Kamala Harris scores endorsement from Iowa's Asian-Latino Coalition

DES MOINES, Iowa — After a just-finished five-day bus tour through the state, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., rolled away with one of the biggest endorsements in the Iowa caucus to date Monday from the state's Asian-Latino Coalition.  

The decision to endorse Harris was “contentious” and not unanimous among the coalition's board members, according to the group's chairperson, Prakash Kopparapu, who said that, in the end, “her message is what works best for everyone, it’s balanced really well. And she’s convinced all the members that she has the strength and the personality to beat Donald Trump.” 

“I am honored,” Harris said in a statement, adding that the coalition's "mission and values of equality and justice are the same values I am fighting for in this campaign. I am thankful I will have the coalition’s organization strength in my corner as we head toward February.” 

The group boasts 400 members of diverse backgrounds, in addition to a large membership of caucasian voters who regularly attend candidate events, which have become a key stop for presidential hopefuls early in their campaigns.

Fourteen candidates spoke at Asian-Latino Coalition events during various Iowa swings, with Harris, Klobuchar, and Yang making multiple stops. Notably, neither Elizabeth Warren nor Bernie Sanders visited with the group, and therefore were not eligible for the endorsement. 

Amidst dancing to Sister Sledge and the Cupid Shuffle, members had the chance to cast their paper ballots for the endorsement, picking up to four candidates. After Harris, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Min., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. clinched the top four spots. The board of directors deliberated for about half an hour before settling on Harris. 

“When elections are close, the Asian and Latino vote makes a difference,” former Iowa state legislator Swati Dandekar told NBC News, “We saw that in 2018 and we are going to see that in 2020.” 

Dandekar personally endorsed Klobuchar earlier Monday, and credited growing excitement in the coalition to members who have recently become citizens and are preparing to vote for the first time. The demographics of the coalition make up a small sliver of Iowa’s population, with Latino voters representing 6 percent, and Asian Americans at 2.6 percent, according to the Iowa state data center. 

Iveth Mehta, an immigrant from Panama, voted for Harris as one of her four choices Friday evening. She said the California Democrat would match up well against President Donald Trump.

“With her background, being an attorney,” Iveth told NBC News, “I think she really can make a really good run against Donald Trump.”

Her husband, Nadir Mahta — an immigrant from Pakistan — also chose Harris as one of his top four, mentioning his desire to see everyone to be treated equally in the United States. 

“We need to find somebody who will be able to win in 2020. That’s the main thing. I have been a citizen for 35 years and I have to look over my shoulder because you never know. Look what happened in El Paso, what happened in Dayton, Ohio.” Nadir said.

“We just want to be treated like everybody else, like we’re a part of this community” Iveth added. 

Michael Bloomberg releases medical assessment on health

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg released a recent assessment from his doctor on Thursday, deeming the 77-year-old to be in “outstanding health.” While Bloomberg has had some health issues, for instance atrial fibrillation, those are currently controlled with medicine.

Michael Bloomberg waits to address a news conference after launching his presidential bid in Norfolk, Va., on Nov. 25, 2019.Joshua Roberts / Reuters file

The release comes at a time where fellow 2020 candidates have pushed each other on transparency. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70,  — a fellow 2020 septuagenarian — released a similar medical assessment last week. Former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, have yet to release their own health updates this cycle. 

Dr. Stephen Sission of John Hopkins University saw Bloomberg in July 2019 and said in his statement, "Mr. Bloomberg is a 77-year-old man in outstanding health. There are no medical concerns, present or looming, that would prevent him from serving as President of the United States."

Sisson pointed out a few other things in his assessment of Bloomberg: 

  • Bloomberg had a coronary stent put in in 2000.
  • He takes a blood thinner and medication to control his cholesterol.
  • He’s had small skin cancers removed.

Trump campaign says impeachment has 'ignited a flame' under the Trump base

ARLINGTON, Va. — As the House Judiciary Committee debated the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Thursday morning, his senior campaign officials were across the river in Virginia arguing the nearly two and a half month long inquiry has motivated Republicans so fiercely that it “makes our job easier in some ways.”

Pointing to increases in recent fundraising and new volunteers, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale claimed that “pretty much every metric that we have” shows that the president’s base is so “frustrated” and “upset” that Democrats have “ignited a flame underneath” them with the election less than a year away.

“Any time he’s attacked, any time people try to lessen that he’s a legitimate president in any way, his voters fight back. And I think that that is a motivation,” Parscale told reporters at a 2020 briefing near their campaign headquarters in Rosslyn, Va.

That said, senior campaign officials conceded they certainly would rather not have the president impeached because they firmly believe he “did nothing wrong.” They pointed to recent campaign polling in congressional districts of vulnerable Democrats as evidence that more moderate politicians in swing districts who vote for impeachment may be voted out of office come November.

Parscale also said impeachment has helped the campaign fill up rallies easier and that interest is at an all-time high with some events garnering 80,000 to 100,000 signups for arenas that won’t accommodate more than 20,000 (at most). That level of interest, especially from potentially new voters, also helps the campaign suck up first-party data that will be critical to reaching additional voters for potential re-election.

Officials argued they are also seeing a trend in recent months from certain independent voters in battleground states who view impeachment unfavorably and see the House Democrats’ latest actions as overreach. The Trump campaign hopes to capitalize on this in at least 17 states they have identified over the next year.

“We’re really proud of where we are but we’re going to run every day like we’re behind in this race and we’re going to work very hard to try to take advantage of everything possible to get the president a chance to win re-election,” a senior aide said.

Booker campaign plans way forward without appearing at December debate

MANCHESTER, N.H. — On a campaign call with reporters Thursday morning, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign manager Addisu Demissie confirmed that while Booker will not appear on the December debate stage, the campaign still sees a path forward. 

“We are not expecting to meet the four-poll threshold or being on the debate stage at this point,” said Demissie.

Cory Booker speaks during the 2020 Gun Safety Forum hosted by gun control activist groups Giffords and March for Our Lives at Enclave on Oct. 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nev.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Demissie critically noted that there have only been four qualifying polls in the few weeks since the November debate, none of which were from one of the first four early states where the Booker campaign says it has focused its investment.

“We still see a path to victory in the Democratic nomination that does not include the December debate stage as a requirement,” he said.

In order to qualify for the December debate, candidates had to reach a polling threshold with 4 percent support in at least four national or early state polls, or 6 percent support in at least two early state polls. Booker did not meet either of those thresholds. The campaign did, however, says it did meet the donor threshold which requires candidates to raise money from at least 200,000 unique donors. Candidates have until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday to qualify.

The campaign had previously stated that not making the December debate stage would prompt reevaluation of the campaign's paths and resources. But Demissie cited the following as reasons for a way forward: a financial upswing in past couple of weeks, changes to the 2020 field, increased voter attention and strong ground organization. This is the first debate Booker will not appear at in the cycle. 

Demissie took a dig at the two billionaires in the race for buying "name recognition and polling bumps." Philanthropist Tom Steyer qualified for the debate, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not. Bloomberg is not raising money from individual donors but registered at 5 percent in two national polls. 

Instead of heading to California for the sixth Democratic debate on Dec. 19, Booker will campaign in Nevada next Wednesday before kicking off a bus tour in Iowa on debate day. The multi-day tour will be open to the press and on the record like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg'sformer Vice President Joe Biden's and businessman Andrew Yang's bus tours.

The campaign announced it will also "soon be making a down payment” on a TV and digital ad buy in Iowa starting at half a million dollars to double down on its efforts in the Hawkeye state. 

Booker's campaign said it has raised more than $3 million since the Nov. 20 debate, with Demissie indicating this is likely to be the candidate’s best fundraising quarter yet.

Asked if Booker would open fundraisers to the press and disclose bundlers, Demissie told a reporter, “Sure, yeah, wanna come this weekend?” adding the campaign has been working on disclosing its bundlers. 

While the December debate will likely be the last Democratic debate before the impeachment trial in the Senate begins, the Booker campaign confirmed that Booker still plans to be in Washington D.C. for the trial and “will do his job no matter the consequences.”

Progressive climate group Sunrise Movement looks to topple three Democratic congressmen

WASHINGTON — The progressive climate group Sunrise Movement is endorsing a slate of insurgent candidates in Democratic primaries Wednesday, the group told NBC News. 

The youth-led group, which has made a name for itself since launching in 2017 with confrontational tactics and vocal support for the Green New Deal, is backing three insurgents hoping to defeat entrenched Democratic congressmen, as well as supporting a congressional candidate in a battleground Texas district currently held by a Republican.

The group is throwing its support behind 26-year-old Robert Emmons Jr., who is challenging longtime Chicago Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush. A young former President Barack Obama, in his first political campaign, unsuccessfully challenged Rush in a primary in 2000.

Sunrise is also backing Marie Newman, who is taking her second run at Chicago-area Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the last Democrats in Congress to oppose abortion rights. 

And it's endorsing Morgan Harper, a former lawyer for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who is challenging Ohio Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty.

Meanwhile, the group is also hoping for success in a swing district that is expected to be targeted by both parties next year: Texas’ 10th Congressional District, currently held by GOP Rep. Michael McCaul. Sunrise is backing Mike Siegel, who ran an under-funded campaign in last year’s midterms and came within 5 percentage points of McCaul. Next year, though, Siegel is likely to face competition for his party’s nomination.

The group previously endorsed Jessica Cisneros, who is running against moderate Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas. 

Sunrise, which has focused its activism on pushing Democrats to be more aggressive in confronting climate change, says its candidates will take action that it says establishment-backed ones won't. 

“The scientists are telling us that 2020 is our last opportunity to elect climate leaders that will immediately enact bold, transformational action over the course of the next decade to save our planet. Meanwhile, establishment politicians of both parties are complacent,” said Evan Weber, Political Director of Sunrise Movement. “These insurgent campaigns are a clear indicator of the appetite for an entire new way of doing things.”

Andrew Yang criss-crosses Iowa in bus tour

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — Businessman Andrew Yang embarked on a five-day bus tour across Iowa on Tuesday. The tour, billed "A New Way Forward" started in Des Moines and will travel through Grinnell, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Ames, Waverly, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dubuque and Iowa City.

While on the bus tour, Yang will visit some of his new field offices in Grinnell and Dubuque, and attend events like “Bowling with Andrew Yang” in Davenport and playing basketball against IA-4 congressional candidate J.D. Scholten.

Yang is following the footsteps of other Democratic presidential contenders who went on bus tours to strengthen their foothold in Iowa like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden. California Sen. Kamala Harris also completed a bus tour of Iowa before suspending her presidential campaign

Yang told reporters that he hopes this bus tour will allow him to not only meet Iowans but to have Iowans meet him and get to know him better.

“What I hope they learn from me is that I'm not a career politician so much as I am a citizen,” Yang said. “I'm a parent and a patriot who decided that we need to have a different approach to solving these problems and that the feedback mechanism between the people of Iowa and Washington, D.C. is broken.”

Yang kicked off the tour in Des Moines in front of the state capitol building in sub-freezing temperatures. Yang campaign staffers set up gas-powered heat lamps and handed out hand warmers to keep Yang supporters warm.

“This is the sort of passion and humanity that no amount of money can buy and there will be a couple other candidates who tried,” Yang said to the crowd. “But if you have money on one side and people on the other, I think people win every day of the week.”

Democratic Presidential hopeful Andrew US entrepreneur Andrew Yang speaks on-stage during the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in San Francisco on Aug. 23, 2019.Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images file

On Tuesday, Yang appeared to qualify for the next Democratic primary debate on Dec. 19. As of now, Yang is the only person of color to qualify for the stage. Yang said he was proud, but not stressed, of being the only racial minority on stage.  

“I don't feel undue discomfort, because I've been the lone person of color in any number of settings throughout my life and career, as is probably the case for many people of color who’ve been in certain environments,” Yang said. “So I'm proud, but I certainly don't feel any undue pressure.”

“And I think people will understand that I'm speaking from my own perspective,” Yang added. “I can't speak for every community of color. In a way, acknowledging that might be like one of the bigger responsibilities I might have.”

Yang's wife, Evelyn, will join him throughout the bus tour and his family will be hosting an event billed “An Honest Conversation About Autism” in Iowa city on Saturday. One of Yang’s sons is autistic.

Over the course of five days, Yang is hosting 14 events. When asked if campaigning has been taking a toll on him, Yang said that campaigning can be very difficult on both him and his family.

“It's been very hard on the family, and it's been hard on me personally,” Yang said. “My son, even for this trip he said to me, how long are you going away? And when I told him he was very sad and I hugged him.”

“And I told him a little while ago, daddy has a very big deadline," Yang added. “I told him the deadline is February 3rd, when voting starts here in Iowa.”

Joe Biden releases two immigration-focused plans

LAS VEGAS — Former Vice President Joe Biden released two new immigration-focused policy plans on Wednesday —  the first highlighting and building upon the work he did in former President Barack Obama's administration to help curb migration from Central America, and the second proposing immediate ways to undo President Donald Trump’s policies.

Biden’s two plans come after the campaign has tried to increase its outreach to Hispanic communities in recent weeks, like launching "Todos Con Biden." However, the campaign has had to overcome activists protesting his role in standing alongside Obama-era policy to deport 3 million undocumented immigrants and pitching more moderate immigration policies than some of his opponents.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Nashua, N.H., on Dec. 8, 2019.Cheryl Senter / AP

The two plans include a first 100 days component in which Biden will undo what senior campaign advisers describe as “horrific” and “cruel and senseless” policies enacted by President Trump like the separation of parents and children at the border. He would also end for-profit detention centers.

The immigration plan promises to reform the asylum system, surge humanitarian resources to the border, end Trump’s Muslim ban and review Temporary Protected Status for those who have fled a violent country. It would also end the Trump-declared “national emergency” being used to redirect federal dollars to build the border wall. 

Biden also pledges to reinstate the DACA program, which would immediately protect and expand opportunities for DREAMers — or adults who migrated to the U.S. as young children. He will also search for “all legal options” to protect their parents, a move activists have previously blamed him and Obama for initially causing family separation. Last week on the campaign trail, Biden said he would look to revive the DAPA program even though it was struck down by the court.

However, it would require legislation to pave a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

After the first 100 days, a Biden administration would spend his first year in office trying to tackle “four pillars”: legislative immigration reform, strengthen communities, steps to secure the border in a sensible manner and focus on the causes of migration in Central America. 

Notably, Biden's plan breaks with some of his Democratic opponents who have called for restructuring if not abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Biden instead calls for increased training and oversight of ICE and Customs and Border Protection.  

Biden often touts his ability to curb the swell of immigration from Central America after striking a deal between El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, also known as the Northern Triangle, by providing economic resources to strengthen their judicial systems and combat violence.

His new plan would redirect spending from the Department of Human Services budget, currently used on detaining asylum seekers, and commit $4 billion over four years on a Central American regional strategy.

Andrew Yang meets polling threshold for December debate in new poll

WASHINGTON – Businessman Andrew Yang appears to have qualified to participate in the December Democratic debate after reaching 4 percent support in a newly-released Quinnipiac University national poll

His campaign says it has already met the threshold for fundraising for unique donors also necessary for the DNC's criteria for participation in the debate. The final slate of participants won't be official until the Democratic National Committee certifies who has qualified. 

Democratic presidential candidate businessman Andrew Yang speaks during a fundraiser for the Nevada Democratic Party on Nov. 17, 2019, in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP file

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is still waiting for one more poll to put her on the debate stage, but only garnered 2 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. 

Gabbard tweeted on Monday that she wouldn’t participate in the December debate regardless of whether she qualifies. 

To participate in the Dec. 19 debate, candidates need to raise money from at least 200,000 unique donors and either hit 4 percent in four national sanctioned polls, or 6 percent in two early-state sanctioned polls. Candidates have until Dec. 12 to reach these thresholds.

As of now six candidates have met the donation and polling thresholds in addition to Yang: former Vice President Joe Biden, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and California businessman and philanthropist Tom Steyer. 

In the new Quinnipiac poll, Biden and Sanders both increased their support since Quinnipiac’s last national poll in November. Biden sits at 29 percent support at the front of the pack, with Sanders in second place at 17 percent. Warren stayed within a similar range, polling at 15 percent – she was at 14 percent in November’s poll. Buttigieg, however, suffered a steep drop. In November the mayor polled at 16 percent, while now he is at 9 percent support. 

In Pennsylvania, Trump supporters fired up ahead of campaign rally

HERSHEY, Penn. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's rally Tuesday night, supporters weigh in on the latest impeachment news:

Top 2020 candidates release housing affordability plans

WASHINGTON — Health care, income inequality and defeating President Donald Trump have dominated the 2020 Democratic primary. But affordable housing has also become a top issue for the campaigns and the top-polling candidates have all addressed the issue on the campaign trail and the debate stage.

Here’s what some of the major Democratic candidates have proposed on affordable housing — including increasing home ownership in African-American and Latino communities.  

Democratic presidential hopefuls participate in the fifth Democratic primary debate co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta on Nov. 20, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

The centerpiece of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., plan is her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which she initially introduced last year. It proposes building more than 3 million new housing units for low- to middle-income families, providing assistance to “people hurt by federal housing policy failures through two targeted new programs,” and strengthening existing anti-discrimination laws. The plan also incorporates a strategy to combat rising rent prices.  

Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan is arguably the most ambitious. It calls for creating a protection bureau for housing — the National Fair Housing Agency — as well as investing $32 billion over the next five years to help end homelessness. A majority of that money will go to increasing homelessness assistance grants and providing funding to states and localities for homeless management and social services.  

“He sees housing as a human right,” Josh Orton, Sanders’ national policy director and senior adviser, said. 

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg hasn't released his housing plan yet, but his strategy centers on the Community Homestead Act, which is meant to revitalize abandoned properties and convert them into homes for eligible candidates.

Buttigieg’s national press secretary, Chris Meagher, told NBC News that Buttigieg’s plan will focus on “making housing more affordable in general” and that this issue is definitely a “kitchen table topic.”  

This past June at an event for Black Economic Alliance Forum, Buttigieg said, “Let's face the fact that segregation of our neighborhoods didn't just happen. As a matter of fact there are neighborhoods that were integrated 100 years ago that became segregated in the middle of the last century because of federal government policy.”   

Current Democratic frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden has yet to issue a comprehensive affordable housing plan. But his campaign says one will be released in the coming weeks.  

Statistics back the need for this issue to be a focus of the 2020 race. Homeownership has decline and there's a wide homeownership disparity among racial groups. And benefits often exclude low-income households and renters. 

But experts aren’t optimistic that a change in administration will improve the affordable housing crisis. 

“For a candidate to pretend they’re going to [change] is disingenuous,” says Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.  

Rothstein told NBC News that affordable housing solutions have long been touted around Capitol Hill but none have been implemented. He doubts a new president will take actionable steps. 

December Democratic debate stage remains static with new poll

WASHINGTON — Businessman Andrew Yang and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have still not qualified for the December Democratic presidential debate after a new poll released just days before the qualifying deadline found them short of the debate's polling threshold.

Yang polled at 3 percent with Democratic voters and leaners in Monmouth University's new national poll, while Gabbard finished with less than 1 percent. Both candidates need one more poll of at least 4 percent in order to qualify for next week's contest.

To qualify for the Dec. 19 debate in California, candidates need to have raised money from at least 200,000 unique donors (and meet state-by-state requirements) as well as hit a polling threshold of either 4 percent in four sanctioned polls or 6 percent in two sanctioned, early-state polls. 

Yang and Gabbard both say they've hit that donor threshold — which will be independently verified by the Democratic National Committee before they officially set the field. But both candidates are short one poll, and they have until Dec. 12 at 11:59 p.m. to qualify. 

Gabbard has already signaled she won't participate in the debate whether she ends up qualifying or not. 

The new Monmouth poll keeps the roster of likely debate participants static, and while billionaire Michael Bloomberg hit the threshold with 5 percent, he's not soliciting individual donations. That makes it impossible for him to participate in any debate unless the Democratic National Committee removes the unique-donor threshold for a future debate. 

In that poll, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field with 26 percent, followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders at 21 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 17 percent and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8 percent. 

Buttigieg campaign opens fundraisers to reporters, will release names of McKinsey clients

DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg’s campaign announced Monday that it will now open its fundraisers to the press and release a list of his campaign bundlers. A short while later, McKinsey and Company said in a statement to NBC News that it will allow the South Bend, Indiana, mayor to release the names of his clients from his time working at the worldwide consulting firm.

Pete Buttigieg holds a town hall event in Creston, Iowa, on Nov. 25, 2019.Scott Morgan / Reuters file

The announcements came after days of heightened scrutiny over Buttigieg’s closed door fundraisers and a nondisclosure agreement that has prevented him from naming which clients he worked for while at McKinsey from 2007-2010. 

In a statement, campaign manager Mike Schmuhl wrote, “In a continued commitment to transparency, we are announcing today that our campaign will open fundraisers to reporters, and will release the names of people raising money for our campaign.”

Shortly after that, McKinsey and Co. responded to an NBC News request stating that the firm would allow Buttigieg to disclose who his clients were during his time at the firm. Buttigieg has been publicly calling on the company to release him from the NDA over the last several days. 

A spokesman for the firm wrote in a statement, “After receiving permission from the relevant clients, we have informed Mayor Buttigieg that he may disclose the identity of the clients he served while at McKinsey from 2007 to 2010.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Buttigieg have spent the past few days jostling over the transparency of each other’s campaigns. Buttigieg has called on Warren to release tax returns from her time in the private sector and Warren challenged Buttigieg to open his fundraisers and disclose his McKinsey clients. 

Sunday night, the Warren campaign released a case-by-case breakdown of how the senator was paid for her past legal work. 

Schmuhl says Buttigieg’s fundraiser will be open to the press starting Wednesday and a list of the people who fundraise on his behalf will be released within the week. As for the list of his McKinsey clients, Buttigieg’s senior communications adviser Lis Smith tweeted that the campaign will “be releasing the list soon.”