Democrats are replaying the 2016 health care wars ahead of 2020

Image: Sanders speaks during a health care rally
Bernie Sanders at a health care rally at a nurses' convention in San Francisco on Sept. 22, 2017. Copyright Justin Sullivan Getty Images file
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — If you've heard the single payer-versus-Obamacare debate before among Democrats, you're probably not alone.

Indeed, it was one of the central arguments in the 2016 Democratic presidential race — when Bernie Sanders was pushing for his single-payer/Medicare for All plan, and when Hillary Clinton was defending Obamacare.

Guess what's on the agenda for today: This afternoon, Sanders delivers a major address on his single-payer Medicare for All bill.

And it comes two days after this cycle's Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, defended Obamacare and argued that building on it should be the framework for the party if they recapture the White House.

Sound familiar?

And it might explain why Sanders has been losing altitude in the 2020 Democratic race - tied for third in the national NBC/WSJ poll, or down 11 points in New Hampshire, per CNN's new poll.

He isn't the fresh new candidate in this contest.

When you think about it, that fresh factor explains why some 2020ers have caught on — and why others have struggled.

Beto O'Rourke? He was the "it" candidate in 2018. But one year later, he's no longer so new.

Pete Buttigieg? He's definitely the new guy, though his struggles so far with African-American voters have lowered his ceiling.

Elizabeth Warren and her policy-a-day approach? That's different.

And Joe Biden? Not so new.

Blazing a different kind of trail

Speaking of familiar faces, guess who's thinking about mounting a Republican primary to President Trump in 2020?

Former South Carolina Congressman (and Gov.) Mark Sanford.

"Sanford, in an interview Tuesday with The Post and Courier, confirmed he will take the next month to formulate a potential run against Trump as a way of pushing a national debate about America's mounting debt, deficit and government spending."

"He would run as a Republican."

The South Carolina Republican Party didn't greet the news with open arms.

"The last time Mark Sanford had an idea this dumb, it killed his governorship. This makes about as much sense as that trip up the Appalachian Trail," the party said.


Then again, we can think of an idea that can match that one - Trump opposing the sitting GOP congressman (Sanford) in a primary, an insurgent winning the nomination as a result, and the Republican Party losing the seat to a Democrat in the general election.

2020 Vision: Comin' to Carolina

President Trump holds a re-election rally in Greenville, N.C. tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET.

On the campaign trail

Also today, Joe Biden stumps in Council Bluffs, Iowa… Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney and Michael Bennet take their turns at the AARP/Des Moines Register town hall… John Hickenlooper is in New Hampshire… Bernie Sanders delivers his Medicare for All speech in DC at 4:00 pm ET… Cory Booker raises money in DC… And Pete Buttiegieg hits Illinois (for a veterans community event) and Nashville, Tenn (where he raises money).

Dispatches from NBC's embeds

Joe Biden held a health-care roundtable event in Le Mars, Iowa to discuss his plan that was announced Monday. NBC's Marianna Sotomayor and Priscilla Thompson have the highlights. "Biden started his remarks saying that he knows a lot about health care because his life has been surrounded by loss that started in hospitals. However, 'healthcare is harder' to accomplish than any foreign policy negotiation, Biden told doctors and health-care managers. He continued to rip Medicare for All as an unachievable goal in the interim and warned that it could make a health-care facility like the one in Le Mars virtually extinct."

Also on the health-care front, Kamala Harris doubled down on her claim that her Medicare For All plan will not raise taxes on the middle class. NBC's Deepa Shivaram reports what Harris said yesterday in Iowa: "My vision of Medicare will not be about a middle-class tax hike. So I am not prepared to do that at all and in that way perhaps, my position is different from some of the folks who were on the debate stage. But that is not what is going to happen."


Data Download: The number of the day is … four


That's the number of House Republicans who joined Democrats yesterday in a vote to condemn President Trump's "go back" Twitter comments about four congresswomen of color.

The four were: Will Hurd of Texas, Fred Upton of Michigan. Susan Brooks of Indiana (who is retiring) and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

Also joining them was former Republican Justin Amash, an independent who recently left the GOP.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: #RealityCheck

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at just how many U.S. adults ACTUALLY follow @realDonaldTrump on Twitter in real time.


ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

A November 1992 tape shows Donald Trump discussing women at a party with Jeffery Epstein.

A new Washington Post poll shows that Mexicans are frustrated with the high migration from Central America through the country.

Less than a year after appointing her, Planned Parenthood has removed president Dr. Leana Wen.

Amid a scandal and violent protests, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló insists he won't resign.

Trump agenda: On racism and parliamentary procedure

Here's our Hill team on how yesterday's condemnation vote went down.


And here's where things stand with Rep. Al Green's attempt to force an impeachment vote.

Here's how Mitch McConnell reacted to Trump's tweets about the "squad."

Kellyanne Conway is taking heat for asking a reporter "what's your ethnicity?"

The Washington Post writes that "white identity politics drives Trump, and the Republican Party under him."

2020: The Democratic small-dollar donations keep coming

ActBlue announced that 3.3 million donors contributed $420 million through it in the first half of this year.


Both Cory Booker and Julian Castro are struggling to make major inroads with minority voters.

NBC's Gary Grumbach has an explainer about that whole Bernie Sanders/Cardi B thing.

The AP looks at how Trump is complicating life for endangered Republican Cory Gardner.

Another candidate for governor in Mississippisays he won't meet alone with women.

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