Power Up: Business not as usual at the Iowa State Fair


It mirrored the ride — from the silly to the serious — taken by most of the 2020 Democratic field in Iowa as candidates vacillated between engaging in performative rites of passage and discussing more serious topics like gun control and whether President Trump is a “white supremacist” following the shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

On Saturday, 16 Democrats appeared at Everytown’s day-long forum on gun violence down the road from the fair where they discussed implementing a federal licensing system, expanding universal background checks, banning assault weapons and enacting “red flag” laws.

It was emotional for some: Yang cried onstage after a woman who lost her four-year-old daughter to a stray bullet asked him how he’d address unintentional shootings by children. 

  • “I have a 6 and 3-year-old boy,” Yang said. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw it. I’m so sorry.”

Democrats weighed in on how they’d address the mass shootings that killed 31 people, placing blame on Trump and the National Rifle Association. 

  • “People say to me, ‘Did Donald Trump cause those folks to be killed?’” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) asked the crowd. “Well, no, of course, he didn’t pull the trigger. But he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.”

  • “Shame on us, God help us, if 20 years from now there’s a candidate forum with presidential candidates in the aftermath of mass shootings and a day-to-day beat of daily shootings, saying, ‘O.K., what are we going to do to make sure it’s different this time?’” South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said. “Let’s not let that happen.”

  • “There’s a tipping point that’s been reached. I feel it out there,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn). said, expressing optimism that momentum was moving in favor of gun reform. 

  • “Reconvene the United States Senate now,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said. “If [Mitch] McConnell wants to vote against gun safety legislation, let him vote against it. But reconvene the United States Senate. Let’s have that discussion. Let’s have that vote. Do what the American people want.” 

  • Joe Biden also showed up and followed up his appearance with a New York Times op-ed calling for a new assault-weapons ban, following the one he helped implement in 1994 as a senator. “We have a huge problem with guns. Assault weapons — military-style firearms designed to fire rapidly — are a threat to our national security, and we should treat them as such. Anyone who pretends there’s nothing we can do is lying — and holding that view should be disqualifying for anyone seeking to lead our country.”

80 percent: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released her gun control plan with “the goal of reducing gun deaths by 80% through executive action and legislation,” according to NPR’s Asma Khalid.

  • “We’ve gotta have a leader who’s willing to stand up to the gun lobby and say no more. And to take away one of their principal tools, which is the filibuster,” she told Khalid. 
  • The sweeping proposal calls for increased taxes on gun manufacturers and a $100 million annual investment in gun violence research.

The Walmart proposal: Six candidates — Warren, Sanders, Harris, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — called on Walmart to stop selling guns, per ABC News’s Kelsey Walsh.

On Friday night at the annual Iowa Wing Ding fundraiser hosted by 25 northern Iowa Democratic parties and local candidates, the mood among 2020 Democrats who flocked to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake was again somber and emotionally charged.

  • “This is not a referendum on one guy in one office,” Booker said. “This is a referendum on us and who are we going to be to each other. This is one of those moral moments in our nation that’s going to define the character of our country. And this is a week where I will not let the slaughter of our fellow citizens just disappear within the next media cycle.”

  • “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s up to all of us — 330 million Americans — who have to do what our president can’t,” Biden told the crowd. “Standing together, stand against hate, stand up to — let’s call this what it is — this is white nationalism. This is white supremacy. It’s not only our values that are under assault. Everything that makes America America is under assault.”

  • ” … who declared in a fiery speech that ‘white nationalism is a national security threat to this country.’ He also appeared to offer a contrast to Biden’s stated belief that defeating Trump will solve the country’s most immediate problems, saying, ‘We can’t look like the party of ‘back to normal.’”

ABOUT THE FAIR: There was some fun to be had — and food to be eaten. Harris ate the traditional pork chop on stick, while ordering more for her team. Bernie ate a corn dog, and yes, Biden ate ice cream, etc.

  • But Booker, a vegan, managed to find something other than deep fried meat: He made his way to the Veggie-table, according to The Des Moines Register’s Katie Akin and “ordered a ‘Golden Fried’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a stick, which one employee said was one of the few vegan items they offered.” 

The Warren Effect: The candidates also climbed onto the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox stage. Warren, who is now in second place behind Biden in the polls, seemed to draw the biggest crowd of the weekend as she talked about her wealth tax.

  • “Two cents!” “Two cents!” the crowd cheered as Warren described what her proposal to place a 2 percent tax on the ultra rich would fund, according to The Des Moines Register’s Kim Norvell.
  • “We could do all that and still have a couple hundred billion dollars left over. That should tell you about what’s broken in America,” Warren said. “Every time we see a budget, it’s really just a statement of our values. Is it more important to leave the two cents for the bazillionaires or use that two cents to invest in all of our kids?

Ascendant: Warren’s reception did not go unnoticed. 

  • “For someone whose White House ambitions were dismissed by some Democrats earlier this year, Warren’s reception in Iowa this weekend was a clear warning sign to other candidates that hers is a campaign to be reckoned with in the state that kicks off the race for the party’s nomination,” the Associated Press’s Thomas Beaumont and Alexandra Jaffe report.
  • “As the caucuses near, strategists say Warren’s ground-level organization — demonstrated by her large staff and a proven ability to get her supporters to appear at large events like the fair — is fueling her momentum.” 

Gaining ground: Harris, who has upped her presence in the state, was also trailed by a crowd of “reporters, cameras, supporters, staff and even some hecklers that shadowed her across the state fairgrounds testified to a rising presence in the state,” per the New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher 

  • “As Ms. Harris trundles her way across Iowa on a five-day bus tour that is her longest trip yet to any early primary state, the California Democrat’s embrace of Iowa’s quirky political traditions has delivered the unmistakable message that the state’s kickoff caucuses are increasingly central to her 2020 calculations after months of focus on South Carolina,” per Goldmacher.
  • Key: “Strategists for Ms. Harris say her newfound focus is a result of the surprising degree to which the race in Iowa remains wide open, despite Mr. Biden’s continued advantage in the polls and the sizable operation Ms. Warren has constructed. It is also a tacit acknowledgment of history: those outside the top-three finishers in Iowa rarely go on to capture the nomination.” 
  • Bonus: Harris also nabbed an endorsement over the weekend from an influential Iowa political couple.

Biden, however, is currently leading the “Cast Your Kernel” poll, with 24 percent of support from fair attendees who … cast their corn kernels in a jar. Gillibrand’s son Henry took a little too much time for his mother’s liking: 

In the Agencies

OFFICIALS DEFEND MISSISSIPPI RAID: “Acting customs and border protection commissioner Mark Morgan said Sunday that the mass immigration raids at Mississippi workplaces last week were not ‘raids,’ disputing the terminology that has been widely used to describe the operation,” our colleague Felicia Sonmez reports

  • McAleenan says ‘the timing was unfortunate’: “Acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan, meanwhile, said he regretted the timing of the raids, which were carried out just days after a mass shooting in which a gunman killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart,” Felicia writes.
  • Morgan was unphased by a viral video: “‘I know it’s emotional. I know it’s done on purpose to show a picture like that,’ Morgan said about a widely circulated video of a young girl crying and begging for her father to be brought back. ‘But her father committed a crime.’ He said the girl was later reunited with her mother,” Felicia writes.
  • A ride on ICE air: Our colleague Nick Miroff flew along with ICE on a chartered flight of 93 deportees to Guatemala last week, a glimpse into an effort the administration wants to increase “potentially turning the country into a kind of reverse Ellis Island — a repository, far from the U.S. border, for those the United States has rejected.”

From the Courts

  • Epstein was left alone, despite recently being on suicide watch: “The jail had recently transferred his cellmate and allowed Mr. Epstein to be housed alone, a decision that also violated the jail’s procedures, the two officials told the Times.
  • The guards were working overtime: “The two correctional officers assigned to watch the special unit in the detention center where financier and sex offender [Epstein] was being housed,”our colleagues Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report, “were working overtime — one forced to do so by management, the other for his fourth or fifth consecutive day, the president of the local union for jail staffers said Sunday.
  • The jail is severely understaffed: “Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, said the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan is functioning with less than 70 percent of the needed correctional officers, forcing many to work mandatory overtime and 60- or 70-hour workweeks,” Matt and Devlin write.

THE NEXT TARGET?: Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’sprotector and procurer, his girlfriend and his madam,” has been described by many of his victims as the financier’s “chief co-conspirator,” according to The Post’s Marc Fisher.

  • “Maxwell, 57, has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. According to people familiar with the investigation, authorities have had trouble locating Maxwell, who is believed to be living abroad,” Fisher reports. 
  • “But a growing number of women have said that Maxwell was the prime organizer of Epstein’s three-times daily ‘massages,’ and that she acted as recruiter and paymaster for the girls who came to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion.”

About those conspiracy theories: “On Saturday, a baseless conspiracy theory about the death of Jeffrey Epstein gorged itself on a feast of the stuff, as a viral hashtag spammed by believers trended on Twitter. In less than a day, a viral tweet from a conservative Internet personality promoting that hashtag — #ClintonBodyCount — was retweeted by the president,” our colleague Abby Ohlheiser reports.

  • The way these theories spread are why they are so hard to stop: “When you ask experts about ways to limit the reach of racism and conspiracy theories on platforms such as Twitter, they’ll tell you to watch how it’s amplified: Sharing a meme to condemn it is still a share. Retweeting a racist tweet to shame its writer still gives the tweet more eyeballs,” Abby writes.
  • And social media platforms just aren’t made to stop this: “It’s increasingly apparent that our information delivery systems were not built for our current moment — especially with corruption and conspiracy at the heart of our biggest national news stories (Epstein, the Mueller Report, mass shootings), and the platforms themselves functioning as petri dishes for outlandish, even dangerous conspiracy theories to flourish,” Charlie Warzel writes for the Times.

At The White House

  • The takeaway: “Sometimes the hosts are repeating the president’s signature phrases. Sometimes the president appears to take his cues from television pundits. The cumulative effect is a public dialogue in which denigrating sentiments about immigrants are common.”

Outside the Beltway

Elsewhere in El Paso: “Five days had passed since the shooting, and some girls on the El Paso Fusion soccer team still felt numb. Some could not stop crying. Others refused to go outside,” our colleague Maria Sacchetti writes of a local soccer team that was raising money at the shopping center where the shooting occurred.

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