Weekly Presidential News Briefing – August 16, 2019

The highlights from our daily briefings in a new weekly format so you can stay up-to-date on the 2020 election with one weekly email.

Ballotpedia's Weekly Presidential News Briefing

Every weekday, Ballotpedia tracks the events that matter in the 2020 presidential election. 

Now, we’re bringing you the highlights from our daily briefings in a new weekly format so you can stay up-to-date on the 2020 election with one weekly email.

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Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Candidates by the Numbers


There are nine new candidates running since last week, including two Democrats, three Republicans, and one Green. In total, 816 individuals are currently filed with the FEC to run for president.

Notable Quotes of the Week

“Seniors are the likeliest to actually cast ballots, with two-thirds of them voting in the 2018 midterms compared with 53% of the overall voting-age population. While the electorate in presidential years skews younger than in midterm ones, no Democratic presidential candidate has won seniors since Al Gore in 2000, and for the past five presidential-election cycles, every Republican nominee has won a larger share of seniors than his predecessor.”

– Michelle HackmanThe Wall Street Journal

“There are a whole set of unspoken assumptions at play when we call a particular candidate ‘electable.’ … What nobody suggests is that electability might be a function of getting your own party’s voters excited and engaged. That’s despite the fact that we’ve seen one election after another in recent decades in which a candidate who excited his party defeated a candidate whose own voters were lukewarm about their nominee. Barack Obama was not electable by any of the standards we’re applying to the 2020 candidates, but he won twice, and by substantial margins. Donald Trump was not remotely electable, but he won, too.

– Paul WaldmanThe Washington Post

Week in Review

John Hickenlooper exits 2020 presidential race

John Hickenlooper suspended his presidential campaign Thursday. In a video announcement, Hickenlooper hinted at his next steps.

“People want to know what comes next for me. I’ve heard from so many Coloradans who want me to run for the United States Senate. They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state. I intend to give that some serious thought,” he said.

Hickenlooper is the fourth notable Democratic candidate to leave the presidential race, following former state Sen. Richard Ojeda, Rep. Eric Swalwell, and former Sen. Mike Gravel.

Other candidates have shrugged off questions about their status in the race:

  • Even if he does not qualify for the third primary debate, Bill de Blasio said he would remain in the presidential race. “I’m going to look at all the pieces and look, again, six months until anyone votes,” de Blasio said.

  • John Delaney said that he plans to remain in the race until at least the Iowa caucuses, whether or not he qualifies for any more debates.

  • Beto O’Rourke said he was focused only on his presidential campaign. “I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate,” O’Rourke said Thursday.

Steyer reaches donor threshold for September and October debates

Tom Steyer announced Tuesday that he had reached the donor threshold for the September and October Democratic presidential primary debates with 130,000 individual contributors. With three qualifying polls, he is also one short of the polling threshold.

Three other candidates are also on the bubble. Julián Castro and Tulsi Gabbard have also met the fundraising threshold. Castro is missing one poll and Gabbard three. Kirsten Gillibrand has one qualifying poll but has not crossed the fundraising threshold.

Steve Bullock criticized the debate criteria after Steyer, who entered the race on July 9, spent more than $10 million on Facebook and television ads in national and early primary state markets.

“The DNC donor requirement may have been added with the right intentions, but there’s no doubt that it’s created a situation in which billionaires can buy their way onto the debate stage,” he said. “We’re kidding ourselves if we’re calling a $10 million purchase of 130,000 donors a demonstration of grassroots support.”

Steyer campaign manager Heather Hargreaves responded, “Fewer than half of Tom’s donations came from advertising. Writing off the support of thousands of Democratic voters who are responding to Tom’s message isn’t the way to beat Trump in 2020, no matter what you think about the DNC’s criteria.”

Candidates attend gun violence forum in Iowa, release rural and domestic terrorism policies

Nearly the entire Democratic field was in Iowa over the weekend. Seventeen candidates participated in a forum on gun violence hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and Students Demand Action.

Wayne MessamSeth MoultonBeto O’Rourke, and Donald Trump were the only candidates who did not head to the Hawkeye State. Moulton is scheduled to appear at the Soapbox on Aug. 17.

Candidates also continued to introduce policy plans related to rural issues and domestic terrorism:

  • In his plan to address hate crimes, Cory Booker called for the creation of a White House Office on Hate Crimes and White Supremacist Violence. He would also have the Department of Justice and the FBI prioritize domestic terrorism as they do international terrorism.

  • Pete Buttigieg released a rural economy plan focused on entrepreneurship, technology, and education.

  • Kamala Harris unveiled her plan to combat domestic terrorism, which included red flag measures called “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Orders” and background check requirements for websites that sell firearms.

  • Elizabeth Warren introduced her gun violence platform, seeking to reduce the number of gun deaths in the country by 80 percent. Her plan would create a federal licensing program, cap firearm purchases, change the laws to protect survivors of domestic abuse, and raise taxes on gun manufacturers.

Candidates on the cusp

Stacey Abrams announced Tuesday that she would not run for president, focusing instead on combating voter suppression. 

“If any of the nominees offered me the opportunity to run with them as their vice president after they have been selected as a nominee, of course I’d be honored to consider that,” she added.

Mark Sanford released another campaign-style video Monday on how to address the federal deficit. “Some have suggested starting an advocacy group. Others have suggested running in the Republican primary against the president as a way of elevating the issue and changing the debate,” he said.

Sanford said he would make a decision about entering the presidential race by around Labor Day.

Trump on the trail

Donald Trump held a rally Thursday in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he discussedthe economy, tariffs, the Democratic field, and mental health policy. He said the stock market will crash if he is not reelected in 2020.

He also spoke to energy workers in Pennsylvania as part of an official White House event that touched on campaign issues Wednesday. He criticized several Democratic candidates by name, mentioned union support, and promoted his immigration and economic policies.

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Staff Spotlight

Staff spotlight

Stephen Brokaw worked on Barack Obama’s (D) 2008 and 2012 campaigns. He graduated from Harvard University in 2006 and obtained his law degree from the University of Illinois in 2012.

Previous campaign work:

  • 2012 Barack Obama presidential campaign, digital project manager

  • 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign, delegate tracker and senior political generalist

Other experience:

  • 2016-2019: Google, Metro expansion lead and Grow with Google marketing manager

  • 2014-2015: 270 Strategies, senior vice president, general counsel, and principal

  • 2013-2014: Schiff Hardin LLP, associate

What We’re Reading

Flashback: August 12-16, 2015

  • August 12, 2015: Hillary Clinton hired Heather Stone as the campaign’s chief of staff and Craig Smith as a paid consultant.

  • August 13, 2015: The Cook Political Reported shifted Pennsylvania’s presidential race rating, categorizing it as a Toss Up from Leans Democratic.

  • August 14, 2015: Eighteen presidential candidates were set to visit the 11-day 2015 Iowa State Fair.

  • August 15, 2015: Donald Trump said he was willing to spend $1 billion on his presidential campaign.

  • August 16, 2015: The Trump campaign released its first policy paper on immigration, which called for the construction of a border wall, tripling the number of ICE officers, ending birthright citizenship, and criminalizing visa overstays.


Since 1900, which state other than Ohio has the best record of backing winning presidential candidates?

  1. Illinois→

  2. Pennsylvania→

  3. New Mexico→

  4. Florida→