Democrats Condemn Trump After Shootings: This Week in the 2020 Race

Every Saturday morning, we’re publishing “This Week in the 2020 Race”: a quick way to catch up on the presidential campaign and the field of 24 candidates for the Democratic nomination.

Two mass shootings — one in El Paso and another in Dayton, Ohio — left a total of 31 people dead last weekend. Dozens of others were injured.

The suspect in the rampage at an El Paso Walmart, where 22 people were killed, had posted a hateful manifesto online moments before the shooting, the authorities said. It railed against immigration and declared, “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

That brought fresh scrutiny to President Trump’s inflammatory language about immigration. He has repeatedly used the word “invasion” on Twitter, and some of his re-election campaign’s Facebook ads have also made claims about an “invasion” on the southern border.

In the hours and days that followed the weekend shootings, Democratic presidential candidates condemned Mr. Trump with some of their most pointed language yet, accusing him of dividing Americans along racial lines and fostering white nationalism from the White House.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said he held Mr. Trump responsible for the shootings. Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas — who left the campaign trail for several days to return to his grieving hometown, El Paso — called Mr. Trump a racist. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said she believed Mr. Trump was a white supremacist, as did Mr. O’Rourke.

Mr. Booker and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. gave speeches on Wednesday in the wake of the shootings. Mr. Booker spoke in South Carolina about racism and Mr. Biden spoke in Iowa, mostly about Mr. Trump.

“Trump readily, eagerly attacks Islamic terrorism but can barely bring himself to use the words ‘white supremacy,’” Mr. Biden said. “And even when he says it, he doesn’t appear to believe it. He seems more concerned about losing their votes than beating back this hateful ideology.”

Many of the president’s critics directed their anger at Mr. Trump’s donors. Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas and brother of the presidential candidate Julián Castro, posted a list of San Antonio-area Trump donors. Trump supporters called it harassment.

Mr. O’Rourke will not go to the Iowa State Fair this weekend because he wants to stay in El Paso. But just about every other Democratic presidential candidate will be at the event. It is an essential stop for presidential hopefuls — and, yes, anyone with a hankering for bacon-wrapped “pork wings.”

Twenty-two candidates planned to speak at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox over the four-day span that will wrap up Sunday. The aim is to impress caucusgoers in the state that votes first next year. Though there have been many changes to the political system over the years, Iowa still matters, a lot.

At the same time, as our colleague Lisa Lerer noted this week, it may be hard for the candidates to make news as the country continues to grieve over last weekend’s shootings. It won’t help that there are so many Democrats jockeying for attention.

As long as no one insults the sanctity of butter, Lisa says, the campaigns should make it through the weekend intact.

We now have nine qualifiers for the September debates. Andrew Yang, who had previously hit the Democratic National Committee’s requirement of 130,000 donors, earned 2 percent in a Monmouth University poll of Iowa Democrats released Thursday, bringing his total number of qualifying polls to four and officially securing his spot.

The other qualifiers so far are Mr. Biden, Mr. Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mr. O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ms. Warren.

The Monmouth survey also gave Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York her first qualifying poll and the impeachment activist Tom Steyer his third, but they have not reached the donor threshold.

Two other candidates — Mr. Castro and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii — have met the donor threshold but not the polling threshold; Mr. Castro has three qualifying polls, and Ms. Gabbard has only one. Neither of them reached 2 percent in the Monmouth poll.

Speaking of that Monmouth poll, here’s how the top candidates fared among Iowa Democrats:

  • Mr. Biden: 28 percent

  • Ms. Warren: 19 percent

  • Ms. Harris: 11 percent

  • Mr. Sanders: 9 percent

  • Mr. Buttigieg: 8 percent

No other candidate registered more than 3 percent support.

A national Quinnipiac poll gave us a similar picture, except Ms. Harris and Mr. Sanders swapped places:

  • Mr. Biden: 32 percent

  • Ms. Warren: 21 percent

  • Mr. Sanders: 14 percent

  • Ms. Harris: 7 percent

  • Mr. Buttigieg: 5 percent

Both surveys were conducted after last week’s debates. The Monmouth poll had a margin of sampling error of five percentage points; the Quinnipiac poll had a margin of error of four percentage points.

Responding to the El Paso and Dayton, Ohio shootings, several candidates released plans to combat gun violence, white supremacist terrorism or both.

  • Mr. Buttigieg called for $1 billion in funding to combat radicalization and domestic terrorism. His proposal, titled “An Action Plan to Combat the National Threat Posed by Hate and the Gun Lobby,” also calls for several gun control measures, including universal background checks, so called red-flag laws, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and a national gun licensing system.

  • Mr. Castro, campaigning in Iowa on Friday, released a similarly titled “People First Plan to Disarm Hate.” Among other things, the plan would focus the F.B.I.’s investigative and enforcement resources on white supremacist terrorism and add $50 million a year in funding for State Department programs to disrupt “international networks of communication” used by extremists. Mr. Castro is also calling for the same gun laws as Mr. Buttigieg, as well as civil liability for gun manufacturers if their guns are used in crimes.

  • The entrepreneur Andrew Yang released a proposal that also calls for a gun licensing system, universal background checks and red-flag laws. In addition, Mr. Yang’s plan calls on Congress to pass a law defining domestic terrorism as a federal offense.

  • Former Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania released a policy paper on “social and racial justice,” which includes a list of broad priorities — such as “oppose white supremacy and white nationalism in all its forms” and “always confront sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ageism, and all forms of bigotry” — but no detailed proposals.

The other big policy theme of the week was helping rural Americans — and, in the process, combating climate change.

  • Mr. Booker introduced a climate change bill in the Senate focused on conservation and reforestation. It calls for planting 15 billion trees by 2050, including at least 100 million in urban neighborhoods; restoring coastal wetlands, which can sequester carbon; re-establishing the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps; and providing funding for farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to, among other things, produce renewable energy and plant cover crops.

  • Ms. Gillibrand released a plan to “rebuild rural America,” which includes economic support as well as climate-related measures similar to Mr. Booker’s. She is proposing a $50 billion fund for projects to make rural areas more “resilient,” such as by rebuilding water lines, creating job training programs or expanding public education. She also wants to make it easier for co-ops to get funding, and she calls for investing $60 billion in high-speed internet for rural areas.

  • Ms. Warren proposed a public internet option as part of her own “Plan to Invest in Rural America.” She is calling for federal guidance confirming that municipalities can build their own broadband networks, and for $85 billion in federal grants to expand broadband access; grant recipients would be required to offer high-speed internet to every household in their coverage area. The plan also includes higher Medicare reimbursement rates for rural hospitals and a crackdown on hospital mergers.


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