Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is apologizing for referring to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker as “well spoken” during an interview with CBS This Morning Anchor Gayle King. “Cory Booker endorsed me a number of times and I endorsed Cory Booker a number of times,” Bloomberg told King. “He’s very well-spoken. He’s got some good ideas. It would be better the more diverse any group is. But the public is out there picking and choosing and narrowing down this field.”
Bloomberg’s “well spoken” remark drew criticism on social media, where some people accused him of using a racist trope to comment on Booker’s intelligence.
While campaigning on Friday, CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry says Bloomberg said that he “probably shouldn’t have used the word,” and reiterated that he’s friends with Booker. “I probably shouldn’t have used the word, but I could just tell you he is a friend of mine,” Bloomberg said. “He is a Rhodes Scholar, which is much more impressive than my academic background. I envy him.”
In an interview with CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster in Iowa on Friday, Booker said that he considers Bloomberg a friend and didn’t want to “get into a critique” of the former mayor. But he said it wasn’t the best way to speak “if you’re going to try to really earn support of key parts of our constituency.”
“We’ve got to make sure we got a nominee that doesn’t have to have this stuff explained to them,” Booker said. “And I don’t want a perfect nominee either, because Lord knows things have come out of my mouth that I wish I could take back. I don’t think there’s a human being that can’t say that. But then somebody will know enough to own up to it and address it.”
Bloomberg was responding to remarks from Booker expressing concern about the lack of diversity remaining in the Democratic presidential field. After California Senator Kamala Harris dropped out of the race on Tuesday, Booker said it was concerning that a black female candidate didn’t have the resources to compete when the Democratic Party “is significantly empowered by black women voters.” Booker said in Des Moines on Thursday, “It is a problem that we now have an overall campaign for the 2020 presidency, that has more billionaires in it than black people.”
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Senator Michael Bennet’s long-shot presidential campaign announced Friday that he will hold 50 town halls in New Hampshire in the 10 weeks leading up to the primary. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the Colorado Senator’s campaign also launched a digital ad in the Granite State.
“Voters have not made up their minds. And I’m going to be here when you do,” Bennet says in the video. According to the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker last month, 2% of New Hampshire voters say they are considering supporting Michael Bennet in the primary. Only 23% of voters say they have made up their mind on their first-choice candidate.
“I endorse Joe Biden not because I have known him so long but know him so well,” former Secretary of State John Kerry told Iowans in Cedar Rapids during his first event with Joe Biden after endorsing him Thursday. CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson says the aim of this endorsement seemed to provide an extra shot of energy to Biden’s Iowa bus tour – now on its 7th Day.
Kerry, who Biden affectionately called “Johnny,” had two clear objectives. First, remind voters of Biden’s long history in foreign policy: Kerry was able to talk to Biden’s days in the Senate when they were colleagues for 24 years — a length of time only bested by President Trump and Vladimir Putin’s friendship, he quipped.
Kerry was also able to speak directly about Biden’s time in the Situation Room with President Obama. He pulled back the curtain on some of Biden’s foreign policy moments that he said showed Joe’s character — like when he flew through the night in 2008 to meet the president of Georgia on a hillside when that country had Russian tanks rolling through it. He finished this section of his speech imagining Biden in the Oval Office trying to “make America act like America again.”
Kerry’s second objective was to be an in-real-life example of how the polls here in Iowa can change between this period in the primary and caucus night. Kerry reminisced that 16 years ago “pundits wrote [him] off” in the state when he was seeking the Democratic nomination in 2004. “Polls don’t speak but people do,” he said about his win here in 2004. He then took a small swipe at the idea that some Iowans want to boost (or some will say anoint) an underdog or outside candidate in order to send a message to the rest of the country. On caucus night in February, Kerry told the crowd, “don’t just send a message” but “send us a president” who can win against President Trump in the general election.
Afterward Biden took the mic and quickly turned to give Kerry a big bear hug. The candidate seemed genuinely thankful Kerry was there to help — and was quick to remind those in the audience of Kerry’s caucus win. Biden said “that sounds good to me!”
For the first time on this bus tour, Biden spoke from a teleprompter, mostly about foreign policy issues. He spoke at length about how to combat climate change and used Kerry’s lead role in the Paris Climate Accord as his guide. He repeated his promise to get back in that agreement on Day one of his administration.
At the end of Joe’s speech he told the crowd that if he is elected there is “no way” Kerry will not be “engaged” with his administration. The event ended with another big hug between the two men. Biden and Kerry held two more events together in Iowa on Friday. Kerry will also be campaigning with the former VP in New Hampshire on Sunday.
While in Iowa, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker rolled out his plan to “build wealth and opportunity in rural America.” The proposal seeks to revitalize rural communities with investments to provide for affordable housing, increasing broadband access and focus part of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan on rural America.
“We’re going to elevate this issue into the White House, coordinate between agencies, and come forward with a rural Marshall Plan so that our rural areas are seen as they are, which are vital to the success of America,” Booker said in an interview with CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. He also spoke about two planks of his plan that seek to address challenges he says are “unique” to rural America: corporate consolidation in agriculture and getting farmers involved in climate change.
Booker says he will push to pass a bill he has proposed that would put a moratorium on mergers in agriculture and restore competition. “We have to be a Democratic party that supports family farms, independent farms, not multinational corporate conglomerates which are perverting and undermining our way of life, our heritage in this country,” Booker said.
In Iowa, nearly every Democratic candidate talks about getting farmers involved in the fight against climate change. Booker, who is proposing investing over $100 billion by 2030 in federal conservation programs, said farmers need to be “the center” of solving the climate crisis. “It’s time we start paying farmers, creating new streams of revenue for them to more aggressively adopt these practices that will be a double bottom line for them, that will help them and help them as leaders in the environment,” Booker said.
Meanwhile in South Carolina, Booker’s campaign has launched a new radio advertisement on eight urban contemporary and gospel radio stations across the state. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell says the minute-long message to voters begins with Booker sharing a familiar story he tells on the trail about his parents not being able to move into a neighborhood because of their race.
“When I was a baby, my parents tried to move us into a neighborhood with great public schools but realtors wouldn’t sell us a home because of the color of our skin,” Booker narrates at the start of the ad. “Activists ran a sting operation to get us into a house. They changed the course of my entire life.”
The ad — which concludes on a note of unity and defeating the president — comes days after fellow Democratic contender Pete Buttigieg launched a $2 million TV ad buy in the state. In October, CBS News reported that Marianne Williamson debuted her first TV ad in South Carolina, discussing reparations as a core issue of her campaign message.
Booker, who now boasts the most visits to South Carolina of the current Democratic hopefuls, has continued to poll at less than 3% in the state according to CBS News Battleground Trackers. His team said ads like this one will help reach the two-thirds of Democratic voters in the state who haven’t definitively made up their minds. “Here in South Carolina, you cannot win an election if you don’t connect and engage with black voters,” said Booker’s South Carolina State Director Christale Spain in a press release. “With this ad, we’re speaking directly with voters across the state.”
In a notable exchange, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says a New Hampshire voter asked Mayor Pete Buttigieg Friday morning about his time at McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm. “I want to know what you did at McKinsey,” voter Al Cantor said in Concord, NH. “They’ve done a lot of bad things.”
Buttigieg reiterated claims that he has asked McKinsey to release him from his non-disclosure agreement, but denounced the corporations’ decision-making. “I can think of at least four times in the decade since I left that I’ve opened the newspaper and been disgusted about something that I saw.” He later added, “what you see is a company that I think basically reflects what’s wrong with corporate America.”
Prompted about his efforts to court South Carolina voters, Buttigieg remarked to voters gathered at an intimate house party, “I believe South Carolina will be the in many ways the moment that compels us to success in the nomination when we beat expectations.”
Buttigieg continued, alluding to South Carolina frontrunner Former Vice President Joe Biden. “But one of the things we’re finding is that there are a lot of voters there, especially the African Americans, who have felt abused by one party and taken for granted by the other. And so they’re rallying around one candidate. I don’t think that is the only candidate who has a vision on racial equality in this country or necessarily the candidate who has the best.”
He continued, “But they were rallying around a candidate who has earned a level of familiarity over decades…And the challenge for a newer candidate is to make sure that for voters who have every reason to be skeptical of anyone who comes along promising big changes to show not only what’s in your plan.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren released a letter from her doctor, Dr. Beverly Woo, on Friday that says Warren is in “excellent health and has been throughout the 20 years I have served as her physician.” Woo, an internal medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, writes that Warren’s only medical condition is hypothyroidism, which is an under-active thyroid gland, for which she takes medication. CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says Warren’s most recent physical exam in January of this year was “normal”. Woo writes, “In summary, Senator Elizabeth Warren is a very healthy 70 year old woman.”
IN THE HOUSE
CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that California Representative Duncan Hunter announced he would be resigning “shortly after the holidays.” Hunter recently plead guilty to stealing campaign funds.
“It has been an honor to serve the people of California’s 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years,” he said in a statement.
For most of the last year, Hunter has been wrapped up in a federal court case surrounding his misuse of his campaign finances. In a Tuesday news release, the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of California wrote that “Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who pleaded guilty in June 2019, illegally converted more than $150,000 in campaign funds from 2010 through 2016 to purchase goods and services for their personal use and enjoyment, and engaged in 30 or more illegal transactions using campaign funds for personal use.”
Hunter’s 2018 Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar has filed for the seat, as well as seven other Republicans including former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio and a former congressman from the neighboring 49th district, Darrell Issa.
Meanwhile, Congressman George Holding is the latest House Republican to retire and the first casualty of North Carolina’s new election map, which Republicans were court-ordered to redraw amid concerns over partisan gerrymandering. Holding announced on Friday that he won’t run for reelection, and he said the new map, which made his district solidly blue rather than red, played a role in his decision.
“I should add, candidly, that, yes, the newly redrawn congressional districts were part of the reason I have decided not to seek reelection. But, in addition, this is also a good time for me to step back and reflect on all that I have learned,” he said in a statement.
Districts like Holding’s were redrawn to include areas with more registered Democrats. His 2nd Congressional District previously included only a small portion of Raleigh within a bigger rural area but now encompasses more of the city and its suburbs. Republicans held a 10-3 advantage with the old congressional map, but now Democrats are aiming for a 8-5 split and are hoping to pick up Holding’s seat as well as Mark Walker’s 6th Congressional District in Greensboro.
Walker is weighing his options: He may run in Representative Ted Budd’s neighboring congressional district that’s politically safer for Republicans, or he may run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis. “While politicians in North Carolina rush to plant the flag of their own ambitions — disregarding the people they are privileged to serve and trading constituencies like baseball cards — I will continue to pray and seek clarity on God’s path forward,” Walker wrote in a Facebook post. “Filing will remain open until December 20th and I feel no pressure to rush a decision.”
Holding has been in Congress since 2012. His retirement continues the streak of more than House Republicans voluntarily leaving office after 2020 or running for Senate. Navarro counts 18 “pure” Republican retirements, while three have announced runs for Senate or governor. Spokesman for the National Redistricting Foundation Patrick Rodenbush said North Carolina voters have been “forced to vote in gerrymandered districts” for nearly a decade. “Politicians who draw the map should not decide who wins the election – these districts belong to the people and they will now get to choose who represents them in Congress,” he said.
FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE…
ON THE DOWNLOAD
You can hear more of “CBS This Morning“ Anchor Gayle King’s conversation with Mike Bloomberg on today’s “CBS THIS MORNING” podcast. The former New York City mayor discusses the democratic debates, what he would look for in his Vice President and his health.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
Here is a roundup of the Political Unit’s reporting for CBSN and CBSNews.com this week:
· Monday Daily Trail Markers Segment // By Adam Brewster
· After midterm losses, Republicans ramp up efforts to elect more women to Congress // By Aaron Navarro & Eleanor Watson
· Andrew Yang puts his universal basic income plan to the test // By Ben Mitchell
· Immigration rights groups call on Buttigieg to return McKinsey-related donations // By Jack Turman
· Kamala Harris ends her presidential bid // By Ed O’Keefe, Tim Perry & Caitlin Huey-Burns
· Pete Buttigieg focuses on appealing to black voters in swing through south // By LaCrai Mitchell & Jack Turman
· Steve Bullock ends his 2020 presidential bid // By Tim Perry
· The 2020 candidates who have qualified for the December debate // By Sarah Ewall-Wice