More Democratic voters are commenting on and questioning candidates more about the U.S. strike killing Qassem Soleimani than they did about the impeachment vote in December, the CBS News Political Unit is finding. Voters tell CBS that the deployment of troops and fears of Iranian retaliation impact their daily lives more than the immediate results of an impeachment trial.
Following the strike against Soleimani, voters at candidate town halls over the weekend asked more questions about foreign policy than they did about impeachment at the town halls that took place during the weekend in September after the opening of the impeachment proceedings against President Trump and during the weekend after the House voted on the articles of impeachment.
“I’ve got a son in the Army Reserve, so it’s quite a concern that he’s going to get called up again,” James Hahn of Betterndorf, Iowa, a 65-year-old doctor, told CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster on Sunday. “He just got back from Kuwait, and a lot of the people he was taking care of in Kuwait are now going over to Iraq to try and protect the Americans that are over there. I just think it was the wrong time to assassinate this person.”
The candidates themselves have also been putting the issue front and center in their campaign events. Joe Bidenon Tuesday on the growing tensions with Iran, Bernie Sanders spoke on Iran on Friday, and on the same day, Pete Buttigieg opened his town hall with remarks on the U.S strike.
This presents a contrast with their handling of impeachment on the trail. In September, following the opening of the impeachment inquiry, a reporter asked Warren at a town hall in South Carolina why she didn’t bring up impeachment during the event. Warren responded that she had brought it up at previous town halls.
“I think I brought it up at the last town hall or the one before that,” Warren said. “There are a whole lot of issues that people want to talk about out here. They want to talk about health care, education, foreign policy. This is the chance to hear from them about what they want to talk about. And I plan to do it.”
A CBS News poll conducted last year as impeachment public hearings were looming found that voters cared more about a candidate’s position on issues like health care, climate change, income inequality, guns, and foreign policy than impeachment. Current tensions with Iran may strengthen the priority of foreign policy as the campaign heats up.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Joe Biden delivered his strongest rebuke yet of President Trump’s decision to strike Iran in an approximately 20-minutein New York City on Tuesday, reports CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson. Biden made clear there was no love lost for Soleimani when he said he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and thousands of innocent lives, but he questioned the long-term calculations.
“Trump’s impulsive decision may well do more to strengthen Iran’s position in the region than any of Soleimani’s plots would have ever accomplished,” Biden said. “You know, whether or not we see more or less life, more or less threats, more interests in the area, it’s always — and now, a debacle.” And he said this was occurring at “what is possibly the most dangerous time in recent American history.”
Former Secretary of State John Kerry was in Iowa on Tuesday to try to convince voters that Biden is the best candidate to calm tensions with Iran through diplomacy. He told voters, “Now with all due respect to a great group of candidates, Joe Biden’s the only person who has been in that situation room for eight years running.”
Mike Bloomberg’s campaign has purchased a 60-second ad to air nationally during the, the highest-watched television event of the year, CBS News has confirmed. The ad cost roughly $10 million to be aired once, but the seven-figure price tag isn’t likely to faze the billionaire, who is self-financing his campaign.
The ad was purchased in part to counter what was expected to be a 30-second national spot purchased by the Trump campaign. However, a senior Trump campaign official then confirmed to CBS News that the campaign would be spending $10 million on 60 seconds of airtime during the Super Bowl. This development was first reported by Politico.
CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman and CBS associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice report Pete Buttigieg’s campaign has released four television ads today, focusing on early primary and caucus states Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. CBS News Campaign reporters Adam Brewster, Nicole Sganga, LaCrai Mitchell and Alex Tin are tracking the latest buys in cable and broadcast across the nation’s first primary contests with data from Kantar/CMAG.
In Iowa, Brewster reports Buttigieg’s new ad, titled “Windshield,” focuses on low wages that force Americans to work multiple jobs to earn a living. Buttigieg has spent about $8.2 million on buys on TV and radio in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, including more than $660,000 scheduled for this week. Only Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and businessman Tom Steyer have spent more on advertisements in the state.
In New Hampshire, Buttigieg’s new ad, “Only Way,” spotlights growing polarization in Washington. “In today’s divided America, we’re at each other’s throats,” the ad reads. Buttigieg’s campaign has spent just under $2 million on buys on TV and radio in the first-in-the-nation primary state, including nearly $500,000 this week alone. The ad will broadcast in media markets across New England, with air time purchased in Boston, Massachusetts ($363,005); Manchester, New Hampshire ($40,035); Burlington, Vermont ($30,440) and Portland, Maine ($3,995), plus local cable. In the Granite State, Buttigieg trails Tom Steyer, Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang in told ad spend.
In South Carolina, Buttigieg is airing a TV ad titled “Heart,” as part of his early-state ad release. The 30-second spot features the voices of four African-American South Bend residents who say that Buttigieg was “accessible” and listened to the community in South Bend at a time when the city was falling apart. Mitchell reports that this is Buttigieg’s third TV ad in the state. His first TV ad in the state, “Welcomed Me,” aired in December as part of a $2 million ad buy that also includes digital and radio advertising in the state.
And in Nevada, where Buttigieg’s spot is titled “Ready,” Tin reports the buy amounts to a little more than $34,000. The South Bend mayor joins former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Tom Steyer, who both this week also announced new ad buys in the early state.
Senator Amy Klobuchar dropped into Manchester for a campaign stop today before heading back to Washington, DC. The senator will attend a congressional briefing from the Trump administration, highlighting the recent targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, reports Sganga.
Klobuchar told reporters she could not believe the president’s tweet threatening to target 52 Iranian sites. “It would be like someone threatening to bomb out sites in our country. Think about the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial. Places like that or artistic sites or religious sites that are so important in our country.”
The Minnesota lawmaker was careful to characterize the U.S. attack. “I want to see the evidence first. And that’s why we have these briefings. And I think too many times, people can come to quick conclusions until you see that evidence,” she said, referencing the Iraq War. “Certainly, I was against the Iraq war. It was actually was a major issue in my campaign the first time I ran for U.S. Senate because the congressman on the other side of me, he supported it. And I think some people weren’t looking at evidence.”
Tom Steyer this week became the first candidate to publicly commit to appearing at a long-planned Native American presidential forum in Nevada, initially scheduled to kick off on January 14 in Las Vegas. The Democratic National Committee last month complicated plans for the forum’s organizers when the party announced a presidential debate for the same day in Iowa. The candidate is also expected to be the fourth of the current presidential hopefuls to field questions from the state’s influential Culinary Union, after Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden last month, reports Tin.
STATE BY STATE
Klobuchar’s Iowa campaign now has more than 100 staffers on the ground as she tries to grow her organization 27 days out from the first-in-the-nation caucuses, reports Brewster. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg all have had more than 100 staffers on the ground for several months.
Back in October, Klobuchar’s campaign had about 40 staffers in Iowa, but after her debate that month, the operation began to quickly grow. In her campaign appearances, Klobuchar frequently opens her stump speech referencing her momentum in the polls and her expanding ground game in the state. Having a large operation is incredibly helpful down the stretch as organizers try to win over any undecided caucus goers and ensure their committed supporters turn out on caucus night.
Former GOP New Hampshire Senator Gordon Humphrey has backed Biden in the 2020 presidential primary contest, reports Sganga. The social and fiscal conservative, who changed his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared following the election of President Donald Trump served two terms in the United States Senate (1979 – 1990), sat alongside Biden on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I know him personally. I served 12 years with him,” Humphrey told CBS News of Biden. “I respect him. I trust him to restore rationale and calm deliberation to the White House in place of frantic tantrums and tweets.”
Humphrey underscored the importance of undeclared voters in New Hampshire. The plurality making up more than 40% of the New Hampshire electorate may cast their ballot in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.
“Independents have an important role to play here,” Humphrey said. “The Biden campaign has focused in on turning out Independents.”
Humphrey expressed his disappointment in former Republican colleagues in Congress, including Senate leadership.
“Power corrupts. So many have been there too long,” Humphrey said. “Take Mitch McConnell. I served with him. I know him. I’m so disappointed with Mitch McConnell. And not just Mitch. The whole leadership and the rank and file in the Senate are more enthralled with power and staying in office than they are with doing what is right by the constitution and for the country.”
Offering some advice, Humphrey reminded senators, “After two terms, I went home. And I just want to tell everyone in Washington, in the Senate, especially, the private sector is a nice place,” adding, “It’s nice to go back home, have a real life and enjoy your family and friends. And do something besides run for office forever and ever and ever.”
Humphrey will campaign for Biden in New Hampshire in the coming weeks.
Nevada’s presidential contest is returning early to the Strip this year, with the party announcing several new back-of-house locations for workers looking to cast early votes starting February 15th, reports Tin. One site, located at the Bellagio Resort and Casino, will even remain open overnight to accommodate shift workers. Some Strip casinos will also continue to host locations for workers on Caucus Day, as has been tradition since 2008.
The announcement is a reminder of the Culinary Union’s sway in Nevada, which represents nearly 300,000 hospitality workers.
“Having been a union member and organizer, I know firsthand the importance of lifting up the voices of our union brothers and sisters,” state party chair William McCurdy said in a statement announcing the new locations.
IN THE SENATE
POMPEO RULES OUT BID: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ruled out running for U.S. Senate in Kansas in a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, and he addressed his decision in remarks at the State Department Tuesday morning.
“I’ve said that I’m going to stay serving as secretary of state so long as President Trump will have me,” Pompeo told a reporter who asked him about it. CBS News associate producer Eleanor Watson reports that Pompeo has uttered that phrase in at least 16 interviews since February, even as McConnell said he would love to see Pompeo run for that seat. A source close to McConnell told CBS News on Monday that Pompeo is where the country needs him to be right now.
IN THE HOUSE
FUNDRAISING: The latest fundraising releases for House Democrats in Trump-won districts are trickling in, and despite the GOP’s push these past couple of months to utilize their impeachment votes against them, the numbers so far show their cash flow is not slowing down.
Utah Policy reported that Ben McAdams, who represents a Utah district Trump won by seven points, raised close to $900,000 in Q4, more than the $509,000 he raised in the previous quarter. Trump won Congresswoman Elaine Luria’s Virginia Beach district by close to four points. She raised close to $620,000 in her latest quarter, with a massive $1.5 million war chest. While all of these House Democrats outraised their individual GOP challengers throughout the first three quarters, some races are just now seeing notable Republicans jump in, says CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro.
State lawmaker Kim Coleman launched her campaign against McAdams on January 4, and former Virginia Congressman Scott Taylor, who Luria defeated by 2 points in 2018, said in a local T.V. interview that he is dropping his U.S. Senate campaign and will seek a rematch with Luria.
In the closing months of 2018, GOP groups like the American Action Network aired waves of impeachment-related ads against House Democrats in these districts. GOP fundraising platform WinRed announced this week that they brought in $101 million in the last half of 2019, with $35 million alone in December, and impeachment-related messaging generated 300% more in campaign donations than other fundraising asks.
While more numbers for Republican challengers have yet to emerge, some Democratic candidates in Republican-held districts posted their own strong numbers.
In California, Democrat Phil Arballo raised more than $700,000 in the final quarter in his campaign against GOP Representative Devin Nunes.
Wendy Davis announced Tuesday afternoon that she raised $939,000 in her race against GOP-incumbent Chip Roy in Texas.
In her rematch campaign against Representative Rodney Davis in Illinois’ 13th, Londrigan posted $530,000 raised in the fourth quarter with over $1.1 million cash on hand. Her campaign release said individual donors comprised 90% of her contributions.
“While our current representative takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from big pharma PACs then votes against lowering the cost of prescription drugs, I am rejecting corporate PAC money in this campaign and when I’m elected to Congress. I am running for Congress to represent the working families of Central Illinois, not big corporate donors,” she said in a statement.
DONALD TRUMP: President Donald Trump is running nearly 800 nationally targeted Facebook ads highlighting his role in the killing of Iranian military official Qassem Soleimani, CBS News Associate Producer Ben Mitchell reports. T
he campaign asks Trump supporters to “take the Official Trump Military Survey TODAY” to let the President know what they think of his “leadership as Commander-in-Chief.” Some of the ads even “thank” President Trump for ensuring Soleimani “is no longer a threat to the United States, or the world.”
Mr. Trump is using the news of the Soleimani operation to harvest more voter emails and information for future targeted ads, yet another example of the Trump campaign’s well-oiled digital machine. While the campaign is not likely to swing voters one way or the other, it’s more valuable information on his supporters’ opinions on his aggressive foreign policy – information that will likely prove valuable when it comes time to get out the vote in the fall.
In a blog post on his personal Facebook page, Facebook VP Andrew Boswell shared a memo that had leaked to the press in which he warned other Facebook employees about the urge to use the platform to hamper President Trump’s re-election chances.
“As a committed liberal I find myself desperately wanting to pull any lever at my disposal to avoid the same result,” Andrew “Boz” Boswell wrote. “As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.”
The news comes as Facebook faces increasing pressure to join its peers in banning or limiting political advertisements on its platform. Yesterday, Google banned types of microtargeting for its political ads. Facebook has taken a position that appears diametrically opposed to its competition, saying not only will it host political ads but it will also abstain from fact checking them. Facebook claims that by fact checking and/or removing political ads, it would be engaging in censorship of political speech.
In the same post, Boz, who was head of advertising at Facebook in 2016, also wrote that he agrees that Facebook was “responsible” for getting President Trump elected, not because of misinformation or other bad actors but because “[Trump Campaign Manager and Former Digital Media Director Brad] Parscale and Trump just did unbelievable work.”
He added, “They weren’t running misinformation or hoaxes. They weren’t microtargeting or saying different things to different people. They just used the tools we had to show the right creative to each person.”
“The use of custom audiences, video, ecommerce, and fresh creative remains the high water mark of digital ad campaigns in my opinion,” he wrote.
That quote was picked up by Trump’s current digital director, Gary Coby, who wrote on Twitter, “Told y’all we don’t microtarget!” then followed up by tweeting, “But it was your made up boogeyman… And now you bullied Google to take it away, which just takes it away from the Democrats, who do microtarget. Strong move. Appreciate the help!”
DOWN THE BALLOT
TEXAS STATEHOUSE: Dr. Eliz Markowitz, who is running against Republican Gary Gates in Texas House District 28 near Houston, told Navarro she was “absolutely not” expecting the recent presence of 2020 Presidential candidates in her campaign.
Biden announced his endorsement of Markowitz on Monday, and Michael Bloomberg went canvassing with Markowitz earlier this month. Former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has also been a consistent ally of Markowitz and launched an organization dedicated to flipping Texas State House seats. Markowitz told Navarro “it is very telling that all of these national candidates understand the importance of fair maps.”
“We have a large chunk of electoral votes. And I think the fact that all of these presidential candidates are actually paying attention to Texas for the first time is incredible,” she said.
Forward Majority, another organization working to flip state legislatures blue, announced a new $100,000 investment in digital, mail and targeted cable efforts to turn out voters for Markowitz. They’ve now spent $300,000 in total for this race.
“Flipping the Texas State House is Forward Majority’s top priority in 2020, and that starts with winning the HD-28 special election,” said Forward Majority co-founder and CEO Vicky Hausman. “The fact that this historically Republican district is now up for grabs is a clear sign of how competitive Texas has become. Forward Majority is committed to doing everything possible to win this runoff election, and we are confident that this new investment will help ensure voters cast their ballots for Eliz Markowitz.”
Gates’ campaign spokesman Craig Murphy told Navarro the district is not particularly favorable for Democrats and said the presidential candidate presence “isn’t particularly helpful.” “Those people aren’t particularly popular in the district. But you know, you use what you have and they got a lot of presidential candidates,” he said.