Fourth Democratic debate announced

WASHINGTON – The fourth Democratic debate will be held in Westerville, Ohio on Oct. 15, and potentially Oct. 16 if more than 10 candidates qualify and remain in the race. The DNC announced that CNN and The New York Times will co-host the debate. 

The stage before the first Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by NBC in Miami, Fla., on June 26, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

The debate qualifications were previously released after several candidates missed the cut for the third debate. The qualifications for October's debate are the same as the September debate, meaning that any of the 10 candidates on the stage on the third debate will have already qualified for the next one. 

Tom Steyer, who did not participate on Thursday night, has announced that he met the debate qualifications for October. That would make it 11 participants.

The format of the debate has not been announced, but CNN's Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, plus The New York Times' Marc Lacey, will moderate the debate. 

New Iowa ad questions Bernie Sanders' electability, references his heart attack

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Democratic pro-Israel group will start running a television ad here Wednesday hitting Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders that references his heart attack and argues the Vermont independent senator is unelectable against President Donald Trump. 

The almost $700,000 advertising campaign, from the PAC associated with the group Democratic Majority for Israel, comes as Sanders has surged in Iowa days before Monday's first-in-the-nation caucuses. Sanders' strong standing in the polls has concerned some more moderate Democrats.

The ad features testimonials from Iowans saying they’re worried about Sanders’ ability to beat Trump, including one woman who references his heart attack.

“I like Bernie, I think he has great ideas, but Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa — they’re just not going to vote for a socialist,” says one man in the ad. "I just don't think Bernie can beat Trump."

“I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’ health, considering he did have a heart attack,” says a woman.

Democratic Majority for Israel’s president and CEO, longtime Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, told NBC News that the group is concerned both with Sanders’ ability to beat Trump and his views on Israel. Mellman is a longtime Democratic Party pollster who has worked for a variety of lawmakers, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. 

“We looked at the data and saw that he did have a possibility of getting the nomination and we thought that would be a big mistake,” Mellman said of Sanders. “It’s vitally important to defeat Donald Trump and we think Bernie Sanders is not equipped to do that.” 

Mellman said the group had been working on the ad for a “couple of weeks” and insisted it’s not part of any new coordinated effort to stop Sanders.

“We have not spoken with, coordinated, discussed this with anybody,” he said. “There may be some effort out there, but I don’t know anything about it if there is.” 

The ad is one of the first direct negative TV spots of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, which has been marked by unusual hesitancy among Democrats to go after each other. 

Sanders addressed the "political establishment" that is "running attack ads against us in Iowa" in a new video posted to Twitter Tuesday night. 

"The big money interests can run all the negative ads they want, but it's not going to work,” Sanders said in the direct-to-camera message. “Our opponents, they have endless amounts of money. But we have the people and our grassroots movement will prevail.”

Gary Grumbach contributed.

Candidates have already begun spending on TV in Super Tuesday states

WASHINGTON — The early-state sprint is less than a week away, but while candidates have to survive (or thrive in) Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, those states dole out just a handful of delegates candidates need to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. 

Those four states combined dole out under 4 percent of the race's total pledged delegates, while just one week later, 34 percent of the race's pledged delegates are at stake in contests across 14 states (plus American Samoa and Democrats Abroad).

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is unsurprisingly already blanketing those states with television ads — he's spent more than $88 million so far on TV and radio ads in those Super Tuesday states, according to data from Advertising Analytics as of the morning of Jan. 28. 

Michael Bloomberg speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting in Washington on Jan. 22, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

A handful of other Democratic candidates have already spent significant dollars on TV and radio ads in those states as well. 

Fellow billionaire and philanthropist Tom Steyer has spent $9.3 million in ads in California and $35,000 in Maine. 

Businessman Andrew Yang has spent $82,000 in Maine and $142,000 in Vermont. 

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has spent $73,000 in California, $42,000 in Maine and $46,000 in Texas. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has spent $5,000 in Maine. 

Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has spent $389,000 in Vermont. 

And former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg spent $112,000 in Vermont. 

A lot can change during the early-state shuffle, where historically candidacies are made or broken. And candidates have plenty of time to iron out their Super Tuesday media strategies (especially when they're currently putting a premium on success in the early states). 

But so far, Bloomberg has another $3.2 million booked in Super Tuesday states and Steyer has another $2 million booked in California, while Gabbard, Warren, Sanders and Yang each have a small chunk of advertising dollars booked in Super Tuesday states. 

Klobuchar: Voters should 'evaluate' Bloomberg on debate stage

WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Tuesday that she's open to seeing former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg join the Democratic Party's presidential debate stage so that voters will have a way to see how he stacks up against the rest of the field. 

Bloomberg has spent more than $200 million of his personal wealth on campaign ads blanketing the country, but his decision not to take individual donations means he can't meet the Democratic Party's debate thresholds, which include raising money from a certain number of unique donors. 

There are increasing concerns from Democrats that dynamic has allowed Bloomberg to get a sort of free pass where he doesn't have to confront his Democratic rivals on the debate stage. 

"I’d be fine with him being on the debate stage, because I think that instead of just putting your money out there, he’s actually gotta be on the stage and be able to go back and forth so that voters can evaluate him in that way," she said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"Certainly, being on the debate stage for me and making every single benchmark put in front of me has been helpful, because then people get to know me, they can see that I’m tough enough to take on Donald Trump, and they can see how I respond with other people on a stage, and I think that would be really important."

Bidens ask voters to 'imagine' a world without Trump in ads before Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Just days ahead of the Iowa caucuses, former Vice President Joe Biden is asking voters here to imagine the progress they can make together if President Donald Trump is removed from office in his latest television ad.

In the 30-second ad titled “Imagine,” Biden tells viewers to think about all of the reforms within reach if Trump is not re-elected, listing Democratic priorities like improving health care, tackling climate change and passing gun reform laws. 

“What we imagine today you can make reality, but first we need to beat Donald Trump. Then there will be no limit to what we can do,” Biden says.

His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, echoes a similar sentiment in her own 15-second YouTube ad, “Future,” where she asks voters to picture a world where they don’t wake up to a “late night tweet storm” from the president.

“Imagine waking up and the news isn’t about a late night tweet storm and when they show the president, they don’t turn the channel because it’s someone who can bring this country together,” she says.

She goes on to point out that this reality is possible under her husband's leadership.

The Biden campaign has launched more than 10 ads in the Hawkeye State that have largely focused on Biden’s electability and readiness argument — that he is the candidate who has the domestic and foreign policy experience to assume the presidency on day one and can carry key battleground states to beat Trump.

The campaign has also reminded voters of the backing Biden has from the Democratic Party’s sole uniter, former President Barack Obama, in an ad quoting Obama giving Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The ads are a final culmination of the $4 million the campaign devoted to paid media in the state. The former Vice President’s latest ad will play alongside “Threat,” another ad the campaign debuted last week, airing in the top five Iowa markets through caucus day.

They will also play statewide on Hulu, according to the campaign.

Unite the Country, the Super PAC supporting Biden’s candidacy, has also launched numerous ads across the Iowa airwaves in the last several months. 

Warren releases plan to combat epidemics like coronavirus

WASHINGTON — As focus on the coronavirus intensifies, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is releasing a new plan on how to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases and better prepare for global outbreaks. 

Her in-depth agenda focuses on fully funding global health agencies, investing in the development of vaccines and ensuring that health departments and hospitals are prepared to handle potential outbreaks

“The best way to beat a pandemic is to prevent it from starting in the first place,” Warren’s plan says, “As president, I will work to build the foundations that help us catch infectious diseases before they spread.” 

Though Warren does not specify where the funding would come from, a large portion of her plan revolves around funding organizations that would strengthen global health infrastructure. She specifically mentions fully funding the Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the Global Health Security Agenda, which involves 50 countries.

Elizabeth Warren smiles during a rally at West Delaware High School, on Jan. 4, 2020, in Manchester, Iowa.Andrew Harnik / AP file

Warren’s plan addresses fighting epidemics on a global level, but she also ties in a commitment to stop infectious diseases, like Hep C and HIV, in the United States. Earlier in her campaign, Warren released a plan to make PrEP, an HIV prevention drug more affordable and accessible. The plan drew attention from a now high profile endorser, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, who recently introduced Warren in Iowa. 

In Washington, Warren plans to restore a position in White House leadership on health security, one that was originally part of the Obama administration that Trump then removed. She also will create a “swear jar” policy for when drug companies break the law — and the funding from that will go to the NIH to expand development of vaccines and treatments and study of infectious diseases. 

Of note, Warren makes a point to mention the importance of spreading factual information and countering misinformation in the process of combating global outbreaks. She says she will work with the private sector on this issue. 

“Science will once again be in charge at the CDC,” the plan says. 

The focus on science also ties into Warren’s portion of the plan that tackles the crossover between climate change and disease outbreak. Her plan folds in portions of her previously released plans on climate and adds in a focus on preventing spread of disease after natural disasters. 

Warren ends her plan by specifically mentioning the coronavirus, as a reminder of the importance of investing in public health institutions. 

“Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment's notice,” Warren says in her plan, “When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.” 

The death toll from the disease has now risen to 106 people.

Amy Klobuchar drops final Iowa ads, six days until caucus

DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is in Washington, D.C. for the Senate impeachment trial, but her face will be on Iowa airwaves by way of two final TV ads launching Tuesday — just six days before Iowans go to their caucus sites.

“Iowa, it’s time to choose,” one of the ads, “99,” opens before pivoting to highlight Klobuchar’s endorsement from the Quad City Times along with the co-New York Times endorsement that commends her “Midwestern charisma and grit.” “99” seeks to convince viewers that she can unite the party, and “perhaps,” the country — proven by her commitment to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties. 

The second ad, “It’s About You,” features Klobuchar hitting Trump off the bat. “We have a president who thinks everything is about him," she says. "His tweets, his golf course, his ego.”

“But I think the job is about you,” Klobuchar adds as she ticks through common issues that come up on the campaign trail like healthcare, education, and security. “I’ll be a President who restores decency to the White House and gets things done for you.” 

Klobuchar’s ability to physically campaign in the state has hit a speed-bump due to the impeachment trial, so these ads combined with tele-town halls are possibly the only access caucus goers will get to the senator until the impeachment trial is wrapped.

At her final campaign event of six over the past weekend, Klobuchar took photos with various Iowa staffers, joking that she might not be able to come back before caucus — a nod to newly surfaced revelations from former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book that may give Democrats more substance behind their push for witnesses at the trial. If witnesses were to be called, the trial schedule could directly interfere with the caucuses.  

Most recent Iowa-specific polls have placed Klobuchar in fifth place, but an Emerson poll released Sunday evening shows Klobuchar in third place with 13 percent, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with 30 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden with 21 percent. 

Biden leverages Trump's attacks to win over Iowa voters

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — With the Iowa Caucus one week out, Joe Biden reminded voters in the state that they should support him because he’s taken on the most heat from President Trump.

“There's a reason why this man is on trial. The reason he's on trial is because he does not want to run against me,” Biden said. “I hope I've demonstrated I can take a punch. And if I'm the nominee, he's going to understand what punches mean.”

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the North Iowa Events Center on Jan. 22, 2020, in Mason City, Iowa.John Locher / AP

The former Vice President focused primarily on health care, gun reform, and climate change while speaking to the 200-person crowd at the University of Northern Iowa.

On the issue of health care, Biden reignited attacks against his progressive opponents along with Medicare for All, which he called a “catchy idea” that takes too long to implement.

“Well there's an old expression in the long run we'll all be dead,” he added.

Biden said that some of his rivals have failed to tell the truth about how much their plans cost because the prospect of higher taxes “scares the living devil out of people."

“I show how I pay for everything in my campaign,” he said.

Addressing the issues he vows to reform, Biden pointed out that first “we’ve got to beat Donald Trump” to get any of that done.

Biden also touted his electability against President Trump, selling himself as the candidate most likely to beat him because of his support among minorities and across partisan lines.

Having that support, Biden argues, is key to unseating Trump and helping down-ballot Democratic candidates.

He even suggested that if a candidate cannot garner significant support from minority groups, they should not become the nominee.

“I don't believe you can win a nomination in this party and more importantly, I don't believe you should win the nomination in this party unless you can demonstrate … substantial support from each and every one of those communities," he said. "That's what is needed."

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 of 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.