Biden, Warren and Sanders see popularity wane amid 2020 presidential campaign

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., all have seen their popularity slide over the past 20 months, a drop that coincides with their entry into the Democratic presidential primary. 

Between the January 2018 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and the new poll released Sunday, all three have seen their popularity slide to varying degrees.

All ended up underwater, with negative sentiment higher than positive sentiment among American adults.

Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts embrace after the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit on July 30, 2019.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

Biden has fallen the furthest — he's seen a net 32 percentage-point rating (54 percent positive and 22 percent negative) slide to a net rating of negative 4 percentage points (34 percent view him positively now while 38 percent view him negatively). 

Sanders' net-popularity also dropped by double digits (17 points), from 44 percent positive and 30 percent negative in 2017 to 37 percent positive, 40 percent negative now.

Warren's popularity hardly moved by comparison, but a once-slightly positive rating now sits in negative territory. In 2018, 30 percent of adults viewed her positively and 28 percent viewed her negatively. Now, those numbers are at 31 percent positive and 32 percent negative. 

The phenomenon of politicians seeing their public image slide when they run for higher office is far from new—while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoyed strong support while at the State Department, her ratings crashed down to Earth when she decided to run for president in 2016. 

All three Democratic candidates have better net ratings than the man they hope to run against in 2020. The new poll found President Donald Trump with a 39 percent positive rating and a 53 percent negative rating.

The president and those three Democrats were the only candidates included in the poll. 

A deeper look at the numbers reinforce the significant demographic differences between the Trump base and that of the Democratic candidates. 

Trump has a booming, net-positive rating from white, non-college men of 45 points and a net 4-point positive rating from white, non-college women. But he's underwater with white, college-educated men by 7 points, and with white, college-educated women by a whopping 46 points. 

Among white voters, the Democrats are most popular among white, college-educated women and least popular with white, non-college educated men. 

All three Democrats sport double-digit, net-positive popularity ratings among non-white voters, compared to a dismal negative 55 percentage point net rating for Trump. Biden, Sanders and Warren all score virtually the same with African-American voters despite that voting bloc's heavy preference for Biden in Democratic primary horse-race polls. 

In the pivotal Rust Belt — home to key general election states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio (as well as Indiana) — Trump's rating sits 12 points underwater. Warren is 5 points underwater while Biden's rating is even and Sanders' is positive by 2 points. 

The poll also tested two interest groups that have been in the news lately — Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association.

Fifty-two percent of adults have a positive view of Planned Parenthood, compared to the 27 percent who have a negative view of the group. 

By comparison, 40 percent view the NRA positively, while 41 percent view it negatively. 

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Aug. 10-14 of 1,000 adults – more than half reached by cell phone – and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

Bloomberg takes on Sanders in his home state of Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg drew a contrast between himself and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential campaign rival, during his Tuesday swing through Sanders’ home state.

“I can’t speak for the senator, I can only speak for myself,” Bloomberg told reporters when asked to address voters in the Super Tuesday state who are considering voting for their home state senator in the Democratic primary.

“I'm the kind of person that pulls teams together, I can attract the great, the best people, I can get them to work together. I've shown that again and again and again, that's what this country needs. It doesn't need one idea person, it's a job where you have to have a manager and management is something that you develop over a long period of time. And it's not something you just walk in and say I got a good idea I'm gonna manage, that's just not the way the real world works.”

Presidential candidate, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg greets Jewish voters on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura, Fla.Andrew Uloza / AP

When pressed if he was saying that Sanders is a “one idea” person, Bloomberg pushed back, saying, “You'd have to ask Bernie what his ideas are. I'm not an expert on him any more than he is an expert on me.”

The Sanders campaign has not yet returned a request for comment about Bloomberg's remarks. 

Back when Bloomberg announced his candidacy in November, Sanders accused Bloomberg of attempting to buy the election by sinking his own personal wealth into his bid.

“We say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: Sorry, you ain’t going to buy this election,” Sanders said in Iowa at the time.

Bloomberg has spent over $218 million so far on television and radio ads, according to data from Advertising Analytics, and millions more on digital ads. While Bloomberg has until the end of the month to file his first spending report with the Federal Election Commission, he's said he will not accept individual donations and will bankroll his campaign with his own deep pockets. 

On Monday, Bloomberg said he thinks he is the only candidate capable of beating President Trump in the election.

“I do think I'm the only candidate that can beat Trump because I think the country is, wants evolution rather than revolution,” Bloomberg said. “The country likes an awful lot of what we have, they just don't like the style. And so they're not looking for big change I don't think in anything other than management, and how we conduct ourselves.”

Bloomberg, who is skipping early state contests and instead focusing on the rest of the Democratic nominating calendar states, has officially visited all of the states that hold their nominating contests on Super Tuesday. His campaign ticked off the last state with a stop in Portland, Maine Monday afternoon.

He said he was not following the news coming out of the early states, where he is not on the ballot, because his campaign strategy isn't focusing on those states. 

He added that he decided to run because  “I didn't like what the candidates were doing in terms of their policies. I didn't think they made any sense, that you couldn't fund them, you'd never get them through Congress, and I didn't think they could beat Donald Trump.  So I decided, okay, I'm going to run."

—Gary Grumbach contributed

Trump-aligned non-profit brings anti-impeachment message to Michigan, Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON — America First Policies, a non-profit advocacy group aligned with President Trump, is expanding its anti-impeachment advertising to the key general election swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, NBC has learned. 

AFP has booked more than $350,000 in television spending across the two states, data from Advertising Analytics shows. A spokeswoman with the group told NBC that in total, each state will see more than $200,000 in television spending, and when combined with a corresponding digital effort, the group plans to spend $500,000 across the two states. 

The new ads blast impeachment as a partisan and political act, calling on Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, as well as Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, to oppose removing the president. 

"For the radical left, this is really about one thing: winning the White House," a narrator says in one ad. 

"The left's impeachment scam, exposed. Instead of standing up for America and securing our borders, Bob Casey is standing with radicals." 

Out of the three senators targeted by the new ads, Peters is the only one up for re-election this year (Casey and Stabenow both won a new term in 2018). The ads serve as a way to get the anti-impeachment message out into the bloodstream in states that will be pivotal to Trump's re-election effort (both are states Trump narrowly won in 2016). 

The new ads will air starting on Tuesday, and come after the group dropped almost $400,000 on television ads targeting Sen. Doug Jones, R-Ala., on impeachment. Jones is considered one of the most vulnerable senators in 2020, having to defend his seat in a deep-red state. 

Elizabeth Warren picks up a slew of new progressive endorsements

WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gained endorsements from progressive thinkers and influencers on Monday even as she falls behind in polls to Bernie Sanders, underscoring an enduring divide within the movement in the final week before the Iowa caucuses.

The endorsements — rolled out by the pro-Warren groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Working Families Party, and Black Womxn — include well-known policy minds within liberal circles such as Heather McGhee of Demos, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 19, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

The groups touted more than 75 new endorsements for Warren from current or former state and local officials, including Mayors Meghan Sahli-Wells or Culver City, California and Chris Taylor of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The list also included former congressmen Sander Levin of Michigan and Brad Miller of North Carolina.

Another notable name was Susheela Jayapal, who is the Multnomah County Commissioner in Oregon. Her sister, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal, has endorsed Sanders for president.

“My choice has been between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I voted for Bernie in 2016, and continue to admire and appreciate his fierce advocacy,” Susheela Jayapal said in a statement. “But 2020 is not 2016. In 2020, I’m with Warren. In 2020, more than ever, we need bold policy and advocacy — and we also need a president who can actually govern.”

Those endorsements, part of about 3,000 announced by the groups Monday, come at a critical moment for Warren who has lost ground in surveys and now trails Joe Biden and Sanders in national and early-state polls. Sanders has consolidated large swaths of the progressive community and jumped into the lead in recent polling in Iowa by the New York Times/Siena and New Hampshire by CNN and the University of New Hampshire.

One bright spot for Warren? She’s the top second-choice preference for voters in both surveys.

Moulton endorses Biden's presidential bid

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa —Former Democratic presidential candidate and current Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid Monday morning, arguing he's the right person to lead the country. 

Moulton announced his endorsement in a statement on Twitter that said he's backing Biden given his decades of experience “serving the country, especially his eight years as vice president.” He went on to list several achievements of Biden's career, including passing the Violence Against Women Act and the Affordable Care Act. 

The Afghanistan veteran's statement also argued that Biden "will beat Donald Trump and unify our country after four years of the most reckless commander-in-chief in American history." 

The endorsement is not too surprising given the personal relationship both men have. In the statement, Moulton points out that Biden “was the first person to hold a rally for me” when he launched his long-shot congressional bid in 2014. They have since become friends and Moulton considers him a mentor.

During an interview with NBC News last year, before Moulton launched his own presidential bid, Moulton said he's "a huge fan of the vice president" and that he's gone to Biden "multiple times" to ask for advice.   

Pete Buttigieg releases 'closing' Iowa ad

DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg is out with what his campaign is calling his "closing" TV ad in Iowa that will air statewide through caucus night, just one week from today.

In the ad, Buttigieg says that “It's time to turn the page from a Washington experience paralyzed by the same old thinking, polarized by the same old fights, to a bold vision for the next generation.”

He addresses issues like corporate greed, “inaction” on climate change, and endless wars with photos of him campaigning across the state on screen. The former South Bend Mayor finishes off his closing ad saying that “We need to break from the old politics and unify this nation.”

The 30-second ad, “It’s Time,” is one of four ads the campaign is airing in Iowa ahead of the February 3 Caucus.

In a statement released by his campaign, Buttigieg is advertised as the “president who can rally this country around bold ideas for the next generation and achieve things that have never been done before.”

Democratic group targets vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment

WASHINGTON — Majority Forward, the not-for-profit group associated with the Democratic Senate Majority PAC, is launching a six-figure ad campaign on Monday targeting vulnerable Republican senators on impeachment. 

The two 30-second ads, which will run on digital and associated platforms like Hulu, will run in Arizona to target Sen. Martha McSally, Colorado to target Sen. Cory Gardner, Iowa to target Sen. Joni Ernst, Maine to target Sen. Susan Collins and North Carolina to target Sen. Thom Tillis.

The ads, entitled "Oath" and "Rigged", focus on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's comments on coordinating with the White House during the impeachment trial, and the oath of impartiality that all senators took before the trial began.

The ad campaign marks the first full-throated effort by a Democratic group to run ads in support of impeachment and the trial. Prior to this, mostly only presidential candidates like philanthropist Tom Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg focused on the topic in ads

"Senate Republicans have broken their oath of impartiality and their promise to the American people by playing along with Mitch McConnell’s cover-up,” Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch said in a statement. “By refusing to get the facts and demand a fair trial from the onset, Senate Republicans are putting party politics over principle. Our new ad campaign urges these vulnerable incumbents to do their jobs and demand a fair trial now."

All five of the senators targeted are facing difficult reelection campaigns in 2020. While some of the senators, like Gardner and Collins, have chosen to take a more neutral approach when asked about calling witnesses to the trial or if the president's conduct was appropriate, Tillis and Ernst have publicly sided with the president.

"I think it's so ironic that [House impeachment managers] really hammered in their brief, 'overwhelming', I think they said that word 11 times in their brief, and yet we haven't seen overwhelming evidence of an impeachable offense," Ernst told NBC News on Friday. 

And Tillis shared a Twitter video last week where he called the trial a "sham".

"They don’t have the information, it’s a sham impeachment," Tillis said. "It’s a waste of America’s time, and people in North Carolina are getting tired of it.” 

McSally, who lost her Senate bid in 2018 and was then appointed to her seat, wouldn't say in an interview on Fox News if she would vote for witnesses or not. Instead she said she wanted a "fair trial." 

In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 66 percent of Americans said they wanted witnesses called in the Senate trial. 

Buttigieg goes on the offensive as Sanders pulls ahead in the polls

DES MOINES, Iowa — With Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pulling ahead in the latest early state and national polls, fellow Democratic hopeful and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is sending a message to his supporters that Sanders must be stopped. 

The Buttigieg campaign sent an email to their followers on Saturday asking them to donate to the campaign in order to stop Sanders' surge.

“Right now, Bernie’s campaign is out-raising and out-spending us,” the email states. “If this continues, there’s a good chance he wins the Iowa Caucuses.” 

Hours later Buttigieg’s Deputy Campaign Manager, Hari Sevugan, followed up with an email saying that if Sanders wins the nomination, Democrats will lose in 2020.

“Bernie performs the worst against Trump amongst all major candidates,” Sevugan writes citing the latest New York Times/Siena College poll. Sevugan continues, “In short, we risk nominating a candidate who cannot beat Donald Trump in November. And that's a risk we can't take.”

In sharp contrast to the emails sent to supporters, Buttigieg was reluctant to address Sanders by name when asked if the senator’s candidacy was too risky to defeat Trump.

“I believe that we should be very mindful that one of the worst risks we can take at a time like this is to recycle the same Washington style political warfare that brought us to this point,” Buttigieg said. “If we believe it's important to win, and I sure do, then the best thing we could do is put forward a candidate who offers something new, something different.”

Shortly after Buttigieg made those comments, supporters received another message from the campaign this time via text. Echoing earlier emails suggesting that Sanders won’t beat Trump, the message included a graphic showing Sanders losing to Trump by 6 percentage points.

This comes as support for Sanders has ticked up and recent polling and Buttigieg aims to bolster his pitch as the candidate best positioned to beat Trump. Both Sanders and Buttigieg are campaign in Iowa this weekend, with only days until the first-in-the-nation caucus on Feb. 3.

Klobuchar on Democratic primary: 'I should be leading the ticket'

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar appealed to Democratic primary voters on Sunday's "Meet the Press," arguing that her mix of pragmatism and legislative success is what the party needs to defeat President Trump in November. 

While Klobuchar said she's "ready to support the winner" of the Democratic Party's nominating fight, she pointed to recent Democratic victories in purple and red states to argue that she fits the profile of a successful nominee. 

Just eight days before the pivotal Iowa caucus, she also took a swipe at Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has seen his stock improve in a handful of recent polls and has taken more incoming in recent days from his Democratic rivals. 

"I think Senator Sanders' idea of kicking 149 million Americans off their current health insurance is wrong. That's why I don't think he should be leading the ticket," she said, referring to Sanders' push for Medicare for All, which would ultimately replace private insurance with a government-run system. 

"I think I should be leading the ticket because my ideas are much more in sync with bold ways of getting things done, taking on the pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit public option, having an education plan that actually matches our economy, and the experience of getting things done. I'm the only one in the Senate running left on that stage that has passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat. That matters to people right now."

Biden surrogates hope to take attention away from Sanders dispute in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa — With a little over a week until the Iowa caucuses, surrogates for former Vice President Joe Biden want voters to focus on Biden's electability argument, rather than his ongoing policy debate on Social Security with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

In an email exclusively obtained by NBC News, four Hawkeye state Biden endorsers reminded supporters and Iowa politicos to dismiss “falsehoods” spread about Biden’s Social Security record circulating in negative posts by Sanders' campaign. They claim that the Sanders campaign is currently “spending hundreds of thousands of dollars” against Biden, a tactic also employed by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

“There is no surer way to reelect Donald Trump than by letting Bernie Sanders get away with these false attacks and negative tactics,” Bruce Koeppl, the former director of Iowa AARP, wrote in an email. "The attacks of Bernie Sanders, his campaign, and his supporters on Joe Biden only help one person: Donald Trump.”

The letter comes as Biden and Sanders continue to face off on Social Security, a political he-said-he-said that started last Saturday when Biden demanded an apology from Sanders and his aides for spreading supposed out-of-context videos of Biden. While Sanders did apologize to Biden earlier this week, it was specifically for a Sanders supporter and staffer saying Biden has a "corruption problem." 

The Biden-Sanders back-and-forth has strengthened as Sanders climbs in state and national polls. For Biden supporters like Koepple, former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council president Bill Gerhard and Liveable Communities advocate Kent Sovern, it's time for action. 

“It’s time for the caucus-goers of Iowa to tell Senator Sanders that we’re not going to put up with his malarkey - or his negative attacks," the group said in a note to Biden supporters. 

The Biden campaign has tried to elevate Biden's electability argument this week: They posted a Twitter video, and emphasized in a fundraising email, that Democratic infighting will only help elect Trump, and that Biden is still the most electable candidate.

The Sanders campaign responded in a similar video, continuing to highlight comments Biden made on the Senate floor about Social Security.

In an interview with NBC News affiliate WIS10, Biden said that candidates picking apart statements from "35 years" ago may be acting in "desperation." 

Bernie Sanders faces heat from allies for Joe Rogan endorsement

DES MOINES, Iowa — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is under fire from some progressives for touting an endorsement from Joe Rogan, a popular but controversial podcaster and comedian.

Rogan, a former mixed martial arts announcer with unconventional political views hosts one of the most-listened-to podcasts on Stitcher, an on-demand podcast app. This week, he said on his show that he’ll probably vote for Sanders because the Vermont senator has been “insanely consistent his entire life.”

Sanders’ campaign highlighted the apparent endorsement Friday, prompting a backlash from some liberals who pointed out that Rogan has a history of making inflammatory comments about LGBTQ people, feminists, and other minority groups, along with flirting with conspiracy theories about former President Obama's birthplace.

“Bernie Sanders has run a campaign unabashedly supportive of the rights of LGBTQ people. Rogan, however, has attacked transgender people, gay men, women, people of color and countless marginalized  groups at every opportunity,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the country, said in a statement.

The group added that it was “disappointing that the Sanders campaign has accepted and promoted the endorsement” and called on the Democratic presidential candidate to “reconsider” it.

The progressive group MoveOn.org, which backed Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, went even further, calling on Sanders to “apologize” for touting the endorsement. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared take a veiled shot at Sanders for accepting the endorsement, saying in a tweet Saturday, “There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.”

Sanders allies have defended the campaign’s decision to accept the endorsement, arguing Rogan’s is a powerful voice who reaches millions of Americans on the margins of politics who might otherwise vote for President Donald Trump or give up on the political system entirely.

"The goal of our campaign is to build a multi-racial, multi-generational movement that is large enough to defeat Donald Trump and the powerful special interests whose greed and corruption is the root cause of the outrageous inequality in America,” said the campaign's national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray. “Sharing a big tent requires including those who do not share every one of our beliefs, while always making clear that we will never compromise our values. The truth is that by standing together in solidarity, we share the values of love and respect  that will move us in the direction of a more humane, more equal world."

Bernie Sanders leads new Iowa poll, but race is still a jump ball

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took the lead in the latest New York Times/Siena College poll of likely Iowa caucus goers released Saturday. The poll shows Sanders taking 25 percent of first-choice support, which is up from the 19 percent support he garnered in the last New York Times/Siena poll released in November. 

The poll found that support for former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and for former Vice President Joe Biden remained consistent from November — the two received 18 and 17 percent support respectively in both polls. However, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren slipped to fourth place with 15 percent support in the new poll. In November's New York Times/Siena survey, Warren led the field with 22 percent. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Brown & Black Forum at the Iowa Events Center, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.Andrew Harnik / AP

And Sen. Amy Klobuchar doubled her support in the last two months in this poll. She is 8 percent of potential caucus-goers' first-choice candidate in the newly released poll, up from 4 percent in November. The survey comes after a string of well-received debate performances, and receiving part of the New York Times' editorial board's presidential endorsement. 

The race in Iowa remains highly fluid, with the poll finding that 40 percent of those polled said they could still be persuaded to caucus for a different candidate than the one they listed as their first choice.

And what these caucus-goers are looking for in a candidate is still split: 42 percent of voters said they want a candidate who "brings politics in Washington back to normal", while 51 percent want a candidate who "promises fundamental systematic change." Those are the competing messages of progressives like Sanders and Warren, and moderates like Biden. While the progressives may tilt the scale on that question, 55 percent of voters said they want a candidate who is "more moderate" than other Democrats, while only 38 percent said they want someone who is "more liberal" than most Democrats. 

The Iowa caucuses are on Feb. 3, and the Des Moines Register, a top newspaper in the state, will be announcing its presidential endorsement on Saturday night.