I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, September 12, 2019. 54 days until Election Day 2019. 144 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 418 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winnowed Democratic field to meet in Houston for high-stakes debate
The top tier of the Democratic presidential field will be on one stage tonight for the first time in the primary process, as the 10 leading contenders for the party's nomination face off in a debate in Houston.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has consistently led polls of the nomination fight despite a string of gaffes and missteps, will stand at center stage yet again, sandwiched between his top two progressive rivals: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. It will be the first time Biden and Warren share a debate stage, a highly-anticipated matchup between the centrist frontrunner and liberal champion.
The debate comes as Warren has been rising in the polls in recent days: a CNN survey released Wednesday showed the Massachusetts Democrat edging past Sanders into second place, taking 18% of the vote to Biden's 24% and Sanders's 17%. Just this week, she has also gained ground in polls conducted by The Washington Post/ABC News, CBS News, and NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist. The RealClearPolitics national polling average currently shows Biden in the lead at 26.8%, followed by Sanders at 17.3% and Warren at 16.8%. No other candidate polls in the double digits.
Biden is expected to come out swinging against Warren. According to Bloomberg, he plans to hammer her for hypocrisy, pointing to her past work for corporate clients in an attempt to stymie her profile as a crusader against corporate America. In addition, CNN reported that the ex-VP is expected to argue that the Democrats should pick a nominee who can offer "more than plans," a veiled line of attack against Warren's policy-heavy campaign.
Meanwhile, the debate will also offer another crucial opportunity for lower-polling candidates to break out into the top tier, after weeks in which Biden, Warren, and Sanders have dominated much of the coverage of the race. From left to right, here are the ten candidates who will be standing on stage in Houston: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sanders, Biden, Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro.
Candidates had to receive 2% in at least four DNC-approved polls and accrue contributions from at least 130,000 donors to qualify for the debate, a threshold that several contenders in the 20-candidate field could not meet, leading some to end their campaigns.
It will be a particularly important night for Harris, who has lost momentum in the race since delivering a breakout performance in the first Democratic debate, confronting Biden over his past opposition to busing. According to CNBC, her top donors will be paying close attention tonight — privately acknowledging that she could start losing their support if she doesn't perform well.
Other candidates who succeeded early in the campaign but have since been dropping in the polls, such as Buttigieg and O'Rourke, will also be under pressure to re-grab attention. Both men have described their campaigns as entering a "new phase" in recent days, as the former works to build a campaign organization to match his newfound political celebrity and the latter reframes his effort around gun violence and President Donald Trump in light of the shooting in his hometown of El Paso.
And Yang, the only candidate on the stage who has never held elected office, will also attempt to catch interest: according to The Daily Beast's Sam Stein, he will be doing something on stage that "no presidential candidate has ever done before in history," although it remains unclear what that will be.
The third Democratic presidential debate will air tonight from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time on ABC and Univision. The debate will be moderated by ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopolous, "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir, ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis, and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.
The Trump Administration
Banning vaping products: "President Trump said the U.S. plans to pull most vaping products from the market, citing growing concerns about health hazards and rising use by teenagers of the trendy alternative to traditional cigarettes."
"The Food and Drug Administration intends to ban popular fruity flavors, as well as menthol and mint e-cigarettes from stores and online sellers, leaving just tobacco-flavored products. The move poses a major threat to a fast-growing market estimated to reach $9 billion in sales this year and dominated by startup Juul Labs Inc., which counts on mango, mint and other fruity flavors for most of its sales." (The Wall Street Journal)
Blocking protected status for Bahamians: "The U.S. will not grant temporary protected status to people from the Bahamas displaced by Hurricane Dorian, an administration official told NBC News."
"The status would allow Bahamians to work and live in the U.S. until it is deemed safe to return home. The same status is currently granted to over 300,000 people living in the U.S. from 10 countries, including the victims of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake." (NBC News)
Delaying China tariffs: "President Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday night that he would delay by two weeks the next increase in tariffs on Chinese goods as a 'gesture of good will' to advance trade talks that have made little progress for months."
"The president acted several hours after a conciliatory Chinese move to grant 16 U.S. products a one-year exemption from Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs. In a pair of tweets, Trump said he delayed his scheduled Oct. 1 increase at the request of China’s chief trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, to avoid imposing the tariffs as the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 70th anniversary." (The Washington Post)
Rolling back clean water regulation: "Environmental Protection Agency is set Thursday to announce the repeal of the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule that extended federal authority and protections to streams and wetlands, according to a source familiar with the details of the announcement."
..."The 2015 regulation, commonly known as WOTUS, defined what bodies of water are protected under the federal Clean Water Act but was a favorite punching bag of Republicans, who ridicule it as government overreach. Democrats defended it as necessary to ensure waterways remained pollution-free." (CNN)
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Today at the White House
--- At 12:30 p.m., President Trump has lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This evening, the president travels to Baltimore, Maryland, just weeks after lambasting the city as a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess." At 6:30 p.m., he participates in a joint fundraising committee reception. At 7:10 p.m., he delivers remarks at the 2019 House Republican Conference retreat.
--- At 7 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks at the 40th anniversary celebration for Concerned Women for America, a conservative, Christian women's group, at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Today in Congress
--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. At 12:15 p.m., the chamber will vote on confirmation of two nominees: Michelle Bowman, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and Jennifer Nordquist, to be U.S. Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. At 1:45 p.m., the Senate will vote on confirmation of Thomas Feddo to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Investment Security.
--- The House convenes at 9 a.m. today. The chamber will vote on H.R. 1146, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act. Also today, via CNN:
"The House Judiciary Committee will vote Thursday on a resolution defining the rules of the panel's investigation into President Donald Trump as House Democrats struggle to define the committee's probe that could ultimately lead to impeachment."
"The House's return to Washington this week after a six-week recess has been filled with Democrats offering contrasting explanations for the Judiciary Committee's investigation: Chairman Jerry Nadler and other Democrats say they are conducting an impeachment inquiry or impeachment investigation, while Democratic leaders have refrained from labeling the investigation in that manner."
..."Thursday's vote constitutes the first time the Judiciary Committee has voted on an action tied to its impeachment probe. The vote will grant Nadler the ability to deem hearings as impeachment hearings. It will also allow staff to question witnesses at those hearings for an hour after members, will give the President's lawyers the ability to respond in writing to public testimony and will allow the committee to collect information in a closed setting."
Today on the trail
--- The 10 top-polling Democratic candidates will participate in the ABC News/Univision debate at Texas Southern University in Houston at 8 p.m.
--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) campaigns in Iowa with the state's former First Lady Christie Vilsack; the two will host a "Fair Shot for Rural America" roundtable discussion together in Des Moines, followed by a meet and greet in Clive.
--- Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) participates in a forum at the University of New Hampshire Law School in Concord.
--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) attends a "coffee and conversation" event in Salem, New Hampshire.
--- Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer visits Iowa, holding a meet and greet in Iowa City and an event in Davenport.
--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson holds a post-debate event in Beverley Hills, California.
*All times Eastern