endorsing a full 27 candidates in Texas, including 19 for the state House, where the Democrats need to win nine seats to take control of the lower chamber, giving the party a political foothold before districts are redrawn after the 2020 census.
That has been a top priority for Mr. Obama, who has consistently backed candidates whom the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by his former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., has labeled important to the redistricting process.
Mr. Obama’s endorsements include five candidates for the State Senate in Pennsylvania and nine for the State House; six for the State House in Ohio; and 10 for the State House in North Carolina and five for the State Senate. The only governor in Mr. Obama’s initial endorsement list is Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a top presidential battleground where Mr. Obama is also supporting three other statewide officials.
For the House, Mr. Obama is supporting an ideological range of new Democratic candidates and incumbents, including many who first won their seats in 2018, such as Representatives Katie Porter of California, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Antonio Delgado of New York and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
Among candidates seeking Republican-held seats, Mr. Obama is supporting Amy Kennedy in New Jersey, who is seeking to unseat Representative Jeff Van Drew, who flipped parties to become a Republican; Jackie Gordon of New York, who is vying to replace the retiring Representative Peter King; and Wendy Davis, the Texas Democrat who previously ran for governor and is running against Representative Chip Roy this year.
Mr. Obama also endorsed 10 alumni of his administration.
“I’m proud to endorse this diverse and hopeful collection of thoughtful, empathetic and highly qualified Democrats,” Mr. Obama said.
A presidential endorsement is coveted because it can help drive local news coverage and be featured in mailers, digital ads and fund-raising appeals.
The vice-presidential watch begins in earnest this week.
It will be one of the most attention-grabbing moments of the campaign: Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said he expects to announce his choice for a running mate early this month.
Like everything else in this presidential campaign, the whole process has been odd.
It may be harder, if not impossible, for Mr. Biden to do in-person interviews with the person he wants as his running mate. News organizations will be unable to use their best sleuthing techniques — like tracking down the tail number of private planes to figure out who is flying into town for the big reveal (since no one is likely to be flying anywhere for the announcement). And the announcement is likely to be as scaled back as this year’s conventions: no crowds, no hugs or hands hoisted in the air, no final shots of the families gathered around at the front of a stage.
Coronavirus aside, it’s already been an unusual vice-presidential nomination process. In a break from tradition, which dictated that the candidates laid low as the selection unfolded behind the scenes, many of the prospective choices have been freely giving interviews, talking policy or going on television. There has even been the rebuttal — in real time — of revelations that might have derailed a contender’s candidacy. (Some of those revelations may even have been dug up by supporters of rivals in the vice-presidential race.)
Over the weekend, one possible Biden running mate, Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California, posted a tweet in response to the disclosure that she had offered warm praise for the Church of Scientology when she spoke at a groundbreaking of its headquarters in her Hollywood district 10 years ago. She explained why she had attended (it was a big project in her district) and added: “Just so you all know, I proudly worship at First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in South LA.”
Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor in Georgia, started the trend of potential Biden running mates talking about being potential Biden running- mates, leaving no doubt about her interest. Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser, spoke at length about her résumé and interest in electoral politics the other day.
This is another sign of how politics are changing; old rules around the process now seem quaint in this era of Twitter and 24/7 maneuvering. For another, should Mr. Biden win, the No. 2 slot is probably a more valuable job than in the past: Mr. Biden is 77 and many Democrats don’t expect him to seek a second term.
After retreating from the television airwaves nationwide last week to reassess its strategy, President Trump’s campaign announced a return in four states on Monday with two new ads and a national cable buy.
The Trump campaign is pressing a similar message as before, arguing that Mr. Biden is pushing policies of the “radical left” and his agenda would make the country less safe.
One ad features images of three liberal boogeymen that Republicans have had more success demonizing than Mr. Biden himself: Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Ilhan Omar.
The second ad features a woman, identified as a mother of four, silently flipping through cards warning about things Mr. Biden would do as president, including raising taxes and granting “amnesty.” It ends with, “I won’t risk my children’s future with Biden.”
The campaign says it is appealing to the “silent majority,” the group of voters who helped Mr. Trump win in 2016 and that the campaign claims “remains undercounted today” in a race that polls show Mr. Trump losing.
Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager, said the ads were focused on states that will begin voting earlier in the process. “In many states, more than half of voters will cast their votes well before Election Day, and we have adjusted our strategy to reflect that,” he said. “Joe Biden is continuing to spend millions of dollars a week in states that won’t come online for two months, and we encourage him to keep at it.”
The new ad buy leaves off some notable battlegrounds, especially Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — all states that Mr. Trump won four years ago.
Mr. Stepien on Monday also renewed the campaign’s call for more and earlier debates.
Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” one of Mr. Trump’s favorite programs, in his first television interview since becoming campaign manager, Mr. Stepien noted that by the time of the first debate, on Sept. 29, voting will have already begun in 16 states. The Trump campaign has accused Mr. Biden of avoiding scrutiny by mostly remaining in his Delaware home during the pandemic.
“We want more debates,” Mr. Stepien said. “We want debates starting sooner.”
On the first anniversary of the El Paso massacre, Biden calls on Americans to ‘stand against hate.’
In a three-minute video posted by his campaign, Mr. Biden on Monday recognized the first anniversary of the mass shooting in El Paso in which 23 people were killed by a white gunman who targeted Latinos. The gunman posted a manifesto online saying the attack was in response to “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
“He chose El Paso because it is a city defined by its diversity,” Mr. Biden said in the video.
Mr. Biden has made restoring the “soul of the nation” a centerpiece of his campaign since he entered the race and, without naming President Trump directly, he said the anniversary of the massacre was a moment “to recommit to the battle for the soul of this nation.”
“A battle against the forces of white supremacy that are part of the very foundations of our nation — but which this president has encouraged and emboldened,” he said. “A battle against the spread of hatred’s poisonous ideas in every form.”
The Latino vote is viewed as a key bloc for Mr. Biden, particularly as his campaign tries not merely to turn Arizona into a swing state but also to win its electoral votes. His campaign has said it also hopes to compete in Texas, and it named six staff members there on Monday, including his state director. But the cost is typically seen as prohibitively expensive given that winning there would almost certainly mean that Mr. Biden had already won enough Electoral College votes to become president.
Mr. Trump is almost certain to lose the Latino vote, but his campaign hopes to keep the vote margin down among the demographic.
A year ago, Democrats had all but given up on Ohio as a lost cause, citing Mr. Trump’s decisive eight-percentage-point victory in the state in 2016.
But with recent public polls suggesting that Mr. Biden is neck-and-neck with Mr. Trump there, Mr. Biden has expanded his campaign map to include the Buckeye State, a traditional battleground that President Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012.
The latest evidence of the campaign’s newfound Ohio ambition is a four-stop — albeit virtual — Biden for President tour that is set for this week.
Senator Sherrod Brown and other Ohio leaders will promote Mr. Biden’s plan to bring back manufacturing jobs and create five million new ones during online round-table discussions in four cities, the Biden campaign announced Sunday.
Mr. Biden also announced a seven-figure television and digital ad buy in the Youngstown and Toledo markets.
The ads feature Mr. Biden’s childhood home, working-class Scranton, Pa. One of the ads leads off with an aerial view of the city, once known for its dominance in the iron, coal and railroad industries.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, is expected to appear in person in Ohio this week. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee confirmed that Mr. Trump would fly to Bratenahl, a lakefront suburb of Cleveland, for a fund-raiser on Thursday.
A $35,000 contribution will get donors a photo with the president.
As an activist who jumped into the political arena after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., six years ago, Cori Bush is accustomed to hard fights. She has been maced, shot at with rubber bullets and cloaked in tear gas at so many protests against police brutality that they have blurred together.
So when she heard that Representative William Lacy Clay, the 10-term Democrat she is challenging in Missouri’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, had called her “a prop” for the Justice Democrats, a national progressive group, Ms. Bush did not miss a beat.
“I had no title, no name, came out of the Ferguson uprising and people know who I am across the world,” Ms. Bush said on Saturday, responding to comments Mr. Clay made about her in an interview with The New York Times. “Not because I took money from some group — none of that. It is because I stayed true to a message of change for real people.”
Of Mr. Clay, she added, “He doesn’t understand that, because he doesn’t understand fighting for people.”
All over the country, progressive candidates like Ms. Bush, 44, are doing battle with veteran incumbents over the identity of the Democratic Party. In New York City, Jamaal Bowman defeated Representative Eliot L. Engel, a 16-term incumbent and powerful committee chairman. In western Massachusetts, Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, is trying to unseat another long-serving chairman, Representative Richard E. Neal.
They are seeking to sustain the momentum gathered in 2018 by insurgents like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In St. Louis, Ms. Bush’s candidacy is a test of whether the national protest movement can translate into hard electoral power on the federal level.
For Democratic leaders watching warily from Washington, Mr. Clay’s fate will also indicate whether the rise in progressive energy that has cost powerful white incumbents in places like the Bronx, Queens and Boston their seats can also dislodge a Black representative deep in the heartland of the country.
Joe Arpaio, who spent 24 years doling out his punitive brand of justice in Arizona’s most populous county and billed himself as “America’s toughest sheriff,” suffered a landslide defeat in 2016, largely because of his hard-line immigration stances and his own pugnacious defiance, which earned him a criminal conviction for contempt of court.
Mr. Arpaio faces his first test in the Republican primary election in Maricopa County on Tuesday, when he must survive a three-way race that includes a challenge from his former chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan.
Few in the state believe Mr. Arpaio, 88, can mount a successful comeback and win in November, saying that he’s too old, too out of touch or too politically damaged to run a credible campaign in 2020.
There are signs that Mr. Arpaio, a former kingmaker in Republican circles, may not even survive the primary. Nearly 80 percent of Arizonans cast their ballots early by mail, and a recent poll of Republicans who had already voted showed Mr. Arpaio and Mr. Sheridan statistically tied.
Still, strategists and political operatives are monitoring Mr. Arpaio’s fate for signs of the broader implications for Arizona politics. The former sheriff had closely aligned himself with Mr. Trump on immigration, earning the president’s praise. The two men are stylistic doppelgängers who vilify undocumented immigrants and are pushing a strident law-and-order message amid a nationwide movement to stop police abuses against people of color.
“If you want to track the trajectory of Trumpism, you should study Arizona circa 2006 to about 2016,” said Kirk Adams, a Republican former speaker of the Arizona House and former chief of staff to Gov. Doug Ducey. “Arizona was the precursor.”
The coronavirus crisis means that November’s election results may be delayed, as states like Pennsylvania count mail-in ballots for weeks while Mr. Trump tweets false allegations about fraud. That means the country’s news outlets will have an outsize role to play in conveying to the public what’s really happening.
Our media columnist, Ben Smith, spoke last week to executives, TV hosts and election analysts across leading American newsrooms, and wrote that he was struck by the blithe confidence among some top managers and hosts, who generally said they’ve handled complicated elections before and can do so again.
And he was alarmed by the near panic among some of the people paying the closest attention — the analysts and producers trying, and often failing, to get answers from state election officials about how and when they will count the ballots and report results.
“The nerds are freaking out,” said Brandon Finnigan, the founder of Decision Desk HQ, which delivers election results to media outlets. “I don’t think it’s penetrated enough in the average viewer’s mind that there’s not going to be an election night. The usual razzmatazz of a panel sitting around discussing election results — that’s dead.”
These conservatives’ focus: ‘owning the libs.’
When Democrats think of Mr. Trump’s allies in the conservative media, they might immediately picture Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson, who make dogged defenses of the president on Fox News.
But another group of conservative commentators — who have large social media followings, successful podcasts and daily Fox News appearances themselves — has also helped insulate the president and preserve his popularity with his base, even as many Americans say they are likely to vote against him in November.
These writers and pundits, including Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist and the author and podcast host Ben Shapiro, don’t tend to fiercely defend Mr. Trump. Often, they don’t bother at all with the awkward business of trying to explain away Mr. Trump’s latest folly.
Instead, they offer an outlet for outrage against those the president has declared his enemies, often by reducing them to a culture war caricature of liberalism.
The capacity that many Trump supporters have developed to focus so intensely on the perceived wrongdoing of his opponents is a powerful asset for the president as he runs for re-election amid growing economic and social turmoil and a public health crisis that a majority of voters say they don’t trust him to handle.
This almost entirely white cohort of conservative commentators can spend ample time mocking the mainstream and liberal media for focusing on Mr. Trump’s racist and divisive messaging without giving nearly as much consideration to the harm caused, for instance, when he promotes a video of someone shouting “white power.”
A Michigan state senator who battled Whitmer over her virus response tests positive.
A Michigan state senator who has been highly critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Michigan said on Sunday that he had tested positive for the virus.
The senator, Tom Barrett, a Republican from Charlotte, Mich., announced in a statement that as a member of the Michigan Army National Guard, he underwent a coronavirus test on Friday as part of a program to test reservists before they depart for training.
“Despite taking reasonable precautions, I was notified this afternoon that I tested positive,” he said. “Thankfully, I do not have any significant symptoms at this time and I will be self-isolating according to medical guidelines.”
Mr. Barrett sponsored a bill in April that would have repealed a law that gave governors emergency authority during a public health crisis. The bill came after Ms. Whitmer extended a stay-at-home order that kept most businesses closed and Michigan residents at home.
“All of us, regardless of political stripe or affiliation, or no affiliation at all, should be gravely concerned that any governor would claim authority to seize unilateral control of state government for as long as he or she chooses,” he said at the time.
The bills passed on party-line votes with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats opposing. Ms. Whitmer vetoed the bill when it reached her desk.
While the full Senate did not meet last week, Mr. Barrett attended three committee hearings. The Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, a Republican, said that all senators and staff members had been informed of the positive test result and that “we will evaluate the need for changes to the legislative calendar in the coming days.”
Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Fandos, Shane Goldmacher, Kathleen Gray, Adam Nagourney, Jeremy W. Peters, Stephanie Saul, Ben Smith, Hank Stephenson.