McGrath raises a record $2.5 million on first day of Senate campaign

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath raised more than $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign against Mitch McConnell — over $1 million of it coming in just the first five and a half hours after she announced, according to her campaign.

McGrath campaign manager Mark Nickolas said it’s the most ever raised in the first 24 hours of a Senate campaign. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says the next closest was former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who raised $1 million in his first day of his campaign in Arizona.

The haul is a sign of just how deep Democratic antipathy toward McConnell, the Senate majority leader, runs in the Trump era.

All of the $2.5 million came in online donations with an average donation of $36.15, her campaign manager said. The $2.5 million total doesn’t include any additional traditional fundraising money that may have been raised in the form of checks or promised campaign contributions.

McGrath’s race against McConnell promises to be one of the most expensive Senate races of the 2020 election cycle. McConnell, as the Senate majority leader, has a formidable fundraising machine — in 2014, he raised and spent over $30 million in his race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. 

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. 

Four presidential hopefuls go up on Iowa, New Hampshire airwaves

WASHINGTON — Four Democratic presidential candidates began airing new TV ads in the early primary states Tuesday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock all released ads in Iowa that focus on them being the sensible choice to take on President Donald Trump in a general election — either because of their plans, or past leadership.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has a new ad that focuses on him being the candidate to fight for the masses and not the billionaire class. 

In addition, Buttigieg released his first two ads in New Hampshire following his four-day bus tour across the state. The two New Hampshire ads, "Had To" and "Unify", focus on Buttigieg bringing a new face to politics to voters in New Hampshire frustrated with "politics so broken, for so long" and "unifying Americans" around solutions that can actually get done — Buttigieg targets his "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan here. 

Similarly, Buttigieg's new Iowa ad, entitled "Refreshing," also focuses Buttigieg's "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan. The four-figure ad buy is focused in two Iowa media markets: Des Moines and Ames, and Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City and Dubuque. 

Bullock's ad is targeting the same Iowa markets as Buttigieg. His spot repeats media commentators calling Bullock "the only Democratic candidate running who has won a state that Trump won." Buttigieg and Bullock, in theory, target the same voters because they are from more rural, moderate communities. In a new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday, Buttigieg is leading the pack in Iowa at 22 percent, while Biden and Warren closely trail at 19 and 18 percent respectively. Bullock is polling at one percent in the state. 

Biden's new ad, like many of his others, draws contrast between himself and President Trump. The ad opens by calling President Trump an "unstable and erratic president", and calls for "strong, steady, stable leadership" like Biden. While many other Biden ads focus on the events at Charlottesville, Va., "Moment" shows images of Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands with President Trump, and shows Biden with members of the military and with former President Barack Obama. 

Unsurprisingly, Sanders' new ad, "The Future Belongs to Us", cites "the greed and corruption" of Wall Street as bigger than just President Trump, and argues it is "undermining our democracy." Sanders borrows his usual campaign line that in his administration billionaires would "pay their fair share", and would "guarantee health care for all." Sanders was endorsed by the National Nurses United union Tuesday for his Medicare for All plan and leadership. 

Don Blankenship announces bid for Constitution Party's presidential nomination

WASHINGTON — Remember Don Blankenship? The ex-coal magnate turned West Virginia Senate Republican candidate who drew the ire of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with his derisive television ads? 

He's back, and running for the presidential nomination for the Constitution Party.

Blankenship announced his bid in a statement Monday morning, noting it comes on Veterans Day "in recognition of America's veterans." 

The statement says Blankenship is "attempting to be the first person ever to become an occupant of the White House after having been in the 'big house'" — a reference to the one year he served in prison for a mine safety violation. He claims he was "falsely convicted." 

Blankenship emerged on the national political stage during his 2018 bid for Senate, which pit him against then-Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in a tense primary. 

With many Republicans concerned about his ability to compete against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the party adopted an 'Anyone but Blankenship' policy, with McConnell, Trump and their allies leading the charge. 

That effort prompted Blankenship to furiously push back against those attacks, and launch a series of controversial ads, including one that called McConnell "Cocaine Mitch" and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, a "China person." 

Blankenship ultimately lost, and sued the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Donald Trump Jr., a fact he points to in his announcement speech. 

Even if Blankenship wins the Constitution Party's nomination, he'll have extremely long odds as a third-party candidate. But he spent $4 million of his own money during his Senate bid. So he could be a wildcard if he decides to spend significant dollars.

Buttigieg rolls out plan to reform the VA on Veteran's Day

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — As a veteran, Pete Buttigieg knows first-hand the challenges of coming home after serving in war. Buttigieg’s service as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves, including a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2014, is something he mentions regularly on the campaign trail when contrasting himself with President Donald Trump.

On Veteran’s Day, the South Bend, Indiana mayor is releasing his plan to reform the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. 

“When you put your right hand up and make a promise to give everything to your country, the promise America makes is to remember you, respect your service, and care for you and your family,” his plan says. “That promise lasts long after you hang up your uniform. It lasts a lifetime.”

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

Buttigieg joins other 2020 candidates who are fanning out on Veteran’s Day to spotlight their ideas for improving the notoriously troubled U.S. system for caring for veterans after their service. Past presidents who have tried to reform Veterans Affairs have found that progress is slow to come.

Sen. Kamala Harris will also be out on the trail Monday holding veteran-related events. Sen. Bernie Sanders released his own plan for the VA. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her plan in the last few days.

Buttigieg’s plan seeks to fully fund the VA and streamline access to its services. It also calls for an end to veteran homelessness and the decriminalization of mental health issues across the board.

“It's clear we have to do better if we want to see more people getting access to the care that they need,” he said to reporters aboard the bus.

Among the field of 2020 candidates vying for the presidency, Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, are the only Democrats left in the race who have served in the military. While Buttigieg says the VA isn’t his primary health care provider, he recognizes the challenges of what he calls a “convoluted” process. 

“We have a system of veteran service officers in counties whose job is it to help people navigate and to advocate for people and really fight for them as they are battling bureaucracy,” he said to reporters on the bus tour. “And those folks do really good work, but it shouldn't be so hard.”

The plan calls for the establishment of a White House coordinator who would work across both Veterran Affairs and the Department of Defense to standardize intake procedures and allow record sharing between the two entities. Buttigieg hopes these reforms would alleviate the challenge of having to track down medical records when transitioning from active duty to veteran status. 

The current $16 billion project designed to do just that has hit major snags and delays in the past two years. A Buttigieg administration would aim to execute the project in a way that is human-centered and easy for veterans to navigate.

In addition to providing grants to community veteran organizations working to end the stigma around mental illness and addiction Buttigieg plans to expand access to Veteran Treatment Court which funnel’s vets into rehabilitation centers rather than prison. The wide-ranging plan also includes reforms aimed at addressing discrimination and challenges faced by women, people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who serve.

On Monday, Buttigieg will commemorate Veteran’s Day by attending a ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, NH followed by a Veteran’s Day address at the Rochester Opera House in Rochester, NH to wrap up his four-day bus tour across the state.

Sanders releases $62 billion plan to revitalize the VA

CHARLES CITY, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday released a $62 billion plan to revitalize the Veterans Affairs Administration that proposes, among other things, to repair, modernize and rebuild the infrastructure of the VA to provide “cutting-edge health care services” to veterans.

The plan, released on Veteran's Day, also pledges to fill nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA within his first year in office. Sanders also proposes a simplification of the claims process, so veterans receive compensation in a timely manner, “without bureaucratic red tape,” the campaign says.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, smiles after filing to be listed on the New Hampshire primary ballot on Oct. 31, 2019, at the Secretary of State's office in Concord, N.H.Charles Krupa / AP

Much of the plan focuses on making sure veterans who deserve care, get it. Sanders says he plans to reform what the campaign calls “harmful VA regulations” that restrict access to care and benefits based on type of military discharge. The plan also calls for Veterans to be Able to use the “full complement” of benefits offered in the G.I. Bill.

The campaign released a video Monday, featuring Sanders senior advisors Warren Gunnels and Jeff Weaver, and late Republican Sen. John McCain. The video, titled “Keeping our promises” focuses on Sanders’ and McCain’s bipartisan work to enact the Veterans' Access,  Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, a bill that authorized 27 new facilities for the VA, and provided billions to hire doctors and nurses.