Political News

#2020Vision: Dems play tech catch-up; Sanders not taking 2020 'off the table'; Biden on the Hill

Posted July 14

Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:

Desperate to regain a technological advantage before 2020, a group of Democrats is launching a startup incubator that will fund companies working to expand the party's voter contact, targeting and protection capabilities and develop alternatives to traditional polling.

If these efforts succeed, it means the 2020 nominee - whoever it is - won't have to start from scratch.

Higher Ground Labs announced that Ron Klain, a longtime top Democratic operative, will chair its board, with a host of Barack Obama veterans with him and Shomik Dutta, Betsy Hoover and Andrew McLaughlin serving as its leaders. They've already raised $2.5 million.

"It feels like the Republicans have sort of leap-frogged us on some of this stuff; we want to catch up and get ahead," Klain told me.

The group is now winnowing 80 applicants for its first round of funding down to a group of eight to 10 winners. Those winners will head to a boot camp starting August 14 in Chicago, where they'll receive political training. The goal: Developing technology that could be useful as early as the 2017 races in Virginia.

It's one of several efforts to address Democratic shortcomings that the 2016 election laid bare.

Obama attended a fundraiser hosted by former Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday for Holder's National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The group has started slowly, but could provide a meaningful boost to state-based efforts to draw friendlier House and state legislative district lines for Democrats.

Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state, is helming a voter protection effort, merging his Let America Vote PAC with iVote to fight voter ID laws and other limitations on voting access.

And the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA has re-geared, bringing super-lawyer Marc Elias on board for a voter protection effort while prioritizing experimentation, beefing up its in-house digital team and sharing research and modeling with progressive groups.

Why does all of this matter so much to Democrats? On the left, Obama and Hillary Clinton built the data and tech operations they needed from scratch - and then let them rust once they were done. On the right, Mitt Romney's 2012 loss was followed by years of investments, backed largely by the Koch and Mercer families, that would outlive any single candidate.

Democrats "build tools for presidential campaigns and the tools kind of go away," Klain said. "If we fund promising companies that are permanent -- those companies will have technologies they can sell to state and local candidates, federal candidates, even presidential campaigns."

News and notes:

Sanders: 'Too early' to talk 2020: "I am not taking it off the table. I just have not made any decisions. And I think it's much too early," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told SiriusXM's Mark Thompson, while insisting Democrats face more urgent fights against President Donald Trump. "It just too early to be talking about an election three and a half years from now," Sanders said. Here's the audio.

- Reminder: Sanders plans to be in Iowa on Saturday and back there again in August. He's acting like he's running again.

Warren's huge fundraising haul: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren continues to outpace the Democratic fundraising field, raising nearly $3.5 million in the second quarter of 2017 and giving her $11 million cash on hand headed into what's likely to be an easy re-election.

Harris the fundraising star: California Sen. Kamala Harris is an increasingly sought-after name for progressive groups' fundraising efforts, and her email to MoveOn.org's 5 million members got "an unusually strong" return, MoveOn's Ben Wikler told The San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli. Why is her popularity growing? "She speaks like an actual human being, and that's an ever-valuable commodity in Washington, DC - and she doesn't pull punches," Wikler said. "And that fits the national mood."

Booker vs. Trump on voter info: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is introducing a bill, along with the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus chairs, to repeal Trump's executive order launching a much-maligned commission to investigate potential voter fraud. "We will not go back to a time when millions of people - most of them poor and minorities - were silenced through disenfranchisement. Yet that is exactly what President Trump seems to want to do with this sham of a commission," Booker said in a statement.

Biden on the Hill: Former Vice President Joe Biden - who is keeping active on the political scene - was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. His main event: Talking medical research policy at a forum hosted by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, Gary Peters, D-Michigan, and Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, that was attended by about 20 senators. Biden also held meetings with senators.

Zuckerberg's road trip: The Wall Street Journal's Reid Epstein has a good look at Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg's cross-country road trip. What caught our eyes was the kicker: "As Mr. Zuckerberg was leaving, he made one request, Mr. Moore said. 'He said, "If there are any news reporters that call you, just make sure you tell them I'm not running for president."'"

At the NGA: Two people we're watching at the National Governors Association meeting this weekend in Rhode Island: Colorado's John Hickenlooper (who just joined the list of states resisting Trump's Paris climate accord withdrawal) and Montana's Steve Bullock.

This week's schedule:

Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 - The National Governors Association is meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.

Saturday, July 15 - Bernie Sanders returns to Iowa, speaking at the populist Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement's convention in Des Moines.

Saturday, July 15 - Quarterly campaign finance reports are due.

Before you go:

Tom Steyer says "clean coal" only exists in Republicans' political context. ... New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, unlike most Democrats, rarely says Donald Trump's name.

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