Twitter will verify candidates running for Congress and Governorships

First up today, a story from the world of Twitter. And, for a change, it won’t make anybody’s blood pressure spike. Starting yesterday, Twitter rolled out a program to verify the accounts of all U.S. candidates running for Congress or Governorships.

Verification is that thing where you get a blue checkmark by your name, and the process typically involves some kind of vetting by Twitter. When I went through that process, and, yes, that is officially a humble-brag, Twitter essentially wanted to know that my account represented the actual person named Chris Higgins. They also wanted me to add some security settings to the account in an attempt to protect against hacking. Once that was all done, there you go, blue checkmark.

The point of Twitter’s move, and verification in general, is to assure users that people are who they say they are. If you’ve spent much time on Twitter, you’ve probably run across fake accounts, or accounts that are parodies but don’t quite look they are.

The most interesting part of this plan is not that Twitter is allowing candidates to be verified. It is that they are seeking them out. Twitter will attempt to identify candidates, contact them if they’re not already verified, and then start the verification process. Prior to this, you had to start it yourself, or some organization would have to call up Twitter on your behalf. Twitter is working with Ballotpedia, which is truly an excellent resource for looking up information about politics, to find those candidates and get in touch.

The other notable move is that will be a special form of blue checkmark, with an icon that represents candidates. Something similar happened in 2018, though, to be honest, I do not remember seeing that special kind of icon. Reading from an article by Nancy Scola in Politico:

“…the tweets of verified candidates will also be stamped with a tiny icon, meant to resemble a government building, so that people seeing their posts will be able to immediately identify them as coming from an official candidate.”

Next week’s debate is going on exactly as planned

Here’s a super-quick item. As I said yesterday, we will have seven candidates onstage in next week’s DNC debate. Representative Tulsi Gabbard did NOT get a fourth qualifying poll at the last minute, so the list as I reported yesterday is the real deal. I’ll have more specifics on how to watch and stream that debate next week, and I will be making bingo cards at some point in here as well. So, just to close that loop—there are no surprises for Thursday.

Get ready for an Education Town Hall this weekend

Next up, there will a town hall event this weekend that you may want to check out. The event is this Saturday morning, and there is a link to the live-stream already in the show notes right now. The event will have a bunch of notable candidates. The list currently includes Bennet, Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, and Warren.

Reading from an article by Peter Greene in Forbes:

“This Saturday, a consortium of education groups is teaming up with MSNBC to host a forum for Democratic Presidential candidates, centered around education issues. The event kicks off at 9:45 and will run most of the day; it will all be livestreamed.
The crowd of about 1,000 invitation-only attendees (I’ll be one of them) includes a sampling of teachers and parents, as well as members of unions and civil rights groups. They are largely pro-public education; at least one pro-charter ed reform group (the Center for Education Reform) has put out an e-mail call to mount a protest at the event.
The format will allow each of the attending candidates to take the stage, make their pitch, and then take questions from the audience.”

So, if education is one of your top issues, check out that livestream. With eight candidates, this really could be an all-day affair.

The impeachment update

And now, the impeachment news in, let’s say about four minutes.

As I reported yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee debated and debated and debated some more in a marathon session stretching more than 14 hours on Thursday.

After a series of amendments from Republicans, all of which failed on party-line votes, there was one actual markup of the articles that succeeded. It was introduced by Democrats. In the text, which previously read “Donald J. Trump,” the middle initial “J” was expanded to “John.” That one passed. As far as I can tell, that is the only specific outcome of the markup session. After 11pm Eastern last night, rather than actually voting on the articles, Chairman Jerry Nadler closed the proceedings for the day.

And, of course, they started up again this morning. Nadler got right down to business. He sat down, turned his phone to silent, and began the vote. I want you to hear how that happened, and I am going to cut out the parts where the actual votes occur—those went precisely along party lines, as expected, and they took about ten minutes.

But I want to give you a taste of how this works in case you haven’t heard any of these votes. The voices you’ll hear in this clip are Nadler, the clerk of the committee whose name I don’t have on-hand, Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Ranking Member Jim Jordan. And, of course, the fun time-passing sound when the long votes begin. Listen in:

[CLIP-NADLER-VOTE]

That was the end of the committee hearing today. That is the sound of a gavel moving the articles of impeachment to the House floor. That is the sound of the conclusion of the committee portion of the impeachment of President Donald John Trump.

Bloomberg donates to House Democrats

And here’s yet another story on spending by Mike Bloomberg. But, in this case, he’s not spending on himself. Reading from a story by Sasha Pezenik for ABC News:

“Former New York City Mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg will donate $10 million [dollars] to the House Majority PAC to help defend vulnerable House Democrats, a senior aide has confirmed to ABC News—a move that comes as the party now faces a slew of well-financed Republican attacks on their support of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
The multi-million dollar donation also comes amid criticism from his fellow 2020 contenders for how he has leveraged his wealth—especially his large ad buys—as he makes his eleventh-hour jump into the presidential race—some accusing him of “buying his way” into the election.”

So again, let’s remember that Bloomberg is not solely spending on himself. In fact, his first ad buy I reported on this show was a massive set of anti-Trump TV ads that didn’t even mention Bloomberg, aside from the required disclosures about who paid for the ad. And this also fits a pattern of past donations. Reading once more from ABC News:

“Bloomberg also has a long history of deep-pocketed donations to help back candidates and causes. On the trail he often points to the help he gave house Democrats in the 2018 midterms—where he spent upwards of $110 million [dollars]—and 21 of the 24 candidates he supported won their races.
For years, he has given to state parties of both stripes; and to candidates and causes supportive of progressive gun measures and the fight against climate change, among other policy positions. The $10 million [dollars] Bloomberg has pledged in support of House Democrats is a fraction scaled to the over $110 million [dollars] he spent through his super PAC during the 2018 midterm cycle.”

So, point being, Bloomberg is spending on this race in multiple ways. And he has really only just begun to spend. There’s every reason to assume his Super PAC will continue its work on behalf of Democrats in down-ballot races. Regardless of how he does as a Democratic primary candidate, Bloomberg’s money might help Democrats in other races.

Trump privately considers skipping the presidential debates in 2020

According to a report by Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni for the New York Times, President Trump is considering NOT attending any presidential debates for the 2020 general election. So why would that be? Well, reading from the Times:

“Mr. Trump has told advisers that he does not trust the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit entity that sponsors the debates, the two people said.
Less of a concern for Mr. Trump than who will emerge as the Democratic nominee is which media personality will be chosen as the debate moderator, according to people in contact with him.”

This fits a pattern of Trump’s distrust of that Commission, which also ran the debates in 2016. You may recall that in one of those debates, there was a problem with Trump’s microphone. It was somehow turned down, in the room, so that his mic was quieter than Clinton’s. The Commission admitted that yes, that happened, and said it was a “technical malfunction,” but didn’t specify what exactly was to blame.

So, based on this Times report, there does appear to be a possibility—maybe even a big one—that Trump opts not to appear on a general election debate stage at all. And that gets at the larger assumptions we’re making about what this next election will look like. I mean, I have assumed that there will be presidential debates because in my lifetime there have always been presidential debates. But there is no rule that says it must always be so. And we also don’t really have a roadmap for what happens when multiple billionaires are active in the race. What happens when they really start spending? We just don’t know.

New York Times reporter Astead Herndon pointed out that Democrats might need to think about this as they get farther along in the process. He wrote on Twitter:

“One of the things I think [about] often, covering the Dem[ocratic] primary, is how much these candidates are preparing themselves under the assumption of rules that will be totally upended come general election.”

Castro and Delaney fail to file for the Virginia primary ballot

Next up, a quick item on the Virginia Democratic primary ballot. Two major candidates did not file the necessary paperwork in order to appear on that ballot. They are former HUD Secretary Julián Castro and former Representative John Delaney. The deadline was 5pm Thursday, and those two did not make it.

The process for filing in Virginia, like with many states, involves gathering at least 5,000 signatures and filling out paperwork. It’s unclear at the moment why Castro and Delaney didn’t file, but it might have been a lack of signatures. According to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, all the other major candidates DID submit the necessary information. The candidate with the fewest signatures was former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who submitted just under 6,000 of them. Assuming enough of those signatures are verified, everybody but Castro and Delaney should be on that primary ballot.

Weld says he will not run as an independent

Last up this week, let’s hear from former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. He is one of the major candidates running against President Trump in the Republican primary. And he has now said he will NOT run as an independent if he fails in that bid. Reading from an article by Rebecca Klar for The Hill:

““No, I would not run as an independent,” Weld said in an interview Thursday at The Hill’s offices in Washington. “Depending on who the Democratic nominee was, I could either support the Democrat or conceivably the libertarian.”
Weld wouldn’t say which candidate in the vast Democratic field he would consider backing, but added that he’s known former Vice President Joe Biden for years.
He also said Biden has the best chance of winning over independent and anti-Trump Republican voters. But that doesn’t mean Biden is the only Democrat he would consider backing.
“The only thing I’ve said is an absolute: In no circumstances would I ever support Donald Trump for any office ever. I think he’s kind of way out there,” Weld said.”

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