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Biden maintains grip on 2020 Democratic race after third debate



Biden maintains grip on 2020 Democratic race after third debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Those expecting Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy to flame out any day now will have to keep waiting.

The former U.S. vice president survived another Democratic debate on Thursday largely unbloodied and unbowed, leaving those on the margins of the race for the party’s 2020 nomination wondering if their time to gain ground on the front-runner is running out.

If anything, the third Democratic debate in Houston was notable for how few of the nine other candidates took hard swings at Biden, a marked contrast from earlier debates when his record was more directly challenged.

The evening likely left the race fairly much as it was before the debate, with Biden holding a sizeable, but not overwhelming lead over U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

None of the other 17 Democratic presidential candidates seeking the chance to battle Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election have more than 4% support, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

Biden seemed more vulnerable than ever coming into the debate, facing persistent questions about his age, verbal slip-ups and performance on the campaign trail.

But on Thursday, his resilience and forceful defense of his record as a U.S. senator and No. 2 to former President Barack Obama left wide open the question of who else in the field might rise to shake up the race.

“Most had a decent night, but the front-runners are still the front-runners,” said Leah Daughtry, a Democratic strategist in South Carolina, a critical early voting state in next year’s nominating contests.


It was the first time Warren was on a debate stage with Biden and the matchup between the old-school Democratic centrist and the spirited progressive senator from Massachusetts was widely anticipated.

Yet it produced no fireworks, as Warren stuck to her pattern of not criticizing other Democrats.

More fortunate for the 76-year-old Biden: Aside from a few slips of the tongue, he provided little ammunition for those who argue he is too old or too out of step to be the party’s nominee.

Rather, most of the candidates stressed party unity and worried aloud about not appearing divided in front of the American people, a shift from earlier debates where intraparty conflict was the story.

When Biden’s rivals on stage did go on the attack, their attempts largely backfired. Most notable was a guided missile fired by Julian Castro, the U.S. housing secretary under Obama, who worked hard to portray Biden as past his prime.

Castro, 44, alleged Biden was “forgetting” something he had said a few minutes earlier and then followed it up by charging that he, not Biden, was the better steward of Obama’s legacy, resulting in audible gasps from the large crowd in attendance.

As it turned out, Castro was incorrect about what Biden had said earlier.

Biden’s advisers criticized Castro for what they called a “cheap shot” and argued that Castro had not learned the lesson of the first two debates – attacking Biden does not pay off.

“Castro went too far, tone-wise,” said Delacey Skinner, a Democratic strategist in Washington who is unaffiliated with a campaign. “The jab at Biden’s age was cringeworthy.”

Even U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a candidate on stage with Biden, told ABC News afterward that Castro’s attack was “so personal and so unnecessary.”

Asked afterward about the charge he had taken a cheap shot, Castro told MSNBC: “I completely disagree,” and said he was not suggesting Biden was too old but seeking to highlight their policy differences on healthcare.

Biden was helped as well by several candidates paying homage to Obama’s record, which reinforced Biden’s long-standing argument that he is best positioned to build on the former president’s achievements and reverse Trump’s policies.

Biden himself seized on Obama’s popularity with Democrats early on, by suggesting that Warren lined up with Sanders, a self-described socialist, on policy issues, while he mirrored Obama.

In doing so, Biden drew a sharp distinction between himself and his two closest challengers. “The senator says she’s for Bernie,” Biden said. “Well, I’m for Barack.”

Skinner said another candidate who probably helped himself the most on Thursday was Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who has refashioned his campaign persona in the aftermath of last month’s shootings in his hometown of El Paso that killed 22.

O’Rourke, who has made gun control his animating issue, vowed unequivocally to call for an assault weapons ban if elected president in a statement that quickly went viral on social media.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

“I think he’ll generate some buzz out of this performance,” Skinner said. “The question will be whether or not he can capitalize on it and sustain it.”

The good news for the lesser candidates on the stage on Thursday is that all of them have already qualified for the October debate, where they will be joined by at least one other contender.

That should ensure the debates will again be split into two evenings, but this time in smaller groups, which may give the candidates more time to make their case to an electorate that, to date, has largely ignored them.

Reporting by James Oliphant; Additional reporting by Joseph Ax in Houston; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Peter Cooney


Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in ‘SMEAR story’




Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in 'SMEAR story'

President Trump blasted The New York Times over its supposed bombshell report on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, calling on “everybody” involved in the “smear” to resign.

“I call for the Resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh SMEAR story, and while you’re at it, the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is just as phony!” Trump tweeted Monday evening.

“They’ve taken the Old Grey Lady and broken her down, destroyed her virtue and ruined her reputation… She can never recover, and will never return to Greatness, under current Management. The Times is DEAD, long live The New York Times!”


Late Sunday, The New York Times walked back an explosive report about a resurfaced allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh from his college days. The piece by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, adapted from their forthcoming book, alleged there was corroboration of an incident in which Kavanaugh, as a college student at Yale, exposed himself to a female classmate at a party.

However, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway — who reviewed an advance copy of the book – flagged an omission and the paper eventually revised the controversial story after being lampooned on social media over the gaffe.

The update included the significant detail that several friends of the alleged victim said she did not recall the purported sexual assault. The newspaper also stated for the first time that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode.


Trump was asked about whether anyone from The Times should be “fired” over the controversy. He called it a “fair” question but didn’t directly give an answer.

“I think The New York Times made another terrible mistake,” Trump said. “It’s a shame that a thing like that could happen… They used to have a thing called fact-checking. They don’t have fact-checking anymore.”

Fox News’ Brian Flood and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016




With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will hold one of his signature rallies on Monday night in New Mexico, a longtime Democratic stronghold his campaign has added to the list of states it hopes to win in the November 2020 election.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The last time New Mexico supported a Republican in a presidential race was 2004. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by 8 percentage points three years ago.

Trump’s campaign sees an opening in the state with Latinos, who it believes will swing his way despite tough immigration policies, including a crackdown on migrants from Central America and a push to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats have criticized those efforts. But a Trump campaign aide said the Republican president could win over Latinos who came to the United States legally and believe others should, too.

“Big crowd expected in New Mexico tonight, where we will WIN. Your Border Wall is getting stronger each and every day — see you in a few hours!” Trump tweeted ahead of his trip.

The campaign also views Trump’s support for the fossil fuel industry as a plus in the state, which is rich in oil and natural gas, said the campaign aide, who declined to be named. Trump is likely to discuss energy on Monday night.

Trump won the White House in 2016 with electoral votes from traditional Republican-leaning states and some surprise Democratic-leaning ones.

The Trump campaign says it wants New Mexico’s five electoral votes to augment the 306 electoral votes the president received in his first election, not create a separate path for victory. A candidate must get 270 electoral votes nationally to win.

Democrats, who did well in New Mexico during the 2018 mid-term elections, are skeptical.

“Last cycle, Democrats crushed Republicans in New Mexico because voters are fed up with President Trump’s toxic healthcare agenda and broken promises,” said David Bergstein, a communications director for the Democratic National Committee focused on battleground states.

“We take nothing for granted, but this GOP strategy looks like they’re concerned about a realistic pathway to 270 electoral votes,” he added.

Trump won electoral-vote-rich swing states such as Ohio and Florida in 2016, while also picking up Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania from Democrats.

The campaign says it is eyeing more pickups in 2020, including Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Nevada.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown

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California adds Iowa to ‘travel ban’ over refusal to fund gender transitions




California adds Iowa to 'travel ban' over refusal to fund gender transitions

California announced Monday that it has added Iowa to the list of states on its ever-expanding “travel ban” list because of that state’s new prohibition against funding gender-transition surgeries under Medicaid.

The announcement by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra means that as of Oct. 4, California will no longer offer taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa for any public employee or student at a state-run university.

Becerra’s authority came from a 2016 California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that bars state-funded travel to other states that undercut LGBT rights. The list already included Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.


Conservatives have called the law ineffective, inconveniencing, possibly unconstitutional and hypocritical. The state’s sports teams have turned to private funding to get around the restrictions, according to The Los Angeles Times.

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming health care,” Becerra said in a statement. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”

The brouhaha began after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that taxpayers could be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law effectively overriding that ruling two months later.

At the federal level, the Trump administration has disputed the idea that sex-based discrimination prohibitions under law include protections for gender identity. The Health and Human Services Department, in May, angered progressive advocates with rules that both allowed doctors not to perform certain operations and stated that “gender identity” was not protected under sex discrimination law in health care.


Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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