Ballotpedia’s Weekly Presidential News Briefing: December 14-20, 2019

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 weekly format so you can stay up-to-date on the 2020 election with one weekly email.        

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Candidates by the Number

There are seven new candidates running since last week, including one Democrat and one Green. In total, 993 individuals are currently filed with the FEC to run for president.

Notable Quotes of the Week

“Trump is impervious to everything, good or bad. He just stays at 41.7 [approval rating]. I don’t care how many good stories about the economy come, I don’t care about how many bad stories come, it still comes up 41.7.”

– James Carville, Democratic strategist

“The single most important divide on the debate stage—and within the Democratic electorate—is whether Trump is the disease or merely a symptom of something much more troubling.

Candidates like Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are making an implicit argument that Trump is an aberration and simply getting past him should be our primary goal. Meanwhile, Warren and Sanders (and, to a lesser extent, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer) see Trump as the natural outgrowth of decades of curdled economic and social developments.”

– Dan Lavoie, progressive communications strategist

Week in Review

Trump becomes third president in history to be impeached

The U.S. House impeached Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The first article was approved by a vote of 230-197 and the second 229-198.

All Republicans and two Democrats voted against both articles. One Democrat, Jared Golden (Maine), voted for abuse of power and against obstruction of Congress. Independent Justin Amash (Mich.) voted yes and Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) voted present on both articles.

Dissent before the sixth Democratic primary debate

The seven candidates who qualified for sixth primary debateJoe BidenPete ButtigiegAmy KlobucharBernie SandersTom SteyerElizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang—and Cory Booker and Julián Castro signed a letter calling on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to lower its debate qualification rules. The letter said the requirements had unintentionally excluded diverse candidates.

DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said on Dec. 14 that the qualification rules were extremely low. She continued, “The DNC will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates.”

All seven candidates who qualified also said they would not participate in the debate at Loyola Marymount University—where a labor dispute was taking place—if it meant crossing the picket line. A tentative agreement was reached Tuesday, allowing the debate to proceed.

 Democrats clash on fundraising, tax policy in sixth primary debate

Joe BidenPete ButtigiegAmy KlobucharBernie SandersTom SteyerElizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang debated Thursday night in Los Angeles:

The candidates discussed impeachment, trade, climate change, fundraising, race, foreign policy, immigration, electability, education, and healthcare. Sanders had the most speaking time at 20 minutes. Yang spoke the least at 10.8 minutes.

For highlights from the debate for each candidate, click here.

Bloomberg opens state campaign HQ in North Carolina, receives extension on financial disclosure forms

Michael Bloomberg opened his first state headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday. He said he planned to keep campaign staff on the ground in battleground states for the general election, regardless if he won the Democratic nomination.

The Federal Election Commission also granted Bloomberg’s request for an extension to file financial disclosure forms, giving him until Feb. 4—one day after the Iowa caucuses—to file his report.

Republican Trump opponents launch super PAC

Republicans critical of Donald Trump—Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Jennifer Horn, Rick Wilson, and George Conway—launched a new super PAC called the Lincoln Project to convince conservative voters to reject Trump.

Want more? Find the daily details here:

Poll Spotlight

Staff Spotlight

Each Friday, we highlight a presidential candidate’s key campaign staffer.

Symone Sanders is a Democratic staffer with experience in political communication. She worked as national press secretary on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and has contributed to several news outlets. She graduated from Creighton University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Previous campaign work:

  • 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, national press secretary
  • 2015 Michael Futrell (D-Va.) House of Delegates campaign, communications director
  • 2014 Chuck Hassebrook (D-Nebr.) gubernatorial campaign, deputy communications director

Other experience:

  • 2017-present: 360 Group LLC, principal
  • 2018: Harvard Institute of Politics, resident fellow
  • 2017-2019: Priorities USA, communications and political outreach strategist
  • 2014-2015: Global Trade Watch, state director

What she says about Biden:

“I feel like this there’s a misconception that he doesn’t get it, that he’s out of touch, and I’m confused about how someone who can be so much about relationships, so much about meeting people where they are, can also be out of touch with the moment that we’re in. He’s absolutely not out of touch. I think he’s laser-focused and has a clear idea about how he thinks we get America back on track.”

What We’re Reading

Flashback: December 16-20, 2015

  • December 16, 2015: Investor Warren Buffett endorsed Hillary Clinton.
  • December 17, 2015: FiveThirtyEight reported on Marco Rubio’s campaign strategy in Iowa, including establishing only one office in the state in a Des Moines suburb.
  • December 18, 2015: Bernie Sanders filed a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee after it temporarily restricted his campaign’s access to the party’s voter database following reports several Sanders staffers had inappropriately accessed Hillary Clinton’s private voter data.
  • December 19, 2015: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders participated in the third Democratic primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.
  • December 20, 2015: In a poll of Iowa Republicans released on CBS News, Ted Cruz led Donald Trump 40 percent to 31 percent. In New Hampshire, however, Trump led the field with 32 percent. Cruz and Marco Rubio followed with 14 percent and 13 percent.


What was the first presidential election cycle in which Iowa held the earliest nominating contest?