With 162 days until the Iowa caucuses and and a barely winnowed Democratic field still vying for the nomination, the 2020 election will be here before you know it. Every Sunday, I outline 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.
As the DNC seeks to both control and winnow the field over the coming months — more than half of the candidates running have not qualified for the next debate in September — criticism of its methods will grow. Many candidates running on the fringes of relevance badly need the debates to remain viable in the race and, their campaigns hope, create a viral moment that can change everything.
4. “Medicare for All” fight rages: The largest — and most important — emerging fight among 2020 Democrats is over their support (or lack thereof) for “Medicare for All,” a program, pushed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would entirely eliminate the private health insurance industry if implemented.
3. Does Nevada matter?: Quick — name the key early voting states in the 2020 nominating process. Most of you likely named Iowa or New Hampshire. Maybe a few threw out South Carolina. But if this group is anything like the political class more generally, Nevada barely got a mention. Which is weird because the state is expected to hold the third official vote of the race on February 22 — 11 days after the New Hampshire primary and a week before the South Carolina primary.
Starting Wednesday, a handful of 2020ers will swing through the state to address the Nevada AFL-CIO. Among those expected to be there: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Harris, former HUD secretary Julián Castro and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. A surrogate for Biden is expected to speak the the labor gathering on Thursday.
The question no one knows the answer to is whether winning in Nevada truly matters to the next Democratic nominee.
Walsh, of course, knows that. His candidacy is less about winning and more about making a statement. What is the statement? Not all of the Republican Party has capitulated to Trump. Opposition remains.
1. It’s (almost) debate deadline day: This Wednesday — the 28th — is the final day that any 2020 Democratic candidate can qualify for the third debate, which is set for September 12 (and 13th if necessary) in Houston.
At the moment, 10 are in for sure: Biden, Booker, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and businessman Andrew Yang.
There are three others with some hope of making the cut between now and Wednesday night: businessman Tom Steyer, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Of the trio, Steyer is the closest, having already met the 130,000 individual donor threshold and needing only one more poll — in an early state or nationally — that shows him receiving 2% support or more. (Candidates need four total polls at 2% or higher to qualify.) Gabbard has also met the fundraising criteria but needs two more polls. Gillibrand has one poll with her at 2% but remains short of the fundraising floor.
Assuming Gillibrand and Gabbard come up short — which now looks like the most likely outcome — you will have two sitting senators (Gillibrand and Colorado’s Michael Bennet) two House members (Gabbard and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan), a governor (Montana’s Steve Bullock) and the mayor of the country’s biggest city (New York’s de Blasio) all left out of the debate next month.
For all of those candidates, this week will be a moment of reckoning. Going to your donors or even your staff and making the case to stay in the race gets infinitely more difficult when you can’t even meet the debate qualifications.
Two candidates — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton — dropped from the race last week alone. A few others may well join them on the sidelines sometime very soon.