Tom Steyer surprises in the polls

Tom Steyer qualifies for the next debate, 2020 candidates in Iowa fight to be everyone's second choice, the U.S. and China will sign a big new trade deal, and how Trump's 2020 campaign will fight some -- but not all -- of the same fights as 2016.

Posted: Jan 12, 2020 1:00 PM
Updated: Jan 12, 2020 1:00 PM

Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters have on their radar, in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast.

1. Steyer surprises

Two sitting senators, a congresswoman and a former governor didn't qualify for the next Democratic debate -- but after spending more than $116 million on TV ads, billionaire businessman Tom Steyer did.

"Every presidential election seems to feature a surprise, and Tom Steyer is making the case that it's going to be him in 2020," said Associated Press Washington bureau chief Julie Pace.

"He's really surprised a lot of people with his showing in the polls last week in Nevada and South Carolina," Pace said, thanks in large part to all that money. "In some of the states where he's on the air, he's basically the only candidate who's spending on advertising. And he can keep spending more, he's worth $1.6 billion."

One problem: the other billionaire in the race.

"Michael Bloomberg is worth 40 times as much as Steyer, and has already vastly outspent him in advertising," Pace said.

2. Second choice matters

With just three weeks left until the Iowa caucuses, the battle is on to be the second choice of every voter who doesn't pick you first.

That's because according to the Iowa rules, the second round of voting only includes candidates who hit a 15% threshold in the first round. If you support someone who doesn't meet that mark, you pick someone else.

"Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, even Michael Bennet and John Delaney and others who are asterisks in the polls are suddenly incredibly important," CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny said. That's because the frontrunners want to identify their voters ahead of time and win them over for Round 2.

"On caucus night, the precinct leaders and captains can pull them over to their side, and so it's all about organization. The Warren campaign has been building organizations since the beginning, much sooner than the others," Zeleny said. "Getting the second choice is so key to winning."

3. Europe & Iran

The US and Iran seem to have backed off the brink of war, at least for now. But one big question now is how aggressively the Islamic Republic will move to restart its nuclear program now that its deal with the West is effectively dead.

"The Europeans are now in the middle and watching everything," Washington Post congressional correspondent Karoun Demirjian said. "They may be the decision-makers and power-brokers that we don't usually give them credit for. Europe is going to be critical as the focus moves not just to what the next steps are on proliferation, but also the arms embargo that's supposed to be expiring later this year. The United States is not the only decision-maker."

4. China trade deal & 2020

Top Chinese officials will be in Washington this week to sign "phase one" of a trade deal with President Donald Trump. It doesn't end the trade war, but it may serve effectively as a truce.

"The deal is going to include tariff relief, which is critical, as well as an increase of the Chinese purchases of US agricultural products, as well as some changes to rules on technology and intellectual property," Wall Street Journal White House correspondent Vivian Salama said.

"This is really critical going into the 2020 campaign, because a lot of farmers in states that are critical for the President's reelection were hit hard by the tariffs, and so they're going to be looking for some relief."

In another sign of reduced tensions, Washington and Beijing agreed to hold new bi-annual meetings to talk about trade and economic reforms, Salama said.

5. Trump 2016 vs. Trump 2020

And from CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:

Incumbent presidents have an advantage: the "Rose Garden strategy." They can use their powers to shape policy debates in a way they believe helps them on the reelection campaign trail.

Just Friday we saw three glimpses of this from the Trump administration. And they offered clear evidence of where the President's 2020 strategy will hew closely to his 2016 approach, and where it will be different.

Two of the examples relate to immigration, which clearly will again be a major campaign theme. Remember the 2016 firestorm over the so-called Muslim ban? The Associated Press reported Friday it had obtained administration documents detailing a significant planned expansion of the travel ban.

That same day, the acting chief of the Department of Homeland Security traveled to Arizona to highlight border wall construction, insisting the administration had reached the 100-mile mark in terms of building the border wall across new locations, even though the site of his news conference was one of the places newly constructed wall is replacing older border barriers. The President is pushing for more construction progress, and you can be certain his election-year travels will include a border wall visit.

The big shift made clear Friday? Health care.

Remember in 2016, then-candidate Trump promised to quickly repeal Obamacare. His efforts floundered in Congress as Republicans could not get legislation to final passage even when they had majorities in both the House and Senate the first two years of the Trump administration.

But there is another opportunity now: a federal challenge to Obamacare initiated by Republican governors and attorneys general and supported in legal filings by the Trump administration.

Democratic groups are asking the Supreme Court to fast track consideration of the Obamacare challenge, hoping the nation's highest court decides whether to uphold or invalidate the Affordable Care Act before Election Day.

But Trump's Justice Department asked the high court in a filing Friday to take a go-slow approach, arguing there was no emergency and the issue could be dealt with in the next term in 2021.

So why would the President want to stall a chance to get a ruling that could allow him to claim he is keeping a major 2016 promise?

Look no further than the 2018 election results.

Protecting Obamacare was the lead Democratic issue in a midterm campaign strategy that resulted in giant gains, including the House sweep that created the new Democratic House majority.

The administration says it still supports the Obamacare challenge. But asking the Supreme Court to wait until next year to consider the case is clear proof Team Trump does not want to risk winning this year, and disrupting health care for millions of Americans just before they decide whether the President deserves four more years.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 593622

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1228171731
Ramsey51446875
Dakota45976452
Anoka41782439
Washington26948283
Stearns22266222
St. Louis17787304
Scott17296124
Wright16082140
Olmsted1325598
Sherburne1173087
Carver1050745
Clay816392
Rice8063107
Blue Earth751541
Crow Wing666290
Kandiyohi656283
Chisago601351
Otter Tail575478
Benton571697
Goodhue478572
Douglas468575
Mower466232
Winona455050
Itasca439156
McLeod424559
Isanti422464
Morrison419660
Nobles408048
Beltrami397059
Steele388715
Polk384868
Becker380953
Lyon361051
Carlton345654
Freeborn342029
Pine329022
Nicollet326243
Brown305440
Mille Lacs305053
Le Sueur292423
Todd282432
Cass273428
Meeker256640
Waseca236322
Martin230732
Roseau209419
Wabasha20613
Hubbard190041
Dodge18513
Renville180343
Redwood174337
Houston171916
Cottonwood165823
Fillmore156510
Wadena155922
Pennington153719
Faribault152419
Chippewa152338
Kanabec144726
Sibley143810
Aitkin135036
Watonwan13289
Rock128319
Jackson121812
Pipestone115926
Yellow Medicine114120
Pope11056
Murray10639
Swift105618
Stevens91411
Marshall88117
Clearwater86916
Koochiching83615
Wilkin81612
Lake81120
Lac qui Parle75322
Big Stone6004
Lincoln5813
Grant5788
Mahnomen5539
Norman5399
Unassigned49293
Kittson48622
Red Lake3977
Traverse3705
Lake of the Woods3253
Cook1640

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 367236

Reported Deaths: 5940
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57666626
Linn20892335
Scott20060241
Black Hawk15824308
Woodbury15138228
Johnson1449183
Dubuque13380208
Dallas1118398
Pottawattamie11132168
Story1062348
Warren577988
Clinton555893
Cerro Gordo540689
Sioux514474
Webster512293
Marshall483075
Muscatine481399
Des Moines458066
Wapello4303122
Buena Vista424840
Jasper419372
Plymouth401280
Lee376055
Marion362875
Jones299057
Henry291937
Carroll285752
Bremer284860
Crawford266240
Boone265034
Benton256655
Washington254050
Dickinson248543
Mahaska230451
Jackson222142
Clay215725
Kossuth215564
Tama209871
Delaware209741
Winneshiek196835
Page192722
Buchanan191432
Cedar190023
Hardin185643
Fayette185141
Wright184737
Hamilton180049
Harrison179673
Clayton169556
Butler165034
Madison162519
Mills162422
Floyd161142
Cherokee158938
Lyon158241
Poweshiek154934
Allamakee151451
Iowa148824
Hancock148434
Winnebago142531
Cass138654
Calhoun138513
Grundy136333
Emmet134240
Jefferson132435
Shelby131137
Sac130419
Union128333
Louisa128149
Appanoose128049
Mitchell126442
Chickasaw124116
Guthrie121530
Franklin120721
Humboldt119126
Palo Alto112823
Howard104622
Montgomery103338
Clarke100224
Unassigned9710
Keokuk96031
Monroe95329
Ida90435
Adair86532
Pocahontas85522
Davis83024
Monona82730
Osceola78716
Greene77710
Lucas77223
Worth7478
Taylor66012
Fremont6229
Decatur6089
Ringgold55824
Van Buren55818
Wayne53923
Audubon51010
Adams3384
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