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Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

As Democrats prepare for a second round of presidential primary debates in Detroit starting Tuesday night, one issue is dominating the political discourse: President Trump and racism.

Why it matters: Aides told Axios' Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen following Trump's "go back" tweets attacking 4 congresswomen of color that race-baiting is central to his 2020 strategy. He has since expanded targets to include Rep. Elijah Cummings, calling the majority-black Baltimore-area district he represents "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess," and Rev. Al Sharpton.

  • Sharpton told MSNBC's "'The Rachel Maddow Show" that Trump has "decided he's going to have a race-based campaign by going after high-profile blacks."

The big picture: As TIME notes, while Democrats may want to highlight key policies at their debates, Trump’s tweets have reset the narrative. Several 2020 candidates have already called out the president for racism over the past week.

What they're saying
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted: "[Sharpton] is a champion in the fight for civil rights. The fact that President Trump continues to use the power of the presidency to unleash racist attacks on the people he serves is despicable. This hate has no place in our country. It's beneath the dignity of the office."
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren told reporters: "The president’s tweets are ugly and racist. ... Elijah Cummings is one of my dearest friends. He is a good man through and through, and he fights for what is just in this country. To be attacked by a President issuing racist tweets is beyond insulting, it is disgusting."
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted: "Here's what's really going on: Rep Cummings has been busy revealing the failures of the Trump administration and exposing the greed of Trump’s friends in the pharmaceutical industry, and our racist president doesn't like it."
  • Sen. Cory Booker told CNN: "The reality is this is a guy who is worse than a racist. He's actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gain. He's trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself and this is somebody who is very similar to [segregationist] George Wallace. ... He's using the exact same language."
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg told CNN: "Look at the pattern. This is a kind of terminology that he reserves for places and situations where there are a lot of minorities involved. We can debate over how strategic it is, how intentional it is, but on its face, it is racist."
  • Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted: "I am proud our campaign headquarters is in Rep. Elijah Cummings' district. Baltimore has become home to my team and it's disgraceful the president has chosen to start his morning disparaging this great American city."

Go deeper: Trump plants racial explosives in the urban-rural divide

Editor's note: This piece has been corrected after it misattributed a portion of a quote by Sen. Cory Booker to Sen. Bernie Sanders, where Booker was comparing President Trump to George Wallace.

Go deeper

“You blew it”: GOP activist turns on corporations over vaccine mandates

The chairman of the American Conservative Union said on "Axios on HBO" he accepts "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," but predicted Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022 — with greater than 50% odds Donald Trump runs in 2024.

The big picture: In a joint interview with his wife, Mercedes, Matt Schlapp also refused to share their vaccination status. And he told corporate America "you blew it" by embracing vaccine mandates and liberal social stances that have alienated GOP voters and politicians.

15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi expects “billionaire’s tax” to pay for Biden social spending

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday she expects the chamber to pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan by week’s end, and alternatives to corporate tax hikes and a “billionaires tax” will be used to finance President Biden’s promised expansion to the social safety net.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s comments come as House and Senate leaders try to wrap up a deal. What will get cut — and how the remainder will be paid — are linchpins to a final agreement.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
16 mins ago - Axios on HBO

FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried mystified by value of NFTs

Crypto exchange FTX, valued last week at $25 billion, recently launched an NFT marketplace by selling an image of the word "Test" for $270,000.

  • FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tells "Axios on HBO" that he doesn't quite understand the appeal, but adds that he doesn't personally appreciate many visual arts.