GOP's Mark Harris will not run in North Carolina special House election marred by election fraud

Republican Mark Harris announced Tuesday that he will not be a candidate in the special election that has been ordered in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District. Harris, who was the apparent winner in the district's congressional race last fall, bowed out just days after the North Carolina State Board of Elections ordered a new election in the wake of last week's hearing that exposed evidence of widespread fraud in the 2018 race.  

In a statement announcing his decision, Harris said he had an "extremely serious" health condition that would keep him from devoting the time needed to run in the new election. 

"While few things in my life have brought me more joy than getting to meet and know the people of this incredible part of North Carolina, and while I have been overwhelmed by the honor of their support for me as the Congressman-elect of NC-9, I owe it to Beth, my children and my six grandchildren to make the wisest decision for my health," he said, referencing his wife.

"I also owe it to the citizens of the Ninth District to have someone at full strength during the new campaign. It is my hope that in the upcoming primary, a solid conservative leader will emerge to articulate the critical issues that face our nation."

Harris initially appeared to have won the state's 9th Congressional District race, edging out Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. But shortly after Election Day, credible allegations of election fraud occurred, allegations that prompted the state elections board to refuse to certify the election. 

During a shocking, days-long state election board hearing, investigators accused political operative McCrae Dowless, who worked for the Harris campaign, of being at the center of an illegal absentee ballot harvesting scheme. One of Dowless' associates told the board she collected incomplete ballots from voters and marked votes for Republican candidates, while Dowless told her how to avoid raising suspicion along the way. 

Harris had for months claimed that he had no knowledge of any impropriety. But during that hearing, his son took to the stand and admitted that his father ignored his advice to not hire Dowless out of fears that he was involved in illegal conduct. 

In response to that testimony, the state board of elections ordered a new election for the seat, but hasn't outlined the timeline yet. 

While ruling himself out of that election Harris endorsed Stony Rushing, a local county commissioner. 

McCready has said he will run again for the seat.

Deval Patrick wants to be a "bridge builder" in 2020 contest, will accept Super PAC money

WASHINGTON — On the heels of a new Des Moines Register poll showing South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg rocketing to a double-digit lead in Iowa likely Democratic caucus-goers, the newest entry into the Democratic presidential race made his case Sunday morning as a "bridge-builder."

"I have tremendous respect for Mayor Pete," former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said in an exclusive interview on "Meet the Press, "as a I do for Senator Warren, for the vice president and the other candidates who are friends of mine, and who I talk with."

"My entry into the race isn't about them, and I'm not trying to climb on top of them in order to do what I want to do, and what I think I can do."

Patrick added that his record of being a "bridge builder" is important in a time when "the nation is deeply divided." 

The former governor officially entered the race on Thursday, hours before the deadline to file for the New Hampshire primary ballot. Patrick originally opted out of a 2020 campaign — but clarified Sunday morning that he had almost jumped into the race a year ago but didn't because of his wife's diagnosis with uterine cancer. Patrick's wife is now cancer-free. 

Many of Patrick's positions are held by other Democrats currently in the race — he does not support Medicare for All, but rather a public option, like Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Patrick is also not the first governor to enter the race. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is still in the presidential contest, even though he did not qualified for the November debate, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee dropped out of the contest in August. 

The late entry followed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg filing to appear on the Alabama and Arkansas Democratic primary ballots. Bloomberg, if he officially announces an entrance to the race, will not compete in the early primary states, while Patrick will. 

Patrick said Sunday morning that unlike some of his other Democratic opponents, he will not discourage financial aid from Super PACs who spend on his behalf. Former Vice President Biden has also indicated he wouldn't discourage the help of a Super PAC. Candidates like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have sworn off the help of Super PACs. 

"I'm not crazy about Super PAC money," Patrick said. "I think we need to do some catch-up. So I think we've got to follow and find all sorts of above-board strategies to do that." 

Patrick added that he while he wouldn't discourage the help from outside organizations on his behalf, he would want all Super PAC donations to be properly disclosed. 

Cory Booker files for N.H. primary ballot as filing period ends

CONCORD, N.H. — The first in the nation presidential primary ballot is officially set, with Friday at 5 p.m. marking the end of New Hampshire’s candidate filing period. In all, 14 major Democratic presidential candidates filed in person, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to the state to file the paperwork for President Donald Trump and two Republican primary challengers also showed up to file during a two week period that was not without its surprises.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., became the last notable presidential candidate to file Friday morning at the state house. Notably missing from the New Hampshire ballot: former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Democratic hopeful, Mayor of Miramar, Florida Wayne Messam. 

“I love that you all are the first in the nation,” Booker said to N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner as filed. Upon handing over the $1,000 check required, Booker told Gardner he was welcome to donate back some of the fee into his campaign.

This cycle's filing period also marked the 100th anniversary of New Hampshire going “first” in the primary cycle. There has long been debate over whether the order of states in the presidential nominating process should change to better reflect the population of the country, something that Gardner has fought hard to prevent over the past two decades.  

“There will be another filing period in four years,” Gardner told NBC News. He noted that this filing period has had "a lot of excitement, a lot of good will during the filing period and all kinds of individuals, very different status, and they’re all filing the same way. The famous, and the not famous, and that’s been the tradition of it. And this filing period has been very consistent with that tradition and it’s consistent with you never really know what to expect.”

This year's parade of campaigns featured some notable absences — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who had her state director file on her behalf and just before the start of the period slashed her staff in the state and closed all field offices, and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who has shed his entire New Hampshire team and mailed in his paperwork.

And there was a late entry into the race. Mere hours after announcing his candidacy, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick came to the state house in person to officially file to be on the ballot. And while others can still jump into the broader race, like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the ballot for the first voting state has been finalized with the current field as it stands.

Asked about the latest entrant to the race, Patrick, Booker this morning praised having a competitive Democratic field.

“By your metric I do not take it a personal insult that my friends believe that they are the best person to be president,” Booker said. “It is such a good thing that we have a robust competition at a time that we need to make sure that whoever emerges from this is the best person to beat Donald Trump and lead us out of the ditch that he's dug for us and put us in.”

Some constituencies for candidates were surprising. Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg had the biggest and loudest show of force when he was the first to file while the crowds gathered for Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., didn't match expectations.

More moderate candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., had solid but more modest displays of support but that included showings from establishment endorsers, and those trying to surge in New Hampshire like Andrew Yang and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, also had passionate crowds.

Booker’s supporters had a show of force notably stronger and louder than other candidates currently polling in the low single digits in the state, and a comparably bigger squad of state endorsers. But Booker, and other lower-tier candidates, only have 88 days left to translate that support into actual votes had. 

“The favorite moment is the excitement that is there among the people who are coming in with the candidate and the crowds and just the grassroots democracy because that’s what this is all about,” Gardner said. “It’s always been about the little guy, it’s always been about giving the person without the most fame and fortune a chance.”

New Warren plan splits Medicare for All into two bills, preserves private plans at first

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released her plan for transitioning the country to a Medicare For All health care system Friday, splitting the effort into two legislative pushes that would happen over her first term in office, but holding off — at first — on ending the role of private insurance companies.

Instead, she would pass legislation to offer new Medicare benefits to everyone first and then follow up with legislation to end existing employer plans by her third year in office, once the new system has a foothold.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., addresses a crowd outside of the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center in Florence, South Carolina on Oct. 26, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images

The two-stage approach could make it easier to pass legislation and give Warren a hedge against attacks that she would eliminate existing plans, but is a departure from legislation by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would transition to Medicare for All over four years but lock everything into one bill.

“The Affordable Care Act made massive strides in expanding access to health insurance coverage, and we must defend Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act against Republican attempts to rip  health coverage away from people,” Warren writes in a Medium post Friday. “But it’s time for the next step.”

The First 100 Days

The first effort — which would be accomplished through a budget reconciliation process that requires only fifty votes in the Senate and isn't subject to filibuster rules — would establish a "true" Medicare For All public option. This would be free for Americans under 18 years old, as well as individuals below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For others, costs would be shared under this plan, but eventually decrease to zero. Warren would also work to bolster the Affordable Care Act and Medicare programs during this early period of her administration, while also reversing actions taken by President Donald Trump's administration that have weakened the ACA.

Others in the 2020 Democratic field have also pushed for a public option, but Warren argues that hers is the most generous because it would be modeled on the Sanders Medicare for All bill and eventually require no premiums or deductibles and cover essential medical needs along with dental, vision, and long-term care.

Warren released a plan to pay for a $20.5T Medicare For All system earlier this month and she says she would use similar elements to finance her plan as they determine its cost, which would at least initially be lower.

"No Later" than year three of a Warren Administration

The second push — occurring “no later” than Warren's third year in office — would move to eliminate the role of private insurance, save for in a select few instances, and would complete the full transition to Medicare For All.

The plan envisions that, at this point, the Medicare For All option would already play such a significant role in the health care system that it would be easier politically and practically to complete the job. Warren also envisions having passed a new ethics bill by this point, that she argues would make it harder for health care industry groups to rally opposition.

The new transition plan also seems designed to rebut criticism from rivals like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg that Warren has no clear path to enacting her plan and would not work to protect the Affordable Care Act in the meantime. “Any candidate who believes more modest reforms will avoid the wrath of industry is not paying attention,” Warren wrote in the Medium post.

Former Vermont Gov. Shumlin endorses Biden in Democratic race

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vermont Gov, Peter Shumlin (D) tells NBC News that he is backing former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary contest

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Shumlin explained why he decided to back Biden and back him at this point in the race.

“This is the most important election in my lifetime and maybe in American history,” Shumlin said. “Our country is being governed by the most frightening president in memory who is dividing us."

"He's also managed to turn our greatest allies in the world against us, and coddled dictators and thugs who lead countries that we should fear," he continued. "There is no one more qualified to put this country and help put this planet back together again than Joe Biden.”

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, enters the House Chamber before delivering the State of the State Address at the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt. on Jan. 7, 2016.Andy Duback / AP file

Shumlin, who he served as Governor of Vermont from 2011 to 2017, also served as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) He said as governor he worked closely with the White House and  “watched Joe Biden as a key player for President Obama” in dealing with difficult and complex situations, citing meetings he had alongside Biden and foreign leaders.

“What I saw in Joe Biden was exactly what America needs right now,” Shumlin said, “someone who can work with all parties to bring people together and build consensus, and he's brilliant at it.”

In the 2016 cycle, Shumlin endorsed Hillary Clinton for the presidency, over his fellow Vermonter, Sen. Bernie Sanders. When asked why he didn’t back Sanders once again in this cycle, Shumlin said his decision to endorse Biden did not come as a criticism of the other Democratic presidential candidates but rather stressing Biden’s capabilities in beating President Trump and hitting the ground running with the presidency.

“Listen, I love Bernie Sanders, and I actually am excited about the entire Democratic field I think we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the candidates running,” Shumlin said. “But what we need right now is someone who can actually pull people together to get really difficult things done."

"My endorsement is not an indictment of any of the other candidates," he said. "It is an affirmation that right now America and the world needs Joe Biden, and if we're going to win Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, at least three of those four, we need Joe Biden.”

When asked if Shumlin, who has notable donor ties through his time as chairman of the DGA is planning to help Biden’s campaign with fundraising, he said, “I'll help in any way that I can, this election is really important. I'm actually willing to help in any way that the Biden campaign asks me to help.”

Shumlin stressed that he feels the Democratic electorate does not have to make a binary choice when it comes to who they will back.

“I urge people who are concerned about where our country is right now to be passionate and pragmatic, and we can do both,” he said.

Joe Biden proposes $1.3 trillion infrastructure overhaul plan

LOS ANGELES — Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden released a new infrastructure plan Thursday, which aims to create jobs to help revitalize the country's crumbling transportation routes by investing trillions of dollars over the next decade.

Joe Biden speaks at the UnidosUS Annual Conference's Luncheon in San Diego on Aug. 5, 2019.

Biden’s 12-page plan emphasizes how updating America’s infrastructure would benefit the middle class — from shorter commute times thanks to improved roads and transportation lines within cities, to the creation of new modern-day jobs that would be needed to complete all that he proposes.

The plan also includes “green”, or environmentally friendly, proposals for almost every improvement proposed in his plan. The plan lays out ways to build green jobs by prioritizing energy efficient infrastructure that would help lead to his goal of reaching zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

Biden proposes putting $50 billion towards addressing crumbling highways, roads and bridges across the country during his first year in office. After addressing infrastructure in critical need of reparation, Biden — also known as “Amtrak Joe”, for his train commute between Washington D.C. and Delaware as a senator — proposes building multiple high rail systems throughout the U.S., which would eventually connect coast to coast, East to West and North to South. Moreover, he hopes high speed trains will cut commute times from New York City to Washington D.C. by half.

Another $10 billion over a decade would be directed to build more transportation routes in high poverty areas so members of those communities have more access to job opportunities. He’d also create a yearly $1 billion grant for five cities to implement “smart-city technologies” to make cities more green by implementing things like more charging stations for cars and scooters.

The cost of implementing the proposal would total $1.3 trillion over 10 years and would be paid for by taxing the wealthy and corporations “their fair share,” eliminating President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and closing other loopholes that “reward wealth, not work.”

Though the cost of the proposal comes with a hefty price tag, the Biden campaign points out that they will keep a campaign promise that President Trump didn't when it comes to infrastructure. The campaign mocks the president's multiple attempts to hold “Infrastructure Weeks” that have “failed to actually deliver results.”

“Instead, Trump has focused on privatizing construction projects to benefit his wealthy friends, leaving communities across the country suffering and our nation falling behind,”  the plan reads.

 

Deval Patrick files in N.H., addresses Medicare for All and Bain Capital

CONCORD, N.H. — Just a day ahead of the deadline, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick showed up to the statehouse here to file for the New Hampshire primary ballot late Thursday morning. Having announced his presidential campaign just hours prior, Patrick ensured his spot on the first 2020 primary ballot by signing his declaration of candidacy and submitting the $1,000 filing fee at the New Hampshire secretary of state's office.

After filing, Patrick signed the commemorative poster, "With high hopes for everyone everywhere." 

After his surprising entrance into the race, Patrick arrived to the ceremonial occasion with his wife Diane and campaign manager Abe Rakov, a former Beto O’Rourke adviser and leader of Let America Vote, a voting rights group with an extensive network in key early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

“There is a sort of once in a lifetime appetite today to bring big solutions, big enough for the challenges we face — but I think that there has to be more than the big solutions,” Patrick told reporters. “We have to use those solutions to heal us. We have a really, really talented marvelous Democratic field, many of them are my friends, I talk to some of them regularly. And they have made me proud to be a Democrat. But in many ways it has felt to me, watching the race unfold, that we're beginning to break into camps of nostalgia on the one hand and big ideas sort of my way or no way on the other."

Patrick added that he spoke with fellow Massachusetts politician Sen. Elizabeth Warren about the race on Wednesday.

“I want to acknowledge my friendship and enormous respect in particular with Senator Warren. I talked to her last night and I think it was kind of a hard conversation for the both of us, frankly," Patrick said. 

While Patrick does not support Medicare for All proposals, he credited Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for bringing Medicare for All into “a more popular, meaning more broad based discussion.” He added on Sanders and Warren, "Each of them have contributed to improving our dialogue and frankly our ambition as Democrats and that's a terrific, terrific thing. But I think that if we want solutions that last, they can't be solutions that feel to the voting public as if they are just Democratic solutions.”

Patrick said he would be accepting financial support from outside political action committees, — something other Democratic presidential candidates have criticized.

“It’d be hard for me to see how we put all the resources together for an effective campaign without a PAC of some kind,” he said. "I don't know what that is, I don't know where that'll come from, and I wish it weren't so. I wish that campaigns weren't as expensive and I wish that the influence of money that we've seen in Washington wasn't as great as it is.”

Patrick also commented on criticism he's received over his work at a venture capital firm, Bain Capital.  

“I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now … But I do think that capitalism, and I am a capitalist, has a lot to answer for," Patrick said. 

Asked by NBC News about how he would use his approach of inclusion to address gun violence, as news of a  school shooting in California broke Thursday. Patrick said, “I think first of all we have to deal with an exaggeration, really, of what the Second Amendment is about. We can have and should have strong controls to keep particularly military style weapons out of the hands of civilians, strategies for universal background checks and registration, for example.”

Patrick called the New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley this morning — while this was the first time Patrick spoke with Buckley directly, the NHDP confirms that someone in his circle reached out to the party yesterday. NBC News also learned that Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price spoke to the new candidate this morning, and Patrick told Troy he will be in Iowa next week. 

After his stop today in New Hampshire, Patrick will fly to California and then make stops in Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina, Patrick’s campaign manager Abe Rakov tells NBC News. Rakov says that Patrick’s campaign will hire staff in each of those four early states.

Democratic Super PAC expands digital strategy to Arizona

WASHINGTON — One of the top Democratic Super PACs, Priorities USA, is expanding its digital strategy for 2020 outside of the four key battleground states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida) and will now begin focusing on Arizona and key voting groups there.

Priorities USA chair, Guy Cecil, who briefed reporters on the group's strategy Wednesday, said they are investing approximately $2 million to court Arizona voters by “holding Trump accountable, particularly on issues around the economy, health care, wages and jobs.”

That message strategy is already being seen in some of the ads currently running in battleground states, where tax breaks for corporations and Trump’s trade war with China are front and center.

The group also intends to target key groups where the Super PAC says Democrats have room to grow: white women without college degrees and Latinos. To help accomplish that goal, Cecil said his organization will launch a year-long program focused on mobilizing Latino voters in Florida and Arizona.

“Democrats who believe that the only path to winning is by convincing white, working class voters to be with us are wrong. Democrats who believe that the only way we're going to win is by focusing solely on turning out voters are wrong,” Cecil said. “The question we should be asking ourselves is: How do we build the broadest coalition of people who share our beliefs and values?”

Cecil said the decision to expand into Arizona was made after testing their ad strategies in the off-year election when Democrats took control of the Virginia state legislature. The group spent $4 million on local mobilization programs in battleground states in 2019, and intends to continue and expand that for the presidential election in 2020. 

The six-week program “focused on increasing turnout in 2019, building a larger pool of voters going into 2020 ... and also getting a chance for us to learn best about how we need to do our job,” Cecil said. “Unlike a lot of other organizations, everything that we do is tested on the front end and back end, especially when it comes to mobilization.”

Cecil said the strategy is focused on leading Priorities USA to an electoral college win, not a popular vote victory, — which is why the group is focusing on Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, and is watching, but not yet buying, space in Georgia and North Carolina.

Cecil said that while the race is likely to be “incredibly close,” he sees President Trump’s chances narrowing as more voters connect their personal concerns over their economic future and health care options to President Trump’s actions. 

“We are still seeing higher premiums, we're still seeing higher prescription drug costs. All of the pressures on people are continuing to be pressures on people,” Cecil said. “On top of that, they were promised that their tax cut was coming in the mail. Trump made promises … and none of those things have actually happened.”

Deval Patrick makes presidential announcement official with video message

WASHINGTON —Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick made his entry into the Democratic presidential race official with a video released Thursday morning, prior to him filing for the New Hampshire primary ballot later in the day — just a day ahead of the deadline to file for the first-in-nation contest.  

Elizabeth Warren files for New Hampshire primary

CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., became the latest presidential candidate to formally file paperwork to appear on the Granite State's primary ballot, making the traditional appearance at the Concord state house Wednesday.

Walking down the hallway lined with supporters cheering chants like, “Liz is good, Liz is great, she’s fighting for the Granite State!”, Warren stopped for hugs, handshakes and one pinky promise with a young girl before arriving in the filing room.

Warren was energetic when she entered Secretary of State Bill Gardner's office. As Gardner explained the history of the primary and its $1,000 filing fee, she noted, “No adjustment for inflation!” 

After submitting her filing fee and signed paperwork, Warren fist pumped and cheered, “I’m officially in!” before signing “Persist” on the commemorative poster.

Afterwards, Warren answered questions about the two potential new entries in the race, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and fellow Massachusetts politician, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, by stressing her own campaign message.  

“When I've been talking about how we can make this country work better not just for those at the top, I've noticed that billionaires go on TV and cry,” she said, adding, “Other billionaires encourage their billionaire buddies to jump into the race. I believe what our election should be about is grassroots. How you build something all across New Hampshire, all across the country and that we really shouldn't have elections that are about billionaires calling all the shots," Warren noted on Bloomberg. 

Warren said that she had not spoken to Patrick in the last few days and that she’s “not here to criticize other Democrats.”

Happening simultaneously with Warren's New Hampshire filing was the first public hearing in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Warren was one of the first presidential candidates to call for President Trump to be impeached. She told reporters she had not been able to catch up on the first day of the hearings over impeachment, but affirmed her role in the process when asked about impeachment trials potentially happening in the Senate forcing her off the campaign trail. 

“I have constitutional responsibilities,” she said. “I took an oath of office as did everyone in Congress. Part of that oath of office is the basic principle that no one is above the law, that includes the President of the United States and if the House goes forward and sends an impeachment over to the Senate then I will be there for the trial.”

Warren was also asked about the diversity of early voting states and if she was confident she would win the New Hampshire primary. 

She immediately said “yes,” adding, “I'm very glad as Democrats that in February we will hear from voters or caucus-goers in four different states and those four states represent a lot of different parts of the country and a lot of different people. It's urban, it's rural, different issues and it's about the opportunity to get out and shake hands with people across this country and that's where I am.”

Warren held a rally with supporters outside on this sunny but frigid afternoon, giving an abbreviated version of her stump speech before stopping by the gift shop to sign memorabilia and hold a “selfie” line inside.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan endorses Joe Biden for president

WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan Wednesday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president Wednesday morning, saying in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he believes Biden is the best candidate in the Democratic field to defeat President Donald Trump next November.

A one-time 2020 presidential candidate himself, Ryan ended his campaign in October, opting instead to seek re-election to the House. During his presidential run, Ryan campaigned on winning back voters in the midwest who voted for President Trump. He also offered campaign proposals for rebuilding the industrial midwest like building electric vehicles, and bringing manufacturing jobs back to places like his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. 

His message often sounded similar to candidates like Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana who is also campaigning on rebuilding the industrial midwest. And like Biden, who campaigns on being able to win the Rust Belt against President Trump. 

It was that part of Biden's campaign that got Ryan to endorse him in the still-crowded Democratic field. "This election for many, many Democrats, regardless of where you live, is about who can beat Donald Trump." Ryan said. "And the key to that is who can beat Donald Trump in Michigan, in Wisconsin, in western Pennsylvania, in Ohio. And I'm convinced that that's Joe Biden." 

Pete Buttigieg rises to the top in new Iowa poll

WASHINGTON — In a new Democratic primary Iowa poll from Monmouth University, South Bend, Indiana Mayor  Pete Buttigieg has risen to a narrow first-place with support from 22 percent of likely caucus-goers, up dramatically from the 8 percent support he received in the last Monmouth University Iowa poll in August. 

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at campaign town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. on Oct. 25, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

Closely behind Buttigieg in the poll are former Vice President Joe Biden with 19 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with 18 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., trails with 13 percent.

But just 28 percent of respondents say they are firmly decided on the candidate they would caucus for. That opens the possibility for the top four candidates to either extend their leads in the poll, or for other candidates like Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to gain traction. Klobuchar is sitting at 5 percent in the new poll, and Harris is sitting at 3 percent. 

At the time of the last Monmouth Iowa poll in August, Harris was polling 12 percent in Iowa. Since then, she famously said she was going to "move to Iowa", and has laid off most of her New Hampshire staff to focus her campaign on the first caucus state. 

Buttigieg's Iowa efforts, which kicked off with a bus tour, seem to be resonating with voters. Seventy-three percent of likely caucus-goers view him as favorable, while Warren, Biden and Sanders trail him in the 60s. 

While the poll was taken before former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signaled an interest in entering the race at this late stage, Iowa Democrats were polled on Bloomberg's favorability — and 17 percent said they view him favorably while 48 had an unfavorable view of him. 

Bloomberg has indicated that if he does formally enter the race, he will likely bypass the early states in favor of a Super Tuesday-focused strategy.