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Bernie Sanders has upped his game, but does it matter?

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WASHINGTON — Both can be true: Bernie Sanders is running a better campaign than he did four years ago, and he’s in worse shape to win the Democratic nomination than in 2016.

The better campaign: Sanders has more aggressively worked on his shortcomings with African-American and Latino Democrats.

And today he delivers a speech on why democratic socialism is the only way to defeat to oligarchy and authoritarianism (more on that below).

But here’s how he’s in worse shape: He’s one of some 20-plus Democrats running instead of Hillary Clinton’s main competition.

He and Elizabeth Warren are competing on much of the same turf (see Data Download below).

The 2018 midterms proved that Democrats can win tough races without democratic socialism — look at Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, or Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan or Abigail Spanberger in Virginia.

And maybe most important of all, the Democratic memories about 2016 – the fights with the DNC, the chaos at the Philly convention, the dispute over superdelegates — make it harder to win over a party that wants to move on from that last presidential campaign.

“Loser” vs. “Childishness”: Trump and Biden brawl in Iowa

Trump vs. Biden in Iowa yesterday pretty much played out as expected.

Before departing for the Hawkeye State, Trump called Biden a “loser” and someone who never won “more than 1 percent except Obama took him off the trash heap.”

More: “Now, I have to tell you, he’s a different guy. He looks different than he used to, he acts different than he used to, he’s even slower than he used to be.”

And when Trump got to Iowa: “Sleepy Joe. He was someplace in Iowa today, and he said my name so many times that people couldn’t stand it anymore.”

Meanwhile, here was Biden on Trump: “By the way, I was pleased to know that his alliance with Kim Jong Un where he and Kim Jong Un thought that maybe I shouldn’t be president.”

Also: “Whoa. You know, he doesn’t do any of the right things. Instead he gets up in the middle of the night while he is at Normandy and tweets an attack on Bette Midler? The mayor of London because he’s Muslim. The Speaker of the House who is there with him at Normandy. Stunning display of childishness and the whole world watched.”

Buttigieg makes his case

As Trump and Biden traded verbal punches yesterday, Pete Buttigieg took on both men — directly regarding Trump, indirectly regarding Biden — in his foreign policy speech at Indiana University.

“Faced with this moment of great challenge and possibility, it’s not enough just to say we won’t conduct foreign policy by tweet,” Buttigieg said, per NBC’s Jonathan Allen.

“Nor would it be honest to promise that we can restore an old order that cannot, in any case, meet the realities of a new moment. Democrats can no more turn the clock back to the 1990s than Republicans can return us to the 1950s.”

As Allen reminds us, Biden served as ranking member and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1990s and early 2000s.

2020 Vision: FDR = democratic socialist?

At 2:00 pm ET, Bernie Sanders will give a speech from DC on democratic socialism – and how it’s the only way to defeat oligarchy and authoritarianism.

Sanders ties Franklin Roosevelt to democratic socialism, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks.

“It is the path that I call democratic socialism. Over eighty years ago Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped create a government that made huge progress in protecting the needs of working families,” Sanders is expected to say, per NBC’s Shaquille Brewster.

“Today in the second decade of the 21st century we must take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion. This is the unfinished business of the Democratic Party and the vision we must accomplish.”

Historians, however, point out that FDR was a capitalist, though he believed capitalism needed to be saved after the Great Depression.

FDR also was criticized from the left — hello, Huey Long — for the New Deal not going far enough.

And as the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reminds us, Roosevelt had a socialist opponent in 1932 and 1936: Norman Thomas.

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden remains in Iowa, traveling to Eldridge and Clinton before hitting a fundraiser in Chicago… Bernie Sanders delivers his address on democratic socialism in DC… Jay Inslee stumps in New Hampshire… Beto O’Rourke appears on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert… And Eric Swalwell discusses gun violence in Las Vegas.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 29 percent

Twenty-nine percent.

That’s the share of support that both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are pulling from Democratic primary voters who describe themselves as “very liberal” in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

That’s compared with 16 percent of very liberal Democrats who say they support Joe Biden and 12 percent who support Pete Buttigieg.

It’s been apparent that Warren and Sanders are battling over voters in the same progressive lane, but the fact that they’ve got exactly the same share of support in the progressive wing of the party hammers home that neither has a lock on them yet.

Sanders does lead Warren and the rest of the Democratic pack among voters under 50, pulling about 32 percent support, compared with 18 percent for Biden and 16 percent for Warren.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: The times … they are a-changin’

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we took a look at new polling that shows how Americans’ views of gender and transgender rights are evolving (fast.)

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Trump may be having second thoughts about his proposed choice of Patrick Shanahan as the next Defense Secretary.

Representatives of 22 different foreign governments have spent money at Trump properties, according to a new NBC News review.

What’s going on with the protests in Hong Kong?

Donald Trump Jr. will be interviewed behind closed doors by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And Jon Stewart is in the news for his criticism of no-show lawmakers at a 9/11 victims fund hearing.

Trump agenda: What’s going on?

Trump has been boasting about a new deal with Mexico. The New York Times lays out what we know and don’t know about what’s going on.

AG William Barr says he’ll tell the president to assert executive privilege for documents in the Census fight if the House holds him in contempt.

POLITICO profiles new White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

The Washington Post asks: What does Trump really think about what he calls “the I-word.”

2020: Beto’s new plan

Beto O’Rourke is proposing a new plan to protect LGBTQ rights.

Kamala Harris says her DOJ would have “no choice” but to pursue obstruction charges against Trump.

Pete Buttigieg says he’s work for repeal of the post-9/11 war powers resolution.

Democratic candidates are joining striking fast-food workers this week.



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Children not exempt from Trump’s toughest asylum policy, officials say

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Following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Trump administration to go forward with its toughest asylum policy to date, officials from the Department of Justice and Homeland Security on Friday detailed how they would begin enforcement, including by turning back children who arrive at the southern border without their parents.

The new policy would make asylum seekers ineligible if they passed through another country on their way to the United States and did not first seek asylum there. The officials said they will return immigrants who arrived in the U.S. on or after July 16 to their home countries if they cannot prove they sought asylum elsewhere.

Immigration and human rights advocates have decried the policy, claiming it is in violation of the international right to claim asylum regardless of how one arrives in the country where they are seeking protection. Those arguments are still playing out in lower courts, which could ultimately end in the policy’s reversal.

Even if asylum seekers are denied protection by another country, they are still eligible to apply in the United States, a DHS official said, if they can prove they tried to seek it elsewhere.

The officials said unaccompanied migrant children are awarded some additional protections, but will not be exempt from the rule.

Some exceptions do apply. For example, if an asylum seeker can prove to U.S. authorities that he or she has a fear of torture if returned home, they would be allowed to seek protection under the Convention Against Torture in the United States. Immigrants can also appeal their deportation decisions to an immigration judge.

The Trump administration has said the new policy is necessary to weed out asylum claims that are not likely to end in a favorable decision in court. Currently, the majority of initial claims for asylum are accepted but then ultimately denied by a judge. Due to a court backlog of over 400,000 asylum claims, many asylum seekers live in the United States for years before their court date or do not show up for their hearing.

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Julián Castro accused Joe Biden of ‘forgetting.’ Did he go too far?

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HOUSTON — Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro was looking for a boost to his presidential campaign when he took a jab at front-runner Joe Biden in a clash over health care in Thursday night’s debate, but the remark has since made him the target of heated criticism over whether he took a disrespectful shot at an elder candidate.

“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro asked Biden, making many viewers wonder whether he was questioning the former vice president’s mental acuity. “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?”

Following the debate, Biden’s advisers hit hard on Castro’s comments, saying he hadn’t learned the lessons of previous attacks on Biden — that they backfire. “It was a cheap shot and a question Castro should answer,” said Anita Dunn, a Biden adviser.

Maya Rupert, Castro’s campaign manager, said the campaign was concerned about the backlash and disputed the suggestion that Castro was implying something about Biden’s fitness. She said Castro would have offered the same critique to anyone who did what Biden did, “making the mistake and then doubling down and saying he didn’t say what he just said.”

“Anyone who reverses their position like that on stage in real time would have been open to that type of criticism on stage,” Rupert said. “You are literally forgetting what you said. The idea that he crossed some line, I don’t think that’s fair.”

The campaign also thought it was a fair strike at Biden’s health insurance plan and whether it covers people who lose their health care when they lose their job. NBC News took a close look at the exchange, finding the two candidates were largely talking past each other. Castro articulated a real divide on policy, but Biden described his plan largely accurately.

Disrespect or fair shot?

Nonetheless, many viewers said Castro went too far.

Gerson Borrero, a longtime New York City political commentator and columnist, said he was “disappointed” over the comments.

“In a cultural way, it shocked me,” Borrero said. “We respect our elders — there may be a point where we smile at their ‘disparates’ (gaffes), but at the same time we stay respectful.”

“He could have turned it around and asked Biden to clear things up and said, ‘I’m confused,’” said Borrero, who found it “troubling that Julián was disconnected to the audience reaction,” referring to the audible “ooooo” that reverberated through the room when Castro made the comment to Biden.

Throughout his campaign, Castro frequently talks about his grandmother, often reverentially, when he speaks about health care challenges and other issues; she helped raise him.

University of Maryland political scientist Stella Rouse said Castro “went somewhere where he didn’t need to go.”

“I think it will do more to turn people off — I don’t think he did himself any favors and I don’t think it will move the needle a lot,” said Rouse, adding that many Latinos like Biden.

Others saw the exchange differently.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who is backing Kamala Harris, said after the debate that Castro decided to make sure he was relevant to the debate and “he found an opening and he took it.”

Castro’s defenders also questioned whether the criticism he got was tinged with some racial bias.

Mayra Macias, executive director of Latino Victory Fund, which has endorsed Castro and works to get Latinos elected to public office, said Castro’s role in the primary campaign has been to push the conversations deeper and hold candidates accountable. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has done it many times and escaped attack, Macias said, as have other candidates.

“When a brown man is calling out a prominent white man, why is there this backlash that I don’t think would have happened if Senator Sanders was the one telling Vice President Biden if he forgot?” Macias said.

The backlash contrasts with the swing Castro took at Texas rival Beto O’Rourke when he chided him in the first debate for failing to do his homework on immigration. That clash was seen as Castro’s breakout moment and contributions to his campaign spiked.



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Tory civil war: Cameron reveals shock text to Brexiteer frontbencher: ‘Don’t be a w**ker!'

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DAVID CAMERON has revealed a furious text message he sent to a Tory cabinet member who refused to be moved as part of the 2014 reshuffle.

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