Messam drops out

This morning, Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Florida suspended his campaign. Now, if you’re asking, wait, who’s Wayne Messam, he’s the one whose campaign accidentally said he raised just $5 dollars in Q3.

He sent out a press release titled, “I am Suspending My 2020 Presidential Campaign But I’m Not Finished Yet.” He also posted that on Medium. Reading from the beginning of that statement:

“I launched my 2020 Presidential Campaign eight months ago back in March as the son of Jamaican Immigrant parents. They risked it all and left everything behind in their native land to chase the American Dream. Because of their sacrifices, I am living the American Dream they worked for and earned. Ponder this, growing up in rural sugarcane country in South Bay, Florida, I was never expected by society to be much. Despite those odds and low expectations, my life and experiences exemplifies what the Promise of America is all about. …”

He goes on to explain his path to becoming a notable athlete at Florida State, which, by the way, is where I went to school too, right around the same time. He describes his path from there to becoming the mayor of Miramar. Then he writes:

“So, when I say I love this country, I really do. For America has been good to me and my family as we have sought opportunities to serve. The bad news, however, is that my parents’ American Dream that I have benefited from, has slipped away from far too many people. Disgusted about our nation’s direction, I ran for President.”

Normally, I would now play various clips of Messam speaking throughout his campaign, but to be honest, I don’t have many. He didn’t arrive on many televised stages, and his campaign has been very quiet for many months now. In fact, his campaign did not respond a few weeks back when I asked for clarification about that Q3 filing thing. So, Messam spent 237 days in the race. His departure means there are still 17 major candidates, and perhaps more on the way. And let me read one more bit from his statement to close this out.

“I will continue to be engaged during this 2020 cycle to ensure that we defeat Donald Trump. My state of Florida will be ground zero and I intend to be a factor to mobilize our state for the Democratic Party Nominee. The stakes are too high and the American people cannot afford four more years of tyranny and disrespect of our Constitution.”

The Trump impeachment stuff in three minutes or less

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

Today, US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland testified in public. His opening statement alone was a shock. He added a variety of emails and other evidence we haven’t seen before. He said that these documents helped to improve his memory of the events in question, and indeed they did change testimony he had given previously.

The best way to understand this in simple terms is, Sondland flipped on the White House. His testimony strongly implicated President Trump and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Sondland testified that what he did in order to implement the quid pro quo was done at the direction of the President. And he also said he really didn’t want to work with Giuliani but he was ordered to so by the President, so he did.

Here are a few key quotes from just his opening statement.

“As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the President. We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the President directed us to do so.”
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President.”
“I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a “quid pro quo?” As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Furthermore, Sondland showed a variety of evidence that showed how many senior officials knew about all this, and repeatedly said, “Everyone was in the loop.” To demonstrate this, he showed emails and WhatsApp conversations and text message threads that had key people in them. Many of those who were in that loop are the same people who have refused to appear before the committee, despite subpoenas.

So the problem we face right now is that this testimony contradicts some of what we just heard yesterday afternoon—that’s the testimony I haven’t told you about yet, because it was happening during yesterday’s show. Long story short, some previous witnesses have suggested that Sondland was acting on his own. Sondland disagrees, saying, “They knew what we were doing and why.” And Sondland has brought evidence to back that up.

Meanwhile, Republicans requested that both the anonymous whistleblower and Hunter Biden be subpoenaed to testify before the committee. That request is unlikely to be granted. There are also two other witnesses today, though that testimony didn’t begin until after today’s show finished taping.

Pompeo may be considering a run for Senate in Kansas

In a very related story, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been mentioned quite a bit in the impeachment testimony, is reportedly considering leaving the White House for another job. According to a report in Time Magazine by John Walcott and W.J. Hennigan:

“...Mike Pompeo has told three prominent Republicans in recent weeks that he plans to resign from the Trump Administration to run for the U.S. Senate from Kansas in next year’s elections. The problem: how to get out in one piece.
Pompeo’s plan had been to remain at the State Department until early spring next year, the three Republicans tell TIME, but recent developments, including the House impeachment inquiry, are hurting him politically and straining his relationship with Trump.
So Pompeo is rethinking his calendar, say the top Republicans, one who served in the Trump Administration, another who remains in government, and a third who served in several high-ranking posts and is active in GOP politics. The timing of Pompeo’s resignation now will be decided by his ability to navigate the smoothest possible exit from the administration, the three Republicans say.”

Let’s briefly examine that Kansas race. The seat is actually open, as incumbent Republican Pat Roberts is retiring at the end of his term. According to the Cook Political Report, there is a robust Republican primary field, including at least eight candidates. There are also three Democrats running in the primary, though the seat overall is rated as “Likely Republican” by Cook, which means just what it says—it’s likely to go Republican, assuming nothing totally bizarre happens.

It’s not entirely clear that Pompeo could win the primary there, but he’s got a shot. He does face one uniquely unpopular candidate. Reading from Cook in an analysis with no byline:

“One candidate GOP strategists would like to see exit the field is [Kris] Kobach. Kobach, a close ally of unpopular former Gov[ernor] Sam Brownback, ran a terrible campaign in [...] 2018, costing Republicans the Governor’s mansion. Republicans have made no secret that they don’t want Kobach as the nominee [...]. Kobach’s favorable/unfavorable ratings [are] 32 percent to 50 percent.”

I haven’t seen any other polling on that primary yet, and clearly there is still time for more folks to enter. So we’ll keep an eye on that race, as we could see a White House staffer heading straight into a Senate primary in the coming weeks.

What to expect at tonight’s debate

Okay, and now to news of tonight’s DNC debate. The fifth DNC primary debate will happen in Atlanta, Georgia at Tyler Perry Studios, and it airs from 9pm to 11pm Eastern time tonight. That is a little later on the start time, and a little shorter than previous debates, so we’ll have to see how that affects things.

There will be ten candidates on the stage tonight. It’s the same lineup as last time, minus the two candidates from Texas: Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke. Castro is still in the race, but wasn’t able to qualify for this debate. Castro did make his presence known in a tweet this morning, though. Reading from that:

“In seven nights of [Democratic debates] there hasn’t been a question on housing, despite homelessness being on the rise and communities big and small experiencing an affordable housing crisis. I’ve laid out a comprehensive plan to address housing—will MSNBC ask a question on this topic?”

I actually covered that housing plan back on June 18th, and I am curious as well. There could be a question on it, though given the short schedule and other recent news I kinda doubt it. By the way, link in the show notes to that episode in case you’re curious.

So what DO we expect to see tonight? Based on previous debates, one clear pattern is that candidates who are seen as being on the rise become key targets for their challengers onstage. We saw this with Biden early on, we saw it somewhat with Harris after that, we saw it with Warren more recently, and the obvious next target is Buttigieg. He is rising in multiple early-state polls, and that will likely bring other candidates to talk about his policies and where they disagree.

Another thing that’s notable, but easy to forget, is what has happened in the primary between the last debate and this one. At the last debate, Warren was asked how she would pay for Medicare for All. Since then, she has released a plan. That discussion has in some ways gone from a debate about whether Medicare for All is possible in any way financially, to the more specific issue of details around paying for it. That’s a meaningful change. And, while there are definitely major differences of opinion on the stage tonight about health care, the proponents of Medicare for All are likely to continue framing the key issue there as a moral imperative, rather than a political or a financial thing.

Expect someone to ask Warren about her funding plan, and for some kind of tussle around that. I’d also expect for the recent Obama remarks to come up in that context, because Biden or Buttigieg or Klobuchar could easily use those remarks to support a public option within the existing Obamacare system.

Okay, so what else has happened? Well, there was an election. And Democrats did pretty well in the South, winning two Governor’s seats, plus taking control of the Virginia legislature. Given that this debate is in Georgia, that’s gonna come up. One way to approach that might be to talk about how the candidates plan to build a coalition that includes people of color, and southerners. And yeah, there’s a lot of crossover there.

Another interesting story we have may forgotten is that thing where a campaign staffer for Steyer allegedly downloaded data about Harris’s volunteer operation. I covered that back on November 5th. While that seems to have blown over, I do wonder whether moderators will bring it up, because both candidates will be onstage together.

Today is also Transgender Day of Remembrance. So expect a question about that. And in fact many of the candidates have been tweeting today about the epidemic of violence against transgender Americans, especially transgender women of color.

There are three other key factors I expect to hear about. One is, of course, the set of new candidates jumping in. I’m not sure what a moderator might ask with regard to Bloomberg or Patrick, but I do expect candidates to take a swing at those folks, in part because we know from polling that most voters say they’re happy with their current options in the Democratic field.

The second issue, of course, is impeachment. Now, again, you have to wonder what specific question a moderator could ask about this issue that would matter. We already know where all of these folks are on the issue. So it’s not worth saying, hey, Candidate So-and-So, what’s your take on impeachment? But it’s possible that a moderator would ask the more salient question, which is, hey, Senators Booker, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren—what is your plan for campaigning if you end up locked into a Senate impeachment trial six days a week starting in, oh, I don’t know, probably January? That is an actual topic that matters to Democrats, and you’ve gotta believe the candidates are worried about it too. So if I were asking the questions, I would ask that one.

So the last one is about the issue of age. Today actually happens to be Joe Biden’s 77th birthday! So, happy birthday, Mr. Vice President. But this also could be an obvious opening for the moderators to talk about age. We’ll have a spread on that stage from the youngest at age 37 to the oldest at age 78. You’ll recall that in the last debate, Sanders showed up in his first public appearance after a heart attack. Given that he’s been out on the campaign trail quite a bit since then, this question about age might come up again and seem less awkward, now that we’ve got some distance from that specific moment.

So, that’s what I expect to see. I also think that something around marijuana will come up—but beyond that, I’ll just have to tell y’all tomorrow.

Last call for Debate Bingo

All right, last up today, as we have for every single DNC debate so far, we will have Debate Bingo tonight. That’s a set of simple bingo cards with possible statements that the candidates might make. You can download and print them from the link at the very top of the show notes, or just go to RideHome dot info SLASH bingo. That’s RideHome dot info SLASH bingo.

And do remember to print only the pages you need—there’s 30 pages worth of cards in there, because some people are doing this in movie theaters and stuff.

As I mentioned previously, I am not gonna helm the Debate HQ Twitter account tonight. I’m trying something new, where I will just sit back and soak in the debate. My hope is that tomorrow’s recap show will benefit from that new arrangement.

So, grab those bingo cards if you like. I have heard from some folks that just having the podium order and the little images of each candidate at the top can be very helpful for identifying these candidates. That is especially true if you have folks tuning in for the first time.