Trump team boasts that the president delivered North Carolina victory
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s re-election team is taking credit for two Republican congressional victories in North Carolina Tuesday, particularly touting a narrow win in a competitive race in a district Trump won by about 12 points in 2016.
In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale argued there’s “no question” Trump’s last-minute rally and “personal efforts” pushed GOP candidate Dan Bishop over the edge in the Ninth District, where he beat Democrat Dan McCready in a special election after last year’s midterm results were tossed out due to allegations of election fraud.
Trump tweeted late Tuesday night that Bishop “asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race.” Campaign aides declined to offer specifics on what exactly shifted and whether the president himself offered the candidate advice.
Despite lowering expectations earlier this week and pushing back on the notion that the congressional district race wasn’t a “bellwether” for next year, the Trump team is now boasting about what the gains mean heading into a general election.
Though Trump wasn’t on the ballot, Parscale maintained the enthusiasm the president is able to generate when he holds rallies like this week’s in Fayetteville and last months’ in Greenville, N.C., contributed to “driving significant turnout.”
In addition to the traditional campaign rallies, the re-elect effort also held fundraisers, organized a multi-stop tour for Vice President Pence, recorded robocalls and targeted online fundraising.
Bishop echoed that praise for Trump in a Wednesday morning appearance on Fox News where he said that “a lot of credit goes to the president” for his victory.
Aides dismissed criticism, however, that the narrow victory spelled trouble for the Republicans heading into 2020. “These are isolated moments in time so congratulations to the Democrats for taking moral victory laps last night. We Republicans and President Trump will take the actual victory,” senior political adviser Bill Stepien said.
Asked whether there is concern about maintaining suburban voters versus rural voters, the campaign said it is not focused on “geographic targets” and is instead targeting all kinds of communities, regardless of district or state.
On Wednesday, while expressing displeasure with recent polling that shows his approval rating slipping, the president argued he “hasn’t even started campaigning yet.”
Notably, Trump is the only modern president to ever file re-election paperwork on the day of his inauguration and his campaign has held dozens of rallies since then. The president officially announced his run for a second term in June, and has held five 2020 events since then.
The House Republican campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, acknowledged Trump’s impact on the race in a memo released Wednesday, where they called him “the most effective surrogate for Republicans.” The group added it believes Trump will be a helpful boost as they try to win back the seats Democrats flipped during the midterms.
Democrats don’t share that perspective, however. They’re confident that the narrow margin of victory in the conservative district is a harbinger of more bad news to come for Republicans in 2020.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a memo released Wednesday that the result shows “Democrats are pushing further into Republican strongholds and Republicans are on their heels heading into 2020.” They went on to point to McCready’s focus on health care as one reason why the race was so close.
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6h ago / 4:09 PM UTC
Joe Biden gets new round of New Hampshire endorsements
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden is receiving a new round of New Hampshire endorsements Thursday, just 19 days until voting happens in the state, including notable state leaders and elected officials as well as some switches in support.
DNC Committee Member Bill Shaheen, husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is among a group a dozen new backers for Biden in the state formally announcing their support for Biden. In a statement, Shaheen said Biden is the best candidate to help Democrats win elections across the board in 2020.
“We need a President and a Senate who can bring dignity back to our country and immediately command respect on the world stage,” Shaheen said. “Winning the White House is only half of the battle. In order to change our course we must win the Senate. I'm supporting Joe Biden because he can do both."
Other endorsers include former New Hampshire state Senate President Sylvia Larsen, who has hosted a number of 2020 Democratic candidates in her home for traditional house parties, and was a backer of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
"After careful consideration of our many talented candidates, I believe Joe Biden is the best candidate to lead us forward to a moral, compassionate America which restores our faith in the American dream of equal opportunity, access to healthcare, innovation in industry, and international stability," Larsen said in a statement.
In noteworthy switches of support, Joe Keefe, the former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair, announced his support for Biden, saying, “When we choose a nominee, we need to pick the person who can unite the Democratic Party, unite the country, defeat Donald Trump, and work to heal our divided nation. Joe Biden has spent his entire career delivering Democratic wins and moving our country forward.”
Jim Demers, a longtime political operative and former Obama co-chair in 2008 and 2012 is also endorsing Biden. Previously this cycle, Demers was a senior adviser to Sen. Cory Booker’s, D-N.J., campaign, helping to launch his candidacy and gain support in New Hampshire before he dropped out of the race just weeks ago.
And finally, Former Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., announced his endorsement of Biden on this list. Hodes endorsed Obama early on in 2008 and was previously Marianne Williamson’s New Hampshire state Director until she ended her presidential run.
Biden is scheduled to be in New Hampshire Friday and Saturday for his 10th trip to the state since announcing.
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8h ago / 2:56 PM UTC
Marianne Williamson lends her support to Andrew Yang in Iowa
WASHINGTON — Former presidential candidate activist Marianne Williamson lent her support to businessman Andrew Yang in Iowa on Wednesday night. In a three-part post on Instagram, Williamson said she'll support Yang in Iowa to help him "get past the early primaries & remind us not to take ourselves too seriously."
While Williamson is backing Yang in Iowa, she said in her first post that this was not endorsing a person, but endorsing issues.
Williamson also said she supports Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but that they would not need her help in securing their place in the field past the four first nominating contests, and that they are "transactional politicians."
"They come from a political school of thought — dominated by a 20th Century perspective — which holds that who a candidate is, isn’t nearly as significant as what they say they’ll do," Williamson wrote. "And that’s a huge mistake, because the part of the brain that rationally analyzes an issue isn’t always the part of the brain that decides who to vote for.
After Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced a slate of local endorsements in September that featured New Hampshire State Rep. Wendy Chase, the legislator told the Associated Press that “publicizing her endorsement was premature.”
Now, Chase has decided to formally endorse Warren because she “has the record to prove she can get the job done.”
“Elizabeth is the progressive leader we need to beat Trump,” said Rep. Chase in a statement.
State Representatives Lee Oxenham and Jeff Salloway — former Sen. Cory Booker backers — are also shifting their support to the Massachusetts senator, citing her climate change policy and anti-corruption platform, respectively.
“Elizabeth’s comprehensive plans would help Granite Staters: putting power in the hands of working people and transitioning us to a clean energy economy,” said Rep. Oxenham in a statement.
“Her platform and record of fixing corruption in government is the perfect antithesis to what we see day in and day out from the Trump administration,” said Rep. Salloway, adding he believes Warren is “the strongest candidate to take on Trump and win.”
Since Booker dropped out of the presidential race, several of his former New Hampshire endorsers have spread out among the rest of the remaining field — announcing support for Warren, Buttigieg, Biden, Klobuchar, and Bennet.
“We’re building a movement in New Hampshire for big, structural change,” said Warren in a statement thanking her new endorsers.
Rep. Dave Doherty rounds out the latest endorsements for Warren, who now has the support of 55 state representatives from nine of New Hampshire’s 10 counties.
Earlier this week, Warren earned the sought-after support of DNC Committeewoman and former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Kathy Sullivan and N.H. State Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh.
“I think she's got the best plans, and I think she's a fire — she's going to do what she can to institute reforms that will that will help everyday Americans,” Sullivan told NBC News.
Last week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar picked up support from local lawmakers who had previously endorsed Booker and Warren, and a Nashua alderman “un-endorsed” Sanders to support Andrew Yang.
Sullivan, like many Granite Staters, only made up her mind days ago and understands why both coveted elected officials and average voters are still undecided.
“I think people need to take the time that they want to take, and if that means they make their decision while they're walking into the voting booth, that's okay as long as they walk into the voting booth,” she said.
“There are a lot of good people running for president; it's an important decision to make.”
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Maura Barrett and Gary Grumbach
21h ago / 1:38 AM UTC
Sanders campaign seeks to refocus messaging for Iowa's final stretch
DES MOINES, Iowa — After nearly a week of back-and-forth with former Vice President Joe Biden, the Bernie Sanders campaign is aiming to get back on the policy messaging track with just days to go before the Iowa caucuses.
“When you start to go up, obviously, you get a lot of fire,” senior Sanders campaign advisor said in an interview with NBC News Wednesday, noting state and national polls showing the Vermont senator surging. “The person in front has the biggest target on their back. And I think you're starting to see that now.”
Asked if voters might be concerned about the negativity on display in the recent clashes with Biden, Weaver said, “it’s not really negative and this is not personal. This is about a very different view in terms of [Sanders and Biden’s] policy positions and their record. And that’s what voters need to know in the course of the caucus.”
The sparring between the two camps over the holiday weekend continued this week. After Biden expanded it to include Sanders’ record on gun control in the Senate, Sanders told reporters in Washington Wednesday that it was “fair” for Biden to look at his record. “Joe Biden voted for the war in Iraq. I opposed it. Joe Biden voted for a terrible bankruptcy bill. I strongly opposed it. Joe Biden voted for disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA and PNTR with China. I vigorously opposed them. And Joe Biden has been on the floor of the Senate talking about the need to cut social security.”
In his interview with NBC News, Weaver echoed the same criticisms, but wouldn’t say whether the campaign sees Biden as Sanders’ biggest competitor. Instead, Weaver said he believes the focus should remain on President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump is the most threatening competitor because he's destroying America, as we watch,” Weaver said.
Weaver also touted Sanders' ability to expand the Democratic vote in the general election, saying that the senator “does very well with independent voters. He does very well with the young voters that we need to bring out. He does very well with voters of color, particularly Latino voters, so we need to engage at higher levels in this process and if we do that, we're going to defeat Donald Trump.”
But the criticism of Biden resurfaced when NBC News asked Weaver about the campaign’s involvement with “Our Revolution,” an organization that promotes the ideals of Sanders but also accepts high-dollar donations without disclosing contributors, a practice that has come under much criticism.
“We have no relationship with Our Revolution, frankly. Just like we don't have any former relationship with MoveOn or DFA or a host of other progressive groups who are out there fighting for progressive change in this country,” Weaver said. “On the other hand, Joe Biden has a sanctioned super PAC which is running hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising here in Iowa. We don’t need big donors coming in here and deciding who the Democratic nominee is going to be.”
Weaver told NBC News, “We've been very clear we don't want any outside help from any third party groups. The way the law is set up we can't direct them not to do it, we don't control them in any way.” While the law doesn’t explicitly prevent the campaign from asking them to stop, the organization is not required to adhere to the request. Weaver is the former president of Our Revolution, when it was founded by Sen. Bernie Sanders in the summer of 2016.
When Sanders was asked about Our Revolution in an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio this weekend, he called for the group to be shut down — on the condition that other candidates disavow their Super PACs as well. “I think that we should end Super PACS right now,” Sanders said. “So I will tell my opponents who have a Super PAC, why don’t you end it? And that’s applicable to the groups that are supporting me.”
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1d ago / 3:18 PM UTC
Joe Biden says he won't cut Social Security
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would not cut social security funding if elected president during an interview on "Morning Joe" on Wednesday. Biden's answer comes amid attacks he's faced from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign that Biden has called for cutting Social Security benefits.
"I have 100 percent rating from the groups that rate social security, those who support Social Security. I think at a minimum [my comment] was taken out of context," Biden said. "The plan I have to deal with Social Security not only makes it solvent for the next, for my grandchildren, it also increases payments for the very elderly."
On Tuesday night, Biden and Sanders' camps released videos about Social Security funding. In the video, tweeted out by Biden, the narrator says "Bernie's negative attacks won't change the truth, Joe Biden is still the strongest Democrat to beat Donald Trump."
I've been fighting to protect — and expand — Social Security for my whole career. Any suggestion otherwise is just flat-out wrong. pic.twitter.com/KWIIJgFqGk
Sanders' new ad featured old floor footage from Biden where he discussed freezing government spending including social security. Sanders tweeted out, "Let's be honest, Joe. One of us fought for decades to cut Social Security, and one of us didn't."
Let’s be honest, Joe. One of us fought for decades to cut Social Security, and one of us didn’t. But don’t take it from me. Take it from you. pic.twitter.com/qh7qb1Hmcl
When asked about Sanders' new ad, and if he would consider cutting Social Security given his past comments on freezing it, Biden said "No, no, no."
Biden continued, "We go back and look at statements, many of them, most of them taken out of context of 10, 20, 30, 35 years ago. It's like my going back and pointing out how Bernie voted against the Brady bill five times while I was trying to get it passed."
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2d ago / 12:53 AM UTC
Biden campaign releases video hitting debunked GOP claims on his Ukraine involvement
FORT DODGE, Iowa — Joe Biden’s campaign largely stayed on the sidelines while the House held hearings to consider impeaching President Trump, as Democrats who controlled key committees and testimony from current and former administration officials were able to defuse and rebut GOP efforts to raise debunked conspiracy theories about the former vice president and his role in firing a corrupt prosecutor.
But as the Republican-led Senate has opened the impeachment trial, his campaign has released its most aggressive and comprehensive — and even at times R-rated — effort to address and challenge the GOP claims.
In a more than four-minute video, Biden campaign rapid response director Andrew Bates lays out Biden’s work as vice president to support anti-corruption efforts for the fledgling democracy in Ukraine, which included the firing of prosecutor general Viktor Shokin.
"It was a monumental, international, bipartisan anti-corruption victory,” Bates says in the video. GOP efforts to suggest Biden sought Shokin’s ouster because of a dormant investigation of the energy company his son Hunter served on is "horse-****.”
"Why is Donald Trump doing this? He knows he can't beat Joe Biden,” Bates says. "He tried to make our national security policy an extension of his struggling reelection campaign.”
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Ben Kamisar and Mark Murray
2d ago / 7:59 PM UTC
Pro-Biden super PAC gives former vice president significant air cover in Iowa
WASHINGTON — A super PAC supporting former Vice President Joe Biden is coming to the candidate's defense in Iowa, dropping more than $1.8 million in television advertising dollars there this month and reserving another almost $800,000 for the final days before the Iowa caucuses.
Unite the County, the pro-Biden group, alone has spent more in Iowa in January ($1.8 million) than every individual Democratic presidential candidate except Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders ($2.2 million). Combined with Biden's $1 million spent on the airwaves so far this month, the pro-Biden effort is the highest spender in Iowa so far this January.
And while candidates are still deciding how to spend their ad dollars in the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Unite the Country's $800,000 in reserved airtime from Wednesday through caucus day is about even with what the Biden campaign has reserved so far over the same period.
So that combined effort of $1.6 million between Wednesday and caucus day puts the pro-Biden spending within spitting distance of that of Sanders' campaign, who has booked about $2 million in future Iowa spending.
By rule, candidates receive preferred television rates when compared to other outside groups, so the super PAC spending won't have the same bang for the buck of the spending by individual campaigns.
But Unite the Country's spending is giving Biden a significant spending boost ahead of the pivotal caucuses. And it sends a signal to the Biden campaign that help is on the way, help that could allow the Biden campaign to invest dollars elsewhere, knowing that the super PAC is providing air cover.
Below, take a look at the current ad spending in Iowa from the start of the race through today, as well as the future spending candidates have already booked.
All of the advertising data is courtesy of Advertising Analytics, a media-tracking firm.
Total TV and radio ad spending in Iowa as of today
Tom Steyer: $13.5 million
Pete Buttigieg: $8.8 million
Bernie Sanders: $8.3 million
Andrew Yang: $5.6 million
Elizabeth Warren: $4.6 million
Joe Biden: $3.4 million
Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $3.0 million
Amy Klobuchar: $2.8 million
Michael Bennet: $1.1 million
Total Iowa TV and radio ad spending in January
Sanders: $2.2 million
Unite the County: $1.8 million
Buttigieg: $1.8 million
Warren: $1.8 million
Steyer: $1.4 million
Yang: 1.4 million
Klobuchar: $1.3 million
Biden: $1 million
Future Iowa TV and radio ad spending already booked
Sanders: $1.9 million
Warren: $1.4 million
Unite the Country: $780,000
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2d ago / 6:57 PM UTC
Dems say they're pressuring GOP senators on impeachment in other ways
WASHINGTON — In First Read Tuesday morning, we observed how Democrats aren’t trying to pressure vulnerable GOP senators over the TV airwaves on impeachment.
Of the 11 impeachment-themed television ads airing across the country right now, according to the ad trackers at Advertising Analytics, all are from Republicans and GOP groups.
But Democrats at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tell us that they’ve been pressuring GOP senators — like Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine — in other ways.
For Maine’s Senate contest, for instance, the DSCC has created a website – WhatChangedSusan.Com – highlighting how Collins called for more evidence and witnesses in Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, but hasn’t made the same explicit demands for President Trump’s impeachment trial.
And in Colorado, the DSCC has blasted out press releases noting that he’s “refuse[d] to answer basic questions on [the] president’s conduct” or on the demand for “a fair trial.”
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2d ago / 6:47 PM UTC
Michael Bloomberg launches new ad focused on impeachment trial
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a new campaign ad in the presidential race on Tuesday focused on the impeachment trial. While Bloomberg has spent millions of his own dollars on his campaign ads, this ad is the first to focus on removing President Trump from office through the impeachment trial.
The ad, entitled "Impeachment", declares that it's "time for the Senate to act and remove Trump from office. And if they won't do their jobs, this November you and I will."
According to the Bloomberg campaign, the ad is running in 27 states including four states with vulnerable Republican senators: Arizona, North Carolina, Maine and Colorado.
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Deepa Shivaram and Ali Vitali
2d ago / 5:29 PM UTC
Warren pledges to 'cleanse' the 'corruption' from Trump administration beginning with transition if elected
WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren promised “no ordinary transition” between her administration and the current, Trump administration Tuesday, outlining a plan that would “cleanse the corruption from our government” and establish early rules for how she’d run — and staff — her administration, if elected come November.
Pointing out the what she says is "unprecedented corruption from the current administration," Warren says that even with Trump gone “it would be foolish to assume" that "the government will start moving in the right direction all on its own.”
The new plan prescribes, among other things, asking all government political appointees, including U.S. Attorneys, to resign and establishing a new task force to investigate corruption by Trump administration officials — part of a push to “root out the corruption and incompetence of the Trump administration” that she would pursue, if elected.
The 8-page plan makes exceptions for the resignations for positions needed to preserve continuity or protect national security during a transition period, while also advocating for that a new DOJ task force investigate violations (bribery, insider trading, anti-corruption, immigration-related) with authority to pursue “any substantiated criminal and civil violations.”
Below are some of the plan's highlights.
Warren would speed up her transition by:
Announcing all cabinet choices by December 1, 2020.
Announcing other top nominations by December 15, 2020.
Fully staff senior and mid-level White House jobs by Inauguration Day.
Warren’s administration will not hire any lobbyists or employees of for-profit contractors unless she personally reviews it and decides it’s in the national interest. Also, she will not hire anyone who has received a “golden parachute.”
Former corporate lobbyists will need a 6 year “cooling off period” (no waivers or exceptions).
Non-corporate lobbyists will need a 2-year “cooling” and any waivers would be made public.
Employees of contractors will need to wait 4 years from their last contract or license award.
Similar restrictions will come into play after serving in government: senior officials can never accept a lobbying gig, all other administration officials will pledge not to lobby their former office or agency for 2 years after leaving — and 6 if they become corporate lobbyists.
Officials will be required to divest from “any individual stock, bond, or other investment” that ethics officials say might be directly influenced by the employee’s agency.
Parameters on who she’ll put in her Cabinet will include:
Her Education Secretary will be a former school teacher (this is a frequent promise on the trail).
Her Labor Secretary will have been a labor leader.
Her Secretary of Agriculture will have to show a commitment to advocating for black farmers.
Her FEC Chair will be committed to restore 2015 Net Neutrality rules, block media-telecom merger.
Warren also commits to making at least 50 percent of her cabinet and senior staff women.
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3d ago / 8:02 PM UTC
Klobuchar on NYT endorsement: 'I am a progressive that gets results'
After speaking at an event marking Martin Luther King Day at South Carolina’s state capitol, Klobuchar told NBC News "very excited about it" and that she didn't expect the endorsement, which she shares with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Klobuchar also referenced her endorsement from the Quad-Cities Times in Iowa.
"I think one of the things that they noted is that you need a candidate for president and someone leading our country that's gonna actually represent everyone, not just half of America," she said.
"That's not gonna wake up every day trying to draw a divide like this president does, so I was honored that they saw that, and I was also honored to get the endorsement of the Quad-City Times."
She went on to call herself a "proven progressive" that "gets results," underscoring the contrast between she and Warren that the Times editorial reflected.
“If you wanna be a progressive you actually have to make progress,” she said. “The difference between a plan and a pipeline is a pan is something you can actually get done and I'm very honored that they recognized that.”