Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters have on their radar, in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast.
1. Kamala Harris’ Iowa plan
Sen. Kamala Harris plans a three-day campaign swing through Iowa this week – part of what her team says is a new strategy to focus their resources on beating expectations in the Hawkeye State.
But is it too little, too late for a candidate mired in the mid-single digits in most polls?
“Some of her advisers say she’s going to be doing the Obama strategy – focusing all on Iowa,” CNN’s Jeff Zeleny said. “But that is simply not a correct reading of history. Twelve years ago, Barack Obama, yes he was trying to do a come-from-behind victory in Iowa, which he pulled it off against Hillary Clinton. But he started there early – and he never wavered in his Iowa plan,” whereas Harris has come to the strategy relatively late in the campaign.
“So now they’re trying to revive her candidacy in Iowa, but don’t believe they’re repeating the Obama strategy. Had she done that, it wouldn’t be a Hail Mary right now,” Zeleny said.
2. Trump’s latest immigration restriction
The Trump administration has found a new way to restrict legal immigration – it will bar visa applicants from entering the US unless they can prove they have health insurance or the means to pay for their own medical care.
The new plan takes effect next month, and New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis said it’s just the latest in a series of steps the administration is taking to make it harder to get into the country.
“We’ve been reporting about some of the President’s more extreme ideas for preventing immigrants from coming across the southern border, everything from shooting at them to digging a water-filled trench with potentially dangerous reptiles inside,” said Davis, who co-authored the book “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration,” which goes on sale this week.
“You have a President who’s really obsessed with this issue who’s grasping for ever more extreme ways to get at what he sees as the problem of illegal immigration,” Davis said. “Stephen Miller, his senior adviser, has really sort of stood up an internal think tank inside the West Wing to come up with ideas to target legal immigration. That’s some of what we’ll continue to see in the run-up to the 2020 election.”
3. Marking one year since Khashoggi’s murder
It’s been one year since journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never walked out – murdered by Saudi agents.
US intelligence officials believe it was at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – but he denies involvement, and US President Donald Trump appears to still be taking his word for it.
“We’ve seen President Trump really rehabilitate the image of Mohammed bin Salman … over the past year, and not really punish him at all,” Washington Post reporter Toluse Olorunnipa said. “He basically ordered this grisly murder of a Washington Post columnist.”
The crown prince will be hosting some of the world’s most important people at a summit this month that’s been nicknamed “Davos in the Desert.”
“We’re expecting the Trump administration to be heavily represented,” Olorunnipa said. “Showing in pretty stark imagery how much the Trump administration has welcomed the Saudis right back into the global stage, so we’ll be watching as we talk about the President’s discussions with foreign leaders, his discussions and his relations with the Saudi government is going to be something heavily in focus.”
4. A trade meeting in Mexico
Impeachment fever has taken over Washington, but some in Congress and the White House still hope to finalize the US Mexico Canada trade agreement (USMCA) – Trump’s replacement for NAFTA.
“There’s a group of House Democrats who are going to Mexico later this week to meet with Mexican government officials and local workers there about the trade deal,” Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim said.
And Kim said House Democrats continue to meet with Trump’s trade team.
“I spoke with one of the members of the working group earlier this week, and she said … the dynamic and the discussions in the room have not changed, we really do want to get this done,” Kim said.
As for the President? Kim said he’s been sounding pessimistic lately about getting a final vote in Congress.
5. Impeachment then & now
And from CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:
History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it can shadow itself.
It was 21 years ago this week, October 5, 1998, to be exact, that the House Judiciary Committee voted to open an impeachment inquiry into President Bill Clinton. The full House endorsed the inquiry a few days later on a vote of 259 to 176.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says such votes are not necessary, and are not planned as the Democratic majority pursues its impeachment inquiry of Trump.
Here’s another difference: Clinton had a 63% approval rating in Gallup polling at the beginning of his impeachment proceedings, and national polling showed clear opposition to impeachment. Trump’s approval rating is just 40%, and polling shows a more divided country on the impeachment question, but with those favoring at least an inquiry on top.
And this difference is giant: President Clinton was well into his second term when the proceedings began. Trump, of course, is just approaching his reelection year.
One more: this time, we will not have an immediate test of how the impeachment drama plays out in voting behavior.
The Clinton inquiry was launched in the final weeks of the 1998 midterm campaign, and Republicans attacked many Democrats with ads linking them to the president and his troubles.
But the strategy didn’t work. Democrats defied the traditional midterm norms that year and picked up five seats in the House. The 1998 Senate races were a wash; several seats changed hands but the overall balance of power remained the same.