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EDITOR'S NOTE: Sinclair Broadcast Group political reporter Mikenzie Frost is tracking presidential candidates as they stop in Michigan leading up to the November 2020 election. Follow Mikenzie's coverage below in reverse chronological order; the most recent visits covered are at the top. For a list of the stops from 2019, head to the first edition of the campaign blog.

Who’s still running?

It’s hard to keep up with who’s in and who’s out. No worries. Stay up-to-date right here:

Democratic candidates:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Republican candidates:

  • President Donald Trump
  • William "Bill" Weld

Sen. Elizabeth Warren drops out of the race, Whitmer backs Biden – March 5, 2020

Wow! Five days to go before polls open in Michigan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer publicly threw her support behind former Vice President Joe Biden Thursday morning while making an appearance on MSNBC.

Whitmer previously said she would not endorse any candidate in the primary, but signaled Wednesday that could change, after the results of Super Tuesday.

A few hours later, Sen. Elizabeth Warren bowed out of the race, clearing the progressive lane for Sen. Bernie Sanders. It’s squaring up to be a Biden verses Sanders fight in Michigan as all eyes peer over who will take the coveted state next Tuesday.

Remember, Warren was in Detroit on the night of Super Tuesday, telling her supporters she is in the fight still. Read below for the recap of that rally.

So, now there are two major candidates left in the Democratic field. Can’t forget U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, though, but the majority of the support is behind Biden and Sanders. Sanders won Michigan’s primary in 2016 and now that Warren isn’t siphoning votes away from him anymore, he’s looking to go for a repeat.

Both sides are pulling out all the stops for Michigan.

Sanders is holding tow rallies before Tuesday: One in Detroit on Friday night and another Sunday afternoon in Grand Rapids.

Biden is holding a rally in Detroit sometime Monday as well. Before he gets to town, his follow moderate and former-competitor-turned-supporter Sen. Amy Klobuchar is coming to campaign for him Friday and Saturday. She will be in Detroit Friday afternoon for an event and another event in Southfield that night. On Saturday, she will hold an event in the morning in Grand Rapids.

We also learned – and basically confirmed – that we should expect delays on Tuesday. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told us earlier Thursday that because of the influx of absentee ballots, we might not see full results until Wednesday, or even later.

So, pack snacks for this weekend craziness and pack your patience for Tuesday. Michigan’s presidential primary is almost here.

Super Tuesday is in the rear-view mirror; Bloomberg is out and the race is getting tighter – March 4, 2020

Super Tuesday is done and the delegates are counted. It was a big night for former Vice President Joe Biden, surging to victories in several states overnight. Sen. Bernie Sanders came out victorious too, scooping up more delegates.

But one person didn’t have a great night, and that’s where I spent most of my evening Tuesday. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

She held a rally in Detroit at Eastern Market in front of about 2,200 people who were pretty energized, especially since she wasn’t on track to win even her home state of Massachusetts. On stage, she reinforced her commitment to the race, even though some speculated she might drop out last night.

The room was full of people, packed from front to back, including a pretty packed media row. Here’s a look at where I was put – right behind me were the network news outlets.

On stage, Warren seemed to be desperately pleading her case to voters at times, telling them to "vote with their hearts."

So far, Warren hasn’t dropped out. Before she started the rally, her campaign announced another stop in Michigan on Friday in Lansing. We’ll see if she makes it.

Other candidates are also scheduled to flood Michigan before primary day on Tuesday. Michael Bloomberg was scheduled to have an event in Warren on Thursday, but it since got canceled after he dropped out of the race Wednesday morning following a disappointing Super Tuesday finish.

Remember, Bloomberg skipped all the early voting states and poured millions of dollars – including more than $12 million in Michigan alone – to blanket the airwaves with his message. He won one contest on Super Tuesday – American Samoa, picking up less than 10 delegates.

While suspending his campaign, the billionaire and former mayor of New York City backed Joe Biden. This latest endorsement shores up the moderate field for Biden, meaning a more clearly defined path to victory for him while Sanders and Warren continue to fight for the progressive vote.

Biden also picked up the endorsement of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Granholm’s endorsement adds to the growing support that Joe Biden has already garnered in Michigan, including the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, State Representatives Joe Tate, Karen Whitsett, Tenisha Yancey, and State Senator Marshall Bullock.

So now as we pivot away from the Super Tuesday conversation and really prepare for Michigan’s primary, it’ll be interesting to see how voters here decide. In 2016, Sanders won the Michigan, beating Hillary Clinton. A new poll just out from The Detroit News and WDIV in Detroit show Biden with a slight edge over Sanders here.

With so many events scheduled this week – Sanders has two rallies scheduled before the primary; one in Detroit on Friday and another in Grand Rapids on Sunday – voters have time to shore up their decisions. And remember, if you’ve already voted via absentee ballot but want to change your vote – maybe your candidate already dropped out – you can do so. Here’s a link to the directions.

Buttigieg says goodbye to his presidential bid; looking ahead to Super Tuesday – March 2, 2020

And then there were five.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg called it quits Sunday night, after a pretty good run in his aspirations for becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. The once-outsider quickly became a front runner at times in the race, walking away from Iowa with a win (eventually) and impressive showings on the debate stage.

He took the stage in South Bend Sunday to make the announcement, with his Michigan-native husband, Chasten Buttigieg. The openly gay mayor made an imprint on the race that could open the door for future openly gay candidates to make a run at the White House, too.

The announcement came as somewhat of a surprise, just two days before Super Tuesday and an onslaught of events, including a town hall in Warren Tuesday night. Dropping out now could signal good news for fellow moderate Joe Biden on Tuesday. Biden is riding the momentum after a monstrous win in South Carolina. We will have to see how far that momentum carries him through Super Tuesday and then beyond – into Michigan on March 10.

Food for thought – Joe Biden is now the youngest male Democratic candidate running for president. Biden is 77 years old, Sanders and Bloomberg are both 78 years old.

Speaking of South Carolina, before the votes were officially tallied, billionaire Tom Steyer threw in his towel, despite coming in third place in the Palmetto State. Steyer put most of his eggs – or in his case, millions of dollars – into South Carolina, so a strong finish there wasn’t too much of a surprise to anyone.

Now, Super Tuesday will come down to the small pack of moderates, more liberal candidates and billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Refer to the top section of this blog to see who is still in the race. Monday afternoon also brought the news that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is ending her campaign, too. She is expected to travel to Dallas Monday night, where Biden is hosting a rally and will announce her endorsement of the former Vice President.

Buttiegieg is also expected to endorse Biden -- a signal the moderates have unified in their fight to be the nominee for the Democratic Party. The only other somewhat-moderate left is Bloomberg.

Super Tuesday details

Why is Super Tuesday important? About one-third of the Democratic delegates are up for grabs; that’s 1,357. This year will be a little different because there are so many candidates left in the race, meaning the delegates could get split. Republicans will be awarded 782 delegates after the vote.

Current delegate count

A Democrat needs 1,991 delegates to win nomination:

  • Sanders: 60
  • Biden: 53
  • Buttigieg (dropped out): 26
  • Warren: 8
  • Klobuchar (dropped out): 7

A Republican needs 1,276 delegates to win nomination:

  • Trump: 86
  • Weld: 1

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s stop in Detroit

Buttigieg wasn’t the only one not waiting to hit Michigan. Warren is scheduled for an event at Detroit’s Eastern Market Tuesday night, before polls even close in some Super Tuesday states. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard also has a stop scheduled in Detroit Tuesday evening to answer questions from voters.

After this slew of states vote this week, Michigan is next and the candidates know that. One criticism of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign is that she didn’t pay enough attention to Michigan – almost taking the voters for granted.

Michigan voted for President Donald Trump by just under 11,000 votes in 2016. The Democratic candidates don’t want to see that happen again and paid attention to the Mitten early. Signals show Warren and Gabbard won’t be the only ones coming to the state before the primary on March 10.

I’ll be at the Warren event Tuesday night, so come back Wednesday for a recap – plus results from Super Tuesday.

Post-Pence visit and Democratic debate debrief – Feb. 26, 2020

Another rally with campaigns looking to get their candidate into office is done. Vice President Mike Pence traveled through Michigan on Tuesday landing in Lansing to start. He spoke at a Michigan Farm Bureau event before taking off on a short bus tour, ending with a Keep America Great rally in Troy.

That’s where I met up with the day. We went to Troy early in the morning for pre-set; meaning we placed our equipment on the riser in the hotel ballroom in the morning and then let U.S. Secret Service do their security sweep. We were unable to get back into the building for a few hours so we had some lunch and hung out.

I’m not longer working with my previous photographer, Brandon because he moved to Flint (heartbroken) so this was my new photographer Aldair’s first rodeo. Once inside the event again, the people started coming in and before I knew it, we were starting.

Department of Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue introduced the VP a little after 5 p.m. The rally was hyper focused on re-election, using the opportunity to highlight some of the ‘wins’ for the President. You can read my article on the rally online.

It’s interesting because Pence has been in Michigan several times since I started in July 2018 and this rally was a little different. He didn’t talk about other Republican candidates on the ballot – like John James who is running for U.S. Senate. This time, it was all about re-electing President Donald Trump.

He also really attacked Democrats running for president, specifically socialism and Sen. Bernie Sanders. I think this rally really shows how intense the race for the White House is getting.

And that brings me to the CBS debate in Charleston. I didn’t get a chance to watch the debate because I was working on my story from Pence to share with all of you. If you think TV news is glamorous, check out this photo below of me voicing my story! HA!

The debate itself was messy. Candidates were talking over each other and clawing at one another. I think candidates know time is pressing and it’s winding down for people who aren’t at the top. South Carolina could be a make or break for some candidates and really propel others as the race goes national on Super Tuesday (March 10).

Gearing up to South Carolina, preparing for another Vice Presidential visit – Feb. 24, 2020

Well, the Nevada caucus did not have the disastrous outcome that Iowa did, so that’s a win for everyone. Sen. Bernie Sanders came out on top, securing his spot as the Democratic front runner as the candidates make a mad-dash to South Carolina before the primary on Saturday. But, before another vote, America will see the candidates on the Charleston debate stage again.

The debate will be on CBS and is scheduled to run from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fresh off the win in Nevada, Sanders will undoubtedly have a target on his back and former Vice President Joe Biden will need to shine on the stage. It’ll be interesting to see if Sen. Elizabeth Warren has the fiery performance she did in Nevada.

Here’s who will be there:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg
  • Former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • Businessman Tom Steyer
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Steyer is back after missing the Nevada debate last week. Biden recently clinched a big backer before the primary in South Carolina, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who is known to have the pulse of the party in the state.

Who’s moderating:

  • Norah O'Donnell, CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor
  • Gayle King, CBS This Morning co-host
  • Margaret Brennan, Face the Nation moderator and senior foreign affairs correspondent
  • Major Garrett, chief Washington correspondent
  • Bill Whitaker, 60 Minutes correspondent

But the debate isn’t the only big presidential action happening Tuesday. Vice President Mike Pence will be back in Michigan Tuesday, too. He is flying into the Lansing airport before a bus tour, ending his visit with a Keep America Great Rally in Troy. Before the rally, he will speak at a Michigan Farm Bureau event in Lansing, along with Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Pence is staying true to his word he told me last December, noting that there would be several trips from the White House to Michigan. The agricultural industry is one President Donald Trump likes to tout as a success under his administration. We’ll see how the industry feels tomorrow.

I’ll be at the rally in Troy so check out my Twitter and come back for a recap!

Vegas debate debrief – Feb. 20, 2020

What a debate! The 9th debate for the Democratic hopefuls was one like no other – all bets were off for Vegas. The candidates came out swinging against former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg and he was fending off attacks all night, especially from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Warren herself was at a crossroads for her campaign, or so it seemed. She has been lagging behind in the polls and didn’t perform well in Iowa or New Hampshire. But, she showed up in Vegas and it comes at the right time – just a few days before caucus-goers make their voices heard across Nevada.

Warren was on top of her game and ready with rapid responses, even asking pertinent follow-up questions better than the five-member moderator panel. She hit Bloomberg exceptionally hard on the issues with women is Bloomberg’s company signing nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs. She said he had the authority to dismiss the women bound by the NDAs and he did not. Warren needed the strong performance Wednesday and it solidified her place as a top-tier candidate.

Bloomberg qualified for the debate at the last minute and his lack of preparation was evident. He stumbled his way through tough questions that up until last night, he hasn’t had to answer. It was the first time America got a chance to see who he is beyond the multimillion dollar television and digital ads that he’s been blanketing states with.

As for the rest of the candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden did OKAY. He was there. Didn’t do any real damage to his candidacy. Compared to his previous performances, he wasn’t his worst. He will need to start showing voters he can stand alone on the stage and take on President Trump.

Sen. Bernie Sanders did very well, again. Coming in as the national front runner, he didn’t have too big of a target on his back – most of the attacks were directed toward Bloomberg. Sen. Amy Klobuchar didn’t do very well. Her lack of knowledge of the president of Mexico did not bode well. She chalked it up to a momentarily lapse in judgement and Warren came to her defense.

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg went toe-to-toe with Klobuchar seemingly all night. They were the side-show argument in what seemed like a minor-league plot while the main debates were taking place with the rest of the candidates. Overall, Buttigieg didn’t do bad. He was middle of the pack to me.

We’ll see what the Democrats think in Nevada on Saturday.

What to watch for during the 9th Democratic Debate – Feb. 19, 2020

It’s debate night and tonight, America will hear from Michael Bloomberg for the first time. Despite blanketing the airwaves and your digital screens, tonight, his messaging on the Vegas debate stage will be unedited.

Get ready to rumble because he will have a target on his back and it will be interesting to see how often the candidates go after him.

When to watch

The debate is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. (Eastern time) and it’s slated for two hours.

How to watch

You can watch the Nevada Democratic debate on NBC, MSNBC, and Universo or, if you don’t have cable, you’ll be able to stream it on and, as well as their Facebook pages.

What’s next

The debate in Nevada comes before the Democratic Caucus on Saturday.

If you miss the debate, or just want to come back for my hot takes, check out the blog Thursday!

Sanders sets up shop in Michigan, Bloomberg makes debate stage – Feb. 18, 2020

Another day and another blog update! That’s because a lot is happening in Michigan today!

Sen. Bernie Sanders is expanding his operations, opening five field offices in Michigan and hiring more staff.

It comes on the heels of news that billionaire Michael Bloomberg skirted by and qualified for the debate in Vegas. It will be his first debate and in a state that his name won’t even appear on the ballot. But, if you watched last weekend’s political talk shows (some people get excited to watch morning cartoons, I can’t wait to see the Sunday specials), Bloomberg was the talk of the candidates.

Everyone said they wanted to debate the former New York City Mayor on the stage. On Wednesday night, they will get their chance.

The expansion of the Sanders campaign comes after Bloomberg opened a field office in West Michigan over the weekend and he has others open in the state. Sander’s latest move sparked criticism from the Republican National Committee, who sent me the following statement.

“While Bernie Sanders and his socialist ilk finally make their way to Michigan, Republicans have been on the ground since 2016 with an unprecedented ground and data game working to re-elect President Trump and Republicans up and down the ballot. There isn't a single 2020 Democrat who can match our efforts on the ground in Michigan,” said RNC spokesperson Michael Joyce.

Scroll down to read about the national investment in Michigan from both parties.

Michigan’s presidential primary is in three weeks from today.

It's all about the debate — Feb. 17, 2020

Full steam ahead! We've got two debates on deck this month, meaning February will have — checks notes — THREE debates.

First, the Nevada debate before caucus-goers take another shot at picking a favorite candidate. The Democratic Party in Nevada already said it won't be using the same app as Iowa, so fingers crossed we get results in a timely manner this time.

But back to the debates. Five candidates have qualified to appear on the Las Vegas stage Wednesday, while the rest continue to gamble with their relevance.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

To qualify, it's a little different this time. Candidates must either meet a delegate or polling threshold; departing from the previous donor count minimums. The change could help Michael Bloomberg, who has yet to appear on a debate stage, but has been polling in the top three.

The former New York City mayor is on the cusp of qualifying for Wednesday's debate, because he has received at least 10% in three national polls so far. He has exceeded the 10% threshold in polls conducted by Fox News, Quinnipiac and Monmouth. Bloomberg would need to reach 10% in a separate poll in order to qualify.

Bloomberg isn't even on the ballot in Nevada, or South Carolina, the next state to hold a primary, on Saturday, Feb. 29. Bloomberg, billionaire investor Tom Steyer and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have until 11:59 p.m. ET Tuesday to land on the debate stage.

South Carolina

The debate in Charleston is set for the next week. It's also the final debate scheduled before Super Tuesday (March 3), when 14 states and American Samoa vote.

Based on the pledged delegates awarded from the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have already qualified for the South Carolina debate. More candidates could meet the delegate threshold should they receive delegates from the Nevada caucuses.

The South Carolina debate is hosted by CBS News. Moderators are expected to be announced later.

Who’s still left after the Iowa disaster and New Hampshire shocker Feb. 13, 2020

The Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary are now in the rear-view mirrors. That also means so are some political campaigns. If you missed the chaotic caucuses, check out my other blog just about that disaster.

Meantime — it’s time to talk about the first real tests putting the pressure on the candidates. Because Iowa ended without a clear winning (at least that night) and dismal boosts, the pressure was really put on New Hampshire to weed out the weaker candidates.

And boy, did it sure do that.

Before the results were even final, Andrew Yang dropped out of the race. His numbers were coming in at the bottom and he said there just wasn’t the right path forward.

  • New Hampshire: 1
  • Andrew Yang: 0

As the results came, another candidate bowed out. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. He went all in on the primary in the Granite State, but wasn’t able to come out with a enough support.

  • New Hampshire: 2
  • Michael Bennet: 0

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden both had underwhelming performances in New Hampshire, but neither has ended their bids, yet.

On Wednesday, Patrick Deval, the former Massachusetts governor, dropped out as well. He was late to the game, throwing his name into the ring around the same time as billionaire Mike Bloomberg.

So, who’s still left? See above.

Candidates who didn’t perform well in the first two tests need to do well in Nevada during its caucuses (which aren’t using the same app that brought down Iowa and led to the resignation of the Iowa Democratic Party chair) on Feb. 22 and the South Carolina Democratic primary Feb. 29.

Fresh off a win in Iowa and a second place in New Hampshire, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg needs a solid performance to propel him into Super Tuesday, March 3. But, despite the wins, polling isn’t great right now. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has momentum on her side heading into the latter half of February, too. She surprised people, ending the night with a third-place finish.

According to RealClearPolitics’ average of the polls in South Carolina, Biden comfortably leads the state at 31%, followed by businessman Tom Steyer at 18.5%, Sanders at 17%, and Buttigieg and Klobuchar lagging far behind at 5.5% and 2% respectively.

Candidates need 1,991 delegates to secure their nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

Here’s a look at where the delegate count stands now:

  • Pete Buttigieg: 22
  • Bernie Sanders: 21
  • Elizabeth Warren: 8
  • Amy Klobuchar: 7
  • Joe Biden: 6

Republican National Committee targets Michigan for 2020, too Jan. 24, 2020

Another day and another investment from political parties in Michigan, setting up what will be a major fight for the winner of the ballot in November 2020.

During the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Florida Thursday, a seven-figure expenditure was approved to deploy 300 staffers across 18 target states. Those target states – of course include Michigan. Other states the RNC is targeting are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The influx of staffers are expected to begin Feb. 1 and bring the total 2020 team members to 622. Those numbers do not include staff at the headquarters and I’m told there will be more waves of staff deployed throughout 2020.

“Fueled by the unprecedented grassroots support for President Trump, we have built the largest data-driven field program in our party’s history,” Ronna McDaniel, RNC chairwoman said in a statement. “It’s an operation that benefits Republicans up and down the ballot, and one the Democrats simply cannot match.”

The investment comes on the heels of the DNC announcing a similar investment in target states – including Michigan. The money, which I haven’t been told a breakdown for per state, shows again how important Michigan is not only to the presidential race, but the parties view Michigan as a place where their candidates can walk away as winners.

While the investments appear to be similar – at least on the surface, again, we don’t know how big a slice of the pie Michigan is getting – the cash on hand is starkly different.

The RNC ended November 2019 with significantly more money than the DNC, according to FEC filings:

  • RNC: $63.2M
  • DNC: $8.4M

Both parties say their investments in Michigan and other states haven’t waivered, at least since the 2018 midterms. Some people who were deployed then have stayed on the ground in these states to build the momentum and help their parties.

One thing – arguably a big thing – that sets the RNC apart right now is that they have a candidate to unify behind – President Trump. The field of Democratic candidates is still wide open, and while it will likely begin to wane as primaries take place this spring, voters are still picking and choosing.

With the rollout of the DNC’s latest push with staff and investments, the party said the goal is to build the infrastructure now and then roll it all over to whomever gets the nomination in Milwaukee this July.

Read more about the DNC’s push below.

The DNC's latest investment shows Michigan is a linchpin in 2020 - January 22, 2020

I don’t think we need any more data to prove how critical Michigan is to the race to the White House, but if you were on the fence, continue reading.

Today, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced a new, multi-million dollar investment into six battle ground state: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona andyou guessed it – Michigan.

The DNC said it’s “in preparation for a general election fight against President Donald Trump.” The spending is part of what the party calls ‘The Battleground Build Up 2020.’ The states on the list are all ones President Donald Trump won in 2016 and signals the DNC’s belief that the states will be competitive come November 2020.

“The DNC is making historic, early investments to lay the groundwork for our eventual nominee to win in 2020,” DNC chairman Tom Perez. “We are taking nothing for granted as we work to make Trump a one-term president and win up and down the ballot in 2020.”

Perez added that the goal with the investments will be to increase the number of field offices and fund on-the-ground data operations that will eventually be turned over to the party’s eventual nominee.

I spoke with Perez Wednesday afternoon on the phone and he said the second DNC debate in Detroit held July 2019, was not by accident.

“We became way too transactional in the run up to 2016 we didn’t show up everywhere. We showed up all too sporadically,” Perez said. “We will continue to be spending a lot of time and resources and energy in Michigan and I am confident that we can win in Michigan.”

DNC aids said the strategy is an attempt to expand pathways for the eventual candidate to get to 270 electoral votes. The same aids said the party has nothing comparable to its strategy used at this same point in 2016, ahead of the election between Hillary Clinton and now-President Trump. The investments will be tailored for each state, and no further details have been released about the new push.

As for Michigan, the DNC views it as an 83-county strategy, according to the DNC aids speaking about the program. They said more staff will be placed in Macomb and Detroit, as well as Battle Creek, Traverse City, Petoskey, Flint and others, leaving no stone unturned.

Because Michigan now has increased voting access, including no-reason absentee voting, the DNC said that will play a role in the conversation staffers will have with voters, pushing voter education as well as campaigning.

Pointing to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s win in 2018, among the other Democratic success, the DNC said Michigan is a prime example of using the top of the ticket [regardless of the nominee] to help other Democratic candidates on the ballot.

That investment and dedication of more staff in Michigan to help the presidential nominee could end up helping U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-MI, who is facing GOP-candidate John James. James first ran against Stabenow during the midterm elections and has since become a GOP-favorite, appearing several times with Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump during swings through the state, both in 2018 and again this cycle.

“We began those investments in earnest in 2017. We were proud to work in concern with the Michigan Democratic Party in the run up to 2018. We made unprecedented investments, you know in the seven figures, in helping democrats win up and down the ballot in Michigan,” Perez said. “The beauty of making those investments is they become a virtuous cycle.”

James has raised more dollars than Peters the last two quarters, but has yet to really start campaigning in Michigan with public events. He made his announcement on Fox News last fall, and then spoke to me about his decision to run again the next day.

Will these new DNC investments – which are on top of the midterm investments the DNC already made in Michigan – help Peters in his bid to stay in the U.S. Senate? We will have to wait and see. Perez said there’s a reason the DNC is making these investments now and he said his confidence continues to rise as Michigan’s role is emphasized in the 2020 election.

“This phase is being launched far earlier than ever before and it’s being launched earlier because I don’t want to waste any time,” he said. “I am confident that this infrastructure is going to be very, very helpful in taking back Michigan in November.”

Iowa and beyond

The renewed focus and push comes a week and a half before the Iowa Caucus - the first chance to see where the candidates stand with Democratic voters and two and a half weeks before Michigan's primary election.

Up for grabs on March 10 when Michigan voters head to the polls - 125 pledged delegates. While Michigan's primary date and delegates are dwarfed by Super Tuesday the week before, with 1,344 delegates between several states on the table, Michigan's primary won't be one to miss.

The final nominee won't officially be chosen until July, during the DNC Convention in Milwaukee July 13-16. If you haven't made your mind up yet, don't fret. There's another debate schedule for Friday Feb. 7, 2020 at St. Anslem College in Manchester, New Hampshire. The debate is hosted by ABC News, WMUR-TV - the ABC affiliate in Manchester, and Apple News.

Moderators: ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, World News Tonight anchor David Muir, ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis, WMUR-TV Political Director Adam Sexton, and WMUR-TV News Anchor Monica Hernandez.

Qualifications: Candidates have a slightly modified route to get to the debate stage this time around. In addition to the first pathway to the stage with polling numbers and grassroots donation thresholds, candidates will now have another route. Anyone who is awarded at least one pledged delegate to the Democratic National Convention based on the results of the Iowa Caucuses, as reported by the Iowa Democratic Party, will be able to participate.

The Iowa Caucus will take place Feb. 3 and 41 pledged delegates are up for grabs. Candidates have until 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 6 to qualify.

Before Michigan's primary though, there will be two more debates in February:

  • Feb. 19 in Las Vegas, prior to the Nevada caucus; hosted by NBC News and MSNBC, in partnership with The Nevada Independent
  • Feb. 25 in Charleston, ahead of the South Carolina primary; hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute - Twitter will also be a debate partner.

If you want to stay up to date on Iowa - you're in luck. I'll be there next weekend through the caucus. Bookmark this blog and check back.

Candidates make last-ditch effort to appeal to voters before Iowa Caucus day during debate - Jan. 15, 2020.

The first debate of 2020 is done and it was filled with the smallest field of candidates on stage and the least diverse to date.

But front and center on stage - the issue of gender. The quasi-feud between Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders stems from a conversation that allegedly took place in 2018. Warren said Sanders told her he didn't think a woman could win the presidential election.

When pressed on the issue Tuesday night, Sanders said it didn't happen.

Regardless of what happen, it put electability on full display as the candidates tried to hash out their differences on the debate stage. And when we talk about electability, we talk about gender and the underlying sexist connotations that come with that conversation.

Warren was quick to fire back that the only candidates on the stage that had won all of their elections in the last 30 years were the women - her and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar rattled off a few other Midwestern female politicians who won recent races, including a shout out to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer - who later made an appearance on CNN to tout her electability as well as the other women at the top of Michigan's government.

The rest of the debate was pretty pedestrian as the candidates really tried to have a breakout moment, addressing caucus-goers in Iowa directly several times. Former Vice President Joe Biden got beat up slightly for his vote on the Iraqi War nearly 20 years ago, for which he admitted to making a mistake.

Moderators pressed the candidates on impeachment as well, for which will press on next week as the U.S. Senate is poised to being the trial now that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has transmitted the Articles of Impeachment for President Donald Trump.

And that brings up a complex situation for the senators on the campaign trial. They will be expected to be jurors in the impeachment trial while also working the crowds in Iowa. That likely means the campaigns will be leaning heavily their surrogates, campaign staff and volunteers to make connections with voters. Warren has hundreds of people deployed across the state of Iowa, and has for the better part of at least a year. But, this is where Sanders could edge ahead a bit; his campaign has had support since 2016 and the Sanders-backers that I've spoken with, are loyal.

But at the end of the day -- the question the country has been having for years arose Tuesday night: is the country ready for a woman president? Warren has been near the top of most recent polls, in Iowa and nationwide. She made the case that she is the best candidate because of her judgement and experience.

Whether Warren is the Democratic nominee or not isn't up to me to decide - it's up to the voters. We'll get a real taste where everyone's chips will fall when the Iowa Caucus takes place on Feb. 3. Until then, the candidates - both men and women -- will continue to make their case to the voters.

First debate of 2020; last debate before the first vote — Jan. 14, 2020

Happy New Year! It's full steam ahead to Election Day in November. Before that happens though, the field of candidates listed above needs to be watered down. That process (besides candidates dropping out) starts in just a few short weeks in Iowa with the caucuses.

Tonight, candidates will take the stage in Des Moines for a chance to make their case not only to the coveted constituents in Iowa, but all of America. It's the seventh debate for the Democratic candidates; and now, six will appear on stage in what will be one of the least racially diverse debates yet.

Who's on stage:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
  • Tom Steyer, billionaire political activist

When does it start:

9 p.m. E.T. and is scheduled to last two hours.

Where to watch:

You can watch the debate on CNN, CNN en Espanol and CNN International, hosts of the debate, in partnership with the Des Moines Register. A free livestream of the event can be found on the Des Moines Register's website.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and political correspondent Abby Phillip along with Des Moines Register political correspondent Brianne Pfannenstiel.

What to watch for:

This debate will be interesting for a few reasons. One, it will be the first time the arguable front runners take the stage since the tensions with Iran escalated. Expect a few questions to be aimed at President Trump's response. But also, impeachment. The word many might have forgotten during the holiday break is back. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated impeachment managers might be voted on Wednesday. That means, the Senate trial is around the corner, which could spell trouble for the candidates who will have to split their time between the historic trial in Washington and being on the ground campaigning in Iowa.

It wouldn't be a debate without impeachment surfacing at least once, but pay attention to Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on stage tonight. The debate will place both of them together after news broke that apparently during a 2018 meeting, Sanders told Warren he didn't think a woman could win the election. Plus, it comes amid reports that Sanders has rejected the idea that Sanders' volunteers were sent to bad-mouth Warren. We will see if tensions are palpable tonight.

The debate comes at a time when these candidates need to break out from the pack. A Monmouth University survey released Monday found Biden ahead, with the backing of 24% of likely caucus goers. Sanders came in at 18%, followed at 17% by Buttigieg, and at 15% by Warren.

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