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Wake Up To Politics - February 10, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Monday, February 10, 2020. 1 day until the New Hampshire primary. 267 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Democratic race turns negative ahead of New Hampshire primary

Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, the leading Democratic candidates have largely refrained from attacking each other, in hopes of giving the fractured party an air of unity ahead of the general election. Until now.

In the days between Iowa's botched caucuses and New Hampshire's increasingly-pivotal primary — which will take place on Tuesday — the rhetoric of the contenders has taken on a markedly personal tone.

The top target has been former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who skyrocketed from being an unknown quantity to an electoral force in the race.

"This guy's not Barack Obama," Biden said of Buttigieg in Manchester on Saturday, seeking to dismiss comparisons between his former running mate and the rising star who routed him in Iowa and seems poised to do it again tomorrow. "Barack Obama had been a senator of a really large state. Barack Obama had laid out a clear vision [for international relations and the economy.]"

"He's right, I'm not Barack Obama, and neither is he," Buttigieg shot back in an interview on ABC's "This Week," one of his five Sunday show appearances this weekend.

The Biden campaign on Saturday released a digital ad that was seen as one of the harshest of the cycle, mockingly comparing the more mundane pieces of Buttigieg's mayoral record with Biden's lofty experience as vice president. "We're electing a president," the narrator concludes. "What you've done matters."

Cue the response from Buttigieg, at a Sunday rally in Nashua: "Mayors have to get things done. That problem-solving instinct that mayors have is just one reason why we have to start getting Washington to look like our best-run cities and towns, instead of the other way around."

Other candidates have also gotten in on the Buttigieg pile-on. Another centrist contender, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, also focused on his thin résumé. "We have a newcomer in the White House and look where it got us," she said on the debate stage Friday night. "I think having some experience is a good thing."

Meanwhile, the progressive candidates have seized on his wealthy contributors.

"The coalition of billionaires is not exactly what's going carry us over the top," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on ABC's "This Week."

"At last count, he has about 40 billionaires who are contributing to his campaign," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders added on CBS's "Face the Nation." "It matters enormously. That is precisely the problem with American politics.”

Buttigieg countered on CNN's "State of the Union": "Bernie's pretty rich, and I would happily accept a contribution from him."

As the candidates continued to jab at each other across New Hampshire, the Iowa Democratic Party on Sunday announced the national delegate allocations from its caucuses: Buttigieg will take 14 Iowa delegates to the national convention in July, Sanders will take 12, Warren 8, Biden 6, and Klobuchar 1. (The party corrected the error-tinged results in 55 precincts, but more inconsistencies remain. The Sanders campaign announced that it will request a partial recanvass of the results ahead of the deadline at 12 p.m. Central Time today.)

A litany of recent polls show Sanders and Buttigieg leading in the first-in-the-nation primary state: according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Sanders stands at 26.6%, followed by Buttigieg at 21.3%, Warren at 13.1%, Biden at 12.9%, and Klobuchar at 9.6%.

As Sanders and Buttigieg compete to turn out their respective ideological bases in Tuesday's primary, Biden and Warren are seen as battling each other for third place, each in the fight of their political lives. Klobuchar remains in the mix as well: after a well-received debate performance, she has drawn growing crowd sizes and fundraising numbers.

And then, waiting in the wings, is former New York City Michael Bloomberg, hoping to take advantage of the chaos in the race when it reaches Super Tuesday.

With one primary contest down and another 24 hours away, the new level of campaign-trail attacks and unsettled nature of the presidential race has once again underlined the deep Democratic divisions as the party prepares to face a newly emboldened Donald Trump.

"Panic is a natural state for Democrats, but as Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a good cigar," David Axelrod, the famed Obama strategist, told CNN. "A strengthening Trump. A very uncertain picture surrounding the nomination. There is reason for concern."

--- Heads-up: Voting in New Hampshire starts at midnight, at least in three tiny hamlets in the state's North Country region.

The Rundown

Happening today — Trump to release annual budget request: "President Trump is expected to release a $4.8 trillion budget Monday that charts a path for a potential second term, proposing steep reductions in social-safety-net programs and foreign aid and higher outlays for defense and veterans."

"The plan would increase military spending 0.3%, to $740.5 billion for fiscal year 2021, which begins Oct. 1, according to a senior administration official. The proposal would lower nondefense spending by 5%, to $590 billion, below the level Congress and the president agreed to in a two-year budget deal last summer." (Wall Street Journal)

Weekend review — Trump fires impeachment witnesses: "Within hours of each other, President Donald Trump and the White House removed two of the most crucial witnesses against the president in the investigation that led to his impeachment for abuse of power."

"Late Friday, news emerged that Trump had ordered the recall of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union — 'effective immediately,' the ambassador noted in a statement. Hours earlier, the White House escorted out Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine policy officer on the National Security Counsel — along with his twin brother Yevgeny, who was not an impeachment witness." (Politico)

Recommended read — What went wrong in Iowa: "How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats" (New York Times)


President Donald Trump will deliver remarks at the Winter Meeting of the National Governors Association, have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meet with families from Parkland, Florida, and speak at a Keep America Great rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.  

Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks at the Winter Meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C, a Cops for Trump event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and a Keep America Great Rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Senate will hold a procedural vote advancing the nomination of Andrew Lynn Brasher to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit.

The House will vote on nine pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 1494 – Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Homeland Security Partnerships Act, as amended
  2. S. 2107 – Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019
  3. H.R. 5273 – Securing America’s Ports Act
  4. H.R. 3413 – DHS Acquisition Reform Act of 2019
  5. H.R. 504 – DHS Field Engagement Accountability Act, as amended
  6. H.R. 2932 – Homeland Security for Children Act, as amended
  7. H.R. 4737 – Department of Homeland Security Climate Change Research Act, as amended
  8. H.R. 4432 – Protecting Critical Infrastructure Against Drones and Emerging Threats Act
  9. H.R. 4753 – Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act

Presidential candidates Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Bill Weld, and Andrew Yang will campaign in New Hampshire.

Presidential candidate Tom Steyer will campaign in South Carolina.

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