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Wake Up To Politics - September 9, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, September 9, 2019. 57 days until Election Day 2019. 147 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 421 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

2020 Central

New polls released on Sunday once again show the sprawling Democratic presidential primary field dominated by a clear top tier: former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. A Washington Post/ABC national poll showed Biden with 29% support among Democrat and Democratic-leaning registered voters, compared to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders's 19% and Warren's 18%.

Meanwhile, a CBS News/YouGov poll of registered voters in states holding primaries or caucuses through Super Tuesday found Warren and Biden locked in a virtual tie for first place, 26% to 25%, with Sanders at 19%.

In individual early contests, the CBS/YouGov poll found Biden leading Iowa (with 29% to Sanders's 26% and Warren's 17%) and South Carolina (with 43% to Sanders's 18% and Warren's 14%), Sanders leading Nevada (with 29% to Biden's 27% and Warren's 18%), and a virtual three-way tie in New Hampshire (Warren at 27%, Biden at 26%, and Sanders at 25%). As in the Post/ABC national survey, in no early state do any of the other 17 Democratic candidates poll in the double digits.

Other metrics in the polls seem promising for Warren, who has been steadily rising in support all summer. The CBS/YouGov poll also suggests she could have the most room to gain of any candidate: 60% of Democrats said they were considering supporting her, compared to 50% who said that of Biden and 48% who said that of Sanders. 47% of the voters not currently supporting her as their first choice said they were considering doing so.

The highest proportion of Democratic voters (46%) also said they would be enthusiastic if Warren was the Democratic nominee, compared to 38% for Sanders and 29% for Biden.

The Massachusetts senator has seen increased momentum on the campaign trail in recent days as well: she received "the most enthusiastic response" of the 19 candidates who appeared at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention on Saturday, according to the New York Times, and President Donald Trump's orbit is reportedly growing anxious about the prospect of facing her in 2020.

Warren's cementing her place in the top tier of the primary field comes as she prepares to face Biden on the debate stage for the first time on Thursday, when only 10 candidates will participate. The debate will be a key moment for Warren to score points against the former vice president, and for candidates outside of the top-three (such as California Sen. Kamala Harris, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke) to regain national attention.

Another primary challenger to President Trump jumped into the Republican presidential field on Sunday: former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. "I think we have to have a conversation about what it means to be a Republican," he said on "Fox News Sunday," accusing the party of having "lost our way."

Sanford, 59, served as the Palmetto State's governor from 2003 to 2011, completing his second term in disgrace after the public revelation that he disappeared for a week to spend time with his mistress in Argentina, while telling his staff that he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. He served in the U.S. House before and after his governorship, from 1995 to 2001 and from 2013 to 2019, losing to a Trump-backed primary challenger in his bid for a fourth term last year.

In a Twitter thread explaining his decision to run for president, Sanford identified his hope to "further and foster a national debate on our nation's debt, deficits, and spending" as the key reason behind his long-shot bid. He joins former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld in challenging Trump in the Republican presidential primary. While the Trump campaign called Sanford "irrelevant" in a one-word statement on Sunday, the president responded to the South Carolinian's announcement this morning with a pair of tweets aimed at Sanford's infidelity (despite Trump's own problems in that area). He also referred to Sanford, Walsh, and Weld collectively as the "Three Stooges."

Sanford said he will take his fiscal conservative platform to the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire; the state party in his own home state, South Carolina, which generally also holds an early presidential primary, voted last week to cancel its presidential nominating contest out of deference to President Trump.

Congress to wrestle with busy agenda upon return to Washington

Both houses of Congress return to Washington today after a five-week-long summer recess. Here are some of the top issues facing lawmakers...

Gun control: After a spate of mass shootings in August that led to 53 deaths, Congress faces renewed pressure to act on gun control. 89% of Americans support expanding background checks to all potential gun buyers (including private sales and gun-show sales) and 86% support implementing "red flag" laws that would allow guns to be taken from people found by a judge to be dangerous, the Washington Post/ABC poll this weekend found.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will hold a joint press conference at 3 p.m. today calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to hold a vote on H.R. 8, the House-passed background checks package. The pair of Democratic leaders also sent President Trump a letter on Sunday urging him to back gun control measure.s

McConnell has publicly deferred to the president on the issue, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt last week that "if the president took a position on a bill... I'd be happy to put it on the floor." Trump has wavered on supporting new gun control measures: he seemed open to it after shootings in Texas and Ohio last month, but then seemed to close the door after discussions with NRA chief Wayne LaPierre. However, the president assured Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) last week that he was still considering supporting legislation expanding background checks, according to The New York Times.

Impeachment: The House Judiciary Committee will vote to formalize the parameters of its impeachment inquiry into President Trump this week, taking a similar step as congressional investigators took at the outset of the impeachment processes of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, after Democratic lawmakers faced contentious town halls on the impeachment question over the summer.

According to CNN, House Democrats plan to expand their investigation into probing "whether the President is enriching himself while violating the emoluments clause in the Constitution, reports Trump dangled pardons to officials who were at risk of breaking immigration laws, and his involvement in hush-money payments to cover his alleged extramarital affairs."

The investigation's new stage comes amid a recent increase in news stories tying the Trump Administration to the Trump Organization, the president's family business, from Vice President Mike Pence's recent stay at Trump's hotel in Ireland to President Trump's plan to host world leaders next year at his resort in Florida to reports by Politico that the Air Force is investigating stays by multiple air crews at a Trump resort in Scotland.

Shutdown battle: As lawmakers face an October 1 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, both chambers of Congress are readying to prepare government funding bills while another showdown over immigration remains possible.

The Senate Appropriations Committee plans to vote on four funding bills next week, its first action on funding legislation for Fiscal Year 2020. Meanwhile, the House is expected to vote on a continuing resolution (CR) next week, a stopgap fix to extend government funding through December as negotiations continue.

Trump cancels secret Camp David meeting with Taliban leaders

Via the Associated Press:

"President Donald Trump said Saturday he canceled a secret weekend meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghanistan leaders after a bombing in the past week in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier, and has called off peace negotiations with the insurgent group."

"Trump’s tweet was surprising because it would mean that the president was ready to host members of the Taliban at the presidential retreat in Maryland just days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. More than 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to go after the Taliban, which were harboring al-Qaida leaders responsible for 9/11."

"Canceling the talks also goes against Trump’s pledge to withdraw the remaining 13,000 to 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and close U.S. involvement in the conflict that is closing in on 18 years."

--- Deep dive: "How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart" (The New York Times)

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Today at the White House

--- At 11 a.m., President Trump presents the Medal of Valor and Heroic Commendations. The president will then travel to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he will hold a campaign rally at 7 p.m. ahead of the congressional special election there tomorrow.

Democrat Dan McReady and Republican Dan Bishop are competing for control of North Carolina's 9th congressional district, a once-reliable GOP seat that is now competitive after the Republican candidate last November faced allegations of absentee ballot fraud, sparking this re-do election.

--- Vice President Mike Pence also travels to North Carolina today. At 11 a.m., he participates in a briefing on Hurricane Dorian at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. At 1:30 p.m., he delivers remarks at a "Get Out the Vote" event with GOP congressional candidate Dan Bishop. At 7 p.m., Pence joins the president at the Fayetteville rally.

---- At 12:30 p.m., Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), holds a press briefing from the White House briefing room.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. today. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the nomination of Kelly Craft to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The Senate will hold a procedural vote advancing Craft's nomination at 5:30 p.m. Craft has served as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada since October 2017.

--- The House convenes at 2 p.m. The chamber is scheduled to consider four pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 2114 – Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2019
  2. H.R. 1760 – Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Act
  3. H.R. 1768 – Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2019
  4. H.R. 1420 – Energy Efficient Government Technology Act

Today on the trail

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro holds a "Castro Country" rally in Houston, Texas, at 7 p.m. He will be joined by actress and comedian Cristela Alonzo.

--- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio travels to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he will "make an announcement and meet with local labor leaders and activists."

--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a cmapaign stop at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, at 12 p.m., as part of his "Bernie 2020 College Campus Tailgate Tour."

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) holds a student town hall on education and civics in Lowell, Massachusetts, at 7:55 a.m. He then travels to North Carolina, holding an event in Newmarket at 3 p.m., an event on China in Durham at 5 p.m., and addressing a meeting of Nashua Democrats at 7:30 p.m.

*All times Eastern