Live Updates Ahead of Tonight’s Democratic Debate


LOS ANGELES — For weeks now, the leading Democratic presidential candidates have been in lock step behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on impeachment. It’s even become a stump speech applause line for Ms. Klobuchar.

“When people ask me if a woman can beat Donald Trump,” the Minnesotan senator says, “I tell them Nancy Pelosi does it every day.”

But now Ms. Pelosi has some big decisions to make after the House’s impeachment of President Trump on Wednesday night, most of all when to send the two articles of impeachment to the Senate. Whether the Democratic candidates will argue at the debate for a certain course of action — let alone quibble with Ms. Pelosi’s strategic posture regarding the Senate — remains to be seen.

This much is clear: Ms. Pelosi’s decision-making could influence important logistics in the presidential primary in the coming weeks. If she waits on sending over the articles of impeachment, she could delay a Senate trial that was widely expected to begin Jan. 6.

The campaigns — especially the five Democratic senators still in the race — have no choice but to wait and see what Ms. Pelosi does next. And they could be taking a risk if they complain or apply a heavy hand to influence her process.

The former vice president still leads all the national polls and is in the strongest position in all the states that follow Iowa and New Hampshire, but he’s managed to avoid the scuffling between Mr. Buttigieg, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders.

Avoiding the fray could be a big help to Mr. Biden where he’s weakest — in Iowa. There’s a history there: In 2004, Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont and the House majority leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri went nuclear on each other in the final months before the caucuses. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who had been polling as low as 4 percent (far worse than Mr. Biden is now) slipped through to win Iowa, take New Hampshire and skate to the nomination.

Watch to see if Mr. Biden steers clear of the fighting to keep himself above the fray, or injects himself to try to score points for himself.

The Minnesota senator used her best joke in the last debate: the one about raising $17,000 from ex-boyfriends in her first Senate race. It was funny, effective and memorable — useful traits for a candidate still introducing herself to wide swaths of the electorate.

Now Ms. Klobuchar, who takes particular pride in her own sense of humor, is looking at one of her final chances to appear on a big stage with her leading rivals. It’s not clear yet that she’ll meet the qualifying thresholds for the January debate (they haven’t been announced yet) and the debate might get postponed anyway if the Senate impeachment trial is still ongoing Jan. 14.

Ms. Klobuchar has done whatever she can to get attention lately. After Mr. Buttigieg opened his fund-raising events to pool reporters, so did Ms. Klobuchar, though it’s not clear that anyone asked her to. There’s no candidate who could use a viral moment more and the Minnesotan is going to go all out to create one.

Mr. Buttigieg has been leaning hard into his spats with Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, looking for ways to start fights with them even when one didn’t exist.

Just look at his chat last week with Rachel Maddow — the MSNBC host gave the South Bend, Ind., mayor, a light interrogation about his tenure as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, concluding with a question about whether he was a party to thousands of layoffs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Mr. Buttigieg didn’t just deflect the question, he turned it into a shot at the campaign’s leading liberals, trying to pull them into a fight they hadn’t been involved in.

“There are some voices in the Democratic primary right now who are calling for a policy that would eliminate the job of every single American working at every single insurance company in the country,” Mr. Buttigieg said.

Mr. Booker has a set speaking time during tonight’s broadcast: thirty seconds.

The senator from New Jersey failed to qualify for tonight’s debate, and is instead running his first television ad of the campaign during the broadcast.

“You’re only gonna see this ad once because I’m not a billionaire,” Mr. Booker says into the camera, after a jokey aside asking someone off camera if his campaign can afford this ad. “I won’t be on tonight’s debate stage, but that’s O.K. because I’m going to win this election anyway. This election isn’t about who can spend the most, or who slings the most mud. It’s about the people.”

The ad will run in the four early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — as well as other markets like New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

It’s part of a new phase of Mr. Booker’s underdog candidacy to start running more aggressive advertising in the early states, both to get his poll numbers up to qualify for later debates and to help with his name recognition in a crowded field.

But Mr. Booker is only putting $500,000 behind the television and digital advertising campaign, a small amount compared to the eight-figure investments across television and digital of top campaigns, and well behind the more than $120 million that the billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg is spending on television and digital advertising.

Mr. Bloomberg also will not be on the debate stage, because his campaign is not accepting donations and therefore would never qualify for the 200,000 individual donor threshold set by the Democratic National Committee.

But the Bloomberg campaign said it will have a steady presence on television during the debate broadcast, and is rolling out a new ad featuring a speech Mr. Bloomberg gave about leadership that will also have a presence on YouTube’s home page.

“People notice how you comport yourself and they listen to what you say,” Mr. Bloomberg says in the ad, referring to his 12 years as mayor of New York City. “If you are duplicitous, it sends a signal that being duplicitous is ok. If you are racist, it sends a signal that being racist is ok.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign did not say how much the new ads, or the YouTube presence, would cost. But it’s likely a bit more than what Mr. Booker spent.

They began camping up on a hip stretch of Fairfax Avenue at dawn, the line stretching around the block, the air redolent with the smell of marijuana (legal, after all, in California). They were there to catch a glimpse of Mr. Yang and Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, who offered his official endorsement to Mr. Yang on Wednesday.

Alas, Mr. Glover stayed hidden, meeting with Mr. Yang privately in the back of the pop-up store inside of Tried and True Premium Vintage.

“He’s here, but he hates y’all,” the Yang campaign manager Zach Graumann told reporters. Mr. Graumann said the campaign would post its own photos of the Yang-Glover summit.

Instead of seeing Mr. Yang dance to “This is America,” as some hoped, the crowd had a different opportunity: a chance to nab a $1,000 hoodie autographed by Mr. Yang and Mr. Glover.

The hoodies were emblazoned with a golden “$1K,” the same amount of money Mr. Yang has pledged to distribute monthly under his universal basic income program, the signature of his presidential campaign.

So, one enterprising reporter asked, would a $1,000 hoodie be a good use of such income?

“The great thing about the freedom dividend is that people will be able to use it as they see fit,” Mr. Yang replied. “Americans know best how to solve their own problems.”

(What problem a $1,000 piece of clothing solved was unclear.)

Asked about the smaller debate stage Thursday Mr. Yang said: “I have done the math — if you have seven candidates instead of 10 that means my speaking time will go up by about 50 percent.”

Before the debate, Mr. Biden made a quick stop at a union rally outside a McDonald’s in Los Angeles, touting the strength and importance of the labor movement for workers.

“There’s been a war on fast-food workers for a long, long time,” Mr. Biden said, wearing slacks and shirt sleeves and addressing the crowd from a flatbed of a truck.

“Union McDonald’s!” he urged.

Before Mr. Biden had arrived, a couple hundred union demonstrators had encircled a McDonald’s on La Tijera Boulevard chanting in Spanish and English, briefly blocking the drive-through window. When Mr. Biden was introduced as a politician with close to five decades of experience, he briefly crossed himself.

Mr. Biden acknowledged there would be a debate in only a matter of hours but said this was an important detour: “I wanted to be here.”

One thing about campaign fund-raising: It’s not always pretty to look at.

After Mr. Buttigieg got shamed by Ms. Warren into opening his fund-raisers to pool reporters and releasing a list of his bundlers (one that his campaign had to amend after failing to include a couple dozen people on it), he stopped Sunday to dine with donors in Napa Valley on the way to Los Angeles.

When Recode’s Teddy Schleifer tweeted photos of the plated dinner for 34 in a wine cave under a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals, the image went viral fast.

Within five hours Mr. Sanders had the tweet in a fund-raising appeal, asking “Can you help Bernie match Pete’s wine cave fund-raiser.” Ms. Warren’s chief strategist mocked it in promoting a contest to get a beer with his candidate, “though not in a gilded wine cave full of crystals, probably just at her house or a local pub or something.”

For Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, who don’t hold closed-door, big-dollar fund-raising events, this is as close to a free shot at Mr. Buttigieg as they’ll get. Expect them to take it.

Deval Patrick, a latecomer to the race for the Democratic nomination who did not qualify for Thursday’s debate stage, instead used the day to issue a broad policy platform he called “Renewing the American Dream for Everyone Everywhere.”

As a child of poverty on Chicago’s South Side who achieved success in business and government, Mr. Patrick, the former two-term Massachusetts governor, wrote that he had lived the American dream, but he believes it has become elusive.

“Over the years, we’ve seen the American dream grow further and further out of reach for more and more Americans in more and more places,” wrote Mr. Patrick, who was the second black elected governor in United States history.

The 10-page document posted on Medium by Mr. Patrick describes how his administration would promote equal opportunity — proposing what would amount to a large-scale rewrite of the policies of the Trump White House, albeit a more moderate version than some of his opponents have promoted.

Among specifics: free education from pre-K through the first two years of college, a simplified tax law that counts all income as earned income, major investments in infrastructure and expansion of a “public option” under the existing Affordable Care Act.

Also, Mr. Patrick promises not to conduct foreign policy “over Twitter, impulsively and without advice or a plan.”

Mr. Biden will release a list of the financial bundlers who raise money for him, a senior campaign official said on Thursday afternoon, explaining that information would be “forthcoming” but declining to share a date. The remarks came during a briefing with reporters hours before the debate, which was held on condition of anonymity for the senior campaign officials in attendance.

The issue of transparency in campaign fund-raising has been a flash point in the Democratic primary this month, as Ms. Warren and other liberals criticized Mr. Buttigieg over holding private fund-raisers. Mr. Buttigieg went on to open his fund-raisers to coverage by the news media and to release a list of his own bundlers.

The senior campaign officials also discussed Mr. Biden’s debate message, saying that he was focused on encouraging voters to consider three questions: which candidate stands the best chance to beat Mr. Trump, which candidate can help “flip the Senate and build on our majority in the House” of Representatives and which candidate has the experience to bring the country together and offer “steady leadership.”

Of course, whether Mr. Biden — who has struggled in previous debates — will remain on message is always an open question.

Stephanie Saul, Nick Corasaniti, Katie Glueck, Annie Karnie and Jennifer Medina contributed reporting.



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