Impeachment, Polls and Debates: This Week in the 2020 Race

What a year this week has been.

Overwhelmed? We cannot blame you, but we are here to help.

If you are looking for an overview of the allegations against President Trump and the status of the House’s impeachment inquiry, you can find that here and here. We will be focusing on the implications for the 2020 election — and, as always, some campaign news you may have missed.

For months, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii had opposed impeachment proceedings on the grounds that they would further divide the country. As recently as Wednesday, she held firm. But on Friday, she changed her position and joined the other 18 Democratic presidential candidates on board with an impeachment inquiry.

“This inquiry must be swift, thorough and narrowly focused,” she said. “It cannot be turned into a long, protracted partisan circus.”

The candidates are not perfectly aligned — some have been more forceful than others, and some, like Ms. Gabbard, have been careful only to endorse the inquiry Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday, not necessarily impeachment itself.

At least two candidates, Senator Elizabeth Warren and the former housing secretary Julián Castro, called the reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump’s Ukraine call a “smoking gun,” and that was before the release of the whistle-blower complaint, which included accusations of a White House cover-up.

There is nobody in the Democratic race for whom the impeachment story is more fraught than former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

It was he and his son Hunter Biden whom Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate. Mr. Trump’s claims about the Bidens are unsubstantiated, but they are now a campaign issue all the same — certainly in the general election if Mr. Biden is the Democratic nominee, but potentially in the primary as well.

It was quite a week for Ms. Gabbard, who officially qualified for next month’s debate after missing this month’s.

She had long since attracted enough donors to qualify, but had only registered 2 percent support in two of the four qualifying polls she needed. She got the two remaining polls in quick succession this week, logging 2 percent in an Iowa survey and 2 percent in New Hampshire.

Twelve candidates have qualified for the October debate, and there may not be a lot of elbow room: They are all expected to appear together on a single night, Oct. 15.

Four debate-qualifying polls have been released since last weekend, and three of them show Ms. Warren ahead, either nationally or in early-voting states. Her leads are narrow — well within the margin of error — but is still noteworthy given that, of the more than 50 qualifying polls released between February and last weekend, Mr. Biden had led in all but three.

Also striking is that, in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls, Mr. Sanders was closer to Mr. Buttigieg than to the top two — and Ms. Harris fell to fifth place.

Here’s what the polls showed:

As our colleagues reported, some of Mr. Biden’s allies are so concerned about his slipping poll numbers and attacks from Mr. Trump that they are thinking about mobilizing a super PAC.

Mr. Sanders released two major plans: a wealth tax and a proposal to eliminate medical debt.

The wealth tax proposal is structurally similar to the one Ms. Warren introduced this year, but it goes further. It would apply to households with net worths above $32 million, compared with $50 million under Ms. Warren’s plan. And while Ms. Warren’s tax rate would top out at 3 percent of net worth for billionaires, Mr. Sanders’s would go as high as 8 percent.

Mr. Sanders’s other new proposal would cancel an estimated $81 billion in medical debt, essentially wiping the slate clean from the existing private insurance system before enacting
his Medicare for all program.

  • You can read more about the tax proposal here, and the debt proposal here.

  • Our colleagues in the Business section wrote about how tax-the-rich proposals would, or would not, work.

  • Tom Steyer, the investor and impeachment activist, released an “international plan for climate justice” on Friday that calls for intensive partnerships with other countries to phase out fossil fuels.

  • Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana released a plan to conserve and increase access to public lands.

Some candidates have a bus.

Others have had a plane.

Mr. Castro, it seems, spent part of this week test-driving a new campaign car.


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