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September 14, 2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) brushed off a challenge from his left by actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in Thursday's New York Democratic primary, but progressives scored some big upsets in state Senate races. The highest profile of those was Julia Salazar's victory over 16-year incumbent state Sen. Martin Dilan in a northern Brooklyn district. Salazar, a 27-year-old democratic socialism running for office for the first time, doesn't face a Republican challenger in November.

Progressive challengers also unseated six of eight Democrats who formed a now-disbanded Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) that handed control of the state Senate to Republicans. Among those ousted was IDC leader Jeff Klein, who lost to Alessandra Biaggi, plus Jose Peralta, Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara, David Valesky, and Tony Avella. "In 2018, Democratic voters are in no mood for Democratic politicians who get too comfortable with Republicans," said Harry Enten at CNN. On the other hand, state Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who voted to keep the minority Republicans in control of the Senate, fended off a challenger, Blake Morris.

The more liberal wing of the Democratic Party fared poorly in statewide races, however. Along with Cuomo's victory, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul survived a challenge from New York City Council member Jumaane Williams, and Cuomo-endorsed New York City Public Advocate Letitia "Tish" James beat three other Democratic candidates for the attorney general nomination, including anticorruption advocate Zephyr Teachout and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. James will face Republican Keith Wofford in November. Either of them will be the first black New York attorney general, and James would also be the first female elected to the job. Peter Weber

10:33 a.m.

Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano is blasting President Trump over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, suggesting it proves he obstructed justice numerous times.

Napolitano in an op-ed for Fox News wrote that Mueller's report includes "at least a half-dozen crimes of obstruction committed by Trump," including Trump allegedly asking his White House counsel to fire Mueller, something Trump has denied doing. "That's obstruction of justice," Napolitano definitively and repeatedly states in a video after running through a number of incidents described in the Mueller report.

The Fox News analyst subsequently rips into the president for this behavior, writing, "ordering obstruction to save himself from the consequences of his own behavior is unlawful, defenseless and condemnable."

Napolitano also takes issue with Attorney General William Barr, saying he is "wrong" that a person can't be guilty of obstruction if they aren't guilty of the underlying crime being investigated. Instead, Napolitano says, the "nearly universal view of law enforcement" is that any attempted interference with an investigation is obstruction, and the obstruction doesn't have to be successful to be unlawful.

Napolitano summarized the situation in a video by saying that the report concludes that Trump "probably committed the crimes of obstruction of justice but probably should not be charged for them," which he calls a "head-scratcher." The question now, Napolitano writes in his op-ed, is whether Democrats will "utilize Mueller's evidence of obstruction for impeachment." Brendan Morrow

10:23 a.m.

Joe Biden is already proving President Trump's "Sleepy Joe" nickname wrong.

After months full of teases, the former vice president launched his presidential campaign on Thursday with a video tweeted at an absurdly early 6:00 a.m. ET. Sure, most of America was probably still in bed, but that's just what makes Biden's timing a shrewd, agenda-setting move.

With reports already indicating that Biden would announce Thursday, it made sense that he would ditch any pretenses and get the big news out first thing. That timing meant Biden dominated news alerts and publications' morning newsletters, and that he secured a top trending spot on Twitter even as the midwest was still waking up. It also meant Biden slid right into Trump's typical morning tweet storm, which goes on to suggest the president sees him as a threat. Perhaps Biden even took a cue from Trump in that respect, seeing as what the president tweets during his early executive time often dominates the news cycle all day.

Before Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had the earliest announcement video drop at 7:02 a.m ET. He's also — though probably unrelatedly — falling into second place behind Biden in most polls. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) also shared announcement videos in the 7 a.m. hour. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Pete Buttigieg, meanwhile, gave in-person speaking announcements in reasonable mid-afternoon time slots.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) secured some of the latest announcement times, both revealing their runs around 7 p.m. ET on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Former congressmember Beto O'Rourke also came in pretty late, spoiling his formal morning announcement with a text to a TV station the night before. Maybe, just maybe, that could play into why his campaign has stalled in the month since. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:48 a.m.

Will the media make the same mistake with Joe Biden as it did with President Trump in 2016?

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver wondered as much on Thursday after Biden officially entered the 2020 race. The statistician and election expert writes that "there's a case to be made" that the media is "overlooking the obvious front-runner in Biden," instead chasing "shiny new objects like Pete Buttigieg" and ignoring "older, more working-class and more moderate Democrats."

Silver suggests media elites might have the "same blind spots for Biden that they had for Trump," meaning that although "journalists' social circles" may not be chock-full of Biden voters, "that doesn't mean they aren't out there." The fact that Biden's poll numbers have been largely unaffected by accusations of inappropriate touching also suggests "it's possible that the media is underestimating how robust Biden's support might turn out to be," Silver says.

This isn't to say that Silver sees Biden as a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination, though. He refers to Biden as an "underdog" in the field and points out a number of potential liabilities, including his age. Unfriendly media coverage could also hurt Biden, Silver believes, as his candidacy will be seen within the mainstream media as "boring and anticlimactic."

Still, Silver assesses that while Biden is not the "odds-on favorite," he is the race's front-runner, and he has clear paths to the nomination before him. Read Silver's analysis of Biden's 2020 chances at FiveThirtyEight. Brendan Morrow

9:16 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on an island off Vladivostok, Russia, on Thursday for their first summit, Reuters reports. Kim arrived Wednesday in an armored train after saying during a stop en route that he hoped he and Putin could "discuss concrete questions about peace negotiations on the Korean peninsula, and our bilateral relations." Putin said he and Kim discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim wants to denuclearize, Putin said, but he needs "security guarantees" before he can do it. The meeting came after Kim's second summit with President Trump collapsed without a deal on denuclearization, leaving Trump's push for diplomatic progress with Pyongyang in limbo. Harold Maass

8:53 a.m.

President Trump has offered a not-so-warm welcome to his possible 2020 opponent.

After former Vice President Joe Biden officially announced his presidential campaign on Thursday, Trump wasted little time in going on the offensive, tweeting that it has long been in doubt whether Biden has the intelligence to wage a successful primary campaign.

Once again, Trump also used the nickname "Sleepy Joe" and warned Biden the 2020 race will be nasty because he'll be "dealing with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas."

In the months leading up to Biden's announcement, Trump viewed him as his "most formidable" potential opponent, Politico reported in February. But Trump's aides have reportedly assured him that Biden isn't a threat and probably won't make it through the Democratic primaries. Trump has said publicly that he would love to run against Biden, saying in 2018 that doing so would be "a dream."

Biden in his announcement video on Thursday went directly after Trump for his response to the 2017 Charlottesville protests, saying that if Trump is re-elected, "he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation." Brendan Morrow

7:49 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden already racked up two Senate endorsements within an hour of entering the 2020 race.

Biden's long-awaited announcement that he is running for president in 2020 was quickly followed by an endorsement by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), whose Senate seat was formerly held by Biden. Coons in a statement says that Biden "doesn't just talk about making our country more just, he delivers results."

After Coons' endorsement came one from Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who said that Biden "has delivered results for the middle class, kept our country safe and strengthened our standing in the world."

Biden is the only 2020 Democratic candidate who has been endorsed by more than one U.S. Senator, according to a tally by FiveThirtyEight. Previously, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) each received an endorsement from one of their Senate colleagues.

More Senate endorsements look to be on the way for Biden, with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.) having signaled they will back him. Politico previously reported that Biden was "planning to solidify his front-runner status with a wave of high-profile organizing, fundraising and endorsement news when he enters the race."

One endorsement Biden didn't receive on Thursday, however, was that of former President Barack Obama. A statement from Obama's spokesperson praises Biden's "knowledge, insight, and judmgent" but stops short of endorsing him. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports Obama has no immediate plans to endorse any candidate, as he wants them to "make their cases directly to the voters." Brendan Morrow

7:23 a.m.

Joe Biden kicked off his presidential campaign on Thursday as the clear frontrunner not only in the Democratic field but also the general election, according to Politico/Morning Consult polling. In a head-to-head contest with President Trump, Biden draws 42 percent to Trump's 34 percent, an 8-percentage point lead that puts Trump in a much worse position than former President Barack Obama when he was running for re-election in 2012. Morning Consult conducted the poll April 19-21 among 1992 registered voters; the poll has a ±2-point margin of error.

Biden is ahead of closest Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 30 percent to 24 percent, in Morning Consult's weekly tracking polls. Biden and Sanders are followed by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (9 percent), California Sen. Kamala Harris (8 percent), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (7 percent), and Beto O'Rourke (6 percent). The tracking poll covers April 15-21, is based on 14,336 interviews with Democratic primary voters, and has a margin of error of ±1 percentage point.

Biden's coalition is older, more racially diverse, and more moderate than Sanders voters, Morning Consult found. Biden just edges out Sanders in favorability ratings, though his net favorability dropped 5 points from January, a period in which he was accused of inappropriate handsiness. Peter Weber

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