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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Biden campaign takes aim at rivals on health care ahead of debate

DETROIT — Vice President Joe Biden was not even mentioned on the debate stage last night by his opponents, but that did not hold his campaign back from debuting a sharper and direct attack against those who have gone after him in the past month.

In a new mash-up video published this morning on “Team Joe” Twitter account, the Biden campaign starts off by highlighting Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris’ inability to answer questions about their healthcare plans and how much they would cost.

It also features  Medicare-for-All architect Sen. Bernie Sanders stating that he would raise taxes for Americans to pay for the program and Sen. Elizabeth Warren agreeing with Sanders’ approach.

The video focuses mostly on Harris, who went right at Biden during last month's debate, attacking his past civil rights record.

Biden last week criticized candidates who say that they don't need to raise middle class taxes to fund Medicare for All as "a fantasy world." And his top campaign advisor echoed that sentiment in an on-the-record statement slamming Harris' health care plan last week. 

Harris unveiled a plan last week that calls for a transition to Medicare for All within 10 years but would give private insurers the ability to offer competing and supplemental plans, as long as they met the government standards. She added that she would not need to raise taxes on households making under $100,000 a year, and would instead tax stock trades and tax shelters to pay for her plan

Biden has repeatedly stressed the importance of expanding healthcare coverage in an affordable and timely manner, which is why he has loosened up a bit and directly attacked his candidate’s records on the issue throughout the past month.

We’ll see if he can deliver the strong lines of attack he’s delivered at campaign rallies and with reporters tonight on the debate stage.

Iowa voters talk Steve King, President Trump and racial divide

NORTHWEST IOWA — A brand-new Quinnipiac poll asks a straightforward question: Do you think President Trump is racist? Fifty-one percent of all voters say yes, while 45 percent say no. The same poll also found that 45 percent of voters say Trump is more to blame for the lack of civility in American politics, over 34 percent who think Democrats are responsible. 

In conservative northwest Iowa, a mostly white area, some voters told NBC News they’re growing increasingly concerned with both the President and their congressman Steve King’s rhetoric when it comes to race, as they consider potential Democratic candidates in 2020.

Jan Tillotson, of Sioux Center, thinks Americans should embrace differences; “different people, different colors.” 

 “I love our little community but when I realized how racist it is, it made me wonder, ‘do I really want to live here?,” Tillotson told NBC News, “I don’t wanna be uncomfortable in my own community and right now I am.”

Tillotson and her husband, Tim, live in Rep. Steve King’s district and are both Democrats. King was stripped of his committee assignments following racist comments in early 2019. When NBC News visited his district in January, voters were still split on his support. Now, Tim Tillotson says he’s more concerned about “developing and exposed racism, and white supremacy“ looking ahead to 2020. 

However, Republican voter Bob Henderson, from Sioux City, didn’t consider the President’s tweets about the four congresswomen of color to be racist. 

“I don't think [Trump] intended it at all to be racist,” Henderson said. “I think he intended it to be what I have heard a thousand times on the campaign trail: ‘Well if you don’t like this place, then leave.’”

As for lack of civility, voter Diane Sorenson feels uncomfortable attending Democratic events due to fear of Trump supporter protests. 

“Sometimes when you go to events, there are Trump supporters that are protesting, yelling at you all sorts of profanities,” Sorenson told NBC News, “Sometimes my girlfriends and I get scared going by ourselves.”

Trump campaign cuts ad to air during Democratic debates

President Trump's campaign says it will air a new television ad on cable news during the second round of the Democratic presidential debates, arguing that Democrats are too liberal for the American electorate. 

The ad begins with footage from the first round of debates in June, where candidates raised their hands to signify their government health care plans would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants. 

It's the latest example of the president trying to paint Democrats as radicals, a strategy being amplified by GOP campaign arms and outside groups. 

The spot will run on CNN, MSNBC and Fox on Tuesday and Wednesday, the two nights of the Democratic Party's latest presidential debates. 

Warren snags endorsement from former Sanders backer

WASHINGTON —Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has a notable new backer in corner with an endorsement that also marks a big win over her progressive rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The Warren campaign announced Tuesday that Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., is endorsing her bid. Grivalja was Sanders' first congressional endorsement in the 2016 cycle. 

“I’ve worked closely with Elizabeth and have seen up close her passion for working people and those who’ve been left behind,” Grijalva said in a statement released by the Warren camp. 

“She is a formidable champion of progressive values, ideas and principles who will lead us towards becoming a country that doesn’t kowtow to corporations and special interests, but a nation that will bring real power to workers, women, immigrants and all of those most vulnerable and marginalized. She is a bold, persistent, visionary leader who cares about working families - and because of this, she's won my endorsement.”

The endorsement is notable because of Grijalva's past support for Sanders.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus member served as a key surrogate for the Sanders campaign during the senator's last presidential bid. And Grijalva was not just the first member of Congress to back Sanders, he was one of only a handful to pick him over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Along with Grijalva's endorsement, the Warren campaign also announced backing from Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Katherine Clark and Jim McGovern, as well as New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, and Michigan Rep. Andy Levin.

Bullock to make first debate stage appearance Tuesday night

WASHINGTON — Most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls on tonight’s debate stage will be at least familiar to those who watched the first rounds in June, but one candidate will be getting his first crack at national exposure: Montana Governor Steve Bullock.

Bullock entered the presidential race later than most of the other candidates, saying that he had to stay in Montana to help shepherd the state's Medicaid expansion through the GOP-majority state legislature. 

He ultimately waited until mid-May to announce his bid, and wasn't able to hit the fundraising or polling threshold to qualify for the first round of debates. 

Now, Bullock will look to separate himself from the pack tonight by focusing on his record of having won two gubernatorial races in a state that President Trump carried by over 20 points. 

Throughout the first Democratic debate, Bullock tweeted about the Democratic field lacking a voice that got Republicans to vote for a Democrat. 

Look for a similar message on the stage today. 

Bullock will also be looking to contrast himself to two of the most progressive candidates in the race: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Bullock’s campaign has focused on a more moderate agenda that would see him competing directly with voters who may be looking for an alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden.  

Like Biden, Bullock does not support Medicare for All, but would rather create a public option for those without private insurance. He also differs from the progressive win of the party on his stance on undocumented immigrants receiving government health care. Bullock sides with former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., D-Rhode Island, and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, in saying undocumented immigrants shouldn't be covered by a government-run health plan. 

Bullock has not hit the September debate threshold yet, and it's unclear whether he'll be able to meet the DNC's higher threshold for that contest. 

 

51% in new poll say Trump is racist

A brand new Quinnipiac poll asks a straightforward question: Do you think President Trump is racist?

About half — 51 percent — of all voters say yes, while 45 percent say no.

Some of the breakdowns:

  • African Americans: 80 percent yes, 11 percent no
  • Latinos: 55 percent yes, 44 percent no
  • Whites: 46 percent yes, 50 percent no
  • Democrats: 86 percent yes, 9 percent no
  • Independents: 56 percent yes, 38 percent no
  • Republicans: 8 percent yes, 91 percent no

Also in the poll: A plurality of voters say Trump is more to blame for the lack of civility in American politics (45 percent) than Democrats are (34 percent). 

Also, only 32 percent say Congress should begin the process to impeach Trump.

But 56 percent say the Mueller report did NOT clear Trump of any wrongdoing, and 52 percent say Trump attempted to obstruct or derail the Russia investigation.

The poll was conducted July 25-28 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent. 

New Warren trade plan calls for labor, environmental standards

DETROIT — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is out with the third pillar of her “economic patriotism” plan, this time tackling trade after previously releasing plans on manufacturing and regulating Wall Street.

In a proposal released Monday — twenty four hours before she takes the stage for the second Democratic debate here — Warren seeks to upend the way American trade deals are negotiated and passed through Congress, establish a set of standards that countries must meet in order to enter into trade agreements with the United States, and keep countries and companies in line with labor and environmental standards.  

The Massachusetts senator is the first 2020 candidate to put forth an extensive plan specifically on trade. She’s expected to highlight the policy in Toledo, Ohio Monday evening.

Some top lines include:

  • Requiring trade negotiations be public and more closely scrutinized by trade groups labor groups before being approved by Congress
  • Codifying a set of standards — including upholding human rights, abiding by core labor rights of the International Labor Organization, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies — that foreign countries must abide by in order to enter into trade deals with the U.S. Already existing trade deals would also be renegotiated to make sure all countries are in line with these standards.
  • Imposing a carbon tax against companies that move production overseas to avoid environmental regulations to “equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules”
  • Bringing down the cost of prescription drugs by supports efforts to put price controls on pharmaceuticals and reducing exclusivity periods in already-existing trade deals
  • Creating a new division under the U.S. Trade Representative to enforce environmental and labor rules

Kamala Harris' 'Medicare-for-All' plan is the latest in evolution on private insurance

WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris has put forward a health-care plan that would move all Americans into a “Medicare for All” system within 10 years — but it would also allow private insurers to offer competing plans, as long as they meet the standards of the government plan.

It's just the latest evolution for Harris on the subject of private insurance. Here's a look at how her positions have advanced:

In January, she said during a CNN town hall that she favored ending private insurance: “Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”

"The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require," Harris said. "Who of us has not had that situation, where you've got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, well, I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this? Let's eliminate all of that.

Then, in May, she walked that back in an interview with CNN, saying her statement about eliminating “all of that” referred to bureaucracy, not private insurance.

"I support Medicare for All,"  she said, "but I really do need to clear up what happened on that stage."

"It was in the context of saying, let's get rid of all the bureaucracy. Let's get all of the waste."  Asked whether she was talking about insurance companies, Harris said: "No. That's not what I meant. I know it was interpreted that way. If you watch the tape, I think you'll see that there are obviously many interpretations of what I said. What I meant is, let's get rid of the bureaucracy."

Then, at the June NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo debate, she raised her hand responding to the question about who favored abolishing private health insurance. 

Then, she later said she misheard/didn’t understand Lester’s question.

"No," Harris told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if she'd work to abolish private health insurance in favor of "Medicare for All" if elected president. "The question was, would you give up your private insurance for that option, and I said yes."

Inslee's new energy plan aims puts focus on low-income communities

DETROIT — Washington Governor Jay Inslee will announce the newest policy addition to his climate change agenda Monday, unveiling a “Community Climate Justice” plan to address environmental justice and racism and to highlight how climate change and pollution is disproportionately harming low-income Americans and minorities.

Inslee will formally unveil his plan in Detroit in the 48217 zip-code area, the most polluted neighborhood in the state of Michigan with the Marathon Oil refinery nearby.

His proposal, which is the fifth installment in Inslee’s extensive agenda to combat climate change, puts issues of justice at center.

Inslee proposes to establish the country’s first-ever equity mapping and screening process, which would track environmental injustices and “pollution hotspots” and use the data to determine which communities need more investing and aid.

His plan would also create a Universal Clean Energy Service Fund, based on the model of the existing Universal Service Fund, which expanded telecom services to low income communities, to reduce the cost of energy bills.

Inslee would also turn the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality into the Council on Environmental Justice, a move he says will stress the importance of justice in all climate policy decisions.

“We have had a lot of racial disparity in our criminal justice system and economic system but we also have it in our environmental system,” Inslee told NBC News in a phone interview, “The goal here is to recognize these two things are intertwined, both in cause and in solution.”

Inslee will spend the days before the upcoming debate in Detroit as well as Flint, Michigan to discuss the city’s water crisis. He also says he plans on discussing this specific climate change proposal on the debate stage on July 31, even if it means breaking the rules on speaking time.

“If rules become those who speak louder speak, I’m going to speak," he said. "We can’t allow the world to burn while other candidates are talking about their items. We gotta have this debate.”

Harris proposes her version of 'Medicare for All'

DETROIT — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., put forward a healthcare proposal on Monday ahead of the second Democratic presidential debate that would move every American into a 'Medicare-for-All' system within ten years, while allowing private insurers to offer competing plans, as well as supplemental insurance options — provided that the commercial plans meet the care standards of the government plan.

“This plan will reduce our country’s health care costs and lower Americans’ out-of-pocket costs, all while extending health insurance coverage to every American,” Harris wrote in a Medium post outlining her proposal. 

Harris’ plan would provide “all medically necessary services, including emergency room visits, doctor visits, vision, dental, hearing aids, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and comprehensive reproductive health care services.”

Presently, Americans 65 years older and older are eligible for Medicare. Harris’ plan would immediately enroll newborns and uninsured Americans onto the government-run option while transitioning the rest of the population onto a Medicare plan — one either run by the government or a private insurer — within ten years of the passage of her proposed legislation.

Since launching her presidential bid in January, the Democratic presidential candidate has faced questions about the role that private insurance companies would play in her plan.

Harris’ plan would allow private insurance companies to offer “Medicare plans” that “adhere to strict Medicare requirements on costs and benefits.” It would also allow the companies to sell “supplemental insurance” to cover care, like cosmetic surgery, that her proposed Medicare plans would not cover.

“I think what she’s saying is if the private sector can add value, then power to them,” said Andy Slavitt, who served as acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Obama Administration. “She’s leaving room for innovation, but she’s also saying there ought to be a pretty high bar.”

The package of services guaranteed to Americans under Harris’ plan, however, is more expansive than the current offerings under Medicare today.

In a statement sent to reporters by the Harris campaign, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who worked with Harris’s campaign staff during the formation of the plan, said: “This plan builds on the progress we made in the Affordable Care Act and expands upon its promise of universal coverage through a sensible expansion of the popular Medicare system.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders has long backed a similar Medicare for All proposal, which Harris has co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate, but Harris said her plan would establish a 10-year phase-in period for individuals currently enrolled in other plans, like employer-based care, the exchanges built under the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, to “transition” to the new Medicare plans. Sanders has pressed for a four-year timetable. 

The senator, in her written post on Monday, also outlined her proposal for covering the cost of the expanded healthcare coverage. She said would not increase taxes on households that make less than $100,000 a year. Sanders, alternatively, has suggested a “4-percent income-based premium” on families of four making more than $29,000 a year would be included in his legislation.

Harris also proposed a tax on stock trades and called for an end to foreign tax shelters as part of her plan to pay for the proposal.

First Read Sunday: Rick Scott responds to Trump feud with Cummings

WASHINGTON — If It’s Sunday, the tweets are sparking outcry again.   

President Trump opened up yet another feud this weekend with a Democratic member of Congress when he attacked House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

The president called Cummings' Baltimore-area district "a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess," and he criticized the Democrat for criticizing Homeland Security’s treatment of migrants on the southern border.

The context for Trump's attacks is key—Cummings’ committee has broad jurisdiction and is investigating a litany of issues including the administration’s handling of the crisis at the southern border and security clearances, as well as questions surrounding Trump’s business interests.

So those investigations might have something to do with Trump's decision to make things personal.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott demurred when asked about the president's tone in an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, saying, "you can ask him why he did the tweet."  But like Trump, Scott trained his fire on Cummings, arguing that the congressman did border patrol agents a disservice by criticizing their conduct.

“I didn't do the tweets, Chuck. I can't talk about why he did what he did. But I'm very disappointed in the people, like Congressman Cummings, who is attacking Border Patrol agents that are trying to do their job, when the Democrats won't give them the resources to do it," he said. 

"Congressman Cummings has sat there and attacked our Border Patrol agents, all right? This reminds me of what happened to soldiers coming back from Vietnam,” he said.

For more on the president's feud with Cummings, and for more news and analysis from "Meet the Press," be sure to sign up for the daily First Read newsletter here