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Wake Up To Politics - September 3, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, September 3, 2019. 153 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 427 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

2020 Central

With Labor Day, the unofficial end to summer, in the rearview mirror, here's a look at the 2020 campaign landscape:

Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders have been the only Democratic contenders polling above single digits for months now, with Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg leading a large (but slowly winnowing) pack of lower-polling candidates. "The bottom is falling out of the Democratic presidential primary," Politico concludes. "And the top-tier — no longer five candidates, but three — is becoming more insurmountable."

"It was legitimate to say ‘Top 5’ for a long time, but with the exception of Kamala Harris being at the outer perimeter of the top three … you’d have to have a strange confluence of events for someone outside those four to win,” longtime Clinton adviser Philipe Reines says in the Politico piece. "It would require all four failing. Like, you would need all four of them to be in a plane crash or something."

For the other candidates, Reines adds, "it's too late in the game to keep saying it's too early."

But questions remain about Biden's age and memory. "Does Joe Biden Want to Be Doing This?" veteran political reporter Mark Leibovich asks in his latest for The New York Times Magazine. "Mr. Biden’s days as a potent and fiery stump speaker seem long past," Leibovich writes. "He can exude a level of weariness certain days. He can be as unfocused, long-winded and prone to misstatement as ever. He has kept up a steady run of blunders and embarrassments," most recently receiving criticism for mixing up several key facts in a story he has told on the campaign trail about a solider he met in Afghanistan, as reported by The Washington Post.

Biden defended himself in an interview with NPR that aired this morning, insisting that his verbal slip-ups don't impair his ability to serve as president: "The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making," he said.

So far, that argument is working. "Most August polls showed Biden with the support of nearly one in three Democratic voters nationally, far ahead of his nearest presidential opponent and basically unchanged from polling before he announced his campaign," The Washington Post reports.

Biden's many rivals have been unable to knock him off, even as they deploy a large range of strategies attempting to do so. They will have their next opportunity to make a big splash against the former vice president at the next televised debate on September 12, when just 10 candidates will take the stage: Biden, Cory Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Sanders, Warren, and Andrew Yang.

Much of the Democratic field made a point to focus on gun control at campaign events this weekend, in light of the mass shootings in Midland and Odessa, Texas, on Saturday that left seven people dead and at least 21 more wounded. Texas native O'Rourke has particularly sought to re-center his campaign after the recent spate of killings, declaring in a CNN interview: "This is f---ed up."

Looking ahead to the general election, President Trump polls his potential Democratic challengers by "a historically large margin," as CNN points out, in a campaign that is likely to be fought over an especially small electoral map. According to The Washington Post, some Trump advisers and allies view the president's past two months as "a lost summer defined by self-inflicted controversies and squandered opportunities," which saw cracks emerge in the U.S. economic landscape, adding potential warning signs to his 2020 re-election battle.

"In the final lull before the 2020 campaign starts to intensify this fall, Trump could have worked strategically to solidify his position and broaden his appeal," The Post reported. "Instead, his words and actions this summer served to further divide the country and to harden public opinion about the ever-polarizing president."

The Rundown

Trade war: "President Trump’s trade war with China entered new territory on Sunday as his next round of tariffs took effect, changing the rules of trade in ways that have no recent historic precedent and driving the world’s two largest economies further apart."

"American tariffs on foreign goods had already climbed higher than any time since the 1960s before Sunday, when the United States imposed a new 15 percent tariff. The levies on food, clothing, lawn mowers and thousands of other 'Made in China' products come as the president prepares to tax nearly everything China ships to America. The move will bring average tariffs on Chinese imports to 21.2 percent, up from only 3.1 percent when Mr. Trump came into office, according to data from the Peterson Institute for International Economics." (The New York Times)

The investigations: "House Democrats plan to make President Trump’s alleged involvement in a 2016 scheme to silence two women who claimed they had affairs with him a major investigative focus this fall, picking up where federal prosecutors left off in a case legal experts say could have led to additional indictments."

"The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in hush-money payments to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels as soon as October, according to people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions." (The Washington Post)

WV-GOV: "Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, one of the few bipartisan power brokers left in the sharply divided U.S. Senate, is set to announce Tuesday morning whether or not he plans to run again for his old job as West Virginia governor." (CBS News)

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Today at the White House

POTUS: At 11:45 a.m., President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 3:3o p.m., he meets with Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

VP: Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence visit Ireland today, as part of a weeklong foreign trip. At 6:10 a.m., they participated in a welcome coffee with President Michael Higgins of Ireland and his wife Sabina. At 6:55 a.m., the vice president and second lady had lunch with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his husband, Dr. Matthew Barrett. At 8 a.m., Pence participates in a bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach. At 8:45 a.m., Pence and the Taoiseach deliver joint remarks. At 9:30 a.m., the vice president participates in a roundtable discussion with U.S.-Ireland business leaders.

--- Pence's meetings in Ireland are in all the capital, Dublin, but the hotel he is staying in is almost 200 miles away: the Trump International Golf Club in Doonberg. The vice president's chief of staff told reporters that Pence is staying at the Trump-owned business at the president's suggestion.

Today on the trail

--- Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) visits New Hampshire, touring an energy facility in Brentwood at 2:30 p.m. and holding a town hall at Plymouth State University at 6:30 p.m.

--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) makes a swing through Iowa, holding meet and greets in Dubuque at 11 a.m., Waterloo at 2 p.m.., and Mason City at 7 p.m.

--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) travels to New Hampshire, holding a breakfast in Epsom at 9:30 a.m. and an ice cream social and town hall at Nashua Community College at 12:30 p.m.

--- Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer holds a town hall on climate change in Oakland, California, at 8 p.m.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson holds an event in North Las Vegas, Nevada, at 9:30 p.m.

*All times Eastern