Early primary and caucus voters tell CBS News Campaign Reporters Adam Brewster, Nicole Sganga & LaCrai Mitchell that Senator Cory Booker and Governor Jay Inslee scored points on the debate stage Wednesday night, while Fmr. Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris held their own under mounting pressure from fellow democratic contenders.
And while candidates debated the nuance of healthcare policies on stage, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina say they’re looking for a candidate that can unite the party against President Donald Trump. While all eyes fell on the CNN debate stage this week, state campaigns will shift gears next week, capitalizing on standout performances by engaging voters on the ground via phone banks, canvassing and community organizing.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Sen. Kamala Harris is touting yet more endorsements in Nevada, with six more out today, says CBS News Campaign Reporter Alex Tin. After notching the support of two state legislators earlier this week, Las Vegas City Councilman Brian Knudsen has now also announced his support for the California Democrat. Knudsen made history last month, sworn in as the city’s first openly gay council member.
The announcement comes on the heels of Sen. Cory Booker’s own endorsement news, including the backing of the state’s chair for the High School Democrats of America: Katie Lim.
Later in the day CBS News Campaign Reporter Stephanie Ramirez says Harris made a stop to visit a Detroit union member and security guard. Harris also took questions from the press about Wednesday night’s debate. She called the debates a “frustrating process…There are, I think, better venues where we’re able to have a real conversation,” said Harris, “So many of these issues just cannot be captured in 60 seconds, much less 30 or 15.”
Harris was also asked about the attacks on her record as a prosecutor. She defended her work, telling reporters her entire career has been about making sure people are safe.
UP NORTH: Today, following the second Democratic Debate, New Hampshire endorsements rolled in for 2020 presidential contenders working to capitalize on standout performances. CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga says Senator Kirsten Gillibrand earned key support from two Granite State veterans — Former Shaheen legal counsel Judy Reardon and Portsmouth Democrats Chair Laurie McCray.
Reardon counseled Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in both the governor’s office and in the U.S. Senate, serving as a longtime New Hampshire Democratic State Committee member, former New Hampshire House Democratic whip and senior adviser to several New Hampshire presidential campaigns.
“What’s been apparent since I first saw Senator Gillibrand on her first New Hampshire trip, is that she has the grit, tenacity, and skills to take on Trump and that she will make an excellent President,” Reardon said in a statement. “In all the years I’ve worked in Democratic primary politics, I’ve never met a candidate who’s more exuberant.”
Senator Cory Booker scored a political endorsement from longtime Concord Mayor Jim Bouley. “Cory stands out in the field for his executive experience managing his state’s largest city, and the results — a city that’s growing for the first time in 60 years — speak volumes about his success tackling the biggest challenges,” Bouley said in a statement.
Veteran State Representative Jane Beaulieu, Keene City Councilor-at-Large Bettina Chadbourne and Seacoast Democratic activist Chip Moynihan also announced endorsements, backing Senator Kamala Harris following her debate performance Wednesday night.
DOWN SOUTH: The second round of Democratic presidential debates have wrapped and South Carolina voters say that while there wasn’t a clear winner on either night, there were certainly a few candidates who stood out.
After the second night of debates, CBS News Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell asked voters which candidates did best overall. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker were mentioned most.
While former HUD secretary Julián Castro was not mentioned as an overall winner, he definitely made a lasting impression with voters. Castro’s challenge of former Vice President Biden’s immigration stance was deemed as a highlight of the night, and some voters think his performance will serve him well in the coming weeks. “Secretary Castro helped himself out by repeatedly calling out several candidates—mainly the VP—and comparing and contrasting his plans to theirs, and [showing] his ideas are the best to beat Donald Trump,” said Tyrus Peoples, a student at Wofford College in Spartanburg.
Voters in the Palmetto State also noted that they felt Biden came with “more fire” than in the previous debate. In a state where he consistently leads the pack as a frontrunner in the polls, Biden’s performance was not considered the best, but South Carolina viewers agreed that he was receiving criticism from multiple directions last night.
Bradford Smith, who is also a student at Wofford College and attended the South Carolina Democratic Party’s debate watch night this week thought that the second night had a more negative tone. “[Last night’s] debate represented a time of desperation and low jabs from numerous Democratic candidates. At some points he thought it was “truly an embarrassment.”
“More time was spent attacking Joe Biden for policies passed under the Obama administration, than actually debating policy issues that impact the American working class,” Smith said, and he wondered if being a “winner” last night would be a good thing in the long-run. If winning has do to with “attacking opposing candidates within the same party, then multiple candidates such as Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, and Bill de Blasio would take the crown.”
But for “real and genuine answers about policy issues,” Smith thinks “perhaps Andrew Yang would be the ‘winner’ of [last night’s] debate.”
IN OTHER NEWS
OUTSIDE THE OVAL: One name that came up frequently during Wednesday night’s debate is former President Barack Obama. SoA source familiar with his thinking wouldn’t tell CBS News Political Correspondent Ed O’Keefe whether the former president watched Tuesday and Wednesday’s debates, but said he continues to keep tabs on the campaign.
Obama has no plans to weigh in on the race this year, said the person, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly on a politically sensitive subject. “His legacy is going to be fine that there’s a staying power to it and the things under attack are high water marks for the country,” the person said.
The former president believes it’s appropriate to review and debate his legacy, but believes it should be “fact-based,” especially in regards to his deportation policy. “The debate over immigration doesn’t always seem to be rooted in reality,” the person said.
During the eight years of the Obama administration, the Homeland Security Department prioritized deporting criminals and people who had recently illegally crossed the border. The Trump administration has targeted family units and in several cases, deported people who have lived in the country for several years.
“It is perilous to the party to attack one of the most popular figures among voters in the country,” the Obama associate added. “This primary has got to be about making the strongest possible case against Donald Trump and not be a circular firing squad. It could ultimately backfire on candidates who choose to engage in this rhetoric.” Obama has no plans to campaign for anyone this year.
RULES, RULES, RULES: The Republican Nation Committee has held two informational briefings for its members on the new fundraising platform called WinRed. The briefings took place in Charlotte, North Carolina at the RNC’s annual three-day summer meeting.
The briefings were closed to the press, but two members who attended told CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ellee Watson that state parties are excited for the support they’re getting, even though it comes with a slight learning curve. An RNC official said 51 out of the 56 states and territories are already using the platform.