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Meet the Press Blog Archive

Catch up with Meet the Press blog posts from past years leading up to May 17, 2022
Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.

For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.

1186d ago / 6:18 PM UTC

Stacey Abrams sends 2020 'playbook' to every presidential campaign

WASHINGTON — Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a rising star in the Democratic Party likely to end up on any nominee's vice presidential shortlist, sent a "playbook" Monday to every presidential campaign with her recommendation for how to win Georgia and the country in 2020.

The 16-page document warns that "any less than full investment in Georgia would amount to strategic malpractice" and urges Democrats to replicate nationally what she did in Georgia by focusing on "expanding the electorate" with people who don't often vote, rather than trying to persuade the "relatively small" number of swing voters.

"Our unprecedented campaign received more votes than any Democratic candidate for any office in Georgia history, fueled by record-breaking support from white voters and presidential-level turnout and support from the diverse communities of color in our state," Abrams wrote.

"However, I am not the only candidate who can create a coalition and a strategy to win this state, and Georgia is not the only state poised to take advantage of demographic changes."

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.Anthony Scutro

Georgia has not been major battleground state in the past. But it could be one next year at both the presidential and congressional levels, thanks to it having an unusual two Senate seats on the ballot after the impending retirement of Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson.

That means a lot of money from Washington and beyond is likely to flow into the state. 

But in their playbook, which was also sent to major party committees that oversee races for the likes of the Senate and House, Abrams and her team take a relatively dim view of the Democratic Party's conventional wisdom and argue for a new approach.

"Traditionally, Democratic committees, consultants and the media do not factor unlikely voters into their polling, strategy and prognostications, effectively making their analyses by relitigating the prior election as if nothing had changed in the electorate since," wrote Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams' former Campaign Manager. "Our unique approach caused a raft of skepticism and consternation, such as unexpected visits from Washington, D.C. operatives to question our unorthodox approach."

But Groh-Wargo said they were proven right when the race ended up being too close to call on Election Night and they had turned out an unprecedented number of voters and helped candidates win down-ballot races.

"In Georgia, the unthinkable happened: more Democratic voters turned out in a midterm gubernatorial election than did in the presidential election preceding it. More Georgians voted for Stacey Abrams than for Hillary Clinton," Groh-Wargo wrote.

Abrams, who has met with or spoken to about a dozen presidential candidates, recently announced she was joining the boards of the party's biggest super PAC, Priorities USA, and its prominent think tank, the Center for American Progres, despite narrowly losing her race last year.

Last month, she announced she would not run for Senate to fill the seat being vacated by Isakson. 

1186d ago / 5:22 PM UTC

Hagerty jumps into Tennessee Senate race with Trump's blessing

WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty is running for Senate as a Republican in Tennessee, where he jumps in as the frontrunner with President Trump's backing. 

Trump tweeted this past summer lending his endorsement to Hagerty. But at the time, Hagerty was still serving as ambassador — he resigned a few days later amid speculation he would run to replace the retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. 

On Monday, Hagerty made it official in a two-minute video where he painted himself as a potential bulwark against liberal policies gaining steam in Washington.

"Serving in President Trump's administration was the honor of a lifetime, but when I saw the threat to Tennessee and to our country form the Democrat socialist agenda, I felt called to act," he said before showing video of Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

"We must stand up to radical liberals like The Squad, and their socialist agenda that would deeply damage the America we know and love. Their aim is to deliver more government, more crippling debt and less freedom for my children and yours." 

Hagerty instantly becomes the frontrunner both on the Republican side and for the seat itself.

He'll have to contend with surgeon Manny Sethi, country artist Stokes Nielson, and doctor Josh Gapp on the GOP side. Army veteran James Mackler, who ran for Senate in 2018 before stepping aside when former Gov. Phil Bredesen jumped into the Democratic primary, is the top candidate on the Democratic side.  

1186d ago / 4:04 PM UTC

On the airwaves, NC special election sounds a lot like 2018

WASHINGTON — The special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District comes to a close Tuesday. And while the calendar is quickly turning towards 2020, the flurry of political ads that have inundated district is more reminiscent of the party's messages from the 2018 cycle.  

As Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop square off after election fraud allegations invalidated last year’s results, Democrats have a slim ad-spending advantage over the GOP.  

And the party is cribbing from the same playbook Democrats used in the midterms, where candidates distanced themselves from the national party and sunk into messaging on health care.  

Those themes have been the centerpiece of the most frequent ad run in the district during the special election cycle, a McCready ad that’s aired more than 2,370 times to the tune of $785,000, according to data from Advertising Analytics.  

In it, McCready shares his biography as a marine and small business owner, emphasizing his “bipartisan” message of putting “country over party” and highlighting his support for a plan to lower prescription drug prices.  

McCready’s third most prevalent ad is completely focused on health care, accusing Bishop of blocking efforts to lower the cost of health care.  

Outside groups are singing in lockstep, even in attack ads.  

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent more than $900,000 on two ads that attack Bishop on health care; Environmental Defense Action Fund Votes has dropped $469,000 on another spot that plays up McCready’s bio while criticizing Bishop on health care; and House Majority Forward’s main spot fleshes out both his biography as a former Marine as well as his “country over party” message.  

While McCready’s campaign is the top Democratic spender in the race, the Republican spending in the race is being paced by outside groups.  

Those outside groups (primarily the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC) appear to have landed on a clear strategy too — tarring “Greedy McCready” as unethical by attacking his business, tying him to lobbyists and energy hikes in the district.  

Both of CLF's two ads make that exact charge, while all five of the NRCC’s ads take aim at McCready’s business record.  

The two groups have spent a combined $4.4 million on ads in the district.  

For the $1 million Bishop’s campaign has spent on ads in the race, he’s taken a different approach — hugging President Trump tight and playing into the culture war/liberal boogeyman argument.  

Bishop’s top ad quotes Trump blasting McCready as an “ultra liberal” during a July rally in North Carolina, accusing him of being “backed by radicals” amid a photoshopped picture of him standing with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. 

Three of Bishop’s five ads evoke some combination of Pelosi, Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar and other prominent, out-of-state liberals. And one attacks a Charlotte sheriff’s immigration policy, mentioning McCready for the first time at the 20-second mark.  

1186d ago / 1:43 PM UTC

Harris releases her criminal justice reform plan

and

HOUSTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Monday released her criminal justice reform proposals with a focus on transforming the system and public safety. 

Harris's plan is broken down into four parts: ending mass incarceration and investing in safe and healthy communities; building trust and accountability with law enforcement; treating incarcerated people equally and humanely; and protecting vulnerable people within the system. 

Image: Presidential Candidates Attend New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention on Sep. 7, 2019 in Manchester.Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Harris lays out proposals to reduce racial disparities when it comes to incarceration rates, including legalizing marijuana, incentivizing states to hire a more diverse police workforce and holding schools accountable for “discriminatory practices in suspensions and expulsions.” 

“My entire career has been spent making needed reforms and fighting for those who too often are voiceless," Harris said in the campaign's release of the plan. "This plan uses my experience and unique capability to root out failures within the justice system.”

“As president I’ll fix this broken system to make it fairer and more accountable for communities across the country,” she said. 

The plan outlines proposals to reform accountability and trust between communities and law enforcement, such as creating a National Criminal Justice Commission which would study “individuals incarcerated for violent offenses” to figure out evidence-based methods to hold violent offenders accountable and prevent recidivism.

Harris also plans to work with Congress to create a National Police Systems Review Board, supports a national standard on the use of deadly force and plans to require police data reporting to increase transparency. 

Unique to Harris’ plan is a noteworthy investment in children’s justice, through a creation of a Bureau of Children and Family Justice — something Harris similarly created as Attorney General of California. She says she will end life sentences of children, end the transfer of children to adult prisons and end solitary confinement for children. 

She also lays out investments in mental health care, noting that involving criminal justice intervention in cases of people with an untreated mental illness are far more likely to end with deadly force. Harris plans to improve and invest in methods to better handle how law enforcement responds to these cases. 

Additionally, the plan calls for greater accountability for prosecutorial offices and more support for public defenders. 

To ensure that the system treats incarcerated people “equitably and humanely,” Harris says she will get rid of the death penalty, solitary confinement and the cash bail system. She also wants to prohibit prisons from charging high rates for supplies and making phone calls. 

In protecting vulnerable communities, Harris reiterates a plan she previously released to clear the rape kit backlog in the country and outlines her history of protecting consumers from fraud from big banks and for-profit colleges. 

Harris’ plan does not specify a timeline for her proposed actions and investments, nor does she provide a cost estimate. 

Harris faced criticism on her criminal justice record from both Tulsi Gabbard and Joe Biden in July’s debate but touts herself as a “progressive prosecutor.” She often leans into her record on the trail. When she has gotten questions about her time as a prosecutor, her response has been consistently strong in saying she is “proud” of what she accomplished as District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California.

1187d ago / 3:36 PM UTC

Pompeo on possible Kansas Senate bid: 'I'm incredibly focused on what I'm doing'

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly refused to rule out a Senate bid in 2020, although he he told "Meet the Press" Sunday that he's "incredibly focused" on his current job.

Pompeo tried to swat aside repeated rumors that he's eying a Senate bid to replace the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., but would not categorically rule out the prospect of appearing on a ballot in 2020. 

"Others want to speculate on my future a lot more than I do. As you can see from today, I'm incredibly focused on what I'm doing," he said. 

"It's not just Hong Kong and Afghanistan. We've got opportunities all across the world. That's what I'm focused on," he added. "And I intend to continue to do that so long as President Trump asks me to be his secretary of state." 

When asked to rule out a bid, Pompeo added that "the American people should know their secretary of state thinks about one and one thing only: protecting America's national security interests and trying to deliver diplomacy." 

Pompeo told NBC's "Today" in February that he had "ruled out" a Senate bid in Kansas, where he served as a congressman before taking the job as CIA Director (before later moving over to the State Department). But over the summer, he told KCMO Radio that while he's focused on his job, "I always leave open the possibility that something will change." 

Pompeo would jump into the race as both the presumptive favorite to win both the GOP nomination and the seat, as well as the Republicans’ best chance to crowd out controversial former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  

Kobach lost the 2018 gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly despite the state’s heavy conservative lean, a result that has made many Republicans concerned Kobach could make the Senate race similarly competitive if he’s the nominee.  

It’s been a busy week in the race’s Republican primary — State Treasurer Jake LaTurner decided to drop out of the race to run for the HOuse instead, while Rep. Roger Marshall announced his own bid.  

1189d ago / 9:53 PM UTC

This week's round-up of the biggest political and campaign stories

WASHINGTON — As Congress prepares to return from its summer recess, here are some of the biggest political and campaign stories of the week: 

The former Colorado senator and presidential candidate will endorse Bennet before the New Hampshire Democratic State Party Convention on Saturday, Bennet's campaign tells NBC News. 

President Trump started the week on Sunday tweeting that Alabama would be hit by Hurricane Dorian. After the National Weather Service corrected that fact, the president spent the week attacking the media for reporting the NWS's statement and on Wednesday showed an early projection of Hurricane Dorian with an extended line to include Alabama. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks about Hurricane Dorian as he speaks to reporters in the Oval Office of the White House, on Sept. 4, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP

The Pentagon's decision to move $3.6 billion from military funding will impact 127 construction projects. Officials said half of that money would come from international projects, and the other half could potentially come from domestic projects. 

When Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Ireland to visit with officials, Pence and his family stayed at the president's golf club in Doonbeg, instead of Dublin where the meetings were taking place. Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff, originally said the president made the "suggestion" for Pence to stay at the club. Later, the vice president's office said it was so Pence could stay closer to his family's ancestral home. 

The ten Democratic presidential candidates who will participate in the third presidential debate took part in a marathon 7-hour town hall to discuss their plans to deal with climate change. 

Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, became the fifth House Republican from Texas to announce he won't seek reelection in 2020. Thirteen House Republicans have announced they are either retiring or not seeking their current seat in the next election. 

The special election in North Carolina's 9th district will be the final 2018 House race to be resolved. While this district shouldn't be a toss-up — President Trump carried it by 12 points in 2016 — the 2018 Republican nominee for the seat had his win thrown out when one of his consultants committed absentee ballot fraud. 

Three judges in North Carolina threw out the state's legislative district based on the extreme partisan gerrymandering that they say violated the state's constitution. 

1189d ago / 7:07 PM UTC

Gary Hart to endorse Michael Bennet ahead of New Hampshire convention

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., will be receiving the official endorsement for president from Gary Hart tomorrow morning ahead of the New Hampshire Democratic State Party Convention here, his campaign tells NBC News.

Hart, 82, was a Colorado senator when he ran for president in the 1984 election cycle, and won the New Hampshire primary. He ultimately lost the nomination battle to former Vice President Walter Mondale. 

“A number of years ago, the voters of New Hampshire provided an opportunity for a young Colorado senator to build a strong national candidacy,” Hart said in a statement provided to NBC News. “They have the chance now to do it again. Michael Bennet has the intelligence, experience, and judgment to put our nation back on track at home and abroad." 

Hart was barely registering in polls at the time of his '84 run until he had a breakout performance at the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention.

Bennet and Hart will appear together at a press conference here Saturday morning ahead of this year's convention. Hart will then introduce Bennet at the convention Saturday afternoon and the two will then greet voters afterwards.

1189d ago / 4:07 PM UTC

Pete Buttigieg becomes latest presidential hopeful to hit the Iowa airwaves

WASHINGTON — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the latest Democratic primary candidate to hit the TV airwaves in Iowa, launching a new :30 second spot that highlights his pitch for national unity.

With Buttigieg in the mix, here’s how the major TV and radio spending in the first-caucus state breaks down by candidate, per ad trackers at Advertising Analytics.

Note: This data includes both current and future buys (which could potentially be cut) on radio and TV on Iowa airwaves.

Tom Steyer: $3.3m

Kirsten Gillibrand (dropped out): $924k

Joe Biden: $687k

Kamala Harris: $562k

John Delaney: $492k

Pete Buttigieg: $369k

Tulsi Gabbard: $245k

Julian Castro: $26k

1189d ago / 1:34 PM UTC

Firefighters Union begins ad push to tout endorsement of Biden

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The International Association of Firefighters, which endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden quickly after he announced his candidacy in April, is running their first paid media program on his behalf starting with a full page ad running in Friday's New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper. 

Officials involved with the union say they are also launching an online digital program. The IAFF will also be doing visibility for Biden at this weekend’s New Hampshire Democratic Party convention in Manchester. Biden is holding events in the first-in-the-nation primary state tomorrow ahead of the convention. 

Ad for Joe Biden
The International Association of Firefighters is running a full page ad in the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper.IAFF-FIREPAC

"Joe Biden is a lot like fire fighters. He is a problem solver who cares deeply about America," the ad reads.  "As an advocate for people who work every day to support themselves and their families, Joe knows that a strong middle class means a strong America.  He’s fighting to improve the lives of millions of hardworking, patriotic Americans who want nothing more than to earn a decent wage, send their kids to college, have affordable health care and enjoy a dignified retirement."

The ads ends: "That’s why we urge you to vote Joe Biden for president."

1190d ago / 8:35 PM UTC

Climate town hall shows how candidates prioritize climate change

WASHINGTON — Before Wednesday’s CNN town halls on climate change, we said to pay attention not only to the Democratic presidential candidates’ actual plans — but also to who prioritizes addressing climate change if they win the White House.

So during the nearly seven hours of town halls, which of the 10 candidates who participated made it their top priority?

Well, both Amy Klobuchar and Julián Castro said they’d take immediate executive actions.

“On Day 1, I will bring us back into that international climate change agreement,” Klobuchar said. “On Day 2, bring back the clean power rules that President Obama had worked on for so many years – you can do that without Congress.” 

“My first executive order that afternoon [of Jan. 20, 2021] will be to rejoin the Paris climate accord so that we lead again on sustainability,” Castro added.

Hundreds of climate activists gathered outside the CNN
Hundreds of climate activists gathered outside the CNN studios at 30 Hudson Yards where a Town Hall on Climate Policy was held on Sept. 4, 2019 to tell the leading Democratic Party presidential candidates that its time for them all to commit to the boldest and fastest climate actions now.Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

Beto O’Rourke, meanwhile, said he’d make climate his first priority as president. “The most important thing is to arrest the rate of climate change on this planet,” he said. “That’s my No. 1 priority, and that’s why climate was the first plan I released as a candidate for the presidency.”

But other candidates side-stepped how they’d prioritize the climate. Here was Bernie Sanders' answer to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER:  ... [E]very president has to prioritize in terms of where they're going to put -- what is the priority on climate change compared to all these others, if you have to choose? 

SANDERS:  Well, I have the radical idea that a sane Congress can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.  And, you know, Anderson, there are so many crises that are out there today.  I worry very much that we lose 30,000 people a year because they don't have the money to go to a doctor when they should and that 87 million people are uninsured or underinsured.  And I will implement as president a Medicare for all single-payer program.

And Joe Biden, when asked a similar question, used it to defend former President Barack Obama.

QUESTION: Even though President Obama knew of the seriousness of the climate crisis back in 2008, he chose to spend his political capital on health care and then wasn't able to enact the kind of systemic change needed to prevent climate catastrophe. How will you prioritize climate change action if you become president? 

BIDEN:  Well, first of all, in defense of President Obama, everything landed on his desk but locusts. We were heading toward -- we had the greatest financial catastrophe in the world, short of a depression. Nothing ever had occurred like that before. It was just getting America out of a ditch.  We were in real, real trouble. He got the economy back on a footing and began a period of economic growth. He moved on, on health care because he thought it was so important that it happened at the time. 

Biden never answered how he’s prioritize dealing with climate change.

1190d ago / 7:13 PM UTC

Amy O'Rourke holds first solo campaign event with NH gun violence roundtable

CONCORD, NH — Amy O’Rourke made her first solo appearance as a campaign surrogate for her husband, former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, at a gun violence roundtable in New Hampshire Thursday. 

O'Rourke joined the event led by the Kent Street Coalition, a local grassroots political action organization founded in response to the 2016 election. Eleven guests from KSC, Moms Demand Action, and the medical community joined the nearly hour-and-a-half conversation.

After sharing her background and the story of how she met her husband, O'Rourke spoke personally about her trip with her husband to El Paso in the wake of last month’s mass shooting.

“When someone came from outside of El Paso and targeted people of El Paso because of the color of their skin or because of the country they potentially come from, we felt so violated,” she said.

“And it was as in every other community that has experienced this horrific tragedy, and really almost no words to describe the sadness, and then also the fear of people telling us that they now felt like targets.” 

She praised the work of Moms Demand Action (another group that wants stricter gun laws), reflected on O’Rourke’s experience visiting a gun show, and often told stories from her husband's Texas senate race about convincing people to compromise and refusing to moderate his platform.

“It’s bringing everyone to the table and not writing them off, even if they have an NRA sticker on their car,” she said. 

In an exclusive interview with NBC News after the event, O’Rourke said she viewed her surrogate role as a listening one.

“I think more than anything, I want to get out on the road, hear from people, learn from people, and then be able to bring that back so that Beto and I are hearing as many stories as we can,” she said.

She told an anecdote of waiting three hours in line for the funeral of an El Paso victim (whose husband invited the public to her funeral because she had no family in the area) and described it as “as a beautiful representation of our community.”

Image: Beto O'Rourke
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke smiles as he arrives with his wife Amy for a campaign stop at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire., on May 10, 2019.Charles Krupa / AP

She added that she’s seen this post-El Paso fire in her husband “many, many, many times” and thinks his “confidence in calling it out for what it is, and saying the hard truths” is now coming through.

“Beto is such a great listener," she said when asked why she supports his bid, pointing to "his frankness, his directness, and then his desire to bring everybody together and be a part of that conversation, not write anybody off.”

She added that they’ve always made every important decision in their lives together. 

1190d ago / 3:41 PM UTC

Stacey Abrams joins board of Priorities USA

WASHINGTON — Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has joined the board of Priorities USA, the Democratic Party's biggest outside group, the organization's leader tells NBC News.

“Stacey Abrams is an inspiring leader and a champion for voting rights in Georgia and around the nation,” said Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil. “We are incredibly lucky to add her insight and critical experience to our organization’s board and to get to fight along side her for the rights of all Americans, especially those whose voices are being silenced. We look forward to working together so that every American has a fair chance to participate in the democratic process.”

Stacey Abrams addresses supporters during an election night watch party in Atlanta on Nov. 6, 2018.
Stacey Abrams addresses supporters during an election night watch party in Atlanta on Nov. 6, 2018.John Amis / AP file

Priorities USA, which was founded to support President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and funded by mega-donors who cut six- and seven-figure checks, is one of the biggest spenders on elections in the country. It spent almost $200 million to support Hillary Clinton and other Democrats during the 2016 presidential election and another roughly $50 million in the last year's congressional midterms. 

Abrams has made voting rights the focus of her recent work, arguing voter suppression cost her her 2018 election. Priorities has also made that part of its focus, pledging to spend $30 million to register voters, litigate against Republican-backed voting restrictions in court, and advance favorable ballot measures.

The move will expose Abrams to some of the party's biggest national donors and give her deeper access to the party's power structure. Last year, she joined the board of the Center for American Progress, a major Democratic think tank.

And it suggests Abrams is not interested in pursuing elective office in near-term. A rising star in the party, Abrams' name has been floated for everything from president to one of Georgia's two Senate seats on the ballot next year.

She's ruled out all of those possibilities, though she has suggested she'd be open to the vice-presidential slot if chosen. Many expect her to be preparing for a rematch against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp when he stands for reelection in 2022.

Abrams is joining the non-profit 501(c)4 arm of Priorities USA, a type of organization critics label as "dark money" groups because they can accept unlimited contributions generally without disclosing their donors, though there are limits on how much they can spend on elections. 

1191d ago / 7:27 PM UTC

Trump trails Biden and Sanders in Wisconsin poll

WASHINGTON — A new poll shows President Donald Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in a hypothetical presidential matchup in Wisconsin, with the incumbent president tied with Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.  

Biden’s 51 percent puts him ahead of Trump’s 42 percent, a margin outside of the Marquette University Law School poll’s 3.9 percent margin of error. Sanders leads Trump 48 percent to 44 percent.  

Warren is tied with Trump at 45 percent while Harris is tied with him at 44 percent.  

Wisconsin is expected to be a key battleground state in 2020 — it’s a state that Trump won by less than 23,000 votes in 2016, making him the first Republican presidential candidate to win it since Ronald Reagan in 1984.  

Overall, Trump’s approval rating in the state among registered voters is 45 percent with 53 percent saying they disapprove of his job performance. That’s virtually unchanged from April’s Marquette numbers.  

A plurality, 37 percent, think the economy will get worse in the next 12 months, with 33 percent saying it will stay the same and 26 percent expecting it to improve. Registered voters are virtually split on Trump’s handling of the economy.  

But they’re less split in their views on tariffs — 46 percent say the tariffs on imported goods hurt the American economy, while 30 percent say tariffs help. There’s a clear partisan split on this issue, with 47 percent of Republicans saying tariffs will help the economy while 72 percent of Democrats say the policy will hurt the economy.  

1191d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

On climate, pay attention to the priorities as much as the plans

WASHINGTON — Almost every major Democratic presidential candidate now has a detailed plan to combat climate change, with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Julian Castro all releasing their plans ahead of tonight’s CNN town hall on climate change.

But who’s making it a No. 1 or even No. 2 priority if they become president?

The answer: Very few of them, especially after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ended his presidential bid last month.

Image: US-VOTE-2020-DEMOCRATS-DEBATE
Democratic presidential hopefuls participate in the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

In the second night of the first round of Democratic debates, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked the assembled 10 candidates what their top priority would be, and here were their responses:

  • Kamala Harris: a middle-class tax cut, protecting DACA recipients, gun control
  • Bernie Sanders: a political revolution
  • Joe Biden: defeating Donald Trump
  • Pete Buttigieg: fixing democracy (“Get that right, climate, immigration, taxes, and every other issue gets better,” he said)
  • Andrew Yang: his $1,000 per-month payment to every American
  • Michael Bennet: climate change and economic mobility
  • Marianne Williamson: calling the prime minister of New Zealand (remember that?)

That debate stage also included three candidates who have since dropped out — John Hickenlooper, Kirsten Gillibrand and Eric Swalwell. 

The candidates who participated in the first night of the debates in Miami did not get that same priority question, but Elizabeth Warren has said her anti-corruption plan and wealth tax are her top priorities; Beto O’Rourke has listed climate change and fixing America’s democracy; Cory Booker has said it’s criminal justice reform and preventing gun violence; Julian Castro has said it’s universal health care; and Amy Klobuchar has said it’s re-entering the Paris climate deal, protecting the Affordable Care Act and protecting DACA recipients.

Every president works with a finite amount of political capital, resources and time.

So pay attention to the priorities as much as the plans.

1191d ago / 1:59 PM UTC

A fifth House Republican from Texas says he won't run again in 2020

WASHINGTON — A fifth House Republican from Texas says he's hanging up his spurs. 

Republican Rep. Bill Flores announced Wednesday that he won't seek reelection in 2020, saying in a statement that he's sticking to his pledge to serve six or fewer terms in Washington. 

Four other Texas House Republicans — Reps. Will Hurd, Pete Olson, Kenny Marchant and Mike Conaway — are also retiring at the end of their terms. 

A total of 13 House Republicans so far are either retiring or seeking higher office in 2020. That's compared with just three Democratic House members doing the same. 

First elected in 2010, Flores won his latest reelection race 57 percent to 41 percent. 

President Donald Trump won the Waco-area district by a similar margin in 2016, 56 percent to 38 percent. 

1191d ago / 10:02 AM UTC

Buttigieg becomes latest candidate to roll out plans to combat climate change

DES MOINES, IA – Pete Buttigieg Wednesday became the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to roll out new policies aimed at tackling climate change.

The policy, “Mobilizing America: Rising to the Climate Challenge,” centers on three areas of emphasis: building a clean economy, investing in resilience, and demonstrating leadership.

“For too long Washington has chosen denial and obstruction as we’re faced with the imminent catastrophic effects of climate change,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “My plan ensures that no community is left behind as we meet the challenge of our time with the urgency and unity it demands.”

The South Bend, Indiana mayor hopes to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050 through a gradual phase out of carbon emissions. First by achieving a clean electric grid and ensuring all new cars are zero-emission by 2035, then bringing buses and planes into the fold five years later and finally adding the manufacturing and farming industries over the next thirty years.

The plan also aims to put some extra cash in the average American’s pocket, by enacting a carbon-price, with an annual increase, that would be rebated back to tax payers. 

Buttigieg is also proposing efficiency rebates for homeowners to cover the cost of energy-efficient updates. The policy places a specific emphasis on working with Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income communities that are particularly harmed by extreme weather to ensure they benefit from the transition to clean energy.

The plan proposes quadrupling federal clean energy research and development funding to $25 billion per year, while also committing nearly $50 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s R&D over the next decade. The policy places a heavy emphasis on U.S. innovation in green technology, creating an investment fund which would provide $50 billion in seed funding to build, “first-of-a-kind technology.”

Image: US-POLITICS-VOTE-IOWA-BUTTIGIEG
Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks in Fairfield, Iowa on Aug. 15, 2019.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images

In an effort to gain buy-in for his climate change vision at the local level the South Bend mayor hopes to convene, “The Pittsburgh Climate Summit,” within his first 100 days. The meeting of mayors, governors, and community leaders would focus on collaborating on best practices, developing plans to transition their communities to a clean energy economy.

According to the proposal, most of the polices outlined will be achieved by working with the other branches of government, however the plan also states that if Congress is unable to act on climate change, Buttigieg would, “use every executive authority available to take action to reduce emissions and require resilience in infrastructure.”

On the global stage Buttigieg hopes to lead on climate change, by reentering the Paris Climate Agreement and redeveloping bilateral and multilateral relationships around the issue.

1191d ago / 9:59 AM UTC

Harris outlines new climate plan ahead of forum

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WASHINGTON — Ahead of the Democratic field’s first climate change forum on Wednesday night, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., released a comprehensive climate plan that calls for a $10 trillion private-public investment over ten years and a U.S. electrical grid that is 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030. 

The plan builds on an environmental justice policy outline that she put forward in July with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., which focuses on climate equity and the disproportionate impact of climate change on low income communities and people of color. 

Image: Kamala Harris
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign event on healthcare, in Burlington, Iowa Monday, on Aug. 12, 2019.John Locher / AP

Harris’s expanded plan would require 50 percent of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emissions by 2030, and 100 percent of the new passenger vehicle market by 2035. She would press for a new “cash for clunkers” program, an Obama-era program that offered incentives to old vehicle owners to purchase new zero-emissions vehicles. 

The California senator’s climate plan also calls for an end to all federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, including the end of any federal money for new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. She calls for the implementation of a climate pollution fee, the restoration of environmental rules repealed by the Trump Administration, and a $250 billion drinking water infrastructure investment over five years. 

Harris also says her administration would rejoin the Paris Agreement.

More than once in her plan, Harris mentions enacting other candidates’ proposed climate policies, including proposed legislation from Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Cory Booker, D-N.J.. The campaign also gave a nod in its proposal to a former presidential candidate, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who proposed the most sweeping slate of policies among the Democratic field.

On the campaign trail, Harris has said she supports a Green New Deal, but her climate plan released today is the first time she has gone into specifics on what her idea of addressing climate change would look like. Harris often tells crowds that the crisis is “one of the most urgent reasons we need a new commander in chief.”

Harris, who wasn’t originally planning to be a part of the CNN climate town hall, changed her schedule after pressure from the progressive environmental group Sunrise Movement, who criticized Harris for committing to a fundraiser instead.

CORRECTION: (Sept. 4, 2019, 8:07 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the total proposed cost of the Harris plan. It is $10 trillion, not $1 trillion.

1192d ago / 11:41 PM UTC

Elizabeth Warren releases new plan to fight climate change

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NEW YORK - Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., proposed an additional $1 trillion federal investment over ten years to fight climate change Tuesday, committing to several 100 percent clean energy benchmarks in a plan released ahead of an appearance at a climate-focused town hall. 

“Nothing less than a national mobilization will be required to defeat climate change,” Warren wrote in her published plan. “It will require every single one of us, and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work — there is no time to waste.”

 

Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to the crowd at a town hall event in Aiken, S.C., on Aug. 17, 2019.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to the crowd at a town hall event in Aiken, S.C., on Aug. 17, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images

Warren plans to require all newly built cars, trucks, and busses to be zero-emission by 2030, and will require zero-carbon pollution for all new commercial and residential buildings by 2028. She also calls for a plan to require energy to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030.

Warren’s plan was inspired by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who recently left the presidential race after running as the “climate candidate.” Inslee and Warren met in Seattle when she was there for a rally last week, two sources with knowledge of the previously unreported meeting tell NBC News. 

After dropping out of the presidential primary race last month, several candidates — including Warren — have sought Inslee out on climate-related issues and his endorsement (whenever it comes) is one to watch. 

On Warren’s latest climate-centric policy, Inslee spokesman Jamal Raad says Inslee is “thrilled to see Sen. Warren taking up major elements of his plan. He is particularly impressed that Senator Warren is adopting his aggressive targets to reach 100 percent clean energy in electricity, cars and buildings, ending coal power, and making a commitment to investing in good, union jobs and a just transition for front-line communities.” 

Warren's plan calls for an additional trillion dollars of federal investment towards climate mitigation policies, which she says will be paid by overturning the Trump tax cuts from earlier in 2018. The plan says that the federal investment will “will leverage additional trillions in private investment and create millions of jobs.” 

This investment, along Warren’s other climate plans like her Green Manufacturing Plan and Green Marshall Plan, bring her total planned federal investment for climate change mitigation to $3 trillion over ten years.  

On top of federal dollars Warren plans to commit to grant programs and federal investments, she also plans to use executive action to direct federal agencies to move in a clean energy direction. For example, Warren says that she will direct the federal government to purchase clean energy products for use in federal buildings, both investing in green manufacturers and shifting the government over to zero-emissions standards.

Warren was similarly effusive about Inslee’s climate plan. “[Inslee] provided bold, thoughtful, and detailed ideas for how to get us where we need to go, both by raising standards to address pollution and investing in the future of the American economy,” Warren wrote in her plan. “While his presidential campaign may be over, his ideas should remain at the center of the agenda.”

Warren also hammered home her own climate change credentials, saying that she was an original supporter of the Green New Deal and notes that many of her previous policy proposals had climate mitigation built into them. 

1192d ago / 9:03 PM UTC

Biden campaign prepares for 'dog fight' that could extend into Spring

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is preparing for a “dog fight” during the primaries that could go well past the first four caucus and primary states, aides said Tuesday, and planning is underway to start establishing a presence in Super Tuesday states including Florida and Texas.

“I can’t see Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren getting out and they shouldn’t expect us to,” one campaign official told reporters.

Three top Biden campaign officials held a background call to discuss their fall strategy as the former vice president continues to maintain a significant lead in the polls and the Democratic primary field winnows down. The officials identified building a diverse coalition of support, continued organizing in key battle ground and Super Tuesday states and avoiding what they termed as “distractions” from opponents or the press as keys going forward. 

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 10, 2019.Scott Morgan / Reuters file

An acknowledged soft spot for Biden has been attracting support from younger voters, but officials predicted that his “strong record” on gun reform would appeal to a demographic that has consistently that as a top issue.  

But it’s the argument of “electability” that continues to be the campaign's main theme, with one official stressing that polls show voters are still prioritizing supporting a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump, an indicator they are strongly holding onto as their pathway to win the nomination.

“All evidence shows that Biden is the person best positioned to beat Trump and strongest candidate to beat Trump,” a second official said.

Biden will share a debate stage for the first time, in less than two weeks, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is currently polling in the top three. One of the officials said they were aware of the “two candidate head-to-head narrative” going into the debate and stressed that “10 candidates will be on stage, not just two.”

The Biden campaign has been putting a majority of its early organizing efforts into Iowa, where he has visited seven times since announcing his candidacy, the most of any state thus far.

Asked whether Biden losing Iowa could complicate his electability argument moving ahead to other early voting states, one campaign official said it would not.

“Iowa will be critical,” one official said. “Do we think we need to win Iowa? No. Do we think we will win? Yes.”

Coming off a weekend swing through New Hampshire, the campaign said they would now establish a presence in Super Tuesday states, relying on long-term, on-the-ground relationships and Obama campaign connections to help them start organizing in Texas and Florida.

Officials stressed repeatedly throughout the call that no Democratic candidate “can or should win without diverse coalitions” making up their team and their support base. Though they did not specifically mention a campaign that does not have diverse staff, they did repeatedly point out that they were not one of them by citing how they have hired and will continue to hire field organizers who reflect the diversity of the area or state.

“The seriousness that people are bringing to this election choice is really high. And first and foremost, they are going to make an assessment of, ‘is the person I’m supporting, will they beat Donald Trump? Are they the best person to do that?’ And, by the way, if they’re thinking about that relative to Joe Biden, they don’t have to do that holding their nose. The truth of the matter is that his favorability rating is high or higher than anybody else in this primary. He has the strongest personal characteristics, the strongest personal ratings, the strongest leadership qualities.”

1192d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

Julián Castro releases part of new climate plan, with Jay Inslee's input

DES MOINES, Iowa — While climate-focused Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., may no longer be a presidential contender, remaining candidates are picking up the torch. Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro Tuesday released his policy proposal — created with input from Inslee's team — to address climate change, calling it “the greatest existential threat to our future.”

Castro plans to ultimately put out a five-part plan, with today’s release covering the first two components focused on “environmental justice and resiliency.” Castro references his experience as HUD secretary, where he saw two-thirds of the United States suffer a climate-sparked disaster, to point out the loss of jobs, damages to physical and social infrastructure, school closures, financial instability and risks to the elderly during these disasters. 

Image: Julian Castro
Julian Castro speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom, on Aug. 9, 2019, in Clear Lake, Iowa.John Locher / AP

Castro committed that, if elected, his first executive action would be rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and pushing the international community to work toward worldwide net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. His plan outlines a timeline to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, replace coal-generated electricity with zero-emission sources and all-electric power to be carbon neutral in the U.S.

The plan also calls for all vehicles to be zero-emission by 2030. Castro says this plan would put the U.S. on a timeline of clean, renewable electricity by 2035, and have the country reach net-zero emissions by 2045 “at the latest.” Castro also plans to create an “Economic Guarantee for Fossil Fuel Workers,” to support workers in the oil, gas, and fossil fuel industry who would be affected by the transition away from fossil fuels. 

Additionally, Castro says he’d propose new civil rights legislation to address the “disparate impact of environmental discrimination and dismantle structures of environmental racism,” in his first 100 days, similar to Inslee's proposals. The plan notes that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to live near polluters, therefore breathing polluted air, and more than half of the 9 million people living near hazardous waste sites are people of color. 

The 13-page proposal also outlines the creation of a national clean energy standard, in addition to a $200 billion “Green Infrastructure Fund” to promote clean, renewable buildings, maintenance and operations. And it calls for a renewed Clean Power Plan, the establishment of a National Climate Council and a system of “Carbon Equity Scoring” to measure the impact of federal spending on climate justice goals. 

The lofty price tags would be funded by Castro’s proposed new carbon pollution fee, a reinstated Superfund Tax —designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances via consumers of petroleum and chemical products—and the pollution fee included in this plan. He’ll also pull from his inheritance tax and wealth inequality tax proposed in his “Working Families” Economic Plan

Much of Castro's campaign has focused on immigration and refugee rights — to marry these goals, the plan creates a “Climate Refugee” category for people who have been displaced because of migration due to climate change, citing a World Bank report that estimates there could be as many as 200 million climate-change-driven migrants by 2050. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar also released a broad outline of her climate plan over the holiday weekend. Various candidates will be on stage this week discussing all things climate change during CNN’s Climate Forum. 

1192d ago / 9:28 AM UTC

Biden campaign launches new digital ads in Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Joe Biden's campaign is releasing a series of new digital ads Tuesday that will target Iowans watching videos on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Hulu in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. 

Two 15-second YouTube ads focus on the former vice president's commitment to health care by building off an ad his campaign released last week that features him recounting the traumatic death of his first wife and infant daughter and how difficult it would have been for him to pay for his injured son’s health care if he could not afford it. 

Image: Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, gets a hug from Ruth Nowadzky, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during the Hawkeye Area Labor Council Labor Day Picnic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Sept. 2, 2019.Charlie Neibergall / AP

"People have gone through what I've gone through without any of the kind of help that I had,” Biden told reporters in South Carolina last week when asked about the ad. “I can't imagine doing it without insurance and what I wanted to make clear was, it is personal to me.”

In one YouTube ad, titled “Train Home,” a narrator recounts how Biden took the Acela train home every day  while serving in the Senate to take care of his sons even though they “had the health care they needed.”

“The phone call you never hope to get. The emergency room you never hoped to see. Joe Biden has been there,” the narrator says in another ad titled “Been There,” which aims to show that the former Vice President understands the struggle Americans face with the health care system.

The campaign also plans on promoting short six-second ads on Facebook and Instagram videos that highlight Biden’s commitment to expanding the Affordable Care Actcutting prescription costs, and curing cancer.

The latest ads are part of its high six-figure ad buys across the state that follow the release of Biden’s first ad named “Bones” that aired in Iowa last month.

The campaign hopes the ads will “compliment the traditional TV spots and create ‘surround sound’” around the Vice President’s health care message.

1194d ago / 2:52 PM UTC

Castro: I can 'supercharge' Obama coalition

WASHINGTON — Former HUD Sec. Julián Castro argued Sunday that Democrats "want a new generation of leadership, predicting that he would be able to mobilize voters who may have voted for former President Obama but skipped the 2016 election. 

When asked about why the leading Democrats in the presidential race are among the oldest candidates in the field, Castro praised former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders as "very talented individuals with tremendous experience." 

But he drew a distinction between himself and those names by referring to his candidacy as a "risk" that could pay off by motivating voters to turn out.

“If you take a look at the modern era of presidential campaigns, when Democrats have won, it's because they’ve taken a little bit of a risk, whether it was [John F.] Kennedy in 1960, or [Jimmy] Carter in 1976 or Barack Obama in 2008," he said on Sunday's "Meet the Press." 

“We need to get people off the sidelines in 2020. I believe I can reassemble the Obama coalition and then supercharge that so that we can go back and win Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and then get the 29 electoral votes of Florida, the 11 electoral votes of Arizona and I believe even the 38 electoral votes of Texas.

1196d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

This week's biggest campaign stories

WASHINGTON — Heading into Labor Day weekend, here are the biggest campaign stories from the week that was: 

Longtime Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson announced he will resign at the end of the year due to health concerns. Georgia Republicans will now have to defend two Senate seats in 2020. Favored Democratic recruit Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her gubernatorial bid to now-Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018, took herself out of contention for both seats. 

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ended her presidential campaign on Wednesday after failing to meet either the polling or donor threshold for the September Democratic debate. Gillibrand is the first senator to end drop out of the 2020 contest. 

Image: Kirsten Gillibrand
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum on Aug. 10, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall / AP

Despite spending nearly $12 million on ads, Tom Steyer failed to meet the polling qualification to make the third Democratic debate in September — Steyer needed one more poll to show him at 2 percent or higher by the Wednesday deadline. Steyer spent six times more money than his closest Democratic competitor. It is possible that Steyer could make the debate stage in October. The October debate qualifications are the same as the September qualifications, with just more time to meet the polling and donor thresholds. 

The third Democratic presidential debate will be a one-night-only affair with 10 candidates. Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang will appear on Sept. 12. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden conflated facts from three events into one story about a Navy captain in Afghanistan who attempted to refuse a medal from the vice president, per The Washington Post. Biden told the story at an event in New Hampshire last week, and yesterday defended his description of the story saying, "the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said." 

The Democratic National Committee will reject Iowa's Democratic Party plan to hold virtual caucuses to expand the number of people who are able to participate in the caucus. The DNC decided the virtual caucuses wouldn't be doable because the technology isn't sufficiently secure. 

1197d ago / 8:41 PM UTC

Kamala Harris out of running for progressive group's endorsement

WASHINGTON -- Kamala Harris is out of the running for the endorsement of a prominent progressive group after her campaign said she couldn't participate before its planned decision next month.

The labor union-backed Working Families Party has been conducting live-streamed Q&As with six candidates ahead of a planned mid-September vote by its grassroots members and national board to pick one.

That early endorsement will make the WFP one of the first left-leaning groups to weigh in on the crowded 2020 field.

The five other candidates under consideration — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Julian Castro and Bill de Blasio — have already completed their live-streamed Q&As, which were broadcast to local watch parties across the country. 

Harris, who has tried to thread the needle between the left and right flanks of the 2020 primary, canceled on an announced Q&A with the group two days ahead of her event, which was scheduled for Aug. 22

This week, the California senator's staff told the group she would not be available to reschedule her Q&A before the party holds its endorsement vote. 

Harris spokesperson Ian Sams confirmed to NBC News that "we weren't able to make it work in time for their vote mid-September."

The group planned to ask Harris, a former prosecutor, about criminal justice issues, her support for labor unions, plans to deal with student debt, and to clarify her position on Medicare for All, according to a list of prepared questions.

"The one thing we asked of candidates who wanted to be considered by WFP members is that they had to be willing to take questions from us in a live Q&A," said Nelini Stamp, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the Working Families Party."We regret that Senator Harris did not agree to a time for an interview, and consequently is not moving forward in our process."

The Working Families Party, which started in New York City and now works to elect progressive candidates in more than a dozen states, endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. The Vermont senator and Warren have been favorites in some of the group's internal surveys so far.

1197d ago / 7:29 PM UTC

Democrats look to flip Virginia state legislature narrowly controlled by Republicans

WASHINGTON — There's a big election just two months away in Virginia, where Democrats are hoping to flip both state legislative chambers that are currently controlled by Republicans with razor-thin margins.

Democrats need to win only two seats each in the state House and Senate on November 5 to win complete control of the former Capital of the Confederacy after making better-than-expected gains in the commonwealth's last odd-year election in 2017.

Democrats now control every statewide office, but the GOP-run legislature has stymied the party's agenda, as has a string of scandals by its leaders. So Democrats say they're now making a bigger investment earlier than they have in the past.

Image: ***BESTPIX*** Democratic Leadership Of Virginia Surrounded In Controvesy After Racists Photos And Sexual Assault Allegations Surface
The Virginia State Capitol on Feb. 9, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the party's official campaign arm for state races, has now completed sending $1 million in early money intended to help hire staff, recruit candidates, and build the party's infrastructure.  

Meanwhile, the Michael Bloomberg-backed gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety has pledged to spend another $2.5 million after the Republican-controlled legislature abruptly canceled a special session on guns called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam after a mass shooting. Democratic groups Priorities USA and EMILY’s List also plan to spend $600,000 on a digital campaign.

“We made huge gains in 2017 and this November, we’re going to do whatever it takes to win both chambers in Richmond," DLCC President Jessica Post said in a statement, referring to Virginia's statewide elections two years ago and the 2018 midterms.

Democrats also noted that the top five or so donors in the state so far this year are mainly supporting Democrats, a change from years past.

Republicans are fighting back to maintain control, with the Republican State Leadership Committee spending at least $550,000 in the state so far, according to campaign finance disclosures. Much more money is sure to follow as the race gets closer, since its not uncommon for groups to hoard their cash until the last minute, when voters are paying closer attention. 

The dollar figures are not large in the context of national politics, but can go a long way in smaller state races. 

Democrats involved in state races have sounded the alarm that the presidential race is distracting donors and activists from these races, but the DLCC has touted its fundraising — it says it already raised $10 million this cycle, outpacing the RSLC for the first time — and work in Virginia to argue the party is prepared.

State races this year and next are especially critical since the lawmakers elected now will be the ones drawing the legislative and congressional maps for the next decade after the 2020 Census.

1197d ago / 4:18 PM UTC

Darrell Issa launching exploratory committee for indicted Rep. Hunter's seat

WASHINGTON — Former California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is launching an exploratory committee for the congressional seat currently held by indicted Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter. 

Issa's old campaign website now features a statement saying, "I have formally launched an exploratory committee for the 50th Congressional District in California."

"I have received such a tremendous outpouring of encouragement from supporters inside the district, and around the state and across the Nation. I’m truly grateful for the many encouraging phone calls, messages and letters that I have received," the statement continues. 

Darrell Issa
In this March 2, 2010, file photo, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. takes part in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)ASSOCIATED PRESS

Issa decided to retire ahead of his own 2018 election instead of run again. Democrat Mike Levin ultimately won the seat. 

Before he left office, Issa was the wealthiest member of Congress according to Roll Call's analysis. While he didn't loan his campaign any substantial money during 2016 bid, when Issa won by less than 2,000 votes, he contributed $3 million of his personal wealth to his first bid in 2000. So between his deep pockets and his connections in Congress, he likely would be able to raise substantial money for his campaign. 

Issa, who made his name as an antagonist of President Obama as head of the House Oversight Committee, could give Republicans an interesting plan B depending on how Hunter's trial goes. Hunter has been accused of misusing campaign funds for a variety of personal expenses — including to finance affairs — and his wife has since pleaded guilty on a related conspiracy charge. 

Hunter won his 2018 congressional race even after that indictment, but by just 4 points in a district that President Trump won by 15 points in 2016. 

Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who narrowly lost to Hunter in 2018, is running again. During that campaign, Hunter repeatedly drew criticism for his attacks on Campa-Najjar, including a television ad that accused him of trying to "infiltrate Congress" and called him a "security risk" because his deceased grandfather was involved in the 19720 terror attack on Jewish Olympians at the 1980 Munich Olympics. 

Hunter has had some fundraising struggles since his indictment — he raised just $92,600 in the first quarter of 2019. But while he pulled in about $500,000 from April through June, his campaign ended June with less than $300,000 in the bank and $185,000 in loans. 

If Issa decides to run, he wouldn't be the only notable Republican vying for the seat. Carl DeMaio, who narrowly lost a nearby congressional race in 2014, is running in the 50th district this cycle. 

1198d ago / 5:16 PM UTC

Poll: Trump approval on economy goes underwater

WASHINGTON — Amid concerns of a potential recession, a near-majority of voters said they disapproved of President Trump's handling of the economy in a new Quinnipiac University poll. 

While the voters are virtually split on the issue (46 percent say they approve while 49 percent say they disapprove), Trump's approval rating on the economy is tied for the lowest mark in more than a year in Quinnipiac's data

The new data shows economic trend-lines moving the wrong way--the 61 percent of registered voters rating the economy excellent or good was the lowest mark since April 2018;  the 37 percent who said the economy is getting worse is the lowest since October 2011; and the 41 percent who said Trump's policies are hurting the economy is the highest since the poll started asking the question in November of 2017.

Image: President Donald Trump attends a press conference at the G7 Summit in France on Aug. 26, 2019.
President Donald Trump attends a press conference at the G7 Summit in France on Aug. 26, 2019.Christian Hartmann / Reuters

The sentiment comes weeks after a key economic indicator suggested that a recession could be on the table for the near future. President Trump has repeatedly denied that there would be a recession, accusing the news media of working against him by rooting for an economic downturn, but has also criticized the Federal Reserve for its handling of the economy. 

Overall, 56 percent of voters say they disapprove of how Trump is handling the presidency compared to 38 percent who say they approve of his job. 

In the presidential race, the Quinnipiac poll found Trump trailing all of the Democratic candidates tested—former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Burrigieg—by margins of at least 9 points. 

And in the Democratic primary, Biden leads the field with 32 percent, followed by Warren's 19 percent and Sanders' 15 percent. 

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,422 people from Aug. 21 through Aug. 26 who self-identified as registered voters, a sample that included 648 Democratic voters and leaners. The whole sample has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, while the Democratic margin of error is 4.6 percentage points.  

1199d ago / 8:59 PM UTC

Efforts to elect Republican women get a boost, but not from the party apparatus

WASHINGTON — There are 102 women currently serving in the House of Representatives, only 13 of those women are Republicans. As Republican strategists consider how to add more women to the party without violating the National Republican Congressional Committee's primary-neutral stance, outside groups are leading the way. 

Winning for Women, one of the groups working outside the party apparatus has a simple goal for next year's elections: "20 in 20" — increase the GOP's House female delegation to at least 20 women, and vocally, they have support from the party. 

NRCC Communications Director Chris Pack told NBC News that the group's chairman, Rep. Tom Emmer, is "fully supportive of Winning for Women and shares their mission to elect more female Republicans to Congress." 

But as Emmer told a group of reporters in July, that support doesn't mean preferential treatment from the NRCC. 

“The NRCC should not be involved with primaries,” Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the NRCC, told reporters in July “That’s not our job. Other people are involved in primaries.”

  

That's where Winning for Women and other groups like Rep. Elise Stefanik’s, R-N.Y., E-PAC, which focuses on recruiting female Republicans to run, comes in. 

One woman who's spoken with Winning for Women is Peggy Huang. 

Huang is a deputy attorney general for California and an immigrant from Taiwan—she believes that she better represents the 45th district of California than first-term Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. But Huang is already facing five other primary challengers — four of whom are men.  

When asked what her main campaign goals were, Huang told NBC News she wants to focus on issues like immigration, health care, affordable housing and tackling student loan debt.   

“We have families that are struggling to deal with housing and these are young families, and they are coming out of school with high student loans,” Huang said. “I think those are the things that we need to address, we can’t just let it fester.”  

Huang also realizes that her message may not mesh with someone else running in 2020:  President Trump.

“In 2018 everyone kind of took it out on the incumbent, but come 2020, you can as a voter decide what you want to do about President Trump. I’m running on kitchen table issues that are important to our district,” Huang said.   

Huang’s comments echoed what other hopefuls told NBC.  

Like Huang, many Republican women are targeting seats that flipped blue in 2018. And the Winning for Women Action Fund hopes to help their candidates clear crowded primaries. In the Winning for Women Action Fund’s first six months of fundraising (from January 2019 to June 2019), the group brought in $1.475 million dollars.  For a group hoping to become the EMILY's List on the right, there's a lot of room to grow. EMILY's List brought in upwards of $19 million between January and the end of July this year. 

“The success that women on the left saw is really encouraging for Republican women because if they can do it, we can do it,” Winning for Women communications director Olivia Perez-Cubas said. 

Tina Ramirez is running in Virginia’s 7th district, currently represented by Rep. Abigail Spanberger. She’s Hispanic, runs an international nonprofit and is a single mother — qualities she believes need to be better represented in today’s Republican elected class.  

Out of four announced Republican candidates in the district, she’s the only woman.   

“I think that the party needs more diversity so that it accurately reflects the people that exist in the party. People like me that happen to be Hispanic, female, single mother and have a lot of diverse global experience,” Ramirez said.   

Ramirez is not running away from President Trump, and she believes her district which largely voted for the president in 2016 will do so again come 2020. And for Republicans like Ramirez, that may come from hope for increased Republican turnout in 2020. In 2018 Democratic voters outvoted Republicans by more than 4 million people. Republicans are hoping that with Trump on the ticket, their party will turn up. 

 

But many of these women are running in suburban areas that President Trump hasn't been able to turn toward him. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the president's approval rating in the suburbs is underwater at 44 percent, and among suburban women it falls to 36 percent.

With those statistics against them, many of these women are trying to replicate what won Democrats the House in 2018: Talk about kitchen table issues, leave President Trump talk at the door and remind districts that there’s a reason they’ve long been Republican. 

But without institutional support behind them, those candidates face a tougher road to just getting their party’s nomination, let alone winning a general election.  

Yvette Herrell, a state legislature in New Mexico, is challenging Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico’s second congressional district, and is running a primary campaign against a Republican man as well.  Herrell ran against Torres Small in 2018, and is hoping to give her district a reason to remember why it voted Republican in the past.  

“President Trump won this district by double digits in 2016, and there is a great deal of support for him here,” Herrell said. “Looking at the president at the top of the ticket, I think that absolutely helps down-the-ballot candidates.” 

Back in 2018, House Democratic hopefuls had a similar quandary: wrap themselves in leadership, or distance themselves. Pelosi went so far as to tell Democrats, “Just win, baby” when they had to come out against her.   

“There are some districts where Trump will be super helpful, man or woman, and there are some districts where he’s not as helpful and that’s just a reality, and that’s going to be a case by case basis,” Perez-Cubas said.  

1199d ago / 8:12 PM UTC

Former Kansas Republican governor calls for primary challenge to incumbent Republican

WASHINGTON — Former Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer is calling on state Treasurer Jake LaTurner to end his Senate bid and primary sitting Republican Rep. Steve Watkins. 

It's an unusual move to so openly call for a primary challenger against an incumbent in one's own party. But while Colyer did not reference Watkins by name, he made it clear that he feared Watkins would not be able to win reelection. 

"Despite the fact that President Trump carried the 2nd Congressional District 56% — 37%, a 19 point margin, the current Representative squeaked by with a 2 point victory in 2018. The first eight months of his time in Congress have seen poor fundraising and a lack of coalition building," Colyer said. 

"It's important that Republicans nominate a candidate that can win. The fact is we have too many candidates in the Senate race and need an improved candidate in the Second District." 

It's been a rough summer recess for Watkins, who's faced local headlines like a recent one in the Topeka Capital-Journal reading "U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins ducks reporters amid speculation he could resign."

The paper said that while Republicans are calling for Watkins to step down for an unknown reason, the congressman's spokesman said he would not resign. 

The Watkins campaign did not immediately return a request to comment on the former governor's statement. 

LaTurner is currently running in the Senate race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. LaTurner is the highest-profile candidate outside of former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

But while a potential move by LaTurner to the second district primary would satisfy Colyer's concerns for that race, it would raise more questions for establishment Republicans who worry Kobach would be uniquely vulnerable in a general election after he lost last year's gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly. 

1199d ago / 4:01 PM UTC

Harris wins endorsement from Emerge America founder

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., received an endorsement Tuesday from Andrea Steele, founder of Emerge America, an organization that recruits and trains women running for office.

Steele, who is based in San Francisco, founded Emerge California in 2002, which later was re-named Emerge America. The organization helped to support 415 Democratic women who won elections across the country in 2018, including Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Oakland, Calif. Mayor Libby Schaaf and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).

But Steele got her start in recruiting women to run for office by helping one candidate launch her campaign for District Attorney in San Francisco: Kamala Harris.

Image: Kamala Harris
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign event on healthcare, in Burlington, Iowa Monday, on Aug. 12, 2019.John Locher / AP

As the now-presidential hopeful tells it, Harris turned to Steele for help when she decided to run for district attorney in 2003. The two sat in her living room designing and Xeroxing Harris’ first campaign flyers. On the campaign trail now, Harris often tells the story of how she would take the print-outs, a roll of tape and her ironing board to create a make-shift standing desk as she talked to voters.

After Harris won her race for district attorney, Steele was inspired to found Emerge.

“I'm supporting Kamala Harris because she's the best person for the job, and I know she can win,” Steele said in a statement, adding that Harris' earlier efforts helped inspire her to found Emerge and help women and women of color run for political office. 

“I’ve seen her take on many tough challenges and come out on top, so I’m confident that she has the character, integrity, and toughness to beat Trump. It’s crucial that we kick this dangerous man out of the White House, and Kamala is the one to get it done."

“Andrea is a trailblazer in the fight for gender equality, and I couldn’t be more proud to earn her support. I would not be where I am today without Andrea’s support in my very first race and I know countless women across the country feel the same way,” Kamala Harris said, in a statement provided exclusively to NBC News.

1199d ago / 11:46 AM UTC

Biden launches new Iowa ad defending Obamacare

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WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s presidential campaign unveiled a new ad that will begin airing across Iowa Tuesday, a spot featuring an emotional, minute-long narration from Biden himself talking about painful personal experiences to highlight his plan to build on the Affordable Care Act.

Using a part of the Biden stump speech from the earliest days of his campaign, the ad links concerns over about healthcare access to a more recent policy contrast he’s been making with his more progressive rivals on healthcare. The former vice president has argued that pursuing a "Medicare for All" plan is effectively on par with Republican efforts to undermine and repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

“I was sworn into the United States Senate next to a hospital bed,” Biden narrates, as black and white images of Biden are shown, following the 1972 car accident that killed his then-wife and young daughter, as he crouches down to his two young sons. He then invokes the terminal cancer diagnosis of his son Beau. “I can’t fathom what would have happened if the insurance companies had said for the last 6 months of his life you’re on your own,” Biden says.

“The fact of the matter is, healthcare is personal to me. Obamacare is personal to me,” Biden’s voice says over pictures of him and former president Barrack Obama.

“When I see the president try to tear it down, and others propose replace it and start over, that’s personal to me too,” Biden says. “We have to build on what we did because very American deserves affordable health care.”

Image: President Obama and Vice President Biden walk to the Oval Office
President Obama and Vice President Biden walk to the Oval Office on June 25, 2015.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters filw

Though he often talks about it on the campaign trail, it’s notable that Biden is recounting the deaths of his wife and daughter in a car accident and later eldest son’s cancer battle in a paid media campaign. In 2015, when Biden was still considering whether to join the Democratic primary race, he called for an outside group to cease its paid ad that featured Biden discussing the 1972 accident. "He has seen the ad and thinks the ad treads on sacred ground and hopes they don't run it,” a Biden source said when the spot debuted. 

“Protecting the ACA from Republicans seeking to tear it down, or from others proposing to replace it, is a crucial and personal issue for Vice President Biden and for Americans across the country,” said Biden’s campaign manager Greg Schultz in a statement. “We are reaching Iowans on the airwaves and online to create a surround-sound message about protecting and expanding their access to health care.”

The new ad is part of the six-figure integrated paid media campaign that was announced last week, targeting Iowa media markets.

Next week Biden’s campaign will start smaller spends on digital platforms targeting voters in Iowa and  highlighting parts of Biden’s health care plan that builds off of the ACA.

1200d ago / 12:26 AM UTC

Andrew Yang picks climate change plan for his first major policy speech

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Although entrepreneur Andrew Yang has listed more than 150 policy ideas on his presidential campaign website, he chose his plan to combat climate change as the topic for his first major policy speech, and this climate-affected seaside town in the first-in-the-nation primary state as the location.

“Whales like my climate change plan, half a dozen humpback whales are clapping their flippers together saying Yang Gang!” he joked Monday before detailing some of the main points of his five-pronged plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, which include proposals to:

  1. Build a sustainable economy by shifting from fossil fuels to other energy sources and upgrading infrastructure and farming techniques;
  2. Build a sustainable world by investing in renewable energy and innovating around the globe, making the U.S. competitive with China;
  3. Move people to higher ground “literally and figuratively” by providing subsidies to help Americans relocate from disaster-prone areas;
  4. Reverse the damage caused by climate change by reforesting oceans and convening a summit on “controversial” field of geo-engineering;
  5. Hold future administrations accountable by introducing a constitutional amendment to safeguard environmental protections.

In a one-on-one interview Monday, NBC’s Garrett Haake asked Yang if his policy prescription of moving Americans to higher ground is alarmist. “The data unfortunately paints a very dark picture about where we're heading on climate change,” he told Haake. “If I thought that we were going to be okay if we went about business as usual I would say that, but that's just not the case.”

For Yang, it all goes back to his universal basic income proposal. “it's hard to galvanize energy around climate change when 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck,” said Yang. “They have this day-to-day mentality and so if you get the boot off of people's throats," then "we can speed up on climate change.” 

In contrast to his Democratic rivals calling for a turn away from nuclear power, Yang calls for increasing investment in nuclear energy by mining thorium (not uranium used in nuclear weapons). “If you look at the amount of energy the U.S. needs in the time frame, to me, nuclear needs to be at least on the table as a piece of the puzzle,” he told Haake.

Asked if the current president is the reason Yang included a proposed constitutional amendment to protect environmental actions, Yang said “climate change is not going to be addressed overnight.”

“You have to try and future proof any changes, and Donald Trump's a sign of just how far we have to go sometimes,” he added.

Yang also hopes to create competition, literally, with a federal government-sponsored “Race to the Top” competition offering a pool of $50 billion for utilities to compete in innovative practices to reduce their economic impacts.

Yang's plan did not include details on how he proposed to to pay for its price tag — at least $981.8 billion in named figures, plus $3 trillion in loans offered to homeowners to encourage renewable energy renovations.

1200d ago / 7:50 PM UTC

Younger Americans now less likely to prioritize patriotism, religion, children

Younger Americans today are less likely to prioritize values that center around religion, “patriotism,” and having children than they were two decades ago, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll

Just under a third of Millennials and Generation Z (ages 18-38) believe having children (32 percent) and religion or “belief in God” (30 percent) are “very important” values, followed by 42 percent who rank patriotism as a top value. 

Those shares represent a sharp departure from their parents and grandparents. Among those 55 and over, majorities rank having children (54 percent), religion (67 percent) and patriotism (79 percent) as very important.

What’s more: Over the past 20 years, these values have seen a decline in importance among younger Americans.

According to data from a similarly designed 1998 NBC/WSJ poll, a majority of Americans who were between the ages 18-29 and 30-49 two decades ago prioritized religion, patriotism, and having children.

The decrease is particularly noteworthy when it comes to raising the next generation. Twenty years ago, 62 percent of Americans ages 30-49 and 51 percent of Americans 18-29 believed it was very important to have children. Today, according to the latest poll, that has decreased by 24 and 20 percent, respectively. 

Similar reductions are seen among the values of religion and patriotism. 

As younger generations shift their priorities away from more traditional values, the new poll finds that a significant number of Millennials and Generation Z rate “hard work” (83 percent) “tolerance for others” (83 percent) and “financial security” (78 percent) as very important.

One thing all Americans seem to agree on: Pessimism about the future they’re leaving for the next generation.

When asked if “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us,” 68 percent of Americans ages 50-64 as well as 64 percent of Americans over 65 said they do not feel confident that will happen.

And this doubt extends past older generations. The poll shows a majority of Americans share this view regardless of their gender, ethnicity, economic class, region, or political party affiliation.

That includes the youngest Americans. Nearly seven-in-ten (68 percent) of Americans under 35 say they’re not confident that their children’s generation will be better off.  

1200d ago / 6:34 PM UTC

Facebook ad watch: Steyer and Buttigieg spent most in past week

WASHINGTON — Billionaire Tom Steyer continues to pour money into his presidential campaign through Facebook ads, but South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg was nipping at his heels over the past week. 

Steyer spent $278,000 on Facebook ads between Aug. 17 and Aug. 23, according to the most recent data collected by the Facebook Ad Library Report. Buttigieg spent $221,000 over that time period. 

Image: Tom Steyer listens during a town hall event in Ankeny, Iowa, on Jan. 9, 2019.
Tom Steyer listens during a town hall event in Ankeny, Iowa, on Jan. 9, 2019.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Steyer's spending comes as he's jockeying for a spot on the September debate stage — his campaign says he's hit the 130,000 unique donor requirement but is one poll short of qualifying (candidates need to hit both the donor threshold and register 2 percent in four approved polls). 

A Monmouth University poll released Monday had Steyer below 1 percent, keeping him off the debate stage for now. 

So the billionaire's ads focus substantially on his debate standing, arguing that there should be more polls of Nevada and arguing his voice should be heard on the stage. And with the decision by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (who was running as the climate-change candidate) to drop out, Steyer's ads include a heavy emphasis on climate change as he looks to partially take that mantle. 

Buttigieg has already qualified for the debate, so he doesn't have to worry about that. Instead, his ads highlight his policies on issues like mental health, addiction and gun control, while also trying to encourage supporters to sign up for a contest to travel to Houston to watch the next debate in person. 

In the past three months, Steyer has spent almost $3.9 million, more than every Democratic candidate over that span. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is also looking to secure a spot on the debate stage, has spent the second-most of the Democratic field in the past three months, with $2.2 million. 

President Trump's re-election campaign continues to outpace the field with Facebook spending—between his campaign and his joint fundraising committee, his campaign has spent $4.76 million over the past three months on the platform. 

1200d ago / 3:48 PM UTC

Joe Kennedy says he's considering primary bid against Ed Markey

WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III confirmed Monday that he's "begun to consider a run for the U.S. Senate" that would set up a generational battle in the state's Democratic primary against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey. 

In a Facebook post penned Monday, Kennedy nodded at the recent speculation about a potential bid, admitting "this isn't a decision I'm approaching lightly and — to be completely candid — I wasn't expecting to share my thoughts so soon." 

Kennedy said he hasn't "reached a decision yet," but added: "I hear the folks who say I should wait my turn, but with due respect — I'm not sure this is a moment for waiting. Our system has been letting down a lot of people for a long time, and we can't fix it if we don't challenge it," he wrote.

"I don’t think our democratic process promises anyone a turn. What it does promise is the chance for anyone to earn it — if we think we have something to offer and are willing to put ourselves and our ideas out there."

Kennedy's comment comes amid rampant speculation about a bid against Markey, who has represented Massachusetts in Congress for more than 30 years. He spent the lion's share of his career in the House but won a 2013 bid for Senate after then Sen. John Kerry became Secretary of State. 

A bid would pit the 73-year-old Markey against the 38-year-old Kennedy, whose family is a Massachusetts political dynasty. If Kennedy does run, Democrats believe he'd be a formidable opponent for Markey considering both his youth as well as his family's clout. 

Markey's been making early moves ahead of the potential challenge, releasing an endorsement from fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week. 

The congressman didn't give a timeline for his decision, closing his statement promising "more soon." 

1201d ago / 2:37 PM UTC

Buttigieg on beating Trump: 'Back to normal' is not 'good enough'

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg warned Sunday that defeating President Trump in 2020 won't be enough to solve the "crisis" facing America today. 

Buttigieg's comments on "Meet the Press" evoke his push for a generational change in the White House, as well as a theory of the case that differs from that of the more pragmatic voters in his party who say they are most concerned about wresting Trump from office. 

"The president is certainly a problem, a big one, but he’s not the only problem. Ask yourself how a guy like this ever got within cheating distance of the Oval Office in the first place. I would argue that doesn't happen unless the country is already in a kind of crisis," Buttigieg said. 

"For pretty much as long as I've been alive, even when the economy has been growing, and quickly, most Americans haven’t been getting ahead, one of many reasons why in places like the industrial midwest where I live, back to normal is not going to be a good enough  message because normal was not good enough." 

Buttigieg went on to criticize Trump for his "huge problems," but concluded that "getting rid of the president is not enough" if Americans don't "replace this presidency with something better that actually works for Americans or somebody even more unstable could gain power."   

It's an argument that cuts to the core of one big debate in the Democratic Party between more pragmatic and aspirational voters, an argument that is driving the Democratic presidential primary. 

Former second lady Jill Biden made that dynamic clear earlier this week with blunt remarks in New Hampshire, telling voters to take heed of "electability" while arguing that her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, is uniquely positioned to defeat Trump. 

"You know you may like another candidate better but you have to look at who’s going to win," she said. 

"Your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, healthcare than Joe is, but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election, and maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, 'Okay, I personally like so and so better,' but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump."

Data from July's NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that Biden is running away with Democratic primary voters who want their nominee to promote "small-scale change."

But among the slight majority of Democratic primary voters who want "large-scale change," the field is muddier. 

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is winning that segment with 29 percent. She's followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (18 percent), former Vice President Joe Biden (16 percent) and California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris (14 percent). 

1203d ago / 5:12 PM UTC

Tim Ryan and Charlamagne tha God team up for some meditation

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is teaming up with a surprising ally to promote the practice of mindfulness: Charlamagne tha God. In a video shared on the radio personality’s Instagram, Ryan and Charlamagne practice meditation while discussing the benefits of social and emotional learning in schools.

“Part of my mission is how do we get [meditation] into these schools where these kids can have a tool as they’re dealing with the trauma,” said Ryan in the video. “You can’t pull them out of a tough school, you can’t pull them out of a tough neighborhood but can you give them the tools to be able to negotiate the worlds that they’re living in?”

Charlamagne praised the practice. “The immediate thing I felt was presence, like being in this moment,” Charlamagne said. “And when I was doing the breathing, I wasn’t thinking about anything else except for the breathing. My thoughts weren’t racing at all, which is unheard of for me.” 

Ryan told NBC News that after he went on Charlamagne’s "The Breakfast Club" radio show — a popular stop for 2020 candidates this cycle — the two became “fast friends” due to their passion for mental health coverage in schools and “really breaking the stigma down, especially in communities of color.”

“Instead of worrying about test scores, worry about the kid. Take care of the kid and you’ll get the test scores, and that’s what Charlamagne and I are working on together,” he said of implementing a new education system focused on trauma-based care.

When Charlamagne joked Ryan needs to meditate before debates, the congressman shared that before the first Democratic debate, he meditated for half an hour periodically throughout the day “just to calm down."

As for whether he’ll make another debate, Ryan told NBC News, “I just met [Charlamagne] and over the course of a couple months he believes in me enough to try to help me with his community to get on the debate stage, and to be a real contender in the election. So as I keep meeting people, I keep picking up steam.”

This isn’t the first time the two have joined political forces -- back in May, Charlamagne and rapper T.I. met with Ryan on Capitol Hill to advocate for transforming distressed communities into opportunity zones.

“He’s a beautiful, beautiful guy and I think we’re going to make a really big difference together,” Ryan said.

1203d ago / 10:00 AM UTC

Pete Buttigieg’s new mental health plan focuses on ‘healing’ and ‘belonging’

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Friday became the latest candidate in the crowded Democratic presidential field to release a policy to address mental health issues with a proposal titled, “Healing and Belonging in America: A Plan to Improve Mental Health Care and Combat Addiction.”

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg greets voters during a campaign stop in Portland
Democratic 2020 presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg greets voters during a campaign stop in Portland, Maine on Aug. 22, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

 

As the title suggests, Buttigieg’s mental health plan centers on two themes — healing and belonging. 

“Pete’s vision for the future of mental health and addiction care is rooted in embracing prevention and ensuring that every person with a mental illness or a substance use disorder has the resources and support they need to begin to ​heal​,” the introduction to the plan says. “To help those who heal remain well — and to build Americans’ resilience to these illnesses — we must ensure that everyone feels that they ​belong​ in their community and in our country.”

In recent weeks, Buttigieg has spoken often about veterans care, the need to not “criminalize” young people struggling with addiction, and the importance of reminding communities who have been targeted by mass shootings that they belong — he’s now rolling those ideas, and more, out in a robust policy proposal.  

Buttigieg's plan would require insurance companies to cover treatment plans for those with mental health and addiction issues, improve overall access to mental health checkups, and increase training for primary care physicians and medical students to better assist struggling patients. 

And it aims to bolster the number of clinicians able to provide medication-assisted addiction treatment and deregulate buprenorphine a narcotic commonly used to treat opioid addiction.  

This comes along with plans to expand access to opioid overdose reversal drugs by broadening take-home ​Naloxone​ programs to all 50 states by 2024 and removing restrictions on the use of federal funds for syringe service programs. 

The plan also aims to create larger social and communal programs that combat the culture of social isolation and loneliness by fostering interpersonal connections around mental health. 

It calls for addressing mental health stigma and expanding trauma-informed care while also instituting a 10-year $100 billion community-based grant program for communities to leverage their own innovation on the topic.

It also focuses on decriminalizing mental illness and addiction — a topic the candidate has talked about often on the trail — through diversion, treatment and re-entry programs with a goal of decreasing the number of people incarcerated due to mental illness or substance abuse by 75 percent in his first term.

And it addresses veteran suicide prevention and a promise to hold drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies that exacerbate the opioid crisis accountable.

Buttigieg is rolling out his mental health plan during a three-day swing through New Hampshire, a state in which mental health care is a prominent issue especially in connection to its vast veteran population and the ongoing opioid epidemic in the state.

1204d ago / 1:00 AM UTC

Trump makes surprise call into campaign event to energize women voters

TAMPA, Fla. — White women helped propel Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 but in an apparent sign of concern over his current re-election standing with those critical voters, the president picked up the phone Thursday night.

During a “Women for Trump” campaign event here, headlined by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, a loud dial tone came over the speakers. After three rings and a click, a woman answered and said it would be another minute or two for the president, prompting ear-splitting cheers from the crowd. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks before presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Celtics basketball legend Bob Cousy in the Oval Office on Aug. 22, 2019.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

“We won with women. We’re doing great with women, despite the fake news, you know that,” Trump told the 600 screaming attendees during the surprise call-in. “I’m with you all the way.”

Trump often claims that he won the female vote last cycle. In reality, Hillary Clinton won women overall 54 percent to 41 percent, according to exit polls. Trump, however, did receive 52 percent of the vote among white women. 

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted earlier this month found a huge drop-off in support among women for the president, with 62 percent overall saying they would vote for a generic Democratic candidate while just 30 percent said they would vote for Trump.

To help generate enthusiasm with this key voting bloc, the Trump campaign organized more than a dozen targeted events across the country Thursday evening, hoping to shore up critical support ahead of the 2020 election.

"I think it’s gonna be easier than last time but let’s pretend it’s even tougher so we work harder because we cannot lose to this competition,” Trump told the convention center room full of mostly middle-aged women Thursday. “If we lose to this competition, that will be a very, very bad day for this country."

The female-centric events were planned to commemorate the 99th anniversary of women’s suffrage and are meant to highlight the economic gains women have experienced during the Trump administration. The president often touts unemployment’s historic low among women and the message was repeated at events nationwide Thursday. 

Similar gatherings Thursday, billed as “an evening to empower,” featured Arizona Jan Brewer in Mesa, Arizona, campaign spokeswomen Kayleigh McEnany in Marietta, Georgia and senior advisor Katrina Pierson in Troy, Michigan. Notably, several of these get-togethers were also planned in states where Trump lost in 2016, such as Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota and Virginia.

The campaign readily admits that the support of women will be central to win re-election, which is precisely why it officially kicked off the “Women for Trump” coalition earlier this summer, even before announcing field teams in some key battleground states.

The president’s top female surrogates — his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka — have largely stayed away from the campaign trail in the lead up to 2020. They both attended the official second term kickoff rally and made select appearances during last year’s midterm elections but have prioritized their White House roles over the campaign trail in recent months. Officials indicated that will shift once again as the election kicks into high gear.

Many of the women NBC News spoke to here Thursday stressed they support Trump overall but take issue with his erratic leadership style, specifically on social media.

“I didn’t vote for him because he was a choir boy. He’s kept his promises. I just wish he would get off Twitter sometimes,” said Linda Cockerham, a retired teacher from Apollo Beach.

Others, like Evella Feldhacker, said they specifically came to Thursday’s event to “dispel the myth” that women don’t like the president’s heated rhetoric. 

“He’s not apologetic,” she said. “And that’s what I love most.”

1204d ago / 6:35 PM UTC

Biden tweets video on anniversary of being picked as Obama's running mate

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Ahead of the 11-year anniversary of then-Sen. Barack Obama asking then-Sen. Joe Biden to be his vice presidential running mate Friday, Biden's presidential campaign has released a one-minute video on Twitter to commemorate the significance of the moment.

The video opens with President Obama telling Vice President Biden that he was the “first decision I made, and it was the best.”

A narrator’s booming voice then says “It was a relationship forged in fire,” before recounting the numerous legislative achievements the pair was able to pass after inheriting “a world in crisis.”

“Now we’re facing a different crisis,” the narrator says before the video shows white nationalists chanting “Jews will not replace us” and attendees at a Trump rally chanting “Send her back,” in reference to Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.,who was born in Somalia.

Before closing, the video reminds viewers that Obama once called Biden “the best vice president America has ever had,” as the Biden campaign subtly stresses that the endorsement makes Biden “ the president we need now.”

The constant embrace of the popular former vice president has been followed with criticism by Biden’s opponents who have attacked him for invoking popular parts of Obama’s record at times when it’s convenient to him.

1204d ago / 12:20 PM UTC

Hickenlooper announces Senate bid week after ending presidential candidacy

WASHINGTON — Former Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is jumping into the state's pivotal Senate race, he announced Thursday in a new video. 

Filmed in a pool hall, Hickenlooper criticizes Washington Republicans for playing "games" on health care and public lands, lumping Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, his would-be opponent, in with those Republicans he's criticizing. 

"I don’t think Cory Gardner understands that the games he’s playing with Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are hurting the people of Colorado," he says in the ad. 

Hickenlooper instantly becomes the highest-profile politician in the crowded field of Democrats vying for the right to take on Gardner. The race is one of the top opportunities for Democrats in their bid to regain control of the U.S. Senate as Gardner will have to run on a ballot with President Trump, who lost the state by 5 percentage points in 2016. 

But despite his resume, and poll numbers showing he'd be the favorite to win the primary, it's doesn't appear that Democrats will clear the field for him.

In a statement last week responding to speculation Hickenlooper would switch to the Senate race, Democratic state Sen. Angela Williams criticized Hickenlooper for "working and campaigning against bold, progressive solutions" and warning "this won't be a coronation." 

And former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff told local news outlets he wouldn't drop out if Hickenlooper jumped in either. 

The decision to run for Senate comes one week after Hickenlooper ended his presidential bid, where he struggled to find support both from donors and at the polls.

During that bid, he repeatedly brushed aside the idea of running for Senate. 

"If the Senate is so good, how come all those Senators are trying to get out?" he quipped during an interview at Washington's National Press Club in June. 

"The Senate just doesn't attract me at this point." 

Image: John Hickenlooper
Democratic presidential candidate former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa on Aug. 10, 2019.Charlie Neibergall / AP

Republicans are pointing to those types of comments in response to Hickenlooper's announcement. 

“John Hickenlooper is desperate to redeem himself after flopping on the national stage, but we think he said it best just a few months ago: he is ‘not cut out’ for the Senate,'" National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement.

"This crowded Senate field has been in a race to the left and Hickenlooper’s quixotic presidential bid did not do him any favors in proving he can compete in any race in 2020.”

Hickenlooper addresses that criticism in his announcement video, arguing that he feels a sense of urgency to remain in elected politics. 

"Look, I’m a straight shooter. I’ve always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done — but this is no time to walk away from the table," he says. 

"I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot. I’m not done fighting for the people of Colorado.

1204d ago / 11:35 AM UTC

GOP gubernatorial candidate argues gender is binary in new ad

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham, who is running in Louisiana's upcoming gubernatorial election, is out with a new television ad Thursday morning that takes aim at both run-of-the-mill political issues like the size of government and the culture wars over issues like gender identification. 

The new spot, which will run as part of the campaign's already announced $2 million television buy, includes Abraham speaking directly to camera as he lists off his "truth." 

"Life begins at conception, government is too big, our taxes are too high," he says in the ad. 

"President Trump is doing a great job. Facts matter more than feelings. The Second Amendment is self-explanatory. And as a doctor, I can assure you, there are only two genders."

Abraham's spot exemplifies the strategy that many pro-Trump Republican candidates are pursuing and emulating from the president himself — a mix of typical conservative arguments about the economy and the government mixed in with a focus on controversial cultural issues. 

The congressman is looking to knock off incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the conservative-leaning state. He's the highest-profile elected official running against Bel Edwards, but is also jockeying with Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, who is relying in part on his on wealth for his bid. 

The two men will face off, along with a crowded field, in the state's jungle primary on Oct. 12. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the top two candidates will move onto a one-on-one election on Nov. 16. 

1204d ago / 10:00 AM UTC

Pete Buttigieg’s latest ad buy is aimed at college students

DES MOINES, Iowa — If you’re not a paid subscriber on Spotify or Pandora you know the feeling when you’re listening to a playlist and all of a sudden an ad pops up. Now, one voice you could hear in between songs is South Bend Mayor and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg.

Thursday, the campaign launched two 30-second ads aimed at college students heading back to school in New Hampshire and Iowa. The campaign tells NBC news the ads are aimed at meeting voters where they are. 

Image: US-POLITICS-VOTE-IOWA-BUTTIGIEG
Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks in Fairfield, Iowa on Aug. 15, 2019.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images

In one ad, titled “Back to Normal,” Buttigieg implores the listener to, “ask yourself how a guy like Donald Trump ever got within cheating distance of the Oval Office.” The mayor goes on to stress the importance that Democrats not be the party of “back to normal.”

The second ad, “A Moment,” strikes a similar tone. “We are never going to be able to fix what is broken in Washington by recycling the same arguments and politicians that have dominated our politics for as long as I've been alive,” Buttigieg says. This ad centers on issues, that younger generations are most impacted by including school shootings and climate change.

Both ads end with Buttigieg delivering a definitive line, “We've got to do something completely different.”

This messaging which has been a hallmark of Buttigieg’s stump speech on the campaign trail, will now be streamed directly into voter’s ears.

If listeners choose to click on the ads, they’ll be directed to the campaign website’s “issues” page, which features the mayor’s latest policy proposals and key platforms.

This comes as many candidates in the presidential race, including Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, are beginning to ramp up ad buys in key early states.

The Buttigieg campaign declined to comment on how much the ads cost and how long they are expected to run.

1205d ago / 4:21 PM UTC

RNC outraises DNC in July

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee significantly outraised the Democratic National Committee last month as the Republicans continue to expand their cash advantage over their rivals. 

The RNC raised $20.8 million in July, a little less than 40 percent of that ($8 million) from small donations of $200 or less. By comparison, the DNC brought in $7.7 million, with 35 percent of that ($2.7 million) from small donations. 

The GOP spent $17.7 million over the month while the DNC spent $7.9 million. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H. on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.Patrick Semansky / AP

The fundraising disparity echoes the trend that's existed since the start of the year — the RNC has outraised the DNC in 2019 by a little more than $66 million. And it ended the month with $47 million in the bank compared to $9 million for the DNC. 

That's in no small part thanks to the power of incumbency. Having the sitting president is a major cash boon (and President Trump does particularly well with small donors) as supporters are able to rally around the president as a focal point while Democratic donors are torn between a crowded field of candidates. 

But while the RNC is helping the president's reelection efforts with its cash advantage, there's a lot of money being raised on the Democratic presidential side right now too. Democrats are hopeful that fundraising and enthusiasm will translate to the eventual nominee. 

And the Democrats are still seeing strong fundraising at the congressional committees. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outraised the National Republican Congressional Committee last month, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee narrowly outraised its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

1206d ago / 6:38 PM UTC

Campaign advertising heats up in key early states

WASHINGTON — The television ad wars are kicking into another gear as more Democratic presidential candidates seek to flood the airwaves ahead of the next round of debates. 

Some are spending big in the hopes of securing a spot on the stage, while others are looking to cement their status in the field. 

Billionaire Tom Steyer is an example of the former. On Tuesday, he reserved $525,000 worth of television time in just two days across the four early voting states (in the Boston, Cedar Rapids, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Des Moines, Las Vegas, Quad Cities, Reno, and Sioux City markets). A few hours later, he bought another $87,400 on cable. 

Steyer needs just one more poll of at least 2 percent to qualify for the September debates, but the deadline to qualify is just a week away. 

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who currently needs more polls and donors to make the September debate stage, reserved more than $170,000 in television time since Monday. Her campaign also started running a new ad this week in Iowa and the Boston (read: New Hampshire) television markets that plays up her commitment to nominate pro-choice judges and her support for "Medicare-for-All." 

Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro also put $51,000 toward television advertising in Iowa this week as he searched for his final poll to secure a spot on the debate stage. But after his campaign learned he qualified with a 2 percent finish in CNN's new poll released Tuesday, his campaign shortened the buy and cut $11,000 from it. 

The other big television spending this week came from former Vice President Joe Biden, who launched his first television ad of the cycle in Iowa as part of a $500,000 buy from Aug. 20 through Sept. 9.

That's a big buy, at least at this point in the cycle. But it also puts Steyer's massive spending in perspective, since the billionaire is spending more across just two days this week than Biden is for the next two weeks. 

Read more about Biden's ad, which leans heavily on his general-election argument, from NBC's Mariana Sotomayor on the blog.

And to round out the television spending so far this week, California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign reserved $28,500 in television time in Iowa from Aug. 22 through Aug. 28. 

1206d ago / 11:58 AM UTC

Joe Biden launches first Iowa TV ad

DES MOINES, Iowa — Joe Biden's presidential campaign launched its first television advertisements across the state of Iowa Tuesday morning, coinciding with former vice president's sixth visit to the first-in-the-nation-caucus state since announcing his candidacy for president.

The one-minute ad titled “Bones,” opens by quickly showing faces of Americans diverse in age and race as the narrator says “We all know in our bones this election is different.”

As the narrator points out that the “stakes are higher” and “threats more serious” than ever before, the ad quickly turns to show white supremacists carrying torches the night before the 2017 Unite the Right clashes in Charlottesville, Va., a flashpoint that Biden repeatedly mentions as a moment that heavily influenced his run for president.

“We have to beat Donald Trump,” the narrator says before Biden appears on the screen. “And all the polls agree Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job. No one is more qualified.”

Biden, who frequently references his close personal and working relationship with President Barack Obama, is shown alongside his former boss in the ad as the narrator reminds the audience of landmark legislation and progress both men achieved as partners in the administration.

“Now, Joe Biden is running for president with a plan for America’s future. To build on Obamacare, not scrap it. To make a record investment in America’s schools, to lead the world on climate, to rebuild our alliances.”

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden delivers a 20-minute campaign speech at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Aug. 8, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The narrator then adds that Biden would “restore the soul of the nation battered by an erratic, vicious, bullying president.”

In what could be a glimpse into a possible campaign slogan, the ad ends with a quick description of Biden’s political strengths: “Strong. Steady. Stable Leadership. Biden. President.”

The ad will target voters living in the largest media markets of the state for several weeks, according to the campaign, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities and Sioux City.

According to ad spending data from Advertising Analytics,  Biden's campaign has reserved about $500,000 in television time in Iowa from Aug. 20 to Sept. 9, with the bulk of the money being spent in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

Ben Kamisar contributed.

1207d ago / 6:57 PM UTC

Tom Steyer pauses campaign for jury duty

NEW YORK — In the United States, one civic duty calls upon candidates and constituents alike: jury duty. 

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer announced he would step off the campaign trail this week to report for jury duty in San Francisco. The billionaire businessman will be on standby for the weeklong summons, and will report to the courthouse for selection if called. 

Image: Tom Steyer Meet The Press
Tom Steyer speaks with Chuck Todd on Meet The Press.NBC News

Steyer was a late addition to the 2020 race for president, announcing his candidacy in July.  Despite that later entry, the candidate said in a tweet it was important that he take time off the trail to fulfill his “civic obligation.” 

“I believe I could have postponed it, but I believe that it’s every American’s civic duty to serve on a jury,” Steyer said in an interview with NBC News. “It’s a choice about values. Do you believe that you’re above the responsibilities of everyday citizens or not.”

Steyer told NBC News that he thinks jury duty, like voting, is an essential and positive aspect of democracy that makes “this country strong.”

Earlier this summer, another 2020 hopeful took time away from the campaign. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., reported for jury duty in July.  Booker tweeted a video from the Newark courthouse declaring it “the best jury room in all of America.” 

Former Presidents Obama and Bush have also been summoned for post-Oval Office jury duty in recent years.

1207d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

Elizabeth Warren tells Native American forum she's 'sorry' for ancestry flap

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Sen. Elizabeth Warren led off her much-anticipated appearance at the Frank LaMere Native American Forum by saying “I’m sorry.”

Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is escorted on stage by Donna Brandis and Marcella LeBeau
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is escorted on stage by Donna Brandis, left, and Marcella LeBeau at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum on Aug. 19, 2019 in Sioux City, Iowa.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

“Like anyone who's been honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes,” she said, alluding to the year-ago dust up over her DNA test and Native American ancestry that loomed over the early weeks of her 2020 presidential campaign.

“I am sorry for a harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned a lot and I am grateful for the many conversations that we've had together. It is a great honor to be able to partner with Indian Country and that's what I've tried to do as a senator and that's what I promise I will do as President of the United States of America.”

In bringing the issue up herself, Warren was able to handle it on her own terms, while then pivoting to the thing she’s now known best for: talking about her various plans.

Tribal leaders and event organizers told NBC News before the event that the DNA flap didn’t give them pause about Warren’s candidacy.  But her apology Monday highlighted a difference between Warren and President Donald Trump, who rarely, if ever, apologizes.

1207d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

Biden, Warren and Sanders see popularity wane amid 2020 presidential campaign

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., all have seen their popularity slide over the past 20 months, a drop that coincides with their entry into the Democratic presidential primary. 

Between the January 2018 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and the new poll released Sunday, all three have seen their popularity slide to varying degrees.

All ended up underwater, with negative sentiment higher than positive sentiment among American adults.

Image:
Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts embrace after the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit on July 30, 2019.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

Biden has fallen the furthest — he's seen a net 32 percentage-point rating (54 percent positive and 22 percent negative) slide to a net rating of negative 4 percentage points (34 percent view him positively now while 38 percent view him negatively). 

Sanders' net-popularity also dropped by double digits (17 points), from 44 percent positive and 30 percent negative in 2017 to 37 percent positive, 40 percent negative now.

Warren's popularity hardly moved by comparison, but a once-slightly positive rating now sits in negative territory. In 2018, 30 percent of adults viewed her positively and 28 percent viewed her negatively. Now, those numbers are at 31 percent positive and 32 percent negative. 

The phenomenon of politicians seeing their public image slide when they run for higher office is far from new—while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoyed strong support while at the State Department, her ratings crashed down to Earth when she decided to run for president in 2016. 

All three Democratic candidates have better net ratings than the man they hope to run against in 2020. The new poll found President Donald Trump with a 39 percent positive rating and a 53 percent negative rating.

The president and those three Democrats were the only candidates included in the poll. 

A deeper look at the numbers reinforce the significant demographic differences between the Trump base and that of the Democratic candidates. 

Trump has a booming, net-positive rating from white, non-college men of 45 points and a net 4-point positive rating from white, non-college women. But he's underwater with white, college-educated men by 7 points, and with white, college-educated women by a whopping 46 points. 

Among white voters, the Democrats are most popular among white, college-educated women and least popular with white, non-college educated men. 

All three Democrats sport double-digit, net-positive popularity ratings among non-white voters, compared to a dismal negative 55 percentage point net rating for Trump. Biden, Sanders and Warren all score virtually the same with African-American voters despite that voting bloc's heavy preference for Biden in Democratic primary horse-race polls. 

In the pivotal Rust Belt — home to key general election states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio (as well as Indiana) — Trump's rating sits 12 points underwater. Warren is 5 points underwater while Biden's rating is even and Sanders' is positive by 2 points. 

The poll also tested two interest groups that have been in the news lately — Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association.

Fifty-two percent of adults have a positive view of Planned Parenthood, compared to the 27 percent who have a negative view of the group. 

By comparison, 40 percent view the NRA positively, while 41 percent view it negatively. 

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Aug. 10-14 of 1,000 adults – more than half reached by cell phone – and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

1207d ago / 9:51 AM UTC

Elizabeth Warren's heritage flap re-emerges ahead of native American forum

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Time may really heal all wounds — even those that are self-inflicted and political in nature. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., controversial rollout of a DNA test regarding her Native American ancestry marred the early weeks of her presidential campaign. But more than half a year later, Warren is now surging in the polls, known not for the early error but instead as the candidate "with a plan for that." 

It's those plans that Warren will be pushing ahead of a Monday appearance in Sioux Falls, Iowa for a candidate forum focused on Native American issues. Several tribal leaders invited to the forum told NBC News they are unfazed about the DNA test dust-up, while acknowledging it probably could have been handled more deftly.

Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to the crowd at a town hall event in Aiken, S.C., on Aug. 17, 2019.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to the crowd at a town hall event in Aiken, S.C., on Aug. 17, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images

But even as Warren has worked to quell concerns about her ability to face off (and win) against President Donald Trump, the Native American forum and the mere suggestion of the issue shows that the controversy can swiftly come back the fore. And that's even without President Donald Trump hyping the issue.

Still, asked if the moment gave pause about Warren's candidacy, Aaron Payment, the chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians, said "absolutely not." Payment — who says he has met with Warren both as a candidate, most recently when she attended a gathering of tribal leaders in Detroit, and in the years preceding her 2020 campaign — pointed to the fact that she never claimed to be a member of a tribe.

"Unfortunately, she allowed herself to get sucked in when the president started disparaging her and demeaning American Indians in general," Payment said. "Hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe there might've been a different way to" go at Trump on the issue.

W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chair of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, lamented the politicization of Warren's heritage but said the Massachusetts senator may have "made a mistake of over-defending her heritage." 

Noting that "fighting back" is in Warren's nature, Allen then brought up Trump: "When Trump does his thing, just shut up. Don't give him any energy because he feeds off that stuff."

President Trump's "thing" with Warren has long been to attack her with the slur Pocahontas; something he and his surrogates continue to do on Twitter and in other forums.

Warren was born in Oklahoma and has said that stories of her Native American ancestry were part of family lore. She identified as Native American on some official forms — something political foes have weaponized against her in the past — but a 2018 Boston Globe review found that it did not play a role in her professional advancement.

At Democratic campaign events across the country most voters seem to have put the DNA test to the back of their minds — or at least found other, more positive hallmarks of Warren's candidacy to focus on. At Warren's events, she is rarely pressed on the heritage issue. During a town hall in Jefferson, Iowa last week, a Native American woman of the Rosebud Sioux tribe prefaced her question to Warren by telling the candidate "you are all native to me!"

But, in a crowded field of candidates, voters are also taking note of potential negative attributes.

"They do all have something that has made me go ‘oh, my gosh,'" 39-year-old Jessica Wiederspan told NBC News in Oskaloosa, Iowa. "With Elizabeth, it was the Native American issue."

"It’s a concern for me about something Trump can use against her," Wiederspan said, "to distract from the bigger issues and from all of his problems and all of her good ideas. I also don’t think it was handled very sensitively, you know, but what I’ve seen is nobody’s perfect."

To other voters, Trump will be Trump — regardless of who the Democratic nominee is.

At a Warren event in Franconia, New Hampshire voter Nancy Strand said the president will find a way to disparage any eventual nominee.

"Whoever wins this Democratic nomination, [Trump] is going to slur," she concluded. "If he picks that for her, I don't think most of us care. He's going to do it no matter what."

It's not just Trump, though.

While the issue has been largely out of the conversation with voters on the campaign trail, it has reared its head in other places. Like during a tense May interview on "The Breakfast Club" podcast, where co-host Charlamagne The God said Warren was "kind of like the original Rachel Dolezal," a white woman who claimed to be black. 

"This is what I learned from my family," Warren responded about her claims of heritage. In the interview, she also said "I'm not a person of color. I'm not a citizen of a tribe. And tribal citizenship is an important distinction -- and not something I am."

Based on nearly half a dozen conversations with tribal leaders and event organizers, Monday's forum is expected to hinge on the issues. A Warren aide told NBC the senator looked forward to talking policy Monday in Iowa — and that's what tribal leaders told NBC they wanted to hear about from Warren, and the other candidates attending.

As for the controversy?

"Everybody I've talked to, I haven’t seen any concern," event organizer OJ Semans of Four Directions, Inc. told NBC in the days leading up to the forum. "Sure, there's gonna be somebody somewhere that has a problem but that's just the way it is. I look at what she's done for Indian country. That’s the most important part for me”

Priscilla Thompson and Benjamin Pu contributed.