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Wake Up To Politics - August 27, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, August 27, 2019. 160 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 434 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

2020 Central

New polls released on Monday paint a mixed picture of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary fight. A Monmouth University poll found Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren soaring ahead of Joe Biden to put the race in a virtual three-way tie: the two progressive senators each received 20% support in the survey, to the former vice president's 19%. Those results constituted a 6-point increase for Sanders and 5-point increase for Warren from Monmouth's poll in June, and a 13-point drop for Biden.

However, many observers were quick to point out that the Monmouth survey was based on interviews with just 298 registered Democratic voters, a small sample, and came with a 5.7% margin of error. The Biden campaign called the poll "an outlier that is contradicted by every measure of the national average."

Biden backers were buoyed later Monday with the release of the weekly tracking poll from Politico/Morning Consult, which interviewed 17,303 Democratic primary voters and found the ex-VP at 33%, to Sanders's 20% and Warren's 15%.

The big picture: As MSNBC's Garrett Haake said on Twitter this morning, the Democratic race can feel a bit "like 'choose your own adventure' polling." As he advised, relying on the polling averages can often be a wiser strategy to gain a sense of where the race stands: for example, the RealClearPolitics average currently shows Biden at 27.5%, Sanders at 16.7%, and Warren at 16.2%. From that perspective, the biggest summertime polling story is probably not Biden's standing — which has remained fairly consistent since the race began — but Warren's surge to join Sanders in second place.

Warren's polling gains coincide with her increasing crowd sizes on the campaign trail, including an estimated 15,000-person rally in Seattle on Sunday, her largest audience yet. While her support is strongest among progressives, the Massachusetts firebrand has also been quietly courting Democratic insiders in a series of "phone calls, text messages and small gatherings before her rallies, as well as one-on-one meetings over hot tea at her Washington home," the New York Times reports, as she attempts to solidify her image as a liberal standard-bearer who has still made inroads among the party establishment.

Or in other words: as "an outsider whom insiders can live with, and an insider who has credibility with outsiders—in 2016 terms, someone who can attract both Sanders and Hillary Clinton voters," as The Atlantic recently described the theory of her campaign.

Inside Congress

GOP lawmaker to resign: Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) on Monday announced his plans to resign from Congress at the end of September. In a statement, the fifth-term congressman said he was stepping down after learning that he and his wife were expecting a child in October who "will need even more love, time, and attention due to complications, including a heart condition." Duffy, a one-time reality TV personality, is the 13th House Republican to decide against seeking re-election in 2020. His northern Wisconsin seat, which President Donald Trump won by 20% in 2016, is unlikely to change into Democratic hands.

The investigations: The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena on Monday to former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who was a key member of President Trump's inner circle before resigning last year amid allegations of spousal abuse, as part of its investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the president. Porter played a role in several episodes of potential obstruction described in special counsel Robert Mueller's report. The subpoena seeks public testimony from the former Trump aide on September 17; the White House is expected to try to block him from complying, as they have done with other ex-staffers under investigation by House Democrats.

Race for the Senate: Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), the grandson of the late Bobby Kennedy, formed an exploratory committee on Monday to consider a possible primary bid against Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in 2020. For the first time publicly acknowledging his interest in the Senate seat, Kennedy wrote on Facebook that he is in the process of "thinking about what I have to offer Massachusetts voters, what is most important in this political moment, and what kind of party Democrats need to be building for the future." Responding to some in the party urging him to sit out 2020 and avoid an intraparty squabble, the 38-year-old congressman added: "I hear the folks who say I should wait my turn, but with due respect -- I'm not sure this is a moment for waiting."

The Rundown

G7 summit analysis: "President Trump’s divergence on key international flash points, particularly trade, the climate and Russian provocation, upended a consortium of world leaders that was created four decades ago to address major crises."

"On Monday, when leaders at the Group of Seven summit traveled home after the three-day meeting, their differences appeared to have sharpened, and many agreements seemed further out of reach. And in his concluding news conference, Trump appeared content with the way the meeting ended — without major breakthroughs."

"All eyes were on the U.S. president, in part because of the burgeoning trade war between the White House and China. Trump said that he felt personal 'unity' during talks, and that he was pressed to explain his strategy by several world leaders but wouldn’t back down." (The Washington Post)

--- "Trump advocates for Putin at G-7 summit in move to soften Russia’s pariah status" (The Washington Post)

--- "As Trump Swerves on Trade War, It’s Whiplash for the Rest of the World" (The New York Times)

--- "Trump promotes his 'magnificent' Florida club for next G-7 meeting" (NBC News)

--- "Fact check: Trump falsely claims Melania Trump has 'gotten to know Kim Jong Un'" (CNN)

FEC paralyzed by resignation: "The federal agency regulating campaign finance has been rendered powerless heading into the 2020 election cycle, with the resignation of another commissioner leaving it unable to punish violations of election law."

"Matthew Petersen, a commissioner at the Federal Election Commission for 11 years, plans to leave his post on Aug. 31. There are normally six FEC commissioners, but Petersen’s departure will bring the already depleted board down to three. And because FEC regulations require four or more commissioners to vote on enforcement actions, new regulations and other matters brought before the body, it will function only on an administrative level without new appointees from President Donald Trump." (Politico)

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Today at the White House

--- At 12:30 p.m., President Trump has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence.

--- At 10:45 a.m., Vice President Pence participates in a call with Nerchivan Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan. At 12:30 p.m., he has lunch with President Trump.

Today on the trail

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a fundraiser in Richmond, Virginia.

--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) holds a "Conversation with Cory" event in Las Vegas at 9 p.m.

--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg hosts a grassroots fundraising event in Los Angeles at 11 p.m.

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro visits the Las Vegas area, touring a senior center at 2 p.m., holding an education roundtable at 7:15 p.m., and a meet and greet at 9:30 p.m.

--- Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke travels to South Carolina, holding a roundtable in Johns Island at 9 a.m., visiting Benedict College in Columbia at 3:30 p.m., and holding a town hall in Florence at 6:30 p.m.

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) visits Iowa, hosting events in Thomspon at 7 p.m. and in Mason at 8 p.m.

--- Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer holds a meet and greet in San Diego at 8:30 p.m.


--- The "Today at the White House" section of Monday's newsletter erroneously stated that President Trump would be attending the closing session of the G7 Summit at 8:45 p.m. Eastern Time. The correct time was 8:45 a.m. Eastern Time.

*All times Eastern