Capuano ahead of tough primary: Democrats will unite against 'common enemy'

Massachusetts Democratic Rep.  Michael Capuano on Monday brushed aside accusations levied by his primary foe, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, that he’s out of touch with his district. 

Capuano has been in Congress for almost two decades and hasn’t faced a significant re-election challenge until this year, when Pressley announced her bid in the heavily Democratic district. The two are set to square off Tuesday in the pivotal primary. 

Pressley has gained traction by styling her campaign as a new direction for the congressional district, while Capuano has played up his progressive record. A WBUR poll from early August found Capuano ahead of Pressley by 13 points, but an upset is seen as possible because of the thirst for new blood among many progressives. 

Chatting with reporters outside of a Labor Day union event, Capuano downplayed Pressley’s criticism of him being out of touch with the district, adding he’s focused on running his own campaign.

“I don't know what my opponent has been saying, I've been busy talking to my constituents,” he said.

Capuano described the primary battle like a family squabble, promising Democrats will emerge from it unified.

“Like all parties, the Democratic Party is no different. We always have issues internally, that's what families do,” he said.

“It's always a struggle for the hearts and minds, and the soul of the party, and once that happens, my hope is that Democrats understand that we have  a common enemy--with people who don't share any of our values.”

He also briefly defended hist past comments about professional football players kneeling—he’s said that he agrees with their sentiment but that the act of kneeling wasn’t productive because it “turned off half of America.” Pressley has said supports both the intent and the action of kneeling as a protest to draw attention to racial injustice.

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. 

Iowa youth engagement ticks up ahead of Iowa caucuses, survey shows

WASHINGTON — Young voter turnout in the Iowa caucuses could surge from 2016 numbers, according to a new poll of young Iowans from CIRCLE-Tisch College and Suffolk University.

The new poll, released Friday, shows that 35 percent of Iowans between 18 and 29-years old say they are "extremely likely" to caucus on Feb. 3. In 2016, it's estimated that only 11 percent of Iowans in this age range attended a caucus. 

Thirty-nine percent of young Iowans who are registered as Democrats or identify as Democrats plan to caucus for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren trails in second for the youth vote with 19 percent, followed by former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 14 percent. Only 7 percent of young Iowans said they planned to caucus for former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Attendees listen as Democratic presidential candidate, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign event on Jan. 15, 2020, in Newton, Iowa.Patrick Semansky / AP

While there's always been talk about the impact of the youth vote in elections, this uptick in engagement could be from mobilization. According to this poll, 72 percent of young people in Iowa youth say they have been personally contacted and asked to support a candidate or a party. This eschews traditional thought that engagement efforts are focused on more reliable voting groups. 

Carolyn DeWitt, the president and executive director of Rock the Vote — a nonpartisan, non-profit group dedicated to upping political engagement of young people — said political candidates and parties tend to focus “their investments and their outreach to those voters they deem are going to be reliable voters who will turn out, and so, the reality is that they are not doing outreach to young voters.” 

DeWitt continued, “We have been seeing a huge increase in youth activism, engagement, and civic participation. In 2018, we saw a 50 percent jump from 2014 numbers in voter turnout.”

Since the 2018 election, according to DeWitt, nearly 9 million people turned 18 and became eligible to vote — which expands a voting electorate that tends to skew Democratic. 

“Youth have the incredible power to decide this election, not just at the presidential level but down the ballot as well,” Dewitt said. “Between millennials and voting eligible Gen-Z, they comprise 40 percent of American voters. If they show up and who they decide to vote for will determine the outcomes.” 

Warren campaign says it's now hit 1,000 staffers across 31 states

WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign said Friday it now has 1,000 staffers across 31 states, gearing up for what they expect will “be a long nomination fight.”

“Our immediate goal is to secure the close to 2,000 delegates necessary to win the Democratic nomination,” Warren campaign manager, Roger Lau, wrote in a memo to supporters — the third of its kind in the last year. “For the last 13 months we have built and executed our plan to win. We expect this to be a long nomination fight and have built our campaign to sustain well past Super Tuesday and stay resilient no matter what breathless media narratives come when voting begins.”

Supporters listen as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a town hall event at a school on Jan. 19, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

While Lau acknowledges the four early voting states, the memo includes more detail on campaign’s plan for the delegate-rich Super Tuesday states and states with primaries between March and June — emphasizing direct voter contact, more than 100 field offices across the country, and grassroots organizers hyper focused on growing the campaign’s volunteer base. 

As the campaign calendar moves closer to the convention, Lau writes, they will be organizing in all 57 states and territories, both with the goal of earning their own delegates, but also of “lift[ing] organization efforts for the ticket up and down the ballot.” 

This later stretch of the campaign also means organizing with an eye towards key general election states — like Pennsylvania. 

Specifically, the campaign plans to keep its staff and offices in battleground states like Iowa even after those contests end, in an effort to “keep building for the even bigger contest in November.” 

And in November — their plan is to close out any possible path to an Electoral College victory for President Trump. 

Warren isn’t the only campaign building out an organization for the long term against Trump. The memo, with its boasts of big staffing numbers and commitment to stay on the ground in key states, directly challenges some of her competitors, like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who scaled up his campaign quickly and across the map.

“We also know that you can't just stand up an organization overnight,” Lau writes, implicitly rebuking Bloomberg, a regular punching bag for Warren on the stump.

Pete Buttigieg gets backing from N.H. LGBT leader

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Pete Buttigieg on Friday received the backing of State Rep. Gerri Cannon, an influential figure in the state's LGBT community as one of just four openly transgender state lawmakers in the country and one of the first elected in the Granite State. 

A supporter of Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., until his exit from the race earlier this month, Cannon told NBC News that she is now endorsing Buttigieg in the Democratic presidential nomination contest.  

“For too long, people have been forced to live fearfully in the shadows or hide their true selves — but Pete is building a country where we can all feel safe,” Cannon said in a statement about her endorsement.  

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the One Iowa and GLAAD LGBTQ Presidential Forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Sept. 20, 2019.Scott Morgan / Reuters

Speaking exclusively with NBC News, Cannon shared why she decided to publicly endorse again after Booker ended his presidential bid. 

“I originally went with Cory because I met him well over a year ago and the two of us had established our friendship,” Cannon told NBC News. “But at the same time, I knew that Pete was also hitting many of those same points — pulling people together, wanting to do good things, but do it with all people, all of us Americans just pull together and make it happen. And so I always took that to heart.” 

Cannon spoke to the “connection” she felt over overcoming obstacles associated with their identities. 

“I guess the best way to explain it is the connection, especially for me as also being a trans woman,” Cannon told NBC News. “When you're looking at people running for office, if you're an older white guy, it's normal to get out and run for office, it's not all that difficult. But if you're a gay man or a black man or, in my case, a transgender woman, we’re breaking the stereotypes.” 

Cannon also spoke to the influx of pressure she felt to give her support to another 2020 Dem candidate after Booker dropped out of the race. 

“It was fascinating,” she said. “My phone was ringing off the hook. Even before I knew that Cory had pulled out, I had a phone call from someone asking me to endorse another campaign.” 

She emphasized that between now and when voting happens in New Hampshire, a mere 18 days away, Cannon feels that Buttigieg needs to “keep doing what he’s doing.” 

“He's bold, he's getting out and talking with people, he's sharing good ideas and thoughts of what he can do for the country,” she said. “Pete talks about the areas that need to be addressed.” 

Earlier this week, Buttigieg picked up the support of State Senator Martha Hennessey, also a former Booker endorser. Buttigieg also received the endorsement last week from U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, the only member of the congressional delegation from New Hampshire to endorse so far this cycle. 

Trump campaign announces re-election rally on eve of New Hampshire primary

MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Donald Trump is set to hold a re-election “Keep America Great” rally here the night before the New Hampshire primary, his campaign formally announced Thursday.

With a flock of Democratic candidates descending onto New Hampshire for the eight days after the Iowa caucus before voting begins in the state, Trump’s campaign has also signaled it will have a heavy presence with top surrogates canvassing the state. 

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, in Milwaukee on Jan. 14, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

The rally will be held at the SNHU Arena in downtown Manchester on Feb. 10, just hours before the polls open. The 11,000-seat arena is where Trump held a rally in August.

The president will also be holding a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 30, four days before the Iowa caucus. 

"Donald Trump's visit to New Hampshire on the eve of the primary is the best thing that could have happened to New Hampshire Democrats,” the state party's spokesperson, Holly Shulman, said in a statement to NBC News.

“With Trump reminding us of his broken promises to Granite Staters — from his refusal to lower prescription drug prices to his administration stacked with lobbyists to his efforts to end a woman's right to choose — even more independent voters will be motivated to cast a vote in our primary and against Trump on February 11th," Shulman added.

The New Hampshire rally will also be two nights after the NHDP McIntyre-Shaheen dinner is also set to be held at the arena, where every 2020 Democratic candidate on the New Hampshire ballot is invited to speak.

Joe Biden gets new round of New Hampshire endorsements

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden is receiving a new round of New Hampshire endorsements Thursday, just 19 days until voting happens in the state, including notable state leaders and elected officials as well as some switches in support.

DNC Committee Member Bill Shaheen, husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is among a group a dozen new backers for Biden in the state formally announcing their support for Biden. In a statement, Shaheen said Biden is the best candidate to help Democrats win elections across the board in 2020. 

“We need a President and a Senate who can bring dignity back to our country and immediately command respect on the world stage,” Shaheen said. “Winning the White House is only half of the battle. In order to change our course we must win the Senate. I'm supporting Joe Biden because he can do both."

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Brown & Black Forum at the Iowa Events Center on Jan. 20, 2020, in Des Moines.Andrew Harnik / AP

Other endorsers include former New Hampshire state Senate President Sylvia Larsen, who has hosted a number of 2020 Democratic candidates in her home for traditional house parties, and was a backer of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"After careful consideration of our many talented candidates, I believe Joe Biden is the best candidate to lead us forward to a moral, compassionate America which restores our faith in the American dream of equal opportunity, access to healthcare, innovation in industry, and  international stability," Larsen said in a statement.

In noteworthy switches of support, Joe Keefe, the former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair, announced his support for Biden, saying, “When we choose a nominee, we need to pick the person who can unite the Democratic Party, unite the country, defeat Donald Trump, and work to heal our divided nation. Joe Biden has spent his entire career delivering Democratic wins and moving our country forward.”

Keefe previously endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) before she dropped out of the presidential race.

Jim Demers, a longtime political operative and former Obama co-chair in 2008 and 2012 is also endorsing Biden. Previously this cycle, Demers was a senior adviser to Sen. Cory Booker’s, D-N.J., campaign, helping to launch his candidacy and gain support in New Hampshire before he dropped out of the race just weeks ago.

And finally, Former Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., announced his endorsement of Biden on this list. Hodes endorsed Obama early on in 2008 and was previously Marianne Williamson’s New Hampshire state Director until she ended her presidential run.

Biden is scheduled to be in New Hampshire Friday and Saturday for his 10th trip to the state since announcing.

Marianne Williamson lends her support to Andrew Yang in Iowa

WASHINGTON — Former presidential candidate activist Marianne Williamson lent her support to businessman Andrew Yang in Iowa on Wednesday night. In a three-part post on Instagram, Williamson said she'll support Yang in Iowa to help him "get past the early primaries & remind us not to take ourselves too seriously." 

While Williamson is backing Yang in Iowa, she said in her first post that this was not endorsing a person, but endorsing issues. 

Williamson also said she supports Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but that they would not need her help in securing their place in the field past the four first nominating contests, and that they are "transactional politicians."  

"They come from a political school of thought — dominated by a 20th Century perspective — which holds that who a candidate is, isn’t nearly as significant as what they say they’ll do," Williamson wrote. "And that’s a huge mistake, because the part of the brain that rationally analyzes an issue isn’t always the part of the brain that decides who to vote for.

Williamson ended her unconventional presidential campaign in early January, after laying off her entire campaign staff. While Williamson struggled in national polls and fundraising, she appeared on two of the Democratic debate stages where she threw her support around harnessing love to defeat President Trump and reparations for descendants of slaves. 

Her campaign was repeatedly dogged though by past comments Williamson made on vaccine mandates and antidepressants. 

Yang responded to the endorsement on Twitter saying that he was looking forward to seeing Williamson on the trail.