Sanders, Biden, Clinton? This Week in the 2020 Race

The Iowa caucuses are just around the corner — but with the impeachment trial underway in Washington, the presidential campaign is in a strange sort of suspended animation.

We’ll catch you up on what happened during a busy and critical week in the Democratic primary.

From the start, this Democratic campaign has been a contest between the left and the center. As he rises in the polls, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is hoping to simplify matters, gunning for a two-person race against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Last weekend, Mr. Biden accused Mr. Sanders’s campaign of promoting a “doctored” video that showed Mr. Biden appearing to support cuts to Social Security. (The video was short and did not include context, but did not appear to have been doctored.) Mr. Biden said he had been a “gigantic supporter” of Social Security “from the beginning,” and pointed to a PolitiFact article calling Mr. Sanders’s claims false. But he has supported Social Security freezes before.

Then, on Monday, Mr. Sanders apologized on a separate matter, disavowing an op-ed by one of his surrogates, Zephyr Teachout, who argued that Mr. Biden “represents the transactional, grossly corrupt culture” of Washington. “It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way,” Mr. Sanders told CBS News, “and I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared.”

That same day, Mr. Biden responded forcefully — and somewhat hyperbolically — to a Vice News reporter who asked him why, according to a Vice poll, Mr. Sanders was leading among black voters under 35.

Amid the tussle with Mr. Biden, and fresh off his confrontation with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts over whether a woman can be elected president, Mr. Sanders found himself under fire on Tuesday from another political rival: Hillary Clinton.

“Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done,” Mrs. Clinton said in a four-part documentary series scheduled to premiere at Sundance and air on Hulu beginning March 6. “He was a career politician.”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Mrs. Clinton, who beat Mr. Sanders in the 2016 primary, declined to say if she would endorse and campaign for him if he won the nomination this time. But a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Nick Merrill, noted after the interview was published that she had only said she didn’t support Mr. Sanders “yet.”

“We all need to work our heart out for the nominee, whoever that is, and @HillaryClinton, as usual, won’t be any exception,” Mr. Merrill tweeted.

Asked to respond, Mr. Sanders told reporters in Washington: “Secretary Clinton is entitled to her point of view. My job today is to focus on the impeachment trial.”

The four senators running for president — Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado — have left Iowa to take part in the impeachment trial in Washington, leaving the campaign trail wide open for Mr. Biden and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., at a critical juncture.

  • Lisa Lerer sent a dispatch from Washington on the “extraordinary” split screen: four of the candidates in the Senate chamber, while others spoke to hundreds of Iowans in a single day.

  • Nick Corasaniti examined how the senators are using digital tools to stay in touch with caucusgoers, and how former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York is trying to make an impact with new advertisements on impeachment.

A CNN survey released Wednesday showed Mr. Sanders with a lead in a national debate-qualifying poll for the first time, but a Monmouth University poll released the same day showed Mr. Biden in front.

In the CNN poll, Mr. Sanders had 27 percent support and Mr. Biden had 24 percent. The difference between the two was within the margin of error. The Monmouth poll, by contrast, showed Mr. Biden at 30 percent and Mr. Sanders at 23 percent.

In both polls, Ms. Warren was in third with 14 percent support.

We now know the qualification criteria for the next debate, which will be on Feb. 7 in New Hampshire. All six candidates who qualified for the last debate have done so again: Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren and the former hedge fund executive Tom Steyer.

As usual, other candidates can qualify by meeting the Democratic National Committee’s polling and fund-raising standards. The entrepreneur Andrew Yang, for instance, could make the cut if he earns 5 percent support in two more qualifying polls by Feb. 6.

But party officials have also created a second path: Candidates who win any of the 41 pledged delegates at stake in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 will qualify. That means Mr. Bloomberg could theoretically make the stage even though he is not fund-raising and therefore cannot meet the D.N.C.’s donor threshold.

The New York Times editorial board, which is separate from the newsroom, endorsed not one but two candidates for the Democratic nomination: Ms. Warren and Ms. Klobuchar.

The board wrote that “both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration” and that it was endorsing “the most effective advocates for each approach.”

Separately, The Des Moines Register’s editorial board is expected to announce its endorsement for the Iowa Democratic caucuses on Saturday night.

  • And one additional note: Our colleague Jonathan Martin reported that Senator Kamala Harris of California, a former candidate in the presidential race, is weighing an endorsement of Mr. Biden.

Mr. Bloomberg wants to fix America’s potholes. Really.

His infrastructure plan, released Wednesday, includes a $1 billion annual “pothole fund” as well as $850 billion over 10 years for capital investment in roads, bridges, freight and other infrastructure; $100 billion over 10 years to fix water systems; and a tripling of federal investment in public transportation.

Mr. Bloomberg laid out the plan in a speech at the United States Conference of Mayors. Citing his experience as mayor of New York City, he promised to hold states accountable for finishing the projects they start, and maintaining their infrastructure. At the same time, he pledged to put more power in the hands of local authorities.

If elected president, he said, he would create a “national map” of all roads, trains, air, freight and other transit routes, and set clear metrics to measure the health of the nation’s infrastructure.

  • Ms. Warren released a plan to “restore integrity and competence to government.” Among other things, she proposed establishing a Justice Department task force to investigate corruption under the Trump administration.

  • Mr. Biden outlined his foreign policy agenda in an essay for Foreign Affairs magazine.

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