Bernie Sanders and the 2020 age debate
Posted October 6, 2019 6:00 p.m. EDT
CNN — With only 120 days until the Iowa caucuses, the 2020 election will be here before you know it. Every Sunday, I round up the 5 BIG storylines you need to know to understand the upcoming week on the campaign trail. And they're ranked -- so the No. 1 story is the most important of the coming week.
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5. Trump, unleashed: Donald Trump has spent the last week talking and tweeting almost nonstop as he tries to fight his way out of mounting allegations over his pressure campaign to get the Ukrainians to look into debunked allegations of wrongdoing against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
And the rhetoric from Trump has gone to previously unseen heights -- even for Trump. He's accused Rep. Adam Schiff (California) of treason, he's attacked Mitt Romney in deeply personal terms -- more on that directly below -- and he's repeating, repeating, repeating long disproven lies.
All of which means that when Trump travels to Minneapolis on Thursday for a "Keep America Great" rally, well, look out. Trump is always at his most, well, Trump-y at these campaign rallies -- and, given the walls closing in on him in Washington, he could well use the Minnesota rally as a venting session the likes of which even longtime Trump observers rarely see.
Stay tuned. It's going to be a doozy.
4. Any other Mitt Romneys out there?: Republicans have, almost uniformly, closed ranks around Trump even as a second whistleblower has emerged regarding the President allegedly using the power of his office for political gain during interactions over the summer with Ukraine.
Only Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) has publicly criticized Trump in any way, calling the President's urgings of China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens "wrong" and "appalling." Trump immediately struck back, referring to Romney as a "pompous 'ass'" (I have no idea why he put "ass" in quotes) and suggesting that the 2012 Republican nominee was "begging" to be his secretary of state.
Any Republican who was weighing speaking out about Trump's behavior with Ukraine (and his plea for China to investigate his main rival for the 2020 nomination) now can have no illusions about what such criticism will be met with: Pure, unadulterated anger from Trump -- and likely vilification from the President's base.
Is any prominent Republican other than Romney willing to risk speaking out when that reaction is assured? Principle vs. politics, anyone?
3. Fundraising losers...: With the third fundraising quarter ending at the close of last month, most of the major candidates have released how much they brought in and how much they spent between July 1 and September 30.
Let's go through the losers first.
* Joe Biden: When you are a former vice president and the race's frontrunner, you need to be at or very close to the top of the money chase. Biden's $15 million raised in the third quarter is well off the pace and a significant drop-off from when Biden raised $21.5 million from April 1 to June 30 -- his first three months of active fundraising. His numbers will re-ignite the debate over whether he has real grassroots energy behind his establishment candidacy. Think about this: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana -- Pete Buttigieg -- raised $4 million more than Biden in the third quarter and has now out-raised the former vice president for six months straight.
* Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator's plea for $1.7 million in the final days of the quarter -- in order, he said, for him to remain in the race -- drew a ton of publicity. Even though Booker met his goal, he still only brought in $6 million for the entire three-month period. That likely means he will be facing another dire financial deadline in the not-too-distant future.
2. ... and fundraising winners:
* Bernie Sanders: Even as his poll numbers have stagnated somewhat, the Vermont senator's small-dollar, online fundraising network continues to deliver. Sanders topped the field in the third quarter with more than $25 million raised and has now raised more than $71 million this year. That ensures he will not only have real organizations in all of the early states but will also be able to continue fighting for the nomination for months.
* Elizabeth Warren: While Sanders edged out Warren for the top spot by about $500,000, Warren's third quarter fundraising is yet another data point proving how much momentum she has built behind her candidacy. Warren already has the best organization in Iowa, and fundraising like she put on the board over the last three months ensures her campaign will be able to fund a (TV) air assault as well.
* Andrew Yang: The tech entrepreneur raised $10 million in the third quarter, which, at least to me was the single most surprising result of the fundraising race. Yang's total put him well above what Booker, as well as Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Gov. Steve Bullock (Montana) raised, and within shouting distance of Sen. Kamala Harris (California). That's a stunner, and shows how far he's come since the year started and almost no one knew who he was.
1. The age/health debate is here: It was probably inevitable, given that the four most likely candidates to be president in 2021 are 70+ years old, but Bernie Sanders' recent heart attack has officially injected the issue of age and health into the 2020 campaign.
After several days of uncertainty, Sanders' campaign confirmed that he had suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail and, following his release from the hospital late last week, he has returned to Vermont. His campaign has canceled its events until further notice but has said Sanders will be at the next debate -- set for October 15 in Ohio.
While the relatively advanced ages of Sanders (78), Joe Biden (76) and Elizabeth Warren (70) has been a sort of low buzz in the background of the Democratic race so far, those days are now over. All three candidates had previously pledged to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020, but the urgency of those releases is significantly higher now than it was even a week ago.
(Remember that Donald Trump was the oldest person ever elected to a first term when he won the presidency in 2016 at age 70. During the campaign, his personal physician released a letter proclaiming that Trump "would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." Trump is now 73. In January of this year, he underwent a physical which found him in "very good health overall.")
In a May Pew Research Center poll, just 3% of Democrats said their ideal candidate would be in their 70s. A near- majority -- 47% -- said a candidate in their 50s would be best. On the other hand, more than 6 in 10 people told Gallup in May they would vote for a presidential candidate over 70 years old.