This week in politics: Dems push voting rights, who wants to impeach Trump?

By Caitlin Conant

/ CBS News

Here's what you need to know in politics this week…

Democrats focus on economic mobility, voting rights, as unemployment hits 50-year low

Friday marked the lowest jobless rate in 50 years, giving President Trump a strong economic data point as he seeks re-election. But despite the glowing jobs report, a lot of Americans say they are still struggling. According to a Monmouth poll released this week, only 12 percent of Americans say they've benefited greatly from the recent economic growth, while another 31 percent said they had benefitted somewhat. In total, 43 percent say they've benefited, while 54 percent say they're not better off.

Last week, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, the latest Democratic candidate to enter the presidential race, highlighted the need to address the "lack of economic mobility and opportunity for most Americans" in his announcement on "CBS This Morning."

Over the weekend, both former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke called for protections for voting rights. In South Carolina, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports that Biden called to end "systemic racism" and said that "Jim Crow is sneaking back," citing numerous states' voting laws which he said are "mostly directed at people of color." Biden's fundraising haul in South Carolina on Saturday: Over $100,000, as first reported by Erickson.

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And elsewhere in the South, CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry reports that O'Rourke told supporters in Fort Worth, Texas that he'd put former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in charge of combating voter suppression if elected president. Abrams, meanwhile, has not ruled out a presidential run of her own.

This week, two of the highest-profile 2020 contenders are heading to Michigan and Minnesota, key battleground states for the 2020 election. Sunday night, California Sen. Kamala Harris heads to Michigan, a state that Trump won in 2016, and on Wednesday, O'Rourke will travel to Minnesota, a state that Republicans have their eye on since Trump lost in narrowly in 2016. Harris is set to lay out her vision to restore truth and justice in an NAACP speech and to meet with Detroit teachers to discuss her plan to increase teacher pay, while O'Rourke will host a town hall at a Minneapolis high school.

So while much of the 2020 Democratic candidates' message and fundraising last week was focused on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General William Barr, on the campaign trail many are hoping to run against Trump on the economy by focusing on Americans who feel left behind, despite the strong jobs numbers.

If you want a look at how tricky threading that needle can be, check out Amy Klobuchar's interview on CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper. Democrats will be tempted to ascribe the current strong economic growth to Obama in the same way Republicans said the '90s boom was due to Reagan. But there's no way to know whether a message like that will have much by way of resonance with voters.

Sleeper issue to watch: Measles and mandatory vaccinations

In a marked change from recent election cycles, candidates have so far managed to not say anything outrageous about mandatory vaccinations. Since 2008, Michelle Bachman, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, John McCain, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Carly Fiorina all managed to say something ill-advised about vaccinations. But despite the recent measles outbreak, candidates and campaigns are managing to keep it together.

The universal message from the Democratic camp on mandatory vaccinations, as reported by CBS News embeds: Science good, vaccines good. Even Mr. Trump, a prominent vaccine truther before winning the presidency, is changing his tune. "They have to get the shots. The vaccinations are so important," he told reporters earlier this week.

Who wants to impeach Trump?

Add Beto O'Rourke to a list that now includes him, Warren and Harris.

In Iowa

CBS News campaign reporters Adam Brewster and Musadiq Bidar

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Michael Bennet were all in the state this weekend.

Flooding continues to be a major issue on both "coasts," as we've learned Iowans like to say about their western and eastern boundaries. USA Today reports historic flooding along the Mississippi could last until June. In the east, Davenport is still under water after a levee was breached last week. Gov. Kim Reynolds visited the area this weekend. Out west in Council Bluffs, O'Rourke referenced the effects of climate change on weather events such as the floods in Iowa. He also toured flood damage in Pacific Junction and talked about reinforcing levees and a "massive investment" in infrastructure.

Some aides and Iowa Democrats have said that a winning message on flooding won't just hit climate change, but also focus on improving infrastructure. The Quad City Times and other papers in eastern Iowa published an editorial that briefly touched on climate change, but focused more on re-evaluating Davenport's flooding plan with help from the Army Corps. We'll monitor the disaster aid bill that's been stalled in Congress due to a fight over Puerto Rico funding.

We can report Elizabeth Warren has about 50 paid staffers in Iowa and that Cory Booker currently has about three dozen, but will have about 50 by the end of the month. Attracting the rural vote is key to doing well in the Democratic Iowa caucus. Iowa Auditor Rob Sand, the only Democrat to win a statewide race in 2018, talked about this on the Iowa Starting Line podcast. His advice was "you can't fake showing up," citing former congressional candidate J.D. Scholten who ran against Rep. Steve King in 2018. He said there's a lot of ground to be gained by talking about ideas and policy.

In New Hampshire

CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga

Biden visits the Granite State on May 13-14 for the first time as a 2020 presidential candidate. He will reportedly be accompanied by former four-term Gov. John Lynch. Last week, Lynch endorsed the former Vice President — Biden's first big endorsement from the First in the Nation state. We should be on the lookout for more high-profile NH endorsements during his trip.

Booker became the first of the 2020 Democratic contenders to open a second office in New Hampshire this week. Booker added to his campaign headquarters in Manchester with a second office in Nashua. Campaign officials tell CBS News they'll begin operating out of that Gate City locale this month.

Senate watch

Associate producer Ellee Watson

Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming's decision to retire is a reminder to look out for other potential retirements on the GOP side of the Senate. Jim Risch of Idaho, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and James Inhofe of Oklahoma have not publicized any reelection plans. And already, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have announced they will not seek reelection. Republicans will have a tough 2020 in the Senate because they are defending 22 seats compared to the Democrats' 12, and now, with the retirements, at least three of the 22 seats will be open.

On the trial this week

5/6 – Booker on set on CTM

5/6 – Buttigieg in SC; Gillibrand in NV; Harris in MI; Klobuchar in NH; O'Rourke in IA

5/7 – Dr. Jill Biden on set on CTM

5/7 – Biden in NV; Castro in IA; O'Rourke in IA

5/8 – Biden in CA; O'Rourke in IA & MN

5/8 – Amy Klobuchar Fox Town Hall in Milwaukee, WI

5/8 – Trump MAGA Rally in Panama City Beach, FL

5/9 – Biden in CA; Harris in CA

5/10 – Yang in NH

5/10 – Booker delivers commencement address at South Carolina State University

5/11 – Gillibrand delivers commencement address at New England College

First published on May 6, 2019 / 12:04 PM

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