WASHINGTON (CNN) – Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:
Over about five hours in New York on Friday, as the DNC launched its lawsuit alleging a 2016 campaign conspiracy, five potential 2020 Democrats in the Senate took turns pitching the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention — and very pointedly avoiding any discussion of the latest DC drama.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker all kept their focus on racial and economic issues, with eyes on where and how they intersected, and away — directly, at least — from President Donald Trump, who mostly went unnamed. Toward the end of his talk, Booker explained why.
“I want you all to notice something. I’m just closing up on my remarks and I haven’t mentioned Donald Trump at all. Why do I say that? Because it’s not about him,” Booker said. “It’s about us and our problems and issues, and challenges in this country did not start with Donald Trump.”
That said, Sharpton made clear what the potential candidates were doing in town.
“They’re on what we call a ‘temperature tour.’ They’re trying to test the temperature to see if they should announce a presidential run,” he told the audience, which greeted all five warmly. The mix of speeches on the same day the DNC went to court created an interesting juxtaposition, too: “The party” further litigating (literally) 2016, while its 2020 crop looked forward. It’s an unspoken division of labor we probably haven’t seen the last of.
SANDERS CHALLENGES MEDIA FOR COVERAGE OF TRUMP SCANDALS: In a conversation at Duke University in North Carolina on Thursday, Bernie Sanders criticized what he described as the media’s over-the-top in interest in President Donald Trump’s assorted spectacles and scandals.
“Too much attention is given to sensational issues like Stormy Daniels, or who Trump fired yesterday, or the latest tweet that he sent out today,” Sanders said to applause. “And they are not talking about the broad issues that impact tens of millions of Americans.”
At both Duke and in New York, he also focused on Martin Luther King Jr.’s April 1967 speech condemning the Vietnam War, one of his most radical. On Friday, Sanders described King as something more than a civil rights leader: “a nonviolent revolutionary who wanted to see our nation undergo a revolution of values” against those “triple evils” of racism, poverty and militarism. The Thursday night event, with the Rev. William Barber II, touted Barber’s revival of King’s 1968 “Poor People’s Campaign,” which lost momentum after his assassination that spring.
MERKLEY AND MURPHY PITCH THE ‘CHOOSE MEDICARE ACT’: More evidence this week that health care, much like it is in 2018, will be at the forefront in 2020: Sens. Jeff Merkley and Chris Murphy introduced a plan on Wednesday to extend the popular program with something they’re calling “Medicare Part E.” It’s a buy-in plan that would allow individuals and employers to obtain or offer coverage via what would effectively be a public option. Their pitch came as yet another poll arrived showing health care to be a top priority for voters. Democrats now have at least five versions of legislation to expand Medicare, with Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-all” bill being the most ambitious.
HOLDER HEADS TO NEW HAMPSHIRE: Former Attorney General Eric Holder told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last week that he’s “thinking about” a presidential run in 2020, “but I have not made any determinations.” Still, the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee just booked more seemingly 2020-related travel: Holder will head to New Hampshire on June 1 for a speech at the New England Council’s Politics & Eggs series.
HICKENLOOPER’S TIMELINE: ‘MAYBE THIS SUMMER’: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper continued to hint at a 2020 campaign in a local interview last week.
“At some time I want to sit down and spend some time to think about it,” Hickenlooper told Colorado Politics. He said it’s too soon to make a decision, but would do so “maybe this summer.”
BOOKER’S STANFORD FOOTBALL CAREER EXAMINED: Philly.com’s Jonathan Tamari has a great look at Cory Booker’s four years as a backup tight end on Stanford’s football team — including a 4-catch, 47-yard game at Notre Dame that turned out to be a highlight of his career — and the lessons he learned from it.
Speaking of Booker: His marijuana legalization bill is increasingly popular with Democratic 2020 prospects who are rushing to get on board, CNN’s Dan Merica writes.
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan — who spoke at a South Carolina Democratic Party dinner Friday night — will return to New Hampshire on May 19 to be the keynote speaker at the Cheshire County Democrats’ Annual Spaghetti Dinner. … Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state, will speak at the Dallas County Democrats’ annual fundraiser in Adel, Iowa, on Thursday. … Merkley was announced last week as the keynoter for the South Carolina Democratic Party’s annual convention.