On Today’s Show

Who’s in the July debates, how the candidates spent their Q2 money, will Democrats benefit from high turnout in 2020?, Harris’s plan for domestic workers, Trump gets another possible primary challenger, Bullock makes his pitch on Hardball, and a few important dates to mark on your calendar.


Show Transcript

Note: This is the speaking script for the show, so the audio as delivered will differ very slightly from the below. This script also does not include audio clips from third-party sources, or advertisements, which may appear at various points in the show.

Who’s in the July debates

Today, the DNC announced which candidates had qualified for the July debates. There were no surprises, given that there were 21 qualified candidates vying for 20 spots, and the tie-breaking rules had already established that former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel would not win the tie-breaker. So here’s the list of who will be on stage, though this is NOT in order of appearance, as that has not yet been determined.

Bennet, Biden, Booker, Bullock, Buttigieg, Castro, de Blasio, Delaney, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Ryan, Sanders, Warren, Williamson, and Yang.

This is exactly the same list that appeared in the June debates, except Swalwell dropped out and has been replaced by Bullock.

In addition to Gravel not making the cut, Sestak and Steyer are late entrants and don’t meet the polling or donor thresholds yet. Messam and Moulton also have not gotten there, despite being in the race a good bit longer.

All right, so the lineup is set, but the placement on which nights, and the candidates’ locations on stage will be determined on Thursday night in what CNN is promoting as “The Draw.” When I saw the commercial for this, it literally made me spit out my coffee, so please swallow now, and listen to this nonsense:


All right, look, CNN, I have prepared a spot for you just in case that one isn’t working. Here goes.

IN A WORLD…where somebody draws names…out of BOXES or something…on CNN…LIVE this Thursday night for some reason…whose names will it be?! Well, it’ll be the names as last time EXCEPT FOR BULLOCK AND SWALWELL, but in a DIFFERENT ORDER, with VERY MINOR CHANGES. Tune INNNNN or you’ll MISS OOOOOOUT.

How the candidates spent their Q2 money

Yesterday, we talked a whole bunch about who had brought in how much money, and the fact that essentially everybody is spending a whole bunch of that money. In many cases, candidates are out-spending what they’re raising. This raises a natural question: What are they spending all that money on?

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Carry Levine of the Center for Public Integrity addressed exactly that topic. Here are two of her opening paragraphs:

“Although the massive Democratic primary field has collectively raised $277 million [dollars] so far, almost three-fifths of the money flowed into the coffers of only five campaigns, according to new filings with the Federal Election Commission.
What that means: a few top candidates are racing to expand their campaign staff and advertising budgets. Most of the rest will pour their dwindling resources into crossing the Democratic Party’s fundraising thresholds for debate participation — or simply paying their bills.”

Levine further mentions that, oh by the way, President Trump has raised about $135 million dollars for this race so far, which is a nice stack of money ready to deploy against whomever he faces in the general. Anyway, back to how these candidates are spending.

The key thing most candidates are spending money on is acquiring donors. The September debates require a donor base of 130,000 people, including 400 donors in each of 20 states. Only eight of the candidates have already passed this threshold, so every other campaign is trying super-hard to get people to give them some money. Because of the DNC rules, they just need one dollar. But the cost of acquiring a one-dollar donor can be extremely high—it’s far more than one dollar per donor.

Let’s take one example. Representative Tulsi Gabbard has $2.4 million dollars in cash on hand, at least as of Monday’s FEC report. Gabbard currently needs 28,678 more donors to hit the DNC threshold. If it costs her, let’s say, $25 dollars to acquire each donor via advertising or other means, that total cost is more than $700,000 dollars, or about a third of her cash. And that doesn’t even begin to solve her problem of getting better poll results during the same period, which likely requires a mix of advertising and standout debate performance later this month. Plus, she still has to pay her campaign staff, and, you know, EAT and TRAVEL and all that stuff.

So that’s largely what the candidates who don’t yet meet that DNC threshold are doing—they’re drumming up donors and overall awareness through advertising. The candidates who have already met the threshold are spending heavily on their ground game, hiring staff in key states. Reading from FiveThirtyEight:

“Campaign finance reports show Sen[ator] Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spent about $1 [dollar] out of every $3 [dollars] her campaign raised during the year’s second quarter on salary and payroll expenses for her roughly 300 staff members.”

So that’s it—a ton of your donation money goes to advertisements and staffers.

Will Democrats benefit from high turnout in 2020?

Next up, a pair of stories, one in the New York Times by Nate Cohn, the other in New York Magazine by Ed Kilgore, examine the issue of voter turnout. In the 2018 midterms, Democrats saw a so-called “blue wave” in which massive voter turnout gave the party a boost in a bunch of elections. We expect high turnout again in the 2020 election, but there’s an open question: Which party will benefit from that the most? Let’s read first from the Times:

“It is commonly assumed that Democrats benefit from higher turnout because young and nonwhite and low-income voters are overrepresented among nonvoters. And for decades, polls have shown that Democrats do better among all adults than among all registered voters, and better among all registered voters than among all actual voters.
But this longstanding pattern has become more complicated in the Trump years. The president is strong among less educated white voters, who are also overrepresented among nonvoters. And Democrats already banked many of the rewards of higher turnout in the midterm elections, when the party out of power typically enjoys a turnout advantage and did so yet again….”

So Cohn is essentially saying that the Democrats have a problem because the Trump voting base didn’t show up at the ballot box quite as much in 2018, but they probably WILL in 2020, because, you know, Trump will actually be on the ticket. Plus, the classic Democratic base is actually shifting a bit toward Trump.

Cohn also points out that Democrats need to reach a key group that might be hard to get: people who aren’t registered at all, or who are but simply haven’t voted lately. This is a theme in the Democratic ground game in general, and expect it to get far more intense as we get closer to the general election. Democrats will spend incredible energy and money to get people registered and get them to the polls. If that happens, it’s by no means a lock that Democrats will automatically win. Because of of the folks that get registered won’t vote for the party.

Meanwhile, at New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore wrote about high turnout in 2018, and referenced the Times article I just quoted. Quoting Kilgore here, “if Democrats can match those patterns in 2020, victory should be relatively easy. But another way to look at it is that Republicans may have a larger pool of presidential voters who stayed home in 2018 than do Democrats, which is unusual but hardly impossible. That is essentially what Nate Cohn found in a new analysis of what a high-turnout presidential election in 2020 might look like….” And I’ll leave you here with Kilgore’s conclusion:

“…since time immemorial, ideologues on both the left and the right have asserted as a matter of quasi-religious faith that some hidden majority favor their prescriptions, with tens of millions of citizens refusing to vote because the radicalism they crave has been withheld by Establishment centrists. In 2020, though, the stakes are higher than ever if Democrats are wrong about relying on the intensity of voter enthusiasm. It would be smart for them to have a backup plan.”

Harris’s plan for domestic workers

On Monday, Senator Kamala Harris, along with Representative Primila Jayapal in the House, introduced legislation known as the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. If you’re not familiar with term “domestic worker,” those jobs include things like housecleaners, nannies, home healthcare workers, and more. And right now, they don’t get the same kinds of benefits that other Americans do. Reading from a press release by the National Domestic Workers Alliance:

“Every day, over 2 million nannies, home care workers, and housecleaners clean and care for America’s homes and families – and yet, neither their jobs nor their livelihoods are protected under many national or state employment laws. Since the passage of laws governing workplaces, such as the Fair Standards Labor Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the OSH Act, domestic workers have been excluded by design or by default from basic workers’ protections, including occupational and safety regulations, fair labor standards, the right to organize and anti-discrimination protections in large part because of the employee thresholds for coverage that were created under these laws.”

And here’s a quote from Harris in the same press release.

“Domestic workers are one of the fastest growing workforces in our country. They provide essential care to aging parents, children, homes, and more. However, our nation’s domestic workers have not been afforded the same rights and benefits as nearly every other worker, and it’s time we change that….”

The legislation would do three key things. I’m going to read here from Harris’s one-page summary of the bill. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act:

“Includes domestic workers in common workplace rights and protections like paid overtime, safe and healthy working conditions, and freedom from workplace harassment and discrimination;
Creates new rights and protections that address the unique challenges of domestic work such as written contracts, affordable healthcare and retirement benefits, fair scheduling, support for survivors of sexual harassment, and grants for workforce training; and
Ensures that rights aren’t just on paper, but that they can be enforced and implemented: “know-your-rights” information, mechanisms to prevent retaliation, a confidential hotline and emergency access tool to address harassment, affordability for Medicaid consumers, and a worker and employer-led federal taskforce.”

The bill has a total of 27 co-sponsors in the House, plus 5 in the Senate who happen to be named Booker, Gillibrand, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren. There is not yet a CBO estimate of the cost for this legislation, though we’ll see what that might be over the coming months.

Trump gets another possible primary challenger

Here’s a quick one.

President Donald Trump currently faces one actual Republican primary challenger, Bill Weld. Another man is apparently considering joining the fray. He is Mark Sanford, a former Representative from South Carolina. In an interview on Tuesday with the Post and Courier, Sanford said,

“Sometimes in life you’ve got to say what you’ve got to say, whether there’s an audience or not for that message. I feel convicted.”

Even if he makes the run official, Sanford faces slim odds because of state-level rules around primaries and caucuses. Reading again from the Post and Courier,

“Republicans in South Carolina would have to agree to hold a primary for Sanford to be on the ballot, but the path is much easier for Sanford to be considered in Iowa, which holds an open caucus, and New Hampshire where there’s just a $1,000 [dollar] filing fee to get on the 2020 GOP ballot.”

So, add Sanford to the list of potential Trump-challengers who haven’t quite announced yet, along with Independent Justin Amash.

Bullock makes his pitch on Hardball

Yesterday on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Montana Governor Steve Bullock was asked to make his pitch. I figured, what they heck, let’s play that audio here. As a reminder, Bullock is the new face we’ll see in the July debates, replacing Swalwell.


By the way, the documentary Matthews mentions there is called Dark Money, directed by Kimberly Reed, and it focuses on Montana, which is obviously a big deal for Bullock. It was a selection Montana’s Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in 2018, and there’s link in the show notes to where you can stream the film online.

A few important dates to mark on your calendar

And last up today, a few things to mark on your calendar as we look forward to this month, and September, and beyond.

First up, the July debates. Those will be on July 30th and 31st, that is a Tuesday and Wednesday this time, and we’ll be doing Debate Bingo and I’ll be on Twitter during those just like in June. Stay tuned for more Bingo details next week.

Next up, the September debates. Those are September 12th and maybe 13th, which are a Thursday and Friday.

And then finally, a milestone that I missed over the weekend. We are now less than one year out from the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. That will span July 13th through 16th 2020, meaning we will have a nominee in less than a year. I’ve been waiting a long time to say that, and although it’s still very early in this primary process, it’s good to know we’re at least within the final YEAR of this primary.


Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Okay, we are right in the middle of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. I’m kind of a space nerd, so I’ve been watching as people celebrate this and dig up old footage. One of the big treats for me has been a four-and-a-half hour chunk of live coverage from CBS News, uploaded yesterday to YouTube, covering the Apollo 11 launch. It’s really fun to watch, and, I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but near the end LBJ stops by to chat with Walter Cronkite, and he does talk about things like partisan politics—50 years ago! If you’re curious, that’s the last link in today’s show notes. As always, thanks for listening and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.