On Politics: Is Warren Back in It?
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Where things stand in the race
After months of fading fortune, is Elizabeth Warren back in the running? She was widely hailed as the big winner at Wednesday’s debate — the most-watched Democratic presidential debate in history, with 33 million TV and online streaming viewers, according to NBC and MSNBC — and that strong showing helped her raise $5 million in less than a day. That’s more than she’s garnered in any other single day of the campaign.
Warren reminded voters on Wednesday why her favorite word of this campaign has been “fight.” She mercilessly slashed Michael Bloomberg, calling him an “arrogant billionaire” and suggesting that he had too much in common with President Trump. She demanded — in what her aides have said was a largely improvised turn — that Bloomberg terminate his nondisclosure agreements with former female employees so that their allegations against him could come to light and voters could see “exactly what’s lurking out there.”
And Warren didn’t shy from attacking the rest of the gang, either. She even took at least one sidelong swipe at Bernie Sanders, her closest ally on the left. “Democrats want to beat Donald Trump, but they are worried,” she said. “They are worried about gambling on a narrow vision that doesn’t address the fears of millions of Americans across this country who see real problems and want real change. They are worried about gambling on a revolution that won’t bring along a majority of this country.” (There’s the swing at Sanders.) She also went after Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden, two of her more moderate rivals: “Amy and Joe’s hearts are in the right place, but we can’t be so eager to be liked by Mitch McConnell that we forget how to fight the Republicans.”
It might be too late for her to mount a big comeback in Nevada, which holds its caucuses on Saturday. That’s because 75,000 people had already cast early ballots by the time she took the stage on Wednesday. That number is almost as large as the total amount of Nevada caucusgoers in 2016. But predebate polls put Warren’s support in the low to mid-teens, so if she does have an impressive showing on caucus day, there’s a chance she could land a strong third-place — or even second-place — finish.
In South Carolina, which votes a week from Saturday, her numbers have been lower. But in at least a few Super Tuesday states, she has a fighting chance. A recent PPIC Statewide Survey in California — the most delegate-rich state on the calendar — put her in a statistical tie for second place, duking it out with Biden, Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg. And she has personal ties to Oklahoma (where she was born) and Massachusetts (which she represents in the Senate), both of which vote on March 3.
Bloomberg will have almost two weeks to recover from the shellacking he took in Las Vegas, since he won’t be on any ballots until Super Tuesday. And he’s already qualified for the debate next Tuesday in South Carolina, giving him an opportunity to redeem himself. But will he do any better there than he did on Wednesday? It’s not as if he hadn’t prepared for the questions that moderators put to him, or his rivals’ attacks. Howard Wolfson, one of his top advisers, said Thursday that “I accept the responsibility for inadequately preparing him.”
The coming days will show whether Bloomberg’s colossal spending on TV and web ads can counter the negative publicity that his weak debate performance elicited. As for the next debate, his aides are quietly acknowledging that he’ll have to change his tack drastically.
Photo of the day
Chasten Buttigieg whispered to his husband, Pete Buttigieg, during a commercial break in a town hall event at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Bloomberg knows he has to catch Sanders.
Our reporter Jeremy W. Peters spent Wednesday in Salt Lake City, where Bloomberg spoke to supporters and doubled down on his attacks on Sanders.
As Jeremy points out in the dispatch below from Utah, Bloomberg’s eagerness to beat up on Sanders — who only recently became the unquestioned Democratic front-runner — is a relatively new phenomenon. But it’s probably the new normal.
It was barely a week ago when Bloomberg was carefully avoiding questions about Sanders. Asked whether he agreed with some prominent Wall Street executives’ view that a Sanders presidency would spell ruin for the economy, the former mayor of New York sidestepped the question. He said he didn’t want to get in the business of tearing other Democrats down.
But inside the Bloomberg campaign, there is growing alarm at Sanders’s strength, and what Bloomberg and his aides view as sheepishness from their rivals when it comes to directly confronting the Vermont senator. Don’t expect Bloomberg to attack other rivals — even Warren — anytime soon. But campaign aides said they considered Sanders fair game going forward.
Nevada is trying to avoid becoming another Iowa.
The biggest question about Saturday’s caucuses in Nevada is quite simply this: Can the state Democratic Party pull this off?
It’s working with a new, Google-based results reporting system, put in place in a hurry after the Iowa caucuses turned into a debacle this month.
The party has to produce up to 138 data points from as many as 2,097 precincts.
And it has to combine results from 75,000 early-vote ballots with those from in-person caucusgoers on Saturday.
Democratic officials are officially optimistic, but in recent days they’ve privately warned campaigns and reporters not to expect results too quickly on Saturday afternoon. Caucuses begin here at noon (3 p.m. Eastern), and are open to anyone in line by that time. There is no official end time.
Four years ago, some of Nevada’s rural precincts didn’t report results until 48 hours after the caucuses began. With even more pressure to produce a result smoothly now, Saturday’s caucuses will be a high-wire act for the state’s political class and Democratic volunteers. Any perceived hiccup is likely to produce panic, if not outright chaos.
There were some warning signs over the weekend at early-voting sites, where the new reporting system proved somewhat sluggish, compounding the delays caused by high turnout and long lines.
Jon Ralston, the editor of The Nevada Independent, attributed the delays in part to “the issue of them having to essentially erect an entirely new way to do the caucus after a lot of planning — you might even say years of planning — after what happened in Iowa.”
“It’s being run by volunteers, who are well meaning, but they were trained very late,” he added. “There is the potential for a lot to go wrong.”
Did William Barr’s own lawyers go against him?
Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone was sentenced to more than three years in prison on Thursday, handing a big victory to the prosecution. Or maybe it was a defeat?
That all depends on whether you think the prosecution really wanted Stone to be imprisoned at all.
William Barr, the attorney general, intervened in the case last week, forcing his lawyers to seek a lighter sentence than they had in their original memorandum. But at the sentencing hearing on Thursday, the prosecutor now leading the case for the Justice Department, John Crabb, did a few things that seemed to subtly push in the direction of a harsher sentence after all.
One example: Crabb reasoned that because Stone had in fact succeeded in obstructing justice — as opposed to just trying to — he deserved a harsher sentence. That went against the language of the softer sentencing recommendation pushed by Barr. When the judge asked Crabb whether he had in fact written the updated recommendation, Crabb declined to answer. “I apologize, I cannot engage in discussions of internal deliberations,” he said.
Either way, Trump is clearly not happy about the way things have played out for Stone. Hours after the sentencing, in remarks to a group of former convicts in Las Vegas making their way back into society, Trump said: “I’d love to see Roger exonerated — and I’d love to see it happen — because personally I think he was treated unfairly.”
The trial’s judge, Amy Berman Jackson, saw things differently. As she sentenced Stone, she chewed him out for his efforts to thwart a congressional inquiry into Russian election meddling. She called his actions “a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy.”
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