Presidential politics move fast. What we’re watching heading into a new week on the 2020 campaign:
Days to Iowa caucuses: 70
Days to general election: 344
The presidential race comes to an abrupt pause this week as voters and candidates alike shift their focus to food, football and family. The bar will be high for any new narrative to emerge over the Thanksgiving holiday, which means the Democratic primary will be locked in a four-way muddle at the top as newly announced candidate Michael Bloomberg spends big to exploit questions about his rivals and to attack President Donald Trump.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
Can anyone break through the food coma?
With just 10 weeks until voting begins, very few candidates in the crowded Democratic race can afford another week without making progress in addressing their glaring liabilities. The same could be said for Trump, who’s facing the prospect of impeachment as his party struggles with a revolt from women and suburban voters. But there’s likely little the candidates can do on a holiday week that they haven’t already done to change the direction of the dinner table conversation.
Can he buy love?
The 2020 contest’s latest shiny object, but this has more than 30 billion reasons to be taken seriously on his first week out as a candidate. Bloomberg, whose worth is estimated at $30 billion to $50 billion, is dumping more than $30 million into a first-week advertising blitz that will almost certainly show up during your Thanksgiving football watching. The early investment has officially broken the record for the largest single-week ad buy in political history. If this kind of investment doesn’t move the needle for the New York billionaire, it’s fair to wonder if anything will.
Room for another moderate at the table?
For all the candidates who need to do well in Iowa in just 70 days, we’re only aware of two who are having Thanksgiving dinner there. That would be Kamala Harris, who you’ll remember said she was “moving to Iowa,” and Amy Klobuchar, who serves neighboring Minnesota in the Senate but has struggled to persuade primary voters to embrace her Midwestern pragmatism. Klobuchar is scheduled to have Thanksgiving dinner with staff at the home of a former state party chairwoman, while Harris will cheer runners at a Des Moines turkey trot and spend time with seniors.
Can Pete Buttigieg take the next step?
He has proven he belongs in the top tier after another strong debate performance and rising poll numbers on the ground in Iowa. But the 37-year-old small-city mayor has virtually no path to the nomination unless he dramatically improves his standing with black voters. He opens the week back in Iowa, where he’s betting everything that a strong showing in the opening primary contest will convince skeptical minority voters that he’s electable. It’s a tough road, but absent a dominant front-runner he must be taken seriously.
THE FINAL THOUGHT
Ten weeks before voting begins, the Democratic primary is truly wide open. There are four candidates clumped together in the top tier, and a candidate with essentially an unlimited budget just entered the race. Buckle up.
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