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Wake Up To Politics - August 29, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, August 29, 2019. 158 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 432 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Gillibrand exits presidential race as lower-tier candidates wrestle with debate exclusion

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary race on Wednesday, hours after it became clear that she would not qualify for the September debate stage.

"I know this isn't the result that we wanted. We wanted to win this race," Gillibrand said in a three-minute video announcing her decision to end her candidacy. "But it's important to know when it's not your time and to know how you can best serve your community and country."

Gillibrand sought to make women's rights a focus of her campaign, but her bid failed to gain much traction despite a national profile and large war chest from her Senate account. She has remained mired at 0-1% in polls of the race since launching her campaign, failing to reach the fundraising or polling qualification for the September 12 debate. Some pinned her difficulties with fundraising on Democratic megadonors' anger over Gillibrand's 2017 call on then-Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct.

In addition to the traditional early states, Gillibrand made a point to travel to areas where abortion rights were being denied, holding events in Georgia and Missouri after Republican state legislature passed rigid pro-life laws. In a representation of the difficulties vexing Gillibrand's campaign, at her abortion town hall in St. Louis earlier this month, none of the numerous attendees interviewed by Wake Up To Politics were supporters of the New York senator. "I'm here for the cause, more so than the candidate," one said.

In an interview Wednesday, Gillibrand told the New York Times that she does plan to endorse one of the other Democratic primary contenders, hinting that her support will likely go to a female candidate. "I think that women have a unique ability to bring people together and heal this country," she said, adding, "I think a woman nominee would be inspiring and exciting."

Gillibrand's departure from the field represents the beginning of a new chapter in the Democratic nomination fight, as half of the now 20-person field has been denied entry to the next debate. Candidates needed to receive 2% support in at least four DNC-approved polls and accrue contributions from at least 130,000 unique donors by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to qualify for the debate stage.
The 10 candidates who met those criteria were: former Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren; Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former HUD Secretary Julián Castro; former Rep. Beto O'Rourke; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Meanwhile, the other half of the field — including candidates such as Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and billionaire Tom Steyer — face the same question as Gillibrand: whether to continue increasingly-implausible bids for the White House or drop out of the race entirely.

For now, however, many of those candidates have said they plan to continue running, with hopes that they can qualify for the debate in October. (The bar for entry will not rise, so any qualifying polls or donors candidates might have notched in recent weeks will carry over.)

"There is another bite at the apple in October," de Blasio told MSNBC in an interview on Tuesday.

Staffers for several candidates who failed to qualify for the debate are discussing collective actions they could take to protest the DNC rules that are keeping them off the September stage, according to Politico. "There’s a high likelihood that candidates will band together to make a clear statement to the DNC that these rules are unfair," a Bennet adviser told the outlet in an interview.

But the DNC has been unsympathetic to contenders who couldn't reach their bar for entry, which was publicly announced three months ago. "The DNC is asking candidates to reach 2% in four polls," committee spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told the New York Times on Wednesday. "That is not high at all. There have been 21 qualifying polls. That is 21 opportunities to reach 2% in four polls. That is not hard."

Isakson to resign from Senate, sparking 2020 intrigue

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) announced on Wednesday that he plans to resign from Congress at the end of the year due to health problems.

"I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff," he said in a statement. "My Parkinson’s has been progressing, and I am continuing physical therapy to recover from a fall in July. In addition, this week I had surgery to remove a growth on my kidney."

His resignation ends a political career that dates back to 1974. Isakson has served in Congress for 20 years, representing Georgia in the Senate since 2005 and serving in the House for six years prior. Before moving to Washington, he also served seven terms in the Georgia House and one term in the Georgia Senate.

Isakson currently chairs two Senate panels: the Veterans Affairs Committee and Ethics Committee.

Both Senate seats in Georgia will now be on the ballot in 2020: Republican Sen. David Perdue also faces re-election next year. Democrats had already been targeting Perdue's seat; Isakson's resignation widens their potential path to retaking the majority, which would require flipping three seats (if they also win the White House, and with it, the tie-breaking vice presidential vote). Although Democrats hope to make the seats competitive, The Cook Political Report currently rates both Georgia races as "Likely Republican."

Georgia Democrats said to be considering running for Isakson's seat include Rep. Lucy McBath, who flipped a suburban House district last year; Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn, who lost 2014 bids for governor and Senate, respectively; and Jon Ossoff, who gained national attention during his unsuccessful special election House bid in 2017.

Stacey Abrams, who came up short in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race but now commands a national Democratic following, already pulled herself out of contention for the race.

On the Republican side, the GOP standard-bearer in the 2020 special election will likely be whomever Gov. Brian Kemp appoints as the interim senator to succeed Isakson: potential contenders include state Attorney General Chris Carr, and Reps. Tom Graves and Doug Collins, according to Politico.

Trump Administration: The latest

EPA to roll back methane regulations: "The Trump administration is set to announce on Thursday that it intends to sharply curtail the regulation of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change, according to an industry official with knowledge of the plan."

"The Environmental Protection Agency, in a proposed rule, will aim to eliminate federal government requirements that the oil and gas industry put in place technology to inspect for and repair methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities." (The New York Times)

Trump reportedly assured pardons to aides  if they broke law building border wall: "Through his pardons of political allies, conservative defenders and others convicted of federal crimes, President Trump throughout his term has sent indirect signals of his willingness to help those close to him escape punishment."

"And now, the president has entwined that message with his chief campaign promise — by privately assuring aides that he would pardon them of any potential illegality as the administration rushes to build his vaunted border wall before he returns to the ballot next November."

"The notion has alarmed congressional Democrats, who had been investigating potential obstruction of justice on Trump’s part as the House continues to weigh whether to launch impeachment proceedings once lawmakers return to Washington next month." (The Washington Post)

Change to citizenship rules for federal workers' children born abroad: "Some children born to U.S. service members and government employees overseas will no longer be automatically considered citizens of the United States, according to policy alert issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Wednesday."

"Previously, all children born to U.S. citizen parents were considered to be 'residing in the United States,' and therefore would be automatically granted citizenship under Immigration and Nationality Act 320. Now, children born to U.S. service members and government employees who are not yet themselves U.S. citizens, while abroad, will not be considered as residing in the U.S., changing the way that they potentially receive citizenship. Children who are not U.S. citizens and are adopted by U.S. service members while living abroad will also no longer receive automatic citizenship by living with the U.S. citizen adopted parents." (Task & Purpose)

Democrats to investigate Trump's plan to hold G7 summit at his property: "President Donald Trump’s pitch for his Doral golf resort in Miami as the site for next year’s G-7 summit of world leaders will be probed as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s inquiry into potential impeachment articles." (Bloomberg)

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Today at the White House

--- At 4 p.m., President Trump participates in the establishment of the U.S. Space Command.

--- At 11 a.m., Vice President Mike Pence visits the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Langley, Virginia. At 4 p.m., he joins the president for the U.S. Space Command event. At 4:30 p.m., he delivers remarks at the U.S. Space Command flag unfurling ceremony.

Today on the trail

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden holds two town halls in South Carolina, one in Rock Hill at 11 a.m. and the other in Greenville at 6 p.m.

--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) travels to Oklahoma, touring the Greenwood community in Tulsa at 11 a.m., delivering remarks at a church in Tulsa at 12:30 a.m., and attending an event at the University of Oklahoma in Norman at 6 p.m.

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro visits Columbia, South Carolina, holding a roundtable on gun violence at 3 p.m. and house parties at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

--- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks at the Nevada State AFL-CIO Annual Constitutional Convention in Las Vegas at 4:30 p.m.

--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) campaigns in Iowa, visiting the Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines at 12 p.m., touring a factory in Newton at 2:30 p.m., and holding a meet and greet in Perry at 7 p.m.

--- Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) tours the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, at 12:15 p.m.

--- Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) continues his swing through Des Moines, Iowa, as he considers whether to challenge President Trump in the Republican presidential primary.

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak visits Iowa, holding an agriculture event in Polk City at 6 p.m. and an event in Ames at 8:45 p.m.

*All times Eastern