The Beto Bust

I’m not sure the first night of the Democratic debate had a winner, but it sure had a loser: Robert Francis ‘Beto’ O’Rourke. The former congressman found himself the target of Bill de Blasio, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, and John Delaney. And O’Rourke didn’t fare well. He came across as stilted and rehearsed during his answers and off-balance in his responses to the other candidates. O’Rourke enjoyed a lot of publicity last year, and much attention when he launched his campaign, but he has since lost ground to South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. O’Rourke is at 3 percent nationally in the RCP average. Don’t expect that number to rise anytime soon.

Below are some thoughts on the nine other candidates on stage Wednesday night.

Elizabeth Warren. She’s the highest-ranked of this first round of candidates, but did not have a great night. She delivered stump-speech-worthy responses in the first half, but seemed to disappear once the questions turned to immigration and other issues. Warren played it safe, which will probably help her continue to cut into Bernie Sanders’s support.

Cory Booker. Booker seemed to be doing very well in Google searches and social interactions. He’s a passionate speaker and comfortable on the party’s left flank. But he’s stuck at 2 percent in the polls. Will his good performance give him a bump? Stranger things have happened.

Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar is good with a quip and comes across as a sensible progressive Democrat. Not sure she did anything to improve her poll position, though.

Julián Castro. I was impressed by Castro, though I disagree with him on just about everything. He was very strong on immigration from a left-wing perspective and made the most of his time on stage. I rank his performance second, after Booker’s. His problem is he’s at 0.8 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average.

Tim Ryan. Tim Ryan would have done well in the Democratic Party of, say, 1987. Not the party of 2019.

Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard has a low net favorability, according to fivethirtyeight.com. Did she do anything to improve those numbers? Her dovish foreign policy got a strong response from the audience.

Bill de Blasio. De Blasio’s favorability, meanwhile, is underwater. I’d expect it to stay that way.

Jay Inslee. Mr. Climate Change seemed absent during large stretches of the evening. A non-factor.

John Delaney. Delaney’s answers had me nodding in agreement. Which means he has absolutely no chance of becoming the Democratic nominee.

On Thursday, 10 more candidates will take the stage. Including the Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, who should be pretty happy with what happened tonight.

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Warren Doesn’t Say If She Would Put Any Limits on Abortion

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) did not directly answer a question at Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate about whether she’d support any abortion restrictions.

“Would you put any limits on abortion?” NBC moderator Lester Holt asked.

“I would make certain that every woman has access to the full range of reproductive health-care services, and that includes birth control. It includes abortion. It includes everything for a woman,” Warren answered.

She added that the courts couldn’t be expected to “protect us.”

“Forty-seven years ago, Roe v. Wade was decided, and we’ve all looked to the courts all that time, as state after state has undermined Roe, has put in exceptions, has come right up to the edge of taking away protections,” she said. “We now have an America where most people support Roe v. Wade. We need to make that federal law.”

Holt didn’t follow up to get his question answered.

The 2020 presidential field has been marked by a race to the left, and supporting abortion rights is sacrosanct with much of the Democratic voter base. Frontrunner Joe Biden flip-flopped on his longtime support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for most abortions, after pressure from the party’s left flank.

Warren joins several other candidates, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) in calling for a codification of Roe v. Wade upon becoming president.

The pro-life group March For Life Action aired an ad ahead of Wednesday’s debate on MSNBC calling for pro-choice politicians to listen to the American “consensus” on the issue, with the majority of Americans supporting restrictions on when women can have abortions.

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Tulsi Gabbard Twitter Account Attacks MSNBC Mid-Debate for Pro-Elizabeth Warren Bias

The Twitter account for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) launched an attack on MSNBC for its handling of the first Democratic presidential debate while she was still on the debate stage.

“It’s clear who MSNBC wants to be president: Elizabeth Warren. They’re giving her more time than all the other candidates combined. They aren’t giving any time to Tulsi at all,” tweeted the account for the Hawaii congresswoman Wednesday night.

A postscript noted the tweet was sent by “V (Tulsi’s sister),” likely her sister Vrindavan. Politico reported in January that Gabbard’s sister was playing a large role in her nascent campaign after her campaign manager and consulting firm bailed only two-and-a-half weeks after she announced.

Gabbard’s campaign wasn’t wrong about the allotment of time; she had twice as much speaking time as the next closest candidate twenty-two minutes into the debate, while Gabbard herself was in the bottom half. But not long afterward, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker eclipsed Warren to have the most speaking time for the first hour of the debate.

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Inslee Touts Pro-Choice Record, Gets Dinged by Klobuchar

Gov. Jay Inslee (D., Wash.) received a shot from Democrat Amy Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota, during the 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

Inslee tried to set himself up as the most successful pro-choice candidate on the stage by saying he actually passed a law requiring insurance companies to cover abortion in Washington.

“It should not be an option in the United States of America for any insurance company to deny women coverage for their exercise of their right of choice,” said Jay Inslee.

Inslee continued to say that he is the only candidate that has passed a law on women’s reproductive rights and health, an apparent knock on Democrats in Congress who do not have any progressive abortion legislation to hang their hats on. But Klobuchar reminded him of his maleness and earned a raucous cheer.

“I just want to say that theres three women up here that have fought pretty hard for women’s right to choose,” Klobuchar said.

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De Blasio: We’re Supposed to be for 70% Tax Rate, Free College

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his support for 70 percent tax rate early during the Democratic debate on MSNBC Wednesday night, contrasting his positions with former congressman Beto O’Rourke.

Moderator Jose Diaz-Balart asked de Blasio what he would do to “address income inequality” as president.

In response, the mayor laid out a host of progressive policy proposals. “Well, we’ve been addressing income inequality in New York City,” de Blasio said. “By raising wages, by raising benefits, by putting money back in the hands of working people, fifteen dollar minimum wage, paid sick days, pre-K for all, things that are making a huge difference in working people’s lives.”

Bill de Blasio then took time to affirm his position that the Democratic party should be fully committed to a thoroughly progressive economic platform.

“This is supposed to be the part of working people,” de Blasio said. “Yes, we’re supposed to be for 70% tax rate on the wealthy, yes, we’re supposed to be for free college, free public college, for our young people. We are supposed to break up big corporations when they’re not serving our democracy. This Democratic party has to be strong and bold and progressive.”

The mayor closed out his answer with a familiar talking point.

“Every time you talk about investing in people and their communities you hear folks say there’s not enough money. What I say to them every single time is, there’s plenty of money in this world there’s plenty of money in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands. We democrats need to fix that.”

Bill de Blasio’s unrestrained comments on economic policy stood in contrast to the answer given by O’Rourke to a similar question moments before. O’Rourke dodged a direct question about whether he would support a 70 percent marginal tax rate.

“I would support a tax rate and a tax code that is fair to everyone,” O’Rourke said. “Tax capital at the same rate that you tax ordinary income, take that corporate tax rate up to 28 percent, you would generate the revenues that you need to pay for the programs that we’re talking about.”

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Continetti: Biden ‘Is in a Strong Place’ Going Into Debates

Washington Free Beacon Editor-in-Chief Matthew Continetti said former Vice President Joe Biden “is in a strong place” going into the Democratic primary debates, as long as he doesn’t get himself into trouble on stage.

Continetti pointed out during a Wednesday appearance on Fox News Channel’s Special Report that Biden will be a constant subject during both debates, held on Wednesday and Thursday night.

“Biden isn’t on the stage, but he may be on the stage because he leading all of the polls, so he’ll come up either way,” host Bret Baier said of the first debate.

“That’s right,” Continetti replied, “I expect some Democrats like Cory Booker to make a generational argument and say it’s time for new leadership.”

Continetti went on to point out that “debates more often break candidacies than make them,” referencing famous recent examples.

“You think about what happened to Rick Perry, his ‘oops’ moment in 2012, and Marco Rubio’s confrontation with Chris Christie in 2016, those are two debates where they can say they change the momentum of the primary,” he said. “If you actually look more broadly though, the fact is debates don’t really change things, and I think Biden is in a strong place going into these debates as long as he doesn’t get in trouble which sometimes he has a tendency to do.”

As he enters the debates, Biden leads the Democratic field by a wide margin, despite recent gaffes, such as his flip-flop on the Hyde Amendment and his favorable comments about former Democratic senators who supported segregation.

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All 2020 Senate Dems Absent for Vote to Send Humanitarian Relief to Border

All seven Democrats in the Senate running for president were absent Wednesday for a vote to send $4.6 billion in emergency humanitarian relief to the southern border to help thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children.

Less than 24 hours after House Democrats passed a measure Tuesday night, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected it with a 55-37 vote and approved their own measure with overwhelming bipartisan support with a 84-8 vote, according to the Washington Post.

Republicans and the White House far prefer the Senate measure but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pressing for quick negotiations to merge the bills — promising that Democrats won’t knuckle under to demands to send the Senate bill directly to President Donald Trump without changes.

The Senate vote sent the must-pass legislation measure back the Democratic-controlled House. Next steps are unclear, but Pelosi quickly dismissed speculation that the Democratic-controlled House will simply accept the Senate measure, which cleared a key committee last week with just one dissenting vote. Asked if the House would pass the Senate bill and send it to Trump, Pelosi said, “No.”

“They passed their bill, we respect that. We passed our bill, we hope they will respect that. And if there’s some improvements that we think can be reconciled,” Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) slammed House Democrats on the floor Wednesday, saying their priorities revolved around “Resistance theater,” adding that the Senate “has a better and more bipartisan way forward.”

The 2020 Democratic candidates, which include Sens. Cory Booker (N.J), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), were all out of town campaigning and preparing for the primary debates happening this week.

All three of the 2020 House Democrats, who will be participating in this week’s debates, were also absent for Tuesday’s border vote, according to Politico reporter Sarah Ferris.

Many of these 2020 Democrats have taken to Twitter to criticize the Trump administration and Republicans for the “humanitarian crisis” at the border, but when it came time to cast a vote supporting humanitarian aid, they were absent.

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Far-Left Groups Pressure 2020 Dems to Back Decriminalizing Border Crossings

A coalition of far-left advocacy groups is pressuring Democratic presidential candidates to support decriminalizing illegal border crossings and to cut off funding to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Progressive organizations leaked their plan to Politico on Tuesday in an effort to influence the Democrat Party’s first presidential debates. The platform is being pushed by the Center for Popular Democracy Action alongside United We Dream, MoveOn, Indivisible, Women’s March, Working Families, Sunrise Movement, and Bend the Arc: Jewish Action. The groups want the candidates to stop using the phrase “comprehensive immigration reform” and instead vow to defund and reform ICE and Customs and Border Protection, and to “end mandatory detention,” Politico reports.

“We cannot go back to the same old framework and expect to battle Trump’s racist agenda,” Ana Maria Archila, the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action, told Politico. “The last two years under Trump, immigrant communities have been the scapegoats and the punching bag.”

Many of the organizations now targeting the Democratic presidential hopefuls have been active since President Donald Trump took office.

The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), Archila’s group, is leading a massive $80 million anti-Trump network that spans across more than 30 states and partners with more than 60 progressive organizations. The CPD consists of old chapters of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which was stripped of its federal funding and forced to close following controversy in 2010.

The CPD has undertaken a number of successful boycott and pressure campaigns in recent years. One such effort resulted in the former CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, stepping away from Trump’s advisory council. The CPD also took aim at Nordstrom over its sales of Ivanka Trump products, which were ultimately pulled from the shelves. Nordstrom claimed the decision was made over declining sales.

Archila was also the individual who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator over accusations against Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanuagh.  The encounter led the former senator to call for an FBI investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh was confirmed after the FBI said it could not corroborate the allegations.

The Sunrise Movement, another group attempting to push the 2020 Democratic candidates further to the left, was instrumental in crafting the “Green New Deal” alongside Justice Democrats, who helped propel Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y) into office. The group held rallies Tuesday outside of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters demanding a presidential debate on climate change.

Bend the Arc, a group that was created by Alex Soros, George Soros’s son, is also involved in the new efforts. A spokesman for the group directed the Washington Free Beacon to a previous release demanding a more forceful liberal response to the Trump administration.

“There are daily reports of abuse, mistreatment, and even deaths of immigrants and children held in camps,” the release said. “After years of Trump’s family separation doctrine, kids kept in cages, sleeping on cold concrete floors with aluminum foil as blankets, progressive voters are disgusted by Trump’s racism and now demand a new president to stop the pain and lead the nation in a new direction — and they’re ready to help get that president elected.”

The release indicated that leading Democrats are willing to them hear them out. The coalition will be meeting directly with all 25 Democrat presidential candidates to sell them on the decriminalization platform. The groups will be “activating millions of their members to mobilize voters across the country” throughout the summer as they meet one-on-one with candidates.

The nonprofit arms of the CPD, United We Dream, Indivisible, MoveOn, and Bend the Arc combined to raise $67 million throughout 2017 while spending $36.7 million, according to the most recent tax forms available from the groups. Filings for the Sunrise Movement and Women’s March from that year are not available. Working Families is a minor political party.

The seven other groups associated with the campaign did not respond to inquiries on decriminalizing illegal crossings and what they would hope to ultimately achieve at the border.

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Majority Rejects Dem Abortion Extremism

American voters reject the extreme abortion positions that leading Democratic presidential contenders have embraced in the run-up to the primary.

A poll of more than 1,000 Americans conducted by McLaughlin & Associates found that 55 percent of likely general election voters oppose the use of taxpayer funding of abortion. Voters are very concerned about the issue with more than 40 percent saying they “strongly oppose” the practice—only 38 percent of those polled said they supported it either “somewhat” or “strongly.” A substantial number of Democrats continue to oppose the practice, despite the fact that the party added taxpayer funding to its platform in 2016. The poll found that 35 percent of Democrats and nearly 60 percent of self-identified independents said they do not approve of taxpayer-funded abortions.

The issue has taken center stage in the Democrat primary fight after frontrunner Joe Biden reversed his four-decade support of the Hyde Amendment, which barred federal dollars from being used to pay for abortion, after repeated criticism from his 2020 rivals. Biden’s about-face on the Hyde Amendment could cost him among voters in the general election. Only 37 percent said the decision would make them more likely to support a Biden candidacy compared with 50 percent who said it would dissuade them from pulling the lever for the former vice president.

The poll was commissioned by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and conducted between June 18 and 24. The sample size focused more on general election prospects than the Democrat primary itself, though Democrats enjoyed a 3-point advantage over Republicans in the poll. Independents made up 31 percent of those polled.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, executive director of the SBA List, said that Democratic presidential hopefuls should take note of the general public’s attitude on abortion, rather than follow the radical measures supported by abortion giants, such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

“Joe Biden’s flip-flopping in support of taxpayer funding of abortion is a big vulnerability with voters in the general election, especially with independents and even some Democrats,” she said in a statement. “Joe Biden’s support for taxpayer funding of abortion after decades of opposition is just the latest example of Democratic extremism on abortion.”

President Trump has indicated he will make abortion a centerpiece of his reelection campaign. He used his Florida kickoff rally to criticize the Democrats’ embrace of late-term abortion laws in New York, Illinois, and other liberal states.

“Virtually every top Democrat also now supports taxpayer-funded abortion right up to the moment of birth—ripping babies straight from the mothers’ womb,” Trump told rallygoers in Orlando. “Leading Democrats have even opposed measures to prevent the execution of children after birth.”

His administration has already delivered several pro-life victories, including conscience protections for objecting doctors and nurses, as well as cutting off funding for controversial experiments using organs harvested from aborted babies. Those types of policies enjoy broad support, according to the McLaughlin poll. Only 28 percent of respondents approved of taxpayer-funded experimentation using aborted body parts or cells compared with 57 percent of likely voters who oppose.

Dannenfelser said the poll reflects that Trump is closer to the American public on the issue than any of his challengers.

“While President Trump has led the charge to protect babies from infanticide and late-term abortions as well as stopping taxpayer-funded experiments with aborted baby body parts, measures which have broad support from the American people, Democratic candidates for president pander to the abortion industry and have uniformly doubled down on extremism,” she said. “This new poll is compelling evidence they will pay a political price outside of their radical base.”

The Democratic debates are scheduled to begin Wednesday evening.

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Schakowsky (D): Border Situation ‘Like Concentration Camps’

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) compared immigration detention facilities to concentration camps in an appearance on Hill.TV Wednesday.

“These are like concentration camps, and I’m not afraid to use that word because we are concentrating people, children in one place in horrible, unacceptable conditions,” Schakowsky said.

Schakowsky echoed the claim made by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), who told her viewers on Instagram, “The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing, and we need to do something about it.” Schakowsky did not mention Ocasio-Cortez by name in her comments.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has rejected comparisons between the situation on the border and the Holocaust. Presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) have also distanced themselves from the comparison. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was the latest prominent Democrat to denounce the comparison, calling it “wholly inappropriate”.

“There is no comparison to the Holocaust, period, and to draw an equivalency suggests one does not understand what happened in the Holocaust,” Cuomo said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) agreed with Ocasio-Cortez, stating, “There are camps, and people are being concentrated. This is very simple. I don’t even know why this is a controversial thing for her to say.”

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