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Democratic hopefuls for 2020, who had been expected to wait until after midterms to begin overt campaigning, are jumping the gun and flooding into Iowa, New Hampshire and other early-voting states to begin building support.
Jeff Link, a top Iowa operative who has worked in Hawkeye State politics since he joined Joe Biden in 1987, said it's like a poker game: "No one wanted to jump in, but once [New Jersey Sen. Cory] Booker broke the seal (and had a good trip), it's forcing everyone else's hand."
The same phenomenon is happening in the other early states:
So you had Mike Bloomberg, newly registered as a Democrat, in New Hampshire this weekend, with an upcoming trip to South Carolina.
Candidates are pouring into South Carolina, with its first-in-the-South primary. The Palmetto State has already hosted Joe Biden, and Booker, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Sen. Kamala Harris (California) all have visits scheduled before midterms.
And the WashPostreported today: "During the past six months, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has quietly built a shadow war room designed to elect Democrats across the country in the midterm elections, overtaking some of the traditional duties of Democratic Party campaign committees and further positioning herself for an all-but-certain 2020 presidential bid."
One reason that operatives in the early states had expected more reticence is that donors don’t want Democrats eyeing 2020 to distract from Nov. 6.
But the presidential field is likely to be so crowded and brutal that no one wants to wait.
Aides to 2020 hopefuls said everyone's trying to increase name I.D. to try to move into the first or second tier.
And at this point, travel is the biggest proxy in the Invisible Primary. No one is hiring yet because all the talent is tied up on midterms races.
Andy Brack, editor and publisher of StatehouseReport.com in South Carolina, said: "While the midterms are less than a month away, they're quite aware that the 2020 presidential primary in South Carolina is just over 15 months away."
Be smart: The test-the-waters crowd has some cover, because those states all have white-hot races. But veterans of past presidential campaigns say the 2020 groundwork is much more flagrant than is traditional or was expected.
2. First look: Trump gives RNC chair another term
Ronna McDaniel at CPAC in February (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
As President Trump builds his team for 2020, he has asked Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel to serve a second term, according to a source familiar with the conversation.
The source said Trump praised McDaniel's work on behalf of the America First Agenda, effective management of the party infrastructure, and record grassroots engagement and fundraising.
3. Even with GOP surge, Dems still have excitement edge
4. First look: Nancy Pelosi on power
Posting later tonight ... A "Women & Power" issue of New York Magazine, with interviews with more than 70 powerful women about winning power, wielding it, losing it, fighting for it, implementing it — and holding on to it.
Among them: Nancy Pelosi on being the boss of her party ... Anita Hill on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the hierarchy of who is believed ... Samantha Bee on the freedom of being a woman over 40 on TV ... Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Merriman on walking away from the Spotted Pig ... Barbra Streisand on singing out about her feelings ... Stormy Daniels on the pressure of being in charge of saving the world ... Lena Dunham on how her relationship to power has come full circle.
The package will have 12 covers (8 in print, 4 digital-only), as well as original portraits of 37 of the women included, shot by Amanda Demme.
Mark Knollerof CBS News kindly shared this Trump vs. Obama rally tally with us:
President Trump has done 33 #MAGA campaign rallies in 17 states, including last night in Kentucky. In addition, he attended rallies for two GOP candidates (in Alabama and South Carolina).
At the same point in his presidency, Obama had done nine political rallies for Democratic candidates and the DNC, and one for his health insurance plan.
6. Obama: "opportunity for us to stop the bleeding"
Greg Sargent, the liberal Plum Line columnist for the Washington Post, will be out Tuesday with "An Uncivil War," which includes an intriguing new quote from former President Obama.
At a November fundraiser at the New York City home of a retired financier, Obama said, according to a person present who shared the comments with Sargent:
"[W]e have a midterm election coming up that will be ... an opportunity for us to stop the bleeding, to restore a sense of hope and promise, to , in very concrete terms, save people lives and make sure they have health care ... "
Sargent tells me the key point of his book is that with pressure from the left to be more "procedurally radical" (i.e., court-packing), Democrats need to "play rougher," while still trying to move Americans toward the ideal of fair play in politics.
7. Sasse warns of deepfake "perfect storm"
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) — who'll be out Tuesday with his second book, "Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal" — tells Axios:
"I had a conversation last month with one of the most senior U.S. intelligence officials, who told me that many leaders in the [Intelligence Committee] worry that we’re on the verge of adeepfakes [artificial intelligence algorithms that create convincing fake images, audio and video] 'perfect storm.'"
"Americans are so divided right now, about who we are and what we hold in common, that there are dozens of scabs at which malevolent foreign actors can pick in their efforts to weaken us."
"I talk with the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community nearly every day, and most of them are deeply anxious about information operations that are currently being conducted by foreign powers, which see an unexpected opportunity to undermine Americans' own confidence in our system, in our institutions, and in our American idea."
"Put more bluntly: Vladimir Putin loves cable news, and the divides it helps to solidify in the American soul."
8. Sneak diary
President Trumpsaid he will visit storm-ravaged areas in both Florida and Georgia early this week. Also on tap (assist: AP):
Wednesday: Trump awards the Medal of Honor to retired Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley for his actions during the Vietnam War.
Thursday: Trump rally in Missoula, Montana
Friday: Trump rally in Mesa, Arizona; Paul Manafort court hearing in Alexandria, Virginia — the trial judge may address a sentencing date, and the government's decision on whether to retry Manafort on counts on which jurors deadlocked.
Saturday: Trump rally in Elko, Nevada.
P.S. Before recessing until after midterms, the Senate confirmed 15 judges, including three circuit judges, and a package of executive branch nominees (including many for the State Department) on Thursday night.
9. First look: Where veterans are running
With Honor, a "cross-partisan" super PAC that recently got a $10 million donation from Jeff Bezos, this week will post an interactive map of veterans running for House.
In the meantime, this static version shows how dispersed the candidacies are.
Quick facts from With Honor:
198 veterans are nominees for the House this cycle, including incumbents.
Of those, 85 served post-9/11.
The party breakdown is 65 Democrats and 102 Republicans. The rest are third-party candidates, or active write-in candidates.
When launched later this week, the interactive map will let you hover over a district and a pop-up will appear, showing the candidate's name, district, party affiliation and a link to their website.
10. 1 tube thing
Tonight's episode of Showtime's "The Circus" (8 p.m.) is "California Dreaming":
Co-hosts John Heilemann, Mark McKinnon and Alex Wagner journey to the Golden State, which they call the heart of the anti-Trump "resistance" movement.
The show's reps tell us that Heilemann talks with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom about his campaign for governor ... McKinnon spends time with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy ... Wagner talks about the future of the #MeToo movement with Tina Tchen ... and McKinnon and Wagner stop in Orange County to cover Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s re-election bid.
Wagner also attends a town hall with Tom Steyer, the billionaire liberal activist calling for the impeachment of President Trump.