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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
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Jon Ossoff announces Georgia Senate bid

WASHINGTON — Jon Ossoff, the Georgia Democrat who narrowly lost a pivotal 2017 House special election, will run for Senate against Republican Sen. David Perdue, he announced Monday night. 

Ossoff tipped his hand on Monday night during an interview on MSNBC"s "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," arguing that he will help "mount an all-out attack on political corruption in America." 

And he said that his 2017 bid in a race that was then the most expensive House race in history has made him battle-tested. "I will never be intimidated from telling my own story and touting my own accomplishments," he said. 

Ossoff officially rolled out his campaign Tuesday morning with a video that framed his congressional bid as a starting gun for Democratic efforts to expand the electoral map. 

"We believe the battle that began in Georgia in 2017 will be won in Georgia in 2020 when we flip the Senate and win the White House," he said in the video. 

"The world we are building together is so close we can almost see it. But we have to fight for it — and we know how to fight." 

Ossoff also announced an endorsement from Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the dean of Georgia's congressional delegation and a seminal civil rights leader, an endorsement that could help his efforts to win a crowded Democratic primary. 

The Democrat joins a handful of others running in that primary for the right to face off against Perdue. Former Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico, former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry are among the candidates already in the race. 

By running against Perdue, Ossoff decided against running for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson at the end of this year. Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp will nominate someone to serve until the November election, but the retirement will put two Senate races on Georgia's ballot next year — one for the seat currently filled by Perdue, and one for the right to serve out Isakson's term through 2022. 

Republicans are already trying to label Ossoff a failure for his 2017 loss, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee labeled him a "failed congressional candidate" in a news release arguing that he is too liberal to represent Georgia voters. 

"The bitter and divisive Democratic primary welcomes another unaccomplished, far-left candidate," NRSC spokesperson Nathan Brand said.

"Failed congressional candidate Jon Ossoff's serial resume inflation and extreme left-wing views will fit in with the rest of the crowded Democratic primary but will stand in sharp contrast to David Perdue's positive record of delivering results for all of Georgia."

But Democrats have signaled they think Georgia could be competitive — 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams sent every Democratic presidential campaign a "playbook" on Monday with her advice on how to win Georgia and other tough states in 2020. 

Abrams narrowly lost her gubernatorial bid, but has decided against running for either Senate seat in 2020. She's considered a possible vice presidential pick for the eventual Democratic nominee. 

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. 

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.  

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.  

Harris releases her criminal justice reform plan

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.

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.  

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. 

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.

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

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."

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.

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. 

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. 

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.  

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.

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. 

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.

Harris outlines new climate plan ahead of forum

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.

Elizabeth Warren releases new plan to fight climate change

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. 

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.”

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.  

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.  

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. 

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.

Biden launches new Iowa ad defending Obamacare

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.

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.

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.  

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. 

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." 

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). 

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.

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

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.

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.”

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

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Beto O'Rourke: 'I'm going to be that candidate that shows up for everyone in America'

WASHINGTON — Former Texas Democratic congressman turned presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke defended his campaign's reboot on Sunday, arguing that he plans to travel the country to "call out the existential threat" of a second term for President Trump.

O'Rourke returned to the campaign trail last week after the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, which authorities say may have been racially motivated, calling the shooter's alleged anti-immigration rhetoric the "real consequence and cost of Donald Trump." 

"Democrats have to address those issues and deliver on those issues," he said about kitchen-table issues like health care and the economy.

"But we also have to call out the existential threat, to use the word that you just employed, that Donald Trump represents right now. Not only are we going to lose more lives, I'm confident that we will lose this country and our democracy, the longer he stays in office. So that is the urgency behind what I'm talking about."

That's why he says he wants to focus on taking his message outside of the early-voting states to voters across the country.

"If everyone counts, we can't just say that. We have to demonstrate that. And I don't think, at a time that this campaign, this selection for who will be the nominee, has become nationalized, that that will be lost on the people of Iowa," he said.

"I also know what it feels like when someone finally shows up. And I'm going to be that candidate that shows up for everyone in America."

Sanford says Trump doesn't deserve re-election, but would still support him over Democrat

WASHINGTON — Former South Carolina Republican Governor and Congressman Mark Sanford, who is considering a potential primary bid against President Trump, said Sunday that the president does not deserve to be re-elected

But he added that if faced with choosing between Trump and any Democratic candidate, Sanford would still vote for Trump because he believes Democratic policies will "exacerbate the problems on spending and the debt and the deficit." 

Sanford spent much of his interview laying out a contrast with Trump on issues like trade and government spending, arguing that the administration's "lack of stability" isn't giving business confidence to invest in America. 

When asked whether Trump deserved to be re-elected, Sanford replied that he doesn't. But when faced with a scenario of choosing between Trump and a Democrat, Sanford said he'd pull the lever for Trump. 

"Everything is relative in politics," he said, before evoking Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

"With all due respect to Warren, the policies that she laid out will exacerbate the problems on spending and the debt and the deficit." 

Image: Mark Sanford speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Aug. 18, 2019.
Mark Sanford speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Aug. 18, 2019.William B. Plowman / NBC News

He added that he wouldn't feel much more comfortable voting for former Vice President Joe Biden either.

"I have not seen him not embrace a lot of what she's talking about," Sanford said of Biden. 

"The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is leading the charge right now — You can see it in the polls of late. And so, I'm not seeing a great differentiation there, but I may be missing it." 

Beto O'Rourke stumps in locations hit by immigration raids

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — After relaunching his campaign in the still grieving community of El Paso, Texas following the mass shooting there earlier this month, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke continued to console Hispanic communities across the South who are living in fear of discrimination and deportation.

Image: O'Rourke Visits Mississippi After ICE raids
Beto O'Rourke visits the Tiendita Anita, a Mexican grocery store, on Aug. 16, 2019, his first day back on the campaign trail after the El Paso mass shootings.Suzi Altman / Zuma Press

Stopping by Tiendita Anita Grocery Store & Distribution Center on Friday in Canton, Miss., O’Rourke embarked on a listening tour of the community where almost one hundred workers were swept up by ICE agents at the Peco Foods poultry processing plant last week. The Canton raid was part of a sweep that detained almost 700 undocumented immigrants in one day and O'Rourke is the only Democratic presidential candidate to visit since the raids.

Anita, the owner of the store, told O’Rourke in Spanish that the raid served as a tipping point in a community that lives in fear of crossing ICE-labeled trucks. She told a story about a woman who refused to cash a check after seeing an ICE vehicle at the bank, and another about a 26-year-old man who hid in a restaurant freezer for nine hours when he spotted ICE agents coming into his workplace. 

The close encounters with agents have left many residents afraid to leave their homes. Some, she said, are considering going back to their home countries because they are exasperated by the fear of possibly knowing what it’s like to be separated from their families in the United States.

“It’s sad. It’s so, so sad,” Anita told O’Rourke in Spanish about how life has been sucked out of the community. “People are shaking in fear.”

Continuing his listening tour Saturday with Hispanic immigrants at a townhall inside Del Campo A La Ciudad, a Mexican owned restaurant and grocery store in Little Rock, O’Rourke passionately spoke out against President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric and the damage the Democrat says he has caused.

“'Predators,' that is a word that the President of the United States used to describe human beings. 'Animals,' that's the word that the president the United States used to describe human beings. 'Infestations,' which is what we call cockroaches. That's what the President of United States use to describe human beings,” he said.

O’Rourke promised to fight for a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States and legalizing DREAMers, stressing that families like the ones he met in Mississippi, should not fear the consequences of family separation.

He warned that if Trump is not defeated in 2020, the United States will “lose any idea of America and the ideal of America forever, we will continue to lose more lives in our lives and we cannot stand for that.”

Bernie Sanders, Cardi B discuss police brutality, 'Medicare for All' in new interview

WASHINGTON — Though she says in one of her more popular songs, "Cardi don't need more press," she's about to get it.

In a wide-ranging interview released by the Bernie Sanders campaign Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Grammy Award-winning rapper Cardi B spoke about issues of police brutality, "Medicare for All," immigration and student debt. 

“This was an unfiltered and unscripted talk about real issues,” said Sarah Ford, Deputy Communications Director of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign. “Like Bernie Sanders, Cardi B authentically engages with an audience of young and working-class people who have often been left out of the traditional political process.”

Image: Bernie Sanders Cardi B
Bernie Sanders and Cardi B met to discuss "the future of America".Bernie Sanders via Twitter

Sen. Sanders was asked about police brutality, and told Cardi B, "If a police officer kills somebody, that killing must be investigated by the United States Department of Justice."

Cardi B got visibly excited when Sanders was talking about his immigration plans with DACA recipients. "They once again would have those protections and I think we’re going to expand that program to their parents as well," Sanders said. "Yeah!" she said, as she danced in her seat. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders asked Cardi B if she could imagine someone today earning nine dollars an hour for the work that they do. "It don't make no sense," Cardi B said. 

“Cardi and her supporters understand the urgency needed to fix our broken health care and criminal justice systems, raise the minimum wage to a living wage and address climate change,” Ford said. 

When it came to the topic of getting involved in the political process, Cardi B told her followers, "please, let’s put our focus on this term’s elections, because I don’t think people understand how serious this is." Sanders replied, "Trump does not want people of color to be participating in the political process." "Participate in the political process!"

After discussing the New Deal, Cardi B explained that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is her favorite president. "It just amazed me that he came up with all of those things plus personal problems, like you know, he had Polio and everything," Cardi B said. "I love him. He’s my favorite."

Sanders shot back, jokingly: "Well I want to be your favorite after I’m elected but we’ll see, alright?" Cardi B did not go as far as to explicitly endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. She did, however, say "Let's feel the Bern!" at the very end of the video, before laughing.

The 77-year-old self-described Democratic socialist and 26-year old rapper filmed the nearly 12-minute conversation at The TEN Nail Bar, a Black women-owned nail salon in Detroit, Michigan. According to the Sanders campaign, the co-founders started the business in an area of the city where woman-owned businesses lack a large presence. 

Elizabeth Warren releases plan to aid Native American communities

NEW YORK — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a new plan Friday designed to benefit the Native American community, including a call to revoke the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline permits.

In a Medium post titled “Honoring and Empowering Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples,” Warren blasted historical mistreatment of Native Americans and vowed legislation to fix systemic inequality and said that “Washington owes Native communities a fighting chance to build stronger communities and a brighter future.”

Image: 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to voters at a campaign house party in Wolfeboro
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaks to voters at a campaign house party in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, on Aug. 14, 2019.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters

 

Warren vowed to revoke the construction permits of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, saying that the they were built despite the protests of Native Americans. She also said that Tribal Nations should get veto power over any decision that impacts tribal sovereignty. “Tribal Nations have deep connections to land now controlled by the federal government but are often denied access and consultation about its use,” Warren wrote.

To address issues of criminal justice and violence against Native American women, Warren rolled out plans to strengthen tribal law enforcement. Warren called for Congress to pass legislation to reverse Oliphant v. Suquamish, the 1978 Supreme Court ruling that decided that tribal governments could not prosecute non-Natives who had committed a crime, even if the crime was committed on Native land. She also proposed a nationwide “Missing Indigenous Woman Alert System,” which she says will be modeled after the Amber Alert system.

Warren said that she and Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., will be introducing a bill called “Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act.” The legislation calls for a variety of increased federal commitments to Indian country, including improving access to clean drinking water, increasing funding to expand the electrical grids in rural areas, and providing full funding to Indian Health Service.

This legislation is not yet finalized, as Warren says there will be a public comment phase where “tribal governments, citizens, experts, other stakeholders, and the public to offer input and suggestions in advance of the introduction of a final product in Congress.”

Warren’s plan comes before her appearance at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum on Monday in Sioux City, Iowa. Rep. Haaland, who endorsed Warren earlier this summer, is one of only two Native American members of Congress.

Hickenlooper long lagged other presidential hopefuls in fundraising

WASHINGTON— With Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announcing the end of his Democratic presidential bid on Thursday, it's worth noting how precarious his campaign's financial situation appeared at the end of June (the last time campaigns had to file fundraising reports). 

Hickenlooper had raised just $3.2 million for his bid in the first six months of 2019, behind more than a dozen other Democratic candidates. Last quarter, he spent significantly more money than he raised overall, a troublesome sign for a candidate languishing toward the back of the pack.

He ended that quarter with about $836,000 in the bank — only New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and author Marianne Williamson closed June with less cash on hand than Hickenlooper. 

Image: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to reporters ahead of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to reporters ahead of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami on June 26, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Despite all that spending, Hickenlooper was almost certain to miss the Democratic National Committee's qualifying thresholds for the next round of debates.

Candidates have to raise money from 130,000 unique donors and hit 2 percent in four qualifying polls—as of Thursday, he hasn't scored 2 percent or more in any qualifying poll and FEC records show that through June, Hickenlooper had just one-tenth of that unique donor threshold.

But Hickenlooper may not be sitting on the sidelines for long.

The former Colorado governor said Thursday he's considering the state's Senate race, where Democrats hope to defeat Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. And some Coloradans are trying to woo Hickenlooper into the race with polling showing he'd be the odds-on favorite in the crowded Democratic primary field.

The good news for Hickenlooper if he decides to run in the Senate race is that he'll be able to transfer over a significant chunk of the money he raised for his presidential primary bid to his Senate race.

The former governor can transfer donations made to his presidential primary over to a new Senate account. All he'd have to do is keep tabs on whose donations he's transferring to ensure none of his donors break federal election law that limits a person to donate $2,800 to a candidate per election cycle (primary and general elections count as two separate cycles). 

Transferring the small chunk of cash he raised for the general presidential election will be slightly more difficult. Under federal election law, he'd have to reach out to those donors specifically to get their permission to re-designate that money to a Senate primary campaign. 

But even if he struggled to compete in the presidential election, his possible Senate campaign would get an early financial boost because of his attempt to win the White House. 

Beto O'Rourke vows to confront Trump directly in return to campaign trail

EL PASO, Texas — Beto O’Rourke marked his return to the presidential campaign trail Thursday with a promise to confront President Trump more directly, shaking up his campaign strategy and warning Americans: “if we do not wake up to this threat, then we as a country will die in our sleep.”

O’Rourke’s speech marks the end of an emotional twelve-day period for the candidate in his home town, where he returned August 3rd in the wake of a shooting here that killed 22 people. O’Rourke told a small audience of invited guests and reporters that the shooting crystalized his thinking about the urgency of removing President Trump.

"We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem. That person who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment of peril and that is Donald Trump,” O’Rourke said. "I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now and that we do not have. 

O’Rourke’s return to the campaign trail will, at least in some measure, eschew traditional campaign stops like the Iowa state fair. He said he will instead focus his energy on lifting up those targeted by the administration’s policies. He’ll head next to Mississippi to join families of those affected by ICE raids there last week. 

O’Rourke also introduced one new policy plank in his remarks, calling for a mandatory buy-back of all assault weapons in the United States. He had previously supported banning the sale of “weapons of war,” but after visiting shooting victims in El Paso hospitals, said he now believes the country needs to go farther in getting such weapons off the streets. 

The return to the trail comes as O’Rourke has gained renewed national attention in the wake of the shooting. But his poll numbers remain largely flat — garnering 1-to-2 percent support in most early states, with a larger following in Texas and in some recent national surveys. 

O’Rourke on Thursday again rejected calls to quit the presidential race and pursue Texas’ Republican-held Senate seat.   

"There have even been some who have suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate. But that would not be good enough for this community. That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country,” O’Rourke said. 

2020 Democrats prepare counter-programming in New Hampshire for Trump visit

MANCHESTER, N.H. — As President Trump prepares to touch down in the first-in-the-nation primary state for a campaign rally Thursday, the Democratic presidential campaigns here are taking advantage of the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the incumbent they're aiming to unseat. 

Then-candidate Trump won the New Hampshire primary in 2016 with  just over a third of the Republican vote. However, he narrowly lost the state to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the general election. This is President Trump's first visit to New Hampshire since the 2016 election. 

Image: Donald Trump greets supporters at a polling station in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 9, 2016.
Donald Trump greets supporters at a polling station in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 9, 2016.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

Here's how some 2020 Democrats are responding to Trump's visit: 

Biden: Biden’s NH team is organizing a rally response that will take place at Portland Pie Company just down the street from the arena where Trump will appear “to stand up against the  divisive rhetoric and hatred that we are seeing from the White House,” according to a campaign statement. They are welcoming Granite Staters to join their campaign staff to send a message to President Trump, and the campaign will be signing folks up to volunteer, collecting Commit to Vote cards and talking to voters about “why Vice President Joe Biden is uniquely qualified to restore the soul of our nation, rebuild the backbone of our country, and unify America.”

Buttigieg: During Donald Trump's rally Buttigieg’s NH staff, volunteers and organizers will be gathering in Concord, New Hampshire to host a “change the channel”  phone banking in support of common-sense gun safety measures.

Gillibrand:  Gillibrand’s New Hampshire team will perform acts of community service to address Trump’s broken promises he made to voters and help those affected by the opioid epidemic. Today the team will hold a food drive, collecting non-perishable items at Gillibrand's Manchester Headquarters to donate to shelters across the city that help those suffering from  Substance Use Disorder. On Friday they will participate in the Old Sol’s 4th Annual Summer Servathon, packaging food to be delivered to Families in Transition/New Horizons, which help local families experiencing food insecurity.

Harris: This week leading up to Trump’s New Hampshire rally, Harris’s campaign has been holding “Dude Gotta Go” phone banks in cities and towns across the Granite State.

O’Rourke: Beto for New Hampshire released a 53-second video in which Beto narrates the rhetoric President Trump has used “to incite violence and mass shootings, calling him out for white supremacist rhetoric and changing the character of this country.” The team is also pushing a “hate not welcome”  social media campaign. “Hate is not welcome here in New Hampshire, and it’s on all of us to call it out and combat it. Donald Trump and his campaign continue to stoke division, racism, and white supremacy — and it doesn’t just offend our sensibilities, it is resulting in violence across the country,” said Beto for New Hampshire State Director Mike Ollen.

Kamala Harris announces plan to require background checks for online gun sales

WASHINGTON — In the week of the two-year anniversary of Charlottesville and the aftermath of mass shootings in El Paso, Kamala Harris Wednesday announced a new executive action she would take as president to require background checks for online gun sales as part of an effort to combat domestic terrorism

Image: US-POLITICS-VOTE-IOWA
2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa on Aug. 12, 2019.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images

This is the second time Harris has laid out proposed executive actions on gun control. In April, the California senator said she would give Congress 100 days after she is elected to pass comprehensive gun reform and if they did not, she would take steps to require background checks, close the so-called "boyfriend loophole"  and renew the assault weapons ban. This most recent executive action would fall under the same deadline. 

The plan, announced Wednesday afternoon, also includes steps to take on the rise of domestic and white nationalist terrorism. Harris says she would support laws to empower courts to use “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Orders,” to allow law enforcement and family members to petition a federal court to “temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns if they exhibit clear evidence of dangerousness.” 

Harris would also expand the National Counterterrorism Center’s purview to include handling domestic terrorism cases and direct more resources to analyzing and preventing white nationalist terrorism. She would seek Congress’ authority in order to do this. 

Harris’ plan also includes directing the FBI to take “more vigilant steps” in monitoring online platforms where white nationalist rhetoric grows. She says the increased monitoring would put pressure on sites to more closely follow their terms and conditions. 

While Harris does not mention specific websites in her plan, it is worth noting that sites such as 8chan, which have been gathering points for the shooters in recent attacks, are designed in a way so that there are no terms and conditions to begin with. The content is free-flowing and not censored, so it is unclear how Harris plans to take on sites like this in particular. 

Harris also says she would commit $2 billion over ten years to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism cases. Her plan does not specify where the funding will come from.

Joe Biden holds 19-point lead in latest South Carolina primary poll

WASHINGTON — The most recent Democratic primary poll in South Carolina is clear on one thing: unless your name is Joe Biden, you have some work to do. 

Biden leads the latest Post and Courier/Change Research poll with 36 percent of likely Democratic voters choosing him as their first choice. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is second to Biden with only 17 percent of the vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., follows closely behind with 16 percent, and then California Sen. Kamala Harris trails him with 12 percent. 

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question from Crystal Gadsden White about the importance he places on unions during a town hall on July 7, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question from Crystal Gadsden White about the importance he places on unions during a town hall on July 7, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.Meg Kinnard / AP file

Biden’s strength in South Carolina isn’t new. Prior to the first Democratic debate in June, Biden led the same poll with 37 percent of the vote. In that poll, Warren was also in second place with 17 percent. While Biden’s lead in the first southern state primary contest hasn’t changed, it comes despite some notable exchanges on race. 

In the first Democratic debate, Biden and Harris sparred about his vote against federally mandated busing — a policy Harris said was the reason she was able to be bused to school as a child in California. Biden has also been forced to defend the 1994 crime bill which led Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. to label Biden as the “proud architect of a failed system.” 

During his recent Iowa swing, Biden delivered a speech in which he said that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” then quickly added, “wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids” — remarks widely described as a gaffe.

Despite the scrutiny on Biden’s record on race, voters in South Carolina don’t seem to be moving towards another candidate, and according to a July Monmouth University poll, 51 percent of South Carolina Democratic black voters prefer Biden as their top choice candidate. 

Of course, a lot can happen before the South Carolina primary in February, most notably the Iowa caucuses. After all, then-Sen. Barack Obama wasn’t primed to win South Carolina until he carried Iowa.

Beto O'Rourke to deliver campaign reset speech Thursday

DALLAS — Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke plans to deliver his first major, written address on Thursday, offering a reset of his presidential campaign, a new focus and a fresh strategy for going forward in the wake of a mass shooting in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso that killed 22 people last week. 

O’Rourke will recommit to holding President Trump accountable for the state of the country — and focus on the stakes of removing a president from office whom he has explicitly linked to the deaths of fellow El Pasoans, according to a senior campaign official.  

He’ll focus heavily on three key issues: racism, white supremacy and guns — and plans to propose what the campaign calls “new, bold solutions."

Image: Beto O'Rourke hugs a woman at a memorial honoring the victims of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 7, 2019.
Beto O'Rourke hugs a woman at a memorial honoring the victims of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 7, 2019.Mario Tama / Getty Images

 

O’Rourke also plans to call on other candidates, elected officials and members of the media to keep the stakes of this race in mind. The former congressman's frustration at the political media’s coverage of Trump boiled over last week, in a moment that went viral and drew praise from many Democrats for his raw, emotional response.  

Back in El Paso since last Saturday’s shooting, the speech will mark O’Rourke’s return to the presidential campaign trail — but don’t expect him to race immediately back to early states, the campaign official said. O’Rourke will lay out a plan to take him to more places typically written off by presidential candidates, and less to “traditional” events — “reflecting the gravity of the situation we’re in, even if that means doing things differently," the official said.

O’Rourke’s campaign hopes the speech and subsequent return to campaigning can propel the candidate back into the top tier. His polling numbers hover between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent of those surveyed in most early states, with a much stronger base of support in Texas, where voters cast ballots on Super Tuesday. 

O’Rourke’s team remains adamant that despite his strong polling and fundraising base in Texas he will not — now or at any time — withdraw from the presidential contest to instead run for Senate against Republican incumbent John Cornyn. 

While stopping short of endorsing one candidate outright in what has become an increasingly crowded Democratic primary in that race, O’Rourke has regularly praised combat veteran and former House candidate MJ Hegar, and predicted she will defeat Cornyn should she become the nominee. 

Trump tweet praises prospect of House bid by controversial Curt Schilling

WASHINGTON — Days after former Major League Baseball All-Star Curt Schilling floated the prospect of running for Congress, President Trump boosted the controversial pitcher on Twitter by hailing the news as "terrific." 

Over the weekend, Schilling told news outlets that he's considering a run in Arizona, where he lived for a stretch as a child as well as while playing for the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks.

On Monday, he pegged that potential bid to his views on immigration policy in a statement to The Arizona Republic, accusing the federal government of spending taxpayer money on drug and child smugglers. 

"The state is not the state I grew up in. Making Arizona citizens of EVERY Race, religion and sexual orientation 2nd class citizens to illegal immigrants is about as anti-American as it gets," he said. 

"When you have homeless veterans, children, and you're spending tax dollars on people smuggling drugs and children across our border someone in charge needs their ass kicked."

Schilling, who is conservative and an outspoken Trump supporter, is no stranger to flirtations for public office. Last cycle, he said he would run against Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren but eventually decided not to run.

He hasn't specified the district in which he might run. But if he decides to, he'll have to reckon with a bevy of controversies that have followed him throughout his career as a broadcaster and pundit. 

ESPN fired Schilling in 2016 after sharing an anti-transgender meme on Facebook. He's previously faced criticism for sharing a litany of controversial statements and social media posts, including posting a meme about Nazis and Muslims (which he denied on his blog was racist) and arguing on a radio show that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should be "buried under a jail somewhere" if she disclosed classified information on her private email server. 

Trump's saddling up to Schilling comes as he continues to defend himself from criticism that his rhetoric on immigration has contributed to violence against Hispanics, and from Democrats who have called him a white supremacist. Trump has denied those charges, arguing "they call anybody a racist when they run out of cards."  

President Trump's GOP challenger has quiet visit to Iowa State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa — Democratic candidates descended on the Iowa State Fair during its opening weekend, flipping pork chops, riding bumper cars and pitching their plans to voters from atop the fair’s famous soapbox.

But Bill Weld, the race’s only current Republican challenger to President Donald Trump, had a decidedly quieter fair visit. Beneath a rainy, Sunday morning sky, the former Massachusetts governor used his time on the soapbox to answer questions from a poncho-clad crowd of attendees. He advocated for fiscal responsibility in government and criticized President Trump’s divisiveness.

Image: Bill Weld
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld walks down the grand course with John Olsen, of Ankeny, Iowa, right, during a visit to the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall / AP

“The current incumbent likes having one-word platforms: wall, hoax,” Weld said. “It means he doesn’t really have to argue the issues.”

With little fanfare, Weld spent the next two hours wandering the fairgrounds, munching on a turkey leg, going largely unnoticed. After doing several media interviews, the former Massachusetts governor went to cast his kernel at the corn poll. The booth worker mistakenly greeted him as Governor John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.

It’s not Weld’s first foray into presidential politics, and not his first race against Trump. In 2016, he was the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential pick on the ticket led by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Weld said Sunday he would not launch a third-party run if he lost the Republican nomination. 

When asked by NBC News how he plans to win in 2020, Weld said he would start by targeting New England states and spoke of “not-yet-ready-to-be-activated governor networks” he could tap for support.  

“The main thing is speaking the truth, not lying, not being ignoble, not trying to set people against each other,” he said. “I think the truth about what Mr. Trump is now doing and has been doing is going to set in. It's going to sink in sooner or later, and that will be the turning point in the election.”

Castro targets Trump's vacation in Bedminster with small, Fox News ad buy about El Paso shooting

DES MOINES, IOWA — Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro's presidential campaign is running an ad for an audience of one on Wednesday, booking a small ad buy that will run on Fox & Friends during President Trump's vacation. 

The new ad will run on Wednesday in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump is staying the week at his private golf club. The new spot connects Trump's rhetoric on immigrants to the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which was the largest targeted attack on Latinos in modern American history.

Castro, who needs to register at 2 percent or higher in one more poll to qualify for the September debates, may be hoping for an exponential return on the tiny ad buy of less than $3,000. 

The ad is set in an empty warehouse, with Castro speaking direct to camera, “President Trump: You referred to countries as shitholes. You urged American Congresswomen to ‘go back’ to where they came from. You called immigrants rapists. As we saw in El Paso, Americans were killed because you stoked the fire of racists. Innocent people were shot down because they look different from you. Because they look like me. They look like my family.” 

It comes after Trump attacked Castro's brother, Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, for releasing names of San Antonio donors on Twitter who had maxed out donations to the President. 

Read more on NBCNews.com here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Sanford heads to New Hampshire, warns of “big storm” in newly released video

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former South Carolina Republican congressman and Gov. Mark Sanford revealed Monday that he is headed to New Hampshire as he ponders a primary challenge to President Donald Trump while also releasing a new video warning of a “big storm coming.”

Sanford, who said last month that he is considering running for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination, told the Charleston Post and Courier that he would be “quietly having meetings” in New Hampshire with several people in that first-in-the-nation primary state.

In the new video, Sanford talks about the country’s “precarious financial position,” saying it could “crush our economy … even destroy our Republic.” 

“The really amazing part is that seemingly no one in Washington is talking about it,” Sanford says, before calling out Democrats’ “political promises that we can’t afford” and Trump’s actions that “drive our debt and spending.”

In an earlier video, released on July 17, Sanford said he would be using the coming weeks to explore launching an official campaign — laying out a 30-day timeline for an announcement.  

GOP ad ties Kentucky Democrat to Warren, Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez

WASHINGTON — A new TV ad from the Republican Governors Association ties Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andy Beshear to “liberal radicals,” evoking images of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“Liberal radicals across the country want to derail President Trump’s agenda and turn America into a socialist country,” the ad goes, showing images of Sanders, Warren, Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez.

It continues, “Andy Beshear stood with Hillary Clinton. After she lost, Beshear joined the radical resistance, suing to stop Trump’s agenda.”

Beshear, the state’s current attorney general, faces incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in November, and Trump won the state by 30 points in 2016.

The Republican Governors Association has been the biggest advertiser so far in this gubernatorial race, spending more than $2.5 million over the airwaves, according to data from Advertising Analytics. Kentuckians will choose their next governor Nov. 5. 

Tom Steyer spends big in race to make debate stage

WASHINGTON — Billionaire Tom Steyer may have jumped into the race far later than his Democratic presidential rivals, but he's making up for it with a flurry of spending. 

Last week alone (from August 4 through August 10), Steyer spent $1.2 million on Facebook ads — more than the amount spent by South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.a and Elizabeth Waren, D-Mass., combined.

That's according to Facebook's ad archive report.  

And when cable and broadcast buys are included, Steyer has spent more than any other Democratic candidate on media overall with more than $10 million, data from Advertising Analytics shows. 

That massive spending shows why Steyer could be a wildcard in this race — he has the ability to flood the early states with money at a drop of a hat, an advantage that gives him a leg up as the Democratic National Committee's debate threshold begins to get harder to reach. 

Virtually all of Steyer's Facebook ads are aimed at accruing the 130,000 unique donors he needs in order to have a shot at making the next Democratic debate stage. 

And the healthy amount of television spending can help increase his poll numbers both nationally and in early states as he seeks to hit the DNC's polling threshold too (candidates need to hit both the unique donor threshold as well as hit 2 percent in four qualifying polls — Steyer needs to hit 2 percent in just one more poll to reach that). 

Presidential hopefuls descend on Iowa State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa — Five 2020 Democratic hopefuls ascended the Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Friday, where they made their presidential pitches and fielded questions from voters encouraged to shout them out. 

Former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julian Castro was asked why he was campaigning in Iowa instead of traveling to El Paso, Texas in the wake of the recent mass shooting — since fellow Texan Beto O'Rourke had canceled his Iowa speech to remain in his hometown of El Paso.

Castro said that because he wasn't a native of the city, “I don't think what they need is more presidential candidates over there." "They need action. They need Congress and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell to get the Senate back in session and to pass common-sense gun safety legislation."

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang drew a large crowd of supporters who seemed familiar which his usual routine of asking  audiences which state gives residents a typical dividend of $1,000 to $2,000 a year, paid out of the state's vast oil reserves. "And what state is that?" he asked. The audience responded, "Alaska!" 

In true Soapbox form, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland faced a heckler after his speech, who wanted him to identify President Donald Trump as a white supremacist. Delaney stopped short of doing so, but said that Trump “engages with white supremacists.” When pushed by reporters on the difference between being a white supremacist and engaging with them, Delaney responded, “I actually don't think there is any difference. I think it's awful." He added, "People who enable it are no different than those who practice it.”

Author and long-shot candidate Marianne Williamson, meanwhile, pitched herself as the underdog. "I heard that I'm dangerous, I've heard that I’m crazy, I've heard that I'm a grifter,” Williamson said to applause. “Please know that there are powerful forces that do not want me to be in the third debate.” 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, closed out the day of speeches. She greeted the crowd with a hearty, “Aloha,” and recognized all the military service members in the room. Like others, Gabbard focused on the need to unite Americans. “We are facing great divisiveness and unfortunately we face self-serving politicians and people in positions of power who are seeking to tear us apart and to divide us for their own selfish gain,” she said.

Nearly two dozen candidates will take the stage over the course of the 10-day Iowa State Fair.

Democratic presidential nominees historically younger than Republican nominees

WASHINGTON —The field of Democrats running for president in 2020 is the party’s most diverse ever, and that diversity includes age, too.

The youngest Democratic hopeful is Pete Buttigieg (37 years old), while the oldest is Bernie Sanders (who’s 77 and will turn 78 in September).

In between are current Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden (76), Elizabeth Warren (70), 

 And the eventual winner will face the 73-year-old Trump.

Historically, Democrats have nominated younger candidates — with 49 being the average age of past winners of the Democratic nomination since 1952.

Past Democratic Nominees since 1952:

  • Adali Stevenson, 52 years-old in 1952 and 56 years-old in 1956
  • John F. Kennedy, 43 years-old, 1960
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, 56 years-old, 1964
  • Hubert Humphrey, 67 years-old, 1968
  • George McGovern, 50 years-old, 1972
  • Jimmy Carter, 52 years-old in 1976 and 56 years-old in 1980
  • Walter Mondale, 56 years-old, 1984
  • Michael Dukakis, 55 years-old, 1988
  • Bill Clinton, 46 years-old in 1992 and 50 years-old in 1996
  • Al Gore, 52 years-old, 2000
  • John Kerry, 61 years-old, 2004
  • Barack Obama, 47 years-old 2008 in and 51 years-old in 2012
  • Hilliary Clinton, 69 years-old, 2016

By comparison, the average age for Republican winners of the presidential nomination has been 63.

Past Republican Nominees since 1952:

  • Dwight Eisenhower, 62 years-old in 1952 and 66 years-old in 1956
  • Richard Nixon, 47 years-old, 1960
  • Barry Goldwater, 55 years-old, 1964
  • Richard Nixon, 55 years-old in 1968 and 59 years-old in 1972
  • Gerald Ford, 63 years-old, 1976
  • Ronald Reagan, 69 years-old in 1980 and 73 years-old in1984
  • George H.W. Bush, 64 years-old in 1988 and 68 years-old in 1992
  • Bob Dole, 73 years-old, 1996
  • George W. Bush, 54 years-old in 2000 and 58 years-old in 2004
  • John McCain, 72 years-old, 2008
  • Mitt Romney, 65 years-old, 2012
  • Donald Trump, 70 years-old, 2016 

And since 1950, the oldest Democratic nominee to win the general election was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 -- at age 56.

And the average age of the past Democratic presidents at their inauguration is 49.

Democratic Presidents since 1952:

  • John F. Kennedy, 43 years-old
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, 56 years-old
  • Jimmy Carter, 52 years-old
  • Bill Clinton, 46 years-old for his first inauguration and 50 years-old for his second
  • Barack Obama, 47 years-old for his first inauguration and 51 years-old for his second

That’s compared with an average age of 63 for Republican presidents since 1952.

 Republican Presidents since 1952:

  • Dwight Eisenhower, 62 years-old for his first inauguration and 66 years-old for hsi second 
  • Richard Nixon, 55 years-old for his first inauguration and 59 years-old for his second
  • Gerald Ford, 63 years-old
  • Ronald Reagan, 69 years-old for his first inauguration and 73 years-old for his second
  • George H.W. Bush, 64 years-old
  • George W. Bush, 54 years-old for his first inauguration and 58-years old for his second
  • Donald Trump, 70 years-old 

Buttigieg unveils rural health plan as he starts Iowa swing

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is unveiling a plan to boost health outcomes for rural Americans as he opens a week-long swing through Iowa.

The plan illustrates how Buttigieg is working to cast himself as uniquely qualified in the Democratic primary field to address issues important to rural voters and those in the Midwest, including many who voted in 2016 for President Donald Trump.

Buttigieg's plan focuses on expanding student loan forgiveness to include people who work in rural medicine in a bid to encourage medical providers to seek out jobs in those communities. He also wants to offer more visa waivers to immigrant doctors to stay in the U.S. to work in underserved areas.

The Buttigieg plan would also boost telehealth initiatives by investing another half-billion in federal dollars and expanding the telehealth services covered by insurance. Other parts of the proposal focus on tribal communities and veterans.

On health care more broadly, Buttigieg has proposed a public option for health insurance that he argues would eventually attract more and more Americans into that system.

The new plan comes as Buttigieg heads Friday to Iowa for nearly a week of campaigning, including a stop Tuesday at the Iowa State Fair. Buttigieg will spend most of the coming week in rural areas.

Biden maintains lead in new Iowa poll as Warren surges

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden maintains his clear lead in a new Iowa poll of the Democratic presidential field, but Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is storming toward the front of the pack. 

Biden leads Monmouth's new poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers with 28 percent, a score virtually unchanged from Monmouth's April poll. But Warren is now in second, with 19 percent, a major increase from her 7 percent in April.

Sen. Kamala Harris, Calif., is in third place with 11 percent, followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in fourth with 9 percent. 

Behind him is South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 8 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 3 percent, billionaire Tom Steyer with 3 percent, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand with 2 percent and businessman Andrew Yang with 2 percent. 

The rest of the field polled at 1 percent or below. 

The boost comes amid a spate of good news for Warren—she's seen an uptick at the polls in recent weeks, and raised more during the second fundraising quarter than all but two candidates. 

In the Monmouth poll, Warren's 76 percent favorable rating among Democrats is the highest of the 11 candidates tested, with a 14 percent unfavorable rating lower than all but Buttigieg and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro.

Warren is also the only candidate whose unfavorable rating went down from the April poll (New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's 16 percent unfavorable rating stayed the same over the four-month period). And she's the second choice of the most respondents in the poll, with 19 percent. 

The poll also shows a decline for Sanders, down to 9 percent from 16 percent in April. Sanders also has the highest unfavorable rating of those tested, with 33 percent. Fifty-eight percent view him favorably. 

And it's the fourth poll where Yang finishes with at least 2 percent, which means he's now qualified for the next round of debates in September and October. 

The likely caucusgoers overwhelmingly identified health care as one of the top-two most important issues in deciding who to support. 

Fifty-six percent of caucusgoers said that on the issue of health care, they wanted a public option, the ability for people to either keep their private health care or opt-in to Medicare. Twenty-one percent say they want to scrap private insurance entirely for Medicare-for-All. 

Monmouth polled 401 likely caucusgoers from Aug. 1 to Aug. 4. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percent. 

Harris to air her first Iowa television ad

DES MOINES, IOWA — California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris is releasing her first television ad Thursday in Iowa, pegged to the senator's five-day bus tour throughout the state. 

The campaign has reserved at least $192,000 worth of advertising dollars for the spot, according to figures from media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. The ad will run across the state and is the first Iowa ad from a presidential candidate polling toward the top of the field. 

The ad, titled “Me, Maya, and Mom,” starts with a picture of Harris and her younger sister Maya standing alongside their mom as kids. Harris says her mom would stay up late sitting at the kitchen table “trying to figure out how to make it all work.”

The ad ties into Harris’ theme of tackling issues that keep people up at night, part of what she calls her “3 a.m. agenda.” In the ad, Harris specifically mentions her plan for a middle-class tax cut, her health care plan and her plan to tackle equal pay. 

“Instead of ideological or theoretical debates, Senator Harris is focused on an action plan to directly improve the lives of American families… her agenda directly addresses the issues that keep people up at night,” press secretary Ian Sams said in a statement provided by the campaign. 

Harris’ ad will run from August 8 until August 14. 

Booker talks gun violence at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Sen. Cory Booker delivered a speech Wednesday morning at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.—addressing gun violence and the “hatred and white nationalism in America.”

Booker’s remarks come just more than four years since the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel in June of 2015—when 21-year-old Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans during a bible study, including senior pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pinckney—and on the heels of two recent mass shootings last weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

During the speech, Booker highlighted ways in which “we can act to legislate safety even if we cannot legislate love” by pointing to five specific policy proposals:

  • “Legislation to close the loophole that enabled one man to take nine souls from this very congregation."
  • “Banning assault weapons once and for all.”
  • “[Requiring] federal licensing for guns in America.”
  • “[Requiring] that the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and FBI conduct assessments of the domestic terrorism threats posed by white supremacists.”
  • “[Requiring] the FBI to dramatically change and improve reporting of hate crimes and work with local law enforcement to establish policies to focus on training, to focus on how to identify and investigate and report those crimes that threaten our security and safety with chilling regularity.”

In recent days, Booker has assailed President Trump’s rhetoric toward immigrants, arguing on Sunday’s broadcast of “Meet the Press” that the president is “sowing the seeds of hatred in our country.” Authorities believe that the El Paso shooter wrote an anti-immigrant and anti-government manifesto posted online before the shooting.

While he didn’t mention Trump by name, he waved at that criticism, saying, “As a political strategy, weaponizing hatred can be effective because it seems easy. … Generations of politicians have used fear of the other for political gain, and that is certainly the case today.”

Facing his own criticism that the speech was an attempt to make political gain in a crowded field of 2020 contenders, Booker addressed his motivations for his appearance at Mother Emanuel.

“This is not a political moment,” Booker said. “I am not here today to ask for a vote. I am here today to ask if we again as a nation have the collective resolve to change the reality we live in.”

Biden campaign launches digital ad highlighting assault weapons ban in '94 crime bill

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign is launching a small digital media buy in Iowa and New Hampshire highlighting the former vice president's role in passing a ban on assault weapons in the 1994 crime bill, a senior Biden campaign official told NBC News. 

While the buy is relatively small, just four figures, the ad is an example of Biden embracing a part of the crime bill that's often criticized by the left. 

Throughout the primary campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden's opponents have often hit Biden on his role in passing the crime bill citing that it led to the mass incarceration of many African Americans for minor offenses.

However, a popular part of the legislation was the assault weapons ban. The ban prohibited the manufacture for civilian use of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines. The law featured a 10-year sunset provision and Congress did not renew the ban in September 2004. 

In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll in July, 57% of all Americans said a ban of the sale of semi-automatic assault guns such as AK-47s and AR-15s was a "good idea". That included 83% of Democrats, 29% of Republicans and 55% of Independents. 

Warren rolls out plans for rural health care and farm economy ahead of Iowa swing

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is outlining how she'd invest in rural America and focus on U.S. farmers Wednesday as she embarks on a multi-day swing through Iowa. 

The roll-out is of two plans in one, building on some of Warren's previously released plans on immigration, economic patriotism, and closing the race gap in entrepreneurship.

The rural investments include expanding health care access as well as broadband internet access to areas that are currently underserved. And her farm economy plan echoes Warren’s previous concerns with corporate consolidation and a call for “a complete overhaul of our failed approach to the farm economy.”

Here's a further breakdown of her proposal: 

Investing in rural America

  • Protect rural hospitals. Warren’s plan blocks all future hospital mergers unless the companies can show they’ll maintain or improve access to care. It also creates a new designation to reimburse rural hospitals at a higher rate, increases Community Health Center funding and establishes a $25B capital fund to improving health care access.
  • Bring more medical professionals into rural areas. Warren wants to woo medical talent to rural areas through apprenticeships, lifting caps on residents and repaying loans for those who work five years in rural and Native American communities. 
  • Expand access to broadband in rural areas. Warren’s plan creates an Office of Broadband Access within the Dept. of Economic Development that will manage an $85 billion grant program for rural-broadband infrastructure. The government will pay 90 cents on the dollar for construction done under these grants, and applicants will have to offer public broadband to every home in their area, with at least one plan for low-income customers.
  • Restore net neutrality

Building a new farm economy

  • Replace traditional farm subsidies with loans. Warren's proposal would end most farming subsidies and replace them with a supply management loan program, while still maintaining some subsidies as an insurance plan for weather-related catastrophes and disease. The plan also calls for the government to purchase the goods that the farmers aren’t able to sell. Warren argues that nixing the current subsidy system would end up saving taxpayers billions of dollars. 

  • Conservation programs. The USDA would offer farmers the option of enrolling in conservation programs that provide landowners with an alternative revenue stream.
  • Provide more money for farmer grant programs to fight climate change.
  • Break up large agricultural conglomerates through reversing anti-competitive mergers.
  • Expand federal purchasing of local produce.
  • Combat “systematic dispossession of land in communities of color” by expanding government programs to help farmers of color and Native Americans buy more land.

CORRECTION (Aug. 8, 2019, 6:20 p.m.): A previous version of this article contained two errors about Warren's farm policy. Her plan would end traditional farm subsidies and replace them with loans, while maintaining some subsidies as insurance for natural catastrophes like weather; Warren would not end farm subsidies. The article also incorrectly stated that under the plan, the USDA would purchase farm land to be repurposed for conservation programs. Warren's plan would allow the USDA to offer farmers the option of enrolling in conservation programs that provide them a revenue stream, but the USDA would not purchase land outright.

Ahead of Iowa tour, Klobuchar releases rural and agriculture plan

WASHINGTON — If it’s the Iowa State Fair, candidates are putting out Iowa-centric policies. This is Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s: a plan that she hopes will benefit farmers, drive job growth, and focus on rural America. Klobuchar will pitch this plan across 20 of Iowa’s 99 counties, starting Wednesday at a family farm in Ankeny.

  • Review all international tariffs and create a national rural export strategy. All tariffs in place as of 2021 will be reviewed and in her first 100 days in office. Klobuchar will restart the President’s Export Council — bringing together leaders from business, agriculture, and labor to get on the same page about the U.S.’s export and trade strategy.
  • Connect “every household and business in America” to high-speech broadband by 2022. Stemming from her previously-released $1 trillion infrastructure plan, Klobuchar will push for investment in rural areas, as well as money towards repairing bridges, highways and airports. She’ll also look to “revitalize” freight and passenger rail travel.
  • Expand support systems for family-owned farms — including federal crop insurance programs, addressing the dairy crisis thru a commission, and fully fund permanent disaster programs.
  • Up farmers’ and ranchers’ access to land and capital by increasing the maximum loan amount they can receive from the Farm Service Agency. She’ll also increase the size of the FSA’s loan portfolio to make sure more farmers can access it, and offer a new tax credit to farmers that help beginning farmers get in business – be it by selling land or equipment to them.
  • Preserve rural hospitals with the creation of a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare, to help maintain an ER and provide outpatient services. 
  • Expand assistance for rural childcare, by upping funding for Child Care and Development Block Grants. She’d also seek to pass a “landmark childcare proposal” that limits childcare payments to seven percent of a family’s income.  
  • Promote the future of the ag industry while also promoting conservation efforts. This includes investments in homegrown energy, like strengthening the Renewable Fuel Standard, and extending biodiesel and second generation biofuels tax credits. Additionally, she’ll invest in wind, solar and rural energy programs.
  • Ensure rural vets and seniors get proper healthcare, housing, and transportation.
  • Fight discrimination in communities of color, as well as partner with Native American tribes in rural areas.

Asked by NBC News about how much this plan would cost, Klobuchar’s campaign did not release an estimate.

Mike Gravel endorses Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON — Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel ended his quasi-presidential campaign this morning and endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Gravel's campaign was mainly run by a small group of teenagers, and the campaign's focus was to make the debate stage. Gravel did not make either the first or second Democratic debate and was not on track to qualify for the September debate. 

 

 

Mississippi voters head to polls in gubernatorial race

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... voters are voting! Republicans could be headed for a primary runoff after today’s three-way primary contest in the Mississippi gubernatorial race.

The GOP contest pits Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves against former state Supreme Court chief justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep Robert Foster. (Foster recently made headlines for refusing to allow a female reporter to accompany him on the campaign trail without a male colleague present).

Reeves, who has been considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, has the backing of incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and he has outspent his opponents on TV by more than 3-1. But a recent Mason-Dixon primary poll pegged him at 41 percent, a 10-point lead over Waller but short of the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a runoff. 

If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote today, they'll head to a runoff on August 27. 

The winner will likely face Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood in November. Hood faces seven comparatively unknown Democratic contenders in his primary today.

Regardless of who wins, polling suggests the general election could be competitive. An NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll from last month found Reeves leading Hood by 9 points and Waller leading Hood by 12 points. 

Democrat J.D. Scholten joins pack trying to oust controversial Rep. Steve King

SIOUX CITY, IA — More than 60 supporters spent a humid Monday evening in Sioux City cheering on Democrat J.D. Scholten as he officially kicked off his second bid to oust controversial GOP Rep. Steve King, who narrowly won their first face-off in 2018.

“Last time we hoped to win. And this time we expect to win. It’s that simple,” Scholten told reporters while standing in front of his branded “Scholten for Congress” RV, more affectionately known on the trail as “Sioux City Sue.”

The stakes in the district have grown since the 2018 elections, especially after King was stripped of his committee assignments by GOP leaders in the wake of inflammatory comments he made about white supremacy. 

In 2018, Scholten worked his way through the district’s 39 counties, showing up in places in King wasn’t and focusing on rural communities with talk about tariffs and broadband internet access. He is planning to do the same ahead of 2020 while also honing in on the consequences Steve King’s racist rhetoric has had on the district. 

Scholten took direct aim at King, and seemingly at President Trump, saying, “this hateful rhetoric that we’ve consistently seen from our congressman — these words have consequences, and the hatred and the racism has become too commonplace in this country. It does fuel violence. It labels us, it divides us, it drives us apart. That’s not what we’re about.” 

It was a point that hit home for Sioux City resident Linda Smoley. “Being represented by Steve King drives me absolutely insane because the whole country knows about the 4th district [and] the things [King] says, the racism, the bigotry,” Smoley told NBC News. “It is so so embarrassing and devastating and now dangerous. J.D. is so caring and compassionate and really he is the exact opposite of a Steve King.”

David Elder, of Sioux City said he is ready for the change that Scholten promotes, especially when it comes to the rhetoric.

“One of the things that I really like is just the fact that he isn't Steve King. Steve King just absolutely does not represent the values that I think we should have as Americans,” Elder told NBC News, “He’s said so many things that are just blatantly racist and even though northwest Iowa is a fairly homogenous place, it's changed a lot over the years.”

A rematch still might not happen, however. King has drawn at least three viable Republican challengers, prompting the question whether Scholten would be able to carry the GOP-heavy district if King were defeated in the primary. 

Sioux City resident Jackie Stellish doesn't think Democrats can count on King losing the GOP primary.  “I don’t see a possibility of these other candidates,” Stellish said, “They don't have the support and they don't have the money. King has name recognition but, you know what, J.D. does too. King is going to get that nomination, and we are going to send Steve King back to where he belongs.”

A massive shift afoot in the Texas GOP congressional delegation

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant announced his decision to retire Monday, making him the fourth Texas GOP congressman to spring for the exit this year. 

Within the past few weeks, Republican Reps. Mike Conaway, Will Hurd and Pete Olson have announced they'll too retire after next year.

Those are some big names in the delegation — Marchant is on the Ways and Means Committee and the ranking member of the Ethics Committee; Conaway is the top Republican on the Agriculture Committee and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence; Hurd is also an Intelligence Committee member who has held onto his district despite constantly difficult re-election battles; and Olson is a former fighter pilot who served as one of the more conservative voices in the caucus. 

Once they retire, they'll take with them more than a half-century of seniority.  

But those retirements are part of a larger picture, one of a Texas delegation that's been going through a massive shift in the past two election cycles. And that shift has been at the direct expense of House Republicans. 

The Texas Republican delegation lost five members to retirement last cycle — Reps. Ted Poe, Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling, Joe Barton and Lamar Smith. That list includes former chairmen of the Ways and Means, Financial Services, Energy and Commerce, and Science, Space and Technology Committees, all with more than a century of service in the House combined.  

And the GOP lost two more high-profile Republican lawmakers at the ballot box in 2018 — Reps. John Culberson and Pete Sessions. Culberson had represented the Houston area since 2001 and had been an appropriations "cardinal." And Sessions joined Congress in 1997, ultimately rising to chair the powerful Rules Committee. 

Those losses come as Democrats have made a bigger push for suburban areas around Texas' largest cities, which are also rapidly diversifying. And Democrats are targeting seats like Hurd's in 2020. 

Even if every other Republican lawmaker holds their seat in 2020, the Texas GOP will have lost more than 200 combined years in seniority over a span of four years. That's a major blow to a powerful delegation.

Recent polls show most American agree with background checks, semi-automatic bans

WASHINGTON — Recent polls show that a majority of Americans agree with background checks for gun purchases and banning semi-automatic assault guns. 

From an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted July 15-July 17 (margin of error for all adults: +/- 3.5 percentage points):

Do you think background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales is a good idea or a bad idea?

Among all Americans: 89% good idea, 9% bad idea

  • Democrats: 96% good idea/ 4% bad idea
  • Republicans: 84% good idea/ 14% bad idea
  • Independents: 89% good idea/ 10% bad idea

Do you think a ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault guns such as the AK-47 or the AR-15, is a good idea or a bad idea?

Among all Americans: 57% good idea, 41% bad idea

  • Democrats: 83% good idea/ 17% bad idea
  • Republicans: 29% good idea/ 67% bad idea
  • Independents: 55% good idea/ 43% bad idea

Data dump unearths new nuggets about presidential fundraising

WASHINGTON — While most of the political world was watching the Democratic presidential debates last week, the Federal Election Commission released a treasure trove of fundraising data that sheds new light on how the candidates have raised their money.  

The gigantic data dump (in the form of a 25 million-line-plus spreadsheet) includes every donation handled by ActBlue, the donation-processing company that handles virtually all of the Democratic Party's online donations. 

The data is especially important because while quarterly reports from the candidates themselves don't have to include donors who give less than $200, the ActBlue reports must detail every donation it processed for a candidate. 

There's already been some deep analysis of the data from 30,000 feet by outlets like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. But here are some more interesting nuggets from last week's release, combined with data already available (note: the data spans from Jan. 1 through June 30 of this year):

There's a clear top tier in the early primary states 

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina still dominate the early calendar, helping to decide the nominee and winnow down the field. And as far as fundraising goes, there's a clear top-tier. 

Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris aren't just at the top of the polls right now, they're also raising more money from the early primary states than anyone else. 

Sanders is the clear fundraising leader in Iowa and New Hampshire; Biden holds a significant edge in Nevada; and Biden, Sanders and Buttigieg are virtually tied at the top of the money race in South Carolina. 

The first debate bump 

Strong first debate performances changed the trajectory of some campaigns' fundraising. 

Julian Castro is a perfect example. The day before he took the debate stage in Miami on June 26, Castro raised under $20,000. But the day of the debate, where he won praise after a heated back-and-forth with Beto O'Rourke on immigration, Castro pulled in $84,000. And the day after the debate, he raised almost $330,000. 

Harris also saw a big bump after her first debate, where she tangled with Biden over racial issues. Raising just $68,000 the day before the debate, Harris raked in $574,000 on the day of her debate (June 27) and $1.8 million the next day (June 28). 

The moment Buttigieg's candidacy took off

Much of Pete Buttigieg's success has been attributed to a strategy of flooding the zone with media appearances. And the ActBlue data shows just how important that strategy has been to his campaign's bottom-line. 

Unlike most candidates that raked in fistfuls of cash on their announcement day, Buttigieg barely raised a dime when he announced his exploratory committee on Jan 23. But his fortunes changed dramatically on March 10, when he pulled in $201,000, and the following day, when he raised $456,000. The impetus? March 10 was Buttigieg's breakout performance during a nationally-televised CNN town hall. 

The Hooiser hasn't looked back since — there have only been a handful of days since when he raised less than six-figures. 

Buttigieg campaign parts ways with N.H. state director

MANCHESTER, N.H. — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign and its New Hampshire state director Michael Ceraso have parted ways, the campaign tells NBC News. In a statement from Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl, the campaign says it is appreciative to Ceraso for getting their ground game in New Hampshire started.

"We are grateful to Michael for setting up our New Hampshire operation and helping us scale up to nearly 40 staffers in just a few months,” the statement from Schmuhl said. “Our New Hampshire team will continue to grow as we execute our plan to compete in the state. We will soon be announcing additional staff who will continue to help spread Pete’s message that he is the one who can tackle our country’s most pressing challenges with real solutions.”

There was no explanation immediately provided for the staffing departure.

Jess O’Connell, who is a senior adviser to the campaign who has been focused on early strategy in primary states, has already been on the ground in N.H. working with the team, a Buttigieg aide said.

The campaign stresses that they continue to have a strategy and a plan, and now are executing that plan to win the state. The aide also told NBC News that there will be more announcements and an expanded capacity of organizers, as well as a wave of field office openings, ahead of next month’s Democratic Party state convention.

During the 2016 campaign, Ceraso served as state director in New Hampshire and California for Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign. The Sanders campaign parted ways with Ceraso 27 days before the California primary.

Longtime New Hampshire operative endorses Gillibrand

CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., nabbed a notable endorsement Friday from longtime New Hampshire Democratic operative Judy Reardon.

Reardon is the former legal counsel for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., serving her in both the governor’s office and in the U.S. Senate.  She is also a longtime committee member of the state party, a former New Hampshire House Democratic whip and has served as senior adviser to several presidential campaigns. Reardon endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 cycle.

In a phone interview with NBC News, Reardon said that she attended the Detroit debate and spent additional time with Gillibrand and her team in their hotel during the visit. 

Reardon said that she saw Gillibrand during her first trip to New Hampshire and was especially struck by her ebullience and energy.  

“I know she’s an underdog but I still think she can surprise people,” Reardon said. “In February I thought the pundits were all making a mistake in writing off Elizabeth Warren, and I think they’re making the same mistake now with Kirsten Gillibrand. She has a lot of grit.” 

When asked if she had other candidates she was considering endorsing, and potentially would throw her support behind if Gillibrand doesn’t go far in the process, Reardon pointed to other female Senators seeking the presidency. 

“I came into this cycle saying all things being equal I want to vote for someone younger than I am,” Reardon said. “Baby boomers have had their chance at being president and I think it’s time to move on. I’d also, all things being equal, would like to vote for a woman, so I like all of the female senators.” 

Asked why she decided to announce this early in the cycle, and throwing her support behind a candidate who still hasn’t qualified for the third round of debates in September, Reardon said it’s part of the “privilege of being in New Hampshire.” 

“I think it would be a waste of that privilege to not get involved,” she said. 

According to the most recent New Hampshire poll from UNH/CNN last month, Gillibrand is polling at 1% in the state.

Booker endorsement demonstrates tough balancing act for candidates

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Cory Booker’s New Hampshire campaign on Thursday announced an endorsement from Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, the longest current serving mayor in the state — a political boost that also demonstrates the complicated balance candidates face when tying to amass support while staying true to their stated principles.  

Outside of his position as an elected official, Bouley is also a registered and active lobbyist in New Hampshire. Among the clients his firm represents is 3M, the large manufacturing company that is currently involved in three separate lawsuits over accusations that the company’s products have led to the PFAS contamination of drinking water, suits filed in both New Hampshire and Booker’s home state of New Jersey

Booker is one of several Democratic presidential candidates who have tried to keep distance between themselves and special interest money and support. Among other things, the Booker campaign has said it would refuse contributions from federal lobbyists (Bouley is a state lobbyist). 

In an interview with NBC News, Bouley said that the Booker campaign did not ask him to disclose his lobbying ties ahead of his endorsement. He also said that it is “absolutely true” that 3M is dealing with multiple lawsuits over the allegations of contamination but stressed that he does not “represent 3M on that issue.” 

Booker has embraced political and financial support from other local New Hampshire lobbyists including informal campaign adviser operative Jim Demers. Demers, a longtime Democratic political operative in the state who served as the co-chair of President Barack Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire campaign, has donated $2,450 to Booker’s presidential effort, per FEC filings. 

The Booker campaign declined to comment on the record on Bouley’s lobbying ties.

First on NBC: Klobuchar meets donor threshold, clinching spot in next Dem debate

WASHINGTON — Senator Amy Klobuchar has met the donor threshold to compete in September's third Democratic debate, her campaign said early Friday morning.

In an email to supporters less than forty-eight hours after debating in Detroit, Klobuchar announced more than 130,000 donors catapulting her into the fall phase of the Democratic primary. "Now onward and upward," the supporter email — first reported by NBC — read.

Klobuchar's campaign previously said she'd met the polling qualification of at least two percent in four major surveys for the ABC-hosted debate in Houston, Texas. But meeting the donor threshold makes her the eighth of 24 candidates to check both qualifying boxes. 

Higher qualifying thresholds could halve the large field of Democrats vying for the nomination.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have also qualified for the next debate stage.

Klobuchar's Detroit debate performance stood out perhaps because of what she didn't do Tuesday night: attack her opponents by name for "making promises just to get elected" when asked by the moderator. 

Thursday night on MSNBC, the Minnesota senator reasoned that Democrats "gotta use these debates as a moment to take it to Donald Trump" and putting out a progressive blueprint for the country.

"If you spend the whole time just cutting down your opponent just to get that viral moment, then what have we done? We don't win and we don't do better for this country," she said. That may mean Klobuchar won't earn "that viral moment," but she said she won't be looking "for it by going after my opponents, by saying mean things."

Biden says he's 'proud' of Obama record and 'surprised' at Democratic attacks on it

DETROIT — Joe Biden said Thursday he was “surprised” to hear so many of his fellow Democrats criticizing President Obama’s eight year record in the White House, saying there wasn’t “anything he has to apologize for.”

“I’m proud of having served with him, proud of the job he did,” Biden told reporters after stopping at a local restaurant the morning after his combative face-off with fellow Democrats. "I hope the next debate we can talk about … our answers to fix the things Trump has broken not how Barack Obama made all of these mistakes. He didn’t.”

Biden said he hoped the next debate would give all the candidates more time to fully discuss their vision for the future. And he said he would continue to defend his record.

“This going back 10, 20, 30 years is just a game, that's a game to make sure that we hand Republicans an election,” he said. "There's a lot of things everybody has done in their past and votes that no longer have a context today. They're taken out of context. And I just wanted to make the point that some of these assertions being made were absolutely — how can I say it nicely — not true.”

Biden, who was joined at the Coney Island Restaurant by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, said he continues to believe that he falls on the ideological spectrum where “the vast majority” of Democrats are, and he vowed that he would win not only Michigan but key battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania that President Trump had carried in 2016.

He also continued to defend his healthcare plan, saying there was “nothing moderate” about the Affordable Care Act and his plan to improve upon it.

“I will get it done,” he said. 

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell 'disappointed' in the second Democratic debate

WASHINGTON — Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Thursday that she was looking for more out of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who took part in this week's debates in her home state, contending that simply being anti-Trump won't be enough to defeat the president in 2020.  

Dingell said that the candidates focused too much on taking jabs at each other, and not enough on issues that would matter to Michigan constituents like hers.

"We had too much practicing of lines to take jabs at people and not enough talking about issues that matter to working men and women. You know, you're in Michigan, trade is a big issue. I quite frankly strongly believe that it's an issue that helped get President Trump elected," Dingell said. 

The race to make the third round of debates is on

With the first two rounds of Democratic debates in the books, attention will begin turning to which candidates will make the DNC's cut for the third round in early September. 

The thresholds for qualifying for the next debate will increase, per DNC rules. Candidates must register at least 2 percent in four separate polls (from different media sponsors or different regions with the same media sponsor) and reach a minimum of 130,000 unique donors to their campaigns. The donor threshold is self-reported by the campaigns themselves for now and the DNC does not confirm who has made it until the end of the qualifying period.

That donor threshold is one reason so many candidates touted their websites during the debates. Under the DNC rules, here's where the 20 candidates on stage this week currently stand, according to our count:

Candidates who have reached both thresholds:

Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren

Candidates who have reached the polling but not the donor threshold:

Amy Klobuchar

Candidates who have reached the donor but not the polling threshold:

Julián Castro, Andrew Yang

Candidates who have not reached either threshold:

Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iowa voters talk Steve King, President Trump and racial divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump campaign cuts ad to air during Democratic debates

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

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

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

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

Warren snags endorsement from former Sanders backer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bullock to make first debate stage appearance Tuesday night

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

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

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

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

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

Look for a similar message on the stage today. 

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

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

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

 

51% in new poll say Trump is racist

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

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

Some of the breakdowns:

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

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

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

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

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

New Warren trade plan calls for labor, environmental standards

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

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

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

Some top lines include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harris proposes her version of 'Medicare for All'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Booker: Biden attacks are 'ridiculous'

CARTER LAKE, Iowa — NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake spoke with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., about his criticisms of former Vice President Joe Biden and support for Booker in the African American community. Booker said it will be important for the Democratic nominee to have an “authentic connection” with African American voters. Watch: 

New Buttigieg plan aims to expand and strengthen unions

DES MOINES, Iowa — Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled his latest presidential campaign policy proposal Friday, an economic plan focused on strengthening and expanding unions and workers' rights.

“Our economy is changing, and too many Americans are working full time, some working two or even three jobs, and still finding it impossible to make ends meet,” Buttigieg said.

The plan calls for an expansion of unionization to include gig economy workers, fast food employees, and contract laborers. In addition to cracking down on employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors, in an effort to avoid paying overtime or being held to the standard of civil rights protections required by law. 

In addition, Buttigieg hopes to strengthen collective bargaining rights in places where unions already exist. His plan would allow unionized workers from different companies, but in the same line of work, the option to bargain all together. The plan would also give domestic and home health care workers the ability to bargain across employers and expand protections for farm workers. 

The 13-page plan hopes to tackle the gender wage gap through greater pay transparency, banning employers from using an employee’s salary history to determine wages, and passing anti-harassment and gender nondiscrimination laws. 

Buttigieg’s proposal would give preference in government contract bids to companies that are unionized and offer good pay and benefits to all of their workers. 

“Let’s make sure that in this coming era, the tide continues to rise — and truly lifts all boats,” Buttigieg said. 

The plan also calls for a $15 minimum wage and ensuring paid sick leave and family leave for all Americans, which much of the democratic field supports.  The campaign said Buttigieg would implement these policies through both administrative action and legislation.

The mayor will unveil the policy at a town hall in Ankeny, Iowa later today.

Castro releases first plan for indigenous communities

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ahead of a visit to the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama, Iowa Friday, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro released his “People First Indigenous Communities Policy,” the first comprehensive plan among 2020 Democratic candidates specifically focusing on the relationship between tribal nations and the federal government. 

This plan intersects with his established positions on housing grants, veteran homelessness, healthcare, investment in education, and his plan for a 21st Century Marshall Plan.  

“We cannot erase the history of how our nation has treated Indigenous peoples,” Castro said in a tweet Thursday, “But we can respect their sovereignty, honor our treaty commitments & make progress to ensure that all native communities thrive.”

Castro seeks to strengthen tribal sovereignty by establishing a White House Council on Indigenous Community Affairs to ensure representation in Washington D.C. The plan also will protect Native Americans’ equal access to all forms of voting and will combat efforts to “disenfranchise" those communities. 

Castro’s plan prioritizes the “crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women” and human trafficking of native women by creating a task force of tribal leaders, public health officials and law enforcement. According to Dept. of Justice data, some reservations’ murder rates of Native American women are ten times higher than the national average. The plan also proposes to end tribal veteran homelessness by 2025 and to invest an additional $2.5billion over ten years to fund the various Native American housing block grant programs. 

It also calls for the end of leasing of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction in order to protect sacred tribal lands, in addition to supporting the STOP Act, to prosecute the illegal export of tribal cultural heritage and organize the return of these items from foreign countries. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s newly released “Moonshot” climate change plan includes a short section on indigenous communities, promising to direct federal agencies to seek and obtain approval from tribal governments before traversing or disrupting tribal lands. 

Tom Steyer: I’ll declare a national emergency to tackle climate change

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, the newest entry into the 2020 contest, released an environmental plan on Thursday that includes a promise to declare a “national emergency” over climate change immediately upon taking office.

“We’ve got to stop talking about this, we have to turn the page to action and we should do it Day One by calling it a state of emergency,” Steyer told NBC News in an interview.

“That’s where we are. That’s where the people of America have got to go together.”  

He is the first candidate to follow President Trump’s own invocation of emergency powers to finance a border wall with a direct pledge to take similar steps to confront climate change.  

According to Steyer, he would “give Congress 100 days to pass a Green New Deal” before using executive authority impose new energy efficiency standards on  and redirect federal funding to climate projects. 

Steyer’s broader proposal sets a goal of net-zero emissions associated with climate change by 2045.

Planks of the plan include a $2 trillion investment in clean energy infrastructure, hiring 1 million workers into a new civil service program dedicated to combating climate change, and tripling funding for scientific research.

It also includes a $50 billion fund to help transition workers tied to the fossil fuel industry to new jobs, which Steyer said would be distributed in consultation with affected communities.   “We want to make sure we explicitly take those workers’ interests into account,” he said.   

A leading Democratic donor, Steyer has invested millions in climate activism over the years through groups like NextGen America, which he founded. 

Booker and Biden lower the temperature of spat at National Urban League

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., kept recent tensions between them low at the National Urban League conference, with both candidates stressing to the audience their individual commitments to the black community instead of attacking each other’s records on civil rights.

Still, Booker, who was the first candidate to criticize Biden’s criminal justice plan earlier this week, suggested throughout his remarks that the African American should base their support for a candidate on their career long commitment to civil rights and their chances to beat President Donald Trump.

“It is easy to call Donald Trump a racist now — you get no great badge of courage for that. The question is what were you doing to address structural inequality and institutional racism throughout your life?” he said.

Booker then added it was “a problem” that when people ask about electability “they’re not asking about the African-American voters who make up the most reliable constituency of the Democratic Party.”

The New Jersey senator never uttered Biden’s name during his speech Thursday, but his comments came after Booker questioned whether Biden is the appropriate leader for the black community because he was the “architect of mass incarceration” for passing the 1994 crime bill. Biden responded to that attack yesterday stating simply that “Cory knows better.”

Following Booker’s electability remark, Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for Biden’s campaign, tweeted that the campaign “couldn’t agree more” with his point. She then pointed to the almost 40 percentage point difference between Booker and Biden in a new CBS poll where 44 percent of African Americans said they would vote for Biden over 4 percent who support Booker.

Biden avoided even making suggestions about his opponents position on the issue while speaking at the conference, but he did stress that he would do everything possible to win over African American voters saying, “I promise I’ll work hard for your support. And if I get elected, I’m with you.”

Many of Biden's opponents have lodged complaints against Biden's assumption that he will easily win the African American community. 

Biden leads Dem primary field in South Carolina by 27 points

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has a wide lead in Monmouth University's new South Carolina Democratic primary poll, with just two other candidates registering double-digit support. 

Biden's 39 percent puts him in a league of his own, while his next closest competitors are stuck in a logjam far behind him. 

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has support from 12 percent of the likely primary voters, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 10 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at 9 percent. 

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 5 percent in the poll, followed by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and billionaire Tom Steyer, who both sit at 2 percent. 

The rest of the field hit 1 percent or lower. 

Biden continues to draw his support from black voters, which typically make up a majority of the South Carolina primary electorate. More than half (51 percent) of black voters say Biden is their first choice. 

Monmouth is one of the pollsters that the Democratic National Committee is using to decide who makes its debate stage in September. But the poll had little effect on the field, outside putting Steyer closer to qualifying for the debate. 

Candidates have to hit both a 130,000 unique donor threshold as well as finish with 2 percent or above in four qualifying polls. Six candidates both have hit the poll threshold and say they've hit that unique donor threshold. With this poll, Steyer has hit the 2 percent mark in two polls. 

Gillibrand unveils 'moonshot' plan to combat climate change

CHICAGO — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., unveiled a $10 trillion comprehensive climate change plan Thursday, that she says will "save our planet." 

“We must aggressively combat climate change not because it is easy, but because it is hard," Gillibrand said evoking the words of former President John F. Kennedy in a statement announcing her climate "moonshot."

"Our race for a green economy will be a measure of our excellence, innovation, and entrepreneurialism as a nation, and I know we’re up for the challenge,” she continued. 

Her six point plan includes many elements of the Green New Deal, a resolution outlined by freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now embraced by much of the 2020 Democratic primary field.  

The six points, each containing specific goals, initiatives and commitments are:

  1. Get to net-zero carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and phase out fossil fuels.
  2. Put a price on carbon and hold polluters accountable.
  3. Build a green jobs economy.
  4. Prioritize rural advancement, frontline communities, and marginalized voices.
  5. Lead a 21st-century clean energy international “space race.”
  6. Protect clean air, clean water, and public lands.

Climate change has been a top issue area for the Democratic party base, reflected by the priority several of the candidates have placed on detailing large-scale plans to combat the issue. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is making climate change the central issue of his candidacy, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's first policy proposal was a $5 trillion climate plan and former Vice President Joe Biden's plan, announced in early June, totaled $1.7 trillion.

In a nod to workers potentially displaced by a shift to a green energy economy, Gillibrand promises to "establish a 'green jobs recovery fund' to help affected communities build new opportunities." 

Her plan includes a commitment to "ensure wage and benefit replacements are guaranteed for displaced workers, and make it easier for workers who are near the end of their career to find paths to retirement." 

The Gillibrand campaign says her proposals would be partially funded by a combination of a climate mitigation excise tax, carbon tax and ending fossil fuel subsidies.  

Democrats don’t see momentum for impeachment right now

WASHINGTON — Robert Mueller’s testimony is unlikely to reverse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to launch immediate  impeachment proceedings against President Trump, instead lending momentum towards calls for more congressional investigations, Democratic lawmakers and top aides told NBC News.

“He was clear about the things that counted, that he did not exonerate the president, that there were multiple instances of obstruction of justice” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn., told NBC News. "We absolutely have to” call in more witnesses, she said.

“I think it’s a very important first day,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Penn, said. “Some people are saying this is the last day. This is the beginning.”

Senior Democratic Intelligence Committee officials who briefed reporters after their hearing said Mueller’s articulation of national security risks that can come from foreign contacts, among other issues, "raises a lot more questions” to pursue. 

In a press conference after the hearings, Pelosi was asked by NBC News whether her views had changed on impeachment. "My position has always been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts," she said. "It's about the Congress, the Constitution, and the courts. And we are fighting the president in the courts."

Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Wednesday evening that the president has engaged in wrongdoing.

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said that Pelosi told members that they can come out for impeachment if that’s what they thought was right based on the testimony. “She was more clear today about” telling members to support impeachment if they want than she has been in the last, Demings said. 

Still, Democrats close to the speaker cautioned that the proceedings are unlikely to change her go-slow approach. 

Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general under Bill Clinton who is close to Pelosi’s office and has been advising House and Senate Judiciary members, said “if someone was hoping that this would be the surge toward a tipping point, that wasn’t the case.”

“The ground did not shift (on impeachment),” Raben told NBC. “Pelosi’s strategy of investigate, legislate and litigate will remain intact,” he said.  

Three Democratic aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the hearings won't cause Pelosi to reverse course.

“The question is how many (Democratic) members come out for it and what’s the threshold that makes it uncomfortable and unsustainable for her” to resist impeachment. Prior to the hearings, there were 88 Democrats who’ve publicly called for an impeachment inquiry. 

“If we get into triple digits and 45-50% it might be harder for her” to resist, the aide said.

Alex Moe contributed