Harris Drops Out

Okay, breaking news time. I had actually recorded the whole show today, sat down in the editing bay, and, surprise, Senator Kamala Harris has dropped out of the race. This is, to say the least, a TOTAL shock, as I hadn’t seen any rumors about this, aside from some ongoing gossip about how her campaign operation was a little messy. The only other Harris news I saw today was actually a new ad buy, so…yeah.

I’m going this in more detail tomorrow, but here’s what you need to know right now, today. Harris is polling at about 4% nationally, according to The Economist, which is a polling average I’m about to talk about several stories from now. She is actually the fifth-place candidate in that average, and is very close to entrepreneur Andrew Yang in her overall vote totals. That means a substantial chunk of voters is now up for grabs, and it’s unclear who those voters will move to. It also means that Harris, who IS qualified for the December DNC debate, is not going to appear on that stage.

As I say these words, it’s just about five minutes after the news broke. So I’m going to read a few paragraphs from the breaking news story in The New York Times by Astead Herndon and Shane Goldmacher.

“The announcement is both dramatic and unexpected, perhaps the most sudden development to date in a Democratic presidential campaign where Ms. Harris began in the top tier.
Ms. Harris had struggled financially in recent months as her online fund-raising slowed and her large donors increasingly turned away from her campaign. In the third quarter of the year, she spent more than $1.41 for every dollar she raised, burning through millions of her treasury.
She stopped buying advertisements, both online and on television, slashed staff in New Hampshire and retrenched to Iowa, where she spent the Thanksgiving holiday with her family.
But it was not enough, as the determination was made that she did not have enough financial resources to compete, even as a supportive super PAC began reserving ads on Tuesday, the day she told people she was dropping out.”

Again, more on this tomorrow, and, in a word, WOW.

Steyer qualifies for the December DNC debate

First up, activist and billionaire Tom Steyer has qualified for the December DNC debate. He actually got his fourth qualifying poll more than a week ago, but needed more time to pick up donors. The DNC currently requires debate candidates to get 200,000 individual donors, including at least 800 people from each of 20 different states. Steyer’s campaign announced this morning that he has met that donor threshold.

There are two more likely candidates who have yet to qualify. They are Representative Tulsi Gabbard and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Both of them need one more poll, already have the donors, and have until December 12th to get that last poll. That seems pretty likely, and it also seems very likely that Senator Cory Booker will not appear in December, given that he has zero qualifying polls. If that all plays out as expected, he may be the ONLY candidate from last month’s debate who doesn’t make the cut.

Okay, so here is the current list of qualified candidates for December’s debate: Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, and Warren.

More details about the December DNC debate

And one more quick debate item. We now know the moderators for the December DNC debate. They are Tim Alberta of Politico, plus a trio of correspondents from PBS NewsHour. Those are Yamiche Alcindor, Amna Nawaz, and Judy Woodruff.

This is a good time to remind you that Politico is inviting the public to submit questions for that debate. There’s a link to do that in the show notes near the top, and the deadline for submitting your questions is December 13th.

Warren declines in national polls while Buttigieg rises

Next up, let’s talk about the polls. Senator Elizabeth Warren has been declining in national polls since October, which is roughly the same time that Mayor Pete Buttigieg began to rise. In The Economist’s polling average, Warren is currently at 18% nationally, which puts her well behind Joe Biden, who has 25% nationally. This is a major drop from those far-off days of, you know, two months ago, when Biden and Warren were statistically tied.

Behind Warren at the moment is Senator Bernie Sanders with 15%. His number has remained very steady for months now. Then you have Buttigieg surging with 13%, and nobody else reaches the double digits in the national average. While these numbers aren’t all that far apart, the clear message here is that Biden remains the front-runner in national polls. But at the same time, he’s not completely running away with the race. We appear to have a four-way race at the top, and we are speeding full-tilt toward the actual primary vote, with just 62 days remaining until the Iowa caucuses.

The impeachment update

And now, the impeachment news in three minutes or less.

Today, House Intelligence Committee members are reviewing the report detailing their findings in the impeachment inquiry. They are expected to vote right after this show comes out, likely around 6pm Eastern, and then the report will be released publicly. Rumor has it that the report is about 175 pages long, which is much longer than any report I ever wrote over my Thanksgiving break.

Meanwhile, House Republicans have released their own report, which very clearly says the impeachment effort is a political effort by Democrats and has no merit. That report is 123 pages long, and I did get a chance to skim it. It lays out a legal argument that we’ll probably see in the Senate, assuming there are articles of impeachment and they pass the House. I can summarize that argument as, basically, no quid pro quo. The report is heavily footnoted, and contains a very useful three-page list of names that serves as a reminder of who all these people are—like, what their job titles are or were, and so on.

Next up, the House Judiciary Committee has released its list of witnesses for tomorrow’s hearing on the legal side of impeachment. They include four law professors, and testimony will begin Wednesday at 10am Eastern. Three of the witnesses were requested by Democrats, and one by Republicans on the committee. To be clear, these are not witnesses like we saw in the previous hearings—they are not there to report on facts of the investigation. Instead, the hearings we will see tomorrow will be about the nature of what an impeachable offense IS, and what tests you might us to see whether President Trump’s conduct might rise to that standard. I guess that’s a long way of saying, this phase of the hearings may feature a lot of legalese and likely will NOT reveal new information.

Meanwhile, you may recall that court case last week in which Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn did indeed have to testify in response to a House subpoena. And you’ll recall that the Justice Department requested that Jackson’s order be stayed—that means temporarily blocked—while they appeal the ruling. Jackson has rejected that request for a stay, citing an urgent need for testimony before any House vote on impeachment. So does this mean McGahn will have to testify? Well, not necessarily. The DOJ is expected to push this issue further up the food chain, and the Supreme Court could get involved real quick.

And the last part of the impeachment news today has to do with what specifically might be in actual articles of impeachment. Those are essentially the charges against the president. According to a report in The Washington Post, House Democrats are quietly engaged in a debate about whether to include an article about alleged obstruction of justice related to the Mueller probe. The key disagreement there is whether to keep the impeachment focused solely on Ukraine, or broaden it out to include other matters. Regardless of how that goes, keep in mind that each article is voted on separately in the House. And even in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, only two of the four articles actually passed in the House.

Trump blocks Bloomberg News from covering his campaign

Yesterday, the Trump campaign announced it will no longer give press credentials to Bloomberg News in order to cover the president’s reelection campaign rallies. The argument there is that when one candidate owns a major news publication, then the owner needs to step away from any involvement with that publication due to conflicts of interest.

This comes after Bloomberg News released a policy trying to cover that conflict of interest by saying they wouldn’t investigate any of the Democrats in the race, but would continue doing investigative stories on President Trump. The policy also said the newsroom would continue covering Bloomberg’s campaign in a limited way, by citing other media outlets’ reporting on him. Now that last part—the decision to treat Bloomberg’s campaign differently—is key to many critiques of this whole thing. That plan by Bloomberg Newshas not gone over well with many people in the media, nor apparently the Trump campaign.

Reading from an article by Lois Beckett in The Guardian:

“Multiple former Bloomberg editors called the coverage plan unsatisfying and inappropriate.
Margaret Sullivan, a prominent Washington Post media columnist and the former public editor of The New York Times, wrote that the initial coverage plans “put Bloomberg’s many talented journalists, especially those in Washington and New York, in a compromised position.”
Sullivan and others have argued that a better plan would have been for Bloomberg himself to have “entirely recused himself from decision-making or influence at the news organization — saying, in effect, ‘cover me like anyone else and do it with journalistic integrity.’”
But that’s not what the billionaire former mayor of New York City has decided to do.”

It’s unclear today whether the Trump ban means Bloomberg News will ONLY be excluded from campaign rallies, or whether they will lose broader press credentials. For example, Bloomberg reporters often travel with the president, as part of the press pool on Air Force One, so if THAT access is revoked, that would be an even bigger problem for the publication.

Another Republican House member announces his retirement—but this time it’s because of campaign finance violations

Yesterday, Representative Duncan Hunter of California’s 50th district, announced that he would retire from his seat. That makes him the 21st House Republican to announce his retirement ahead of the 2020 election. That’s compared with 8 Democrats so far.

But this case is a little different than the others I’ve reported on. Reading from a story by Steve Bosh for KUSI News:

“For 39 years, the Hunter family has represented San Diego in the 50th Congressional District, but that may come to an end next year.
Hunter is charged with using campaign funds for personal expenses, ranging from groceries to family vacations. The trial date for Congressman Duncan D. Hunter’s corruption charges was scheduled for Jan[uary] 22[nd], 2020.
In an exclusive interview with KUSI’s Steve Bosh, Congressman Duncan D. Hunter announced that he will plead guilty to one count of misuse of campaign funds in Tuesday’s court appearance.”

This is one count out of SIXTY, and Hunter’s wife Margaret has already pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in the same case. She is now working with prosecutors, so at least one of these people is likely to face prison time for this whole mess. In the story, Duncan Hunter said he hoped it would be him and not his wife, because, “I think my kids need a mom in the home.”

That is not guaranteed, though, as Margaret Hunter faces up to five years in federal prison along with a quarter-million-dollar fine. This is all a strong reminder of why campaign finance violations are no joke.

California’s 50th is likely to remain a safe Republican seat. Hunter was actually indicted three months BEFORE the previous election, and still won it with just about 52% of the vote. In previous elections, his wins were more like 75%, and that’s what we can probably expect going forward with another strong Republican. There are currently at least seven candidates vying for that seat, but the one to watch is former Congressman Darrell Issa. He has previously served both the 48th and 49th districts, and now he is looking at number 50.