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Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

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'Sometimes I am misread': On bus tour, Buttigieg looks to pull back the curtain

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1010d ago / 3:39 PM UTC

ELKADER, Iowa — Forty-one hours into his first bus tour through Northeastern Iowa, Pete Buttigieg had done very little complaining. 

After five town halls and another nine or so hours of questioning by the press, the South Bend mayor seemed more composed than when he’d started. But when a reporter asked whether voters view him as emotionally distant, it hit a nerve. 

“Sometimes I am misread as being bloodless,”Buttigieg said, sitting back in an armchair as his bus rolled toward Elkader, Iowa, population 1,273. 

He said it was irritating that the media acts as if his early work as a consultant defined his personality — “or like that I have a technocratic soul,” Buttigieg said. “I do not have a technocratic soul.” 

Image: Pete Buttigieg, South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful, takes a question from the press on his campaign bus during a four day tour of Iowa
Pete Buttigieg, South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful, takes a question from the press on his campaign bus during a four day tour of Iowa on Sept. 23, 2019.Elijah Nouvelage / Reuters

Then he laid out his theory of leadership in terms that were, well, technical. 

“If there’s a way to deal with a problem that can make everybody better off while making nobody worse off, then by definition it should be done, and it doesn’t really take a lot of courage or judgment,” Buttigieg said. “That’s the part of a politician’s job that should be automated.” 

“I think you earn your paycheck in politics dealing with moral issues, not technical issues,” he added. “What do you do when there’s winners or losers? What do you do when one of our values collides with another? That’s why we have human beings.” 

If Buttigieg senses a disconnect in how he’s publicly perceived, it may explain why he decided to rent a luxury bus, load it full of about a dozen reporters, liquor and candy, and drive around Iowa for four days — all on the record. 

Despite massive fundraising and crowds that regularly dwarf those of his rivals, Buttigieg is struggling to break into the top tier in the Democratic race, a triumvirate comprising Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, with Buttigieg a distant fourth in most polls. The most recent survey in Iowa saw his support drop five points, to just 9 percent. 

More than four months still separate the candidates from the first contest, the Iowa caucuses. But ultimately, if Buttigieg cannot convert the clear enthusiasm from rally-goers and donors into hard support from voters, it becomes the existential dilemma of his campaign. 

So Buttigieg is returning to some of the guerrilla-style campaign tactics that transformed him from the unknown mayor of a midsize Indiana town into a household name, a fundraising phenomenon and a history-maker in the form of America’s first major openly gay presidential candidate. 

It’s “radical transparency,” as Buttigieg’s media adviser Lis Smith calls it: a four-day rolling press conference, harkening back to the late Sen. John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express.” 

Buttigieg’s advisers argue that by putting himself at the mercy of endless inquisition, he proves not only agility but also the authenticity of someone who speaks their mind so faithfully that they can’t be pushed off-message.  

“Something absurd could happen in the next 90 seconds and you could ask me about it, and you’ll see how I think in real time,” Buttigieg said during a particularly long stretch on the bus. 

In reality, it’s also a way to use the novelty of seeing a politician in unusual circumstances to generate massive amounts of media attention. The strategy is not unlike how Buttigieg propelled himself into the political conversation earlier this year by saying yes to just about every interview request — not just cable news and magazine profiles but also less obvious, potentially riskier choices like late-night talk shows, niche websites and TMZ. 

“Just out of curiosity, who’s responsible for this?” Buttigieg said with a playful grin as he boarded the bus picked up a near-empty bottle of Bulleit bourbon that had been full when the bus pulled in to Waterloo the night before. 

Yet if the hope was that the cozy intimacy of a bus would lead to deeper conversations and more intimate insights into the candidate, it seemed tempered by the candidate’s tendency to operate at the same measured tempo regardless of the venue.

As the bus ambled through Newton the evening Buttigieg’s tour started, there was all the polite awkwardness of a first date. Reporters lobbed policy questions they already knew the answers to, groping for more lighthearted topics like how many of his signature white shirts he’d brought on the trip (four, plus a single pair of jeans) and what Buttigieg would be doing if not for politics (“happily be living as a literary critic at a university”).

By day two, the obvious topics had been covered and the conversation descended into the more mundane: Buttigieg’s favorite road trip snacks, exercise regimen on the road, least favorite part about the campaign trail (“You miss home”). By the third day, Smith, his communications guru, seemed agitated.

“Can I just say something, guys? We’re all here on the bus. Ask whatever you want. Like, this works both ways,” Smith said. “If you guys keep asking the same questions over and over again, you’re going to get boring answers.”

As the blue-and-gold-wrapped bus rolled out of Waterloo on Monday, Buttigieg seemed to settle into a looser, more edifying style of reflection about himself and the state of the race. He weighed in on why Warren is gaining traction — “because she’s really good” — and sharpened his argument against Biden, without mentioning him by name.

“The part about the electability debate that I'm really trying to turn on its head is the idea that you need the most stable, familiar face to be elected,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t think we’d be here if people liked what they were getting out to the establishment, which means that sending in the establishment is a terrible way to try to win the election.”

Buttigieg has often cited former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod’s theory that holds that voters tend to seek the opposite of their current president — the “remedy,” not the “replica.”

Pete Buttigieg steps off on his campaign bus during a four day tour of Iowa on Sept. 23, 2019.
Pete Buttigieg steps off on his campaign bus during a four day tour of Iowa on Sept. 23, 2019.Josh Lederman / NBC News

As he fielded question after question on Iowa’s highways, the unanswerable one seemed to be whether that “opposites” theory still holds true in the era of President Trump: Do voters want a steady, “safe choice” as a counterweight to today’s chaos, or did Trump’s election prove Americans eager for a disruptor who will channel their frustrations?

“We’re so used to candidates that appeal to emotional stuff. He gave a more thoughtful presentation today,” said Jim Klosterboer, a 70-year-old from McGregor, after seeing Buttigieg speak for the first time in nearby Elkader. “I think it’s slow building because the emotional stuff isn’t there.”

“The charisma-type stuff,” chimed in his friend, Jay Moser, a retired pharmacist.

Klosterboer’s wife, Laurie, 67, disagreed.

“Well, he’s got charisma, personality,” the retired teacher said. “And in the White House, you want thoughtful intelligence, experience.”

NBC News' Charlie Gile contributed. 

Booker campaign raises more than $500,000 since Saturday as it seeks to stay afloat in Dem primary

1011d ago / 5:40 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's Democratic presidential campaign has raised more than a half-million dollars since its Saturday morning plea for donors to help the campaign hit its fundraising goal by the end of the month or drop out. 

The Booker campaign told supporters, staff and reporters on Saturday that it needed to raise $1.7 million more by the end of the month, the third fundraising quarter of 2019, in order to stay afloat. 

Booker addressed that ultimatum on Monday's "Morning Joe," revealing that Saturday and Sunday have been "the two best fundraising days of our campaign so far." 

"We got in this race not for an exercise in ego or a vanity project, but we got in to win," he said. 

"We have built a campaign to win but we want to be very honest with people — the fourth quarter is where you grow, and if we don't have the money to grow, we are not going to be able to stay competitive." 

— Vaughn Hillyard contributed. 

NBC/WSJ poll: Voters divided over environmental, energy proposals

1011d ago / 3:37 PM UTC

As world leaders gather in New York City for a special United Nations summit on climate change, American voters are divided over key proposals for energy and environmental policy, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows.

The poll, released over the weekend, found that about half of voters — 52 percent — back a proposal to shift the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, including stopping the use of coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power.

And 45 percent want to ban hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.

Those two proposals, which are among those being backed by environmental activists, have majority support among Democrats. About eight-in-ten Democratic primary voters — 81 percent — back a total move to renewable energy, while 58 percent support a fracking ban.

But both proposals also face strong opposition from Republicans. Three-quarters of Republicans say they oppose a shift away from conventional energy sources, with 58 percent saying they strongly oppose the move.

Opposition to a fracking ban is slightly more muted for GOP voters, although a majority — 55 percent — oppose it. Thirty-five percent of Republicans say they strongly oppose such a ban.

Republicans are far more enthusiastic about drilling for oil off the coast of the United States. That garners the support of 81 percent of GOP voters  and about half — 51 percent — of voters overall. Just 24 percent of Democratic primary voters, however, agree.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Sept. 13-16. The margin of error for all adults is +/- 3.27 percentage points.

Democratic candidates stump at the Iowa Steak Fry – Part 2

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1013d ago / 11:10 PM UTC

DES MOINES, IA – Seventeen Democratic presidential candidates took the stage at the Iowa Steak Fry on Saturday to address the crowd of potential caucus-goers. Here are some highlights from the second half of those candidates: 

Michael Bennet: Bennet played up his moderate side during his time at the steak fry podium when he reminded the crowd that “We won the House back in 2018 with Democrats running on a public option not Medicare for All,” and in 2020, “We need to nominate somebody who has run tough races as I have in Colorado who says the same thing in the primary as they say in the general election.”

Julián Castro: Paging House Democrats, Castro opened his stump speech with a simple call, “It is time for you to do your job and impeach Donald Trump. How many crimes does this president have to commit before Congress will act and impeach him?”

Tulsi Gabbard: Gabbard addressed President Trump's decision to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia and said that she is running for president to end these “regime change wars.” She called the reality of never-ending wars “insanity.”

Tom Steyer: Tom Steyer spearheaded his presidential campaign with his organization "Need to Impeach", and he continued that message in Iowa: "You're never gonna see someone from this stage conspire with the president of Ukraine to use American tax dollars for his political purposes - I can promise you that. That's why I started Need To Impeach two years ago - cause I knew he was a criminal." 

Joe Sestak: Sestak introduced himself to the crowd in Iowa and called out President Trump for dodging the draft during the  Vietnam War, while touting his own Navy service. 

Marianne Williamson: By the time Williamson took the microphone, the crowd had thinned at the steak fry but she stuck to her normal campaign speech about only being able to change the "era of political theatre" by creating a new phenomenon. 

Steve Bullock: Steve Bullock stuck to his campaign stump focusing on this next election being the "most important" in "our lifetimes" and that Democrats need to pick up seats in some areas that they lost "along the way." Of course, that did not lead to a Senate candidacy announcement. 

Tim Ryan: When Tim Ryan grabbed the microphone, the crowd had thinned as it started to pour. But Ryan told the remaining crowd that, "we don't stop playing football" when it rains, so he wouldn't stop politicking either. Ryan told the remaining crowd that he understands rural America and he will "rebuild" small towns.  

Democratic candidates stump at the Iowa Steak Fry – Part 1

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1013d ago / 11:10 PM UTC

DES MOINES, IA – Seventeen Democratic presidential candidates took the stage at the Iowa Steak Fry on Saturday to address the crowd of potential caucus-goers. Here are some highlights from the first half of those candidates: 

Beto O’Rourke: O’Rourke capitalized on his “hell yes” comments regarding mandatory buybacks for certain assault weapons: “People will ask us, they'll say, 'Hey Beto, aren't you afraid that you've gone too far, that you really pissed off the NRA this time?', I'm not afraid of that. No, I'm not afraid of that. I would be afraid if I were a school teacher in a kindergarten classroom and those kids for whom I'd already sacrificed so much were up against a gunman with an AR-15 because we didn't have the courage to stop him while we still had time.”

Kamala Harris: Harris gave an abbreviated version of her stump speech, plugging the joke that she’s going to move to Iowa. She focused on her message of “prosecuting the case of four more years with Donald Trump.” The crowd briefly echoed her, chanting “Dude’s gotta go.”

Cory Booker: Booker did not mention his fundraising needs while at the microphone, and rather stuck to talking about bringing people together: “We will win this election not by dividing democrats but have people who unite us and bring us together.”

Elizabeth Warren: Warren, who was one of the first presidential candidates to call for the impeachment of President Trump began her stump speech with seconding that call: “He has solicited another foreign government to attack our election system, it is time for us to call out this illegal behavior and start impeachment proceedings right now.”

Bernie Sanders: Sanders stuck to his stump speech at the steak fry and discussed combatting white nationalism “in all of its ugly faults.” Per the NBC team, Sanders’ voice seemed to be fading and he has 12 events this week.

Andrew Yang: While Yang waited until about halfway through his speech to discuss his freedom dividend plan, Yang called on Iowans to “solve the biggest problem of all time” – Donald Trump. While the crowd seemed a bit unfamiliar with Yang, the Yang campaign told NBC he will be making more frequent trips to Iowa.

Joe Biden: Biden dug in on a line he made at the last Democratic debate that he’s “with Barack” when it comes to health care. During his time at the microphone Biden said, “I'm opposed to anybody who wants to take down Obamacare,” and, “we have to finish the job and we can do it because the American public now understands what they had and were given by Obamacare as Trump tries to take it away.”

Pete Buttigieg: Buttigieg had a hearty reaction from the crowd with continued cheers throughout his speech, and he took a pretty direct aim at former Vice President Joe Biden’s line that President Trump could be an “aberration.” Buttigieg said, “We are not going to be able to replace this president if we think he's just a blip. Just an aberration. It's going to take more than that. We want to win and deserve to win we can't water down our values.”

Amy Klobuchar: The Iowa Steak Fry comes at the end of Klobuchar’s “Blue Wall Tour” and she hit on the need to win back blue wall states during her stump: “I went to Wisconsin, I met with our farmers and then I went to Iowa and all that way from Pennsylvania to Iowa in 2020, my friends, we are going build a blue wall and we are going to make – we are going to make Donald Trump pay for it.” 

 

 

 

2020 Democrats make big entrances at the Iowa Steak Fry

1013d ago / 5:50 PM UTC

WASHINGTON – Before the Democratic presidential candidates take the stage at the Iowa Steak Fry and speak with potential caucus-goers, they need to make an entrance. 

The NBC team in Des Moines watched as the candidates marched into the steak fry with waves of supporters, a mariachi band and a drum line. Here's a look at how some of the candidates made their appearance: 

Julián Castro

Amy Klobuchar 

Beto O'Rourke 

Pete Buttigieg 

Cory Booker 

Bernie Sanders releases new plan to eliminate medical debt

1013d ago / 2:09 PM UTC

DES MOINES, IA – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Saturday released his plan to eliminate $81 billion in past-due medical debt and remove and exclude future medical debt from credit reports. 

Under the Sanders plan a public credit registry would be created to replace for-profit credit reporting agencies like Equifax and TransUnion. 

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, speaks at the New Hampshire State Democratic Party Convention in Manchester on Sept. 7, 2019.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, speaks at the New Hampshire State Democratic Party Convention in Manchester on Sept. 7, 2019.Robert F. Bukaty / AP file

The campaign first previewed the plan on Aug. 30 at a town hall in South Carolina when he was asked about what plan he would offer to people dealing with medical debt. At the time Sanders said he was looking at legislation to offer that would eliminate such debt.

Sanders is holding a medical debt and health care bankruptcy town hall tomorrow in Iowa where he's expected to talk about the new plan. 

Some specifics of the plan are: 

  • Eliminate $81 billion in past-due medical debt. Under this plan, the campaign says the federal government will negotiate and pay off past-due medical bills in collections that have been reported to credit agencies.
  • End what the campaign calls “abusive and harassing” debt collection practices, by:
    • Prohibiting the collection of debt beyond statute of limitations
    • Limiting the number of times collectors can attempt to get in contact with individuals regardless of number or about of past-due bills
    • Limit what can be seized/garnished in collection, to ensure Americans do not lose homes, jobs or primary vehicles during this process.
  • Under a Sanders campaign, the IRS would be asked to review “billing and collection practices” of non-profit hospitals to ensure they are following charitable care standards to align with their non-profit tax status
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders also wants to create “public credit registry.” The campaign says this will “end racial biases in credit scores,” and ensure that those with medical debt are not penalized for getting sick 
    • This would allow Americans to receive credit score for free.
    • This would also end the use of credit checks for rental housing, employment and insurance. 
  • All medical debt would be removed and excluded from existing and future credit reports 

DNC offers conditional approval for Iowa’s plan to satellite caucus

1014d ago / 9:50 PM UTC

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Democratic National Convention Rules and Bylaws Committee announced Friday that it has granted conditional approval for the Iowa Democratic Party’s plan to host a satellite caucus in 2020.

This comes exactly two weeks after, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee struck down the state Democratic Party's proposal to host a “virtual caucus,” due to security concerns.

While presenting the new plan on a conference call, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price acknowledged that setback, but focused on the future.

Voters listen to instructions during a Democratic party caucus in Nevada, Iowa on Feb. 1, 2016.
Voters listen to instructions during a Democratic party caucus in Nevada, Iowa on Feb. 1, 2016.Patrick Semansky / AP file

“I know these last few weeks have been filled with some uncertainty over our process,” he said. “With your approval, we will put an end to that, and allow for all of us, the IDP, the campaigns, and most importantly our voters to get back to the task at hand.”

A satellite caucus, which was was first offered in 2016, allows people to caucus in other locations beyond designated precincts. For example, workers on the third shift at a factory or seniors at a nursing home could gather in those locations to caucus. In addition, Iowa caucus-goers living outside the state will have the option to satellite caucus.

Much like in a traditional precinct caucus, each satellite location will have a trained captain who’s charged with overseeing the room, managing volunteers and reporting the results.

Each satellite site will be considered its own precinct and all the satellite “precincts” within a given congressional district will be counted at one county. Congressional districts will receive  an additional percentage of delegates based on the number of people who “satellite” caucus.

According to the plan, Democrats in Iowa would have less than two months to apply to satellite caucus by the Nov. 18 deadline. Price promises a “robust education effort” in October to inform voters of this option, which includes hiring additional staff to focus on outreach and accessibility. 

Concerns have been raised around legal protections for workers looking to satellite caucus while at work, but Price said an accessibility organizer will work with people in that situation to determine how best to proceed.

While these plans were born out of a new DNC requirement aimed at making caucusing easier following the 2016 Democratic primary, it remains to be seen how many people will actually take advantage of this option. According to the Des Moines Register, in 2016 only four sites participated in the satellite caucus, a disparaging number considering the state has more than 1,600 traditional precincts.

Nonetheless, Price says that he’s confident this plan will increase participation, “I am confident that our 2020 caucuses will be the most successful in our state’s history.”

 

Black progressives condemn 'racist' attacks on Working Family Party leaders after Warren endorsement

1014d ago / 7:55 PM UTC

More than 100 black progressive leaders penned a letter Thursday condemning "hateful, violent and racist threats" levied by self-described supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders at the minority leadership of the Working Families Party, a campaign of harassment that began after the party endorsed his progressive rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this week.

"These incredible leaders who led an organization to take a risk by lifting up the leadership of Black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander and white communities in coalescing around a candidate with enough time to engage their communities deeply ahead of the 2020 election, are being threatened on a daily basis, by self-identified Sanders supporters, with hateful, violent and racist threats," said the letter, which was obtained by NBC News. 

"'Uncle Tom.' 'Slave.' 'C***.' These kinds of threats have no place in our movements, and are reminiscent of the threats Black people would receive when daring to vote even though the white supremacists would try and discourage Black people from doing so," the letter continued. 

Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, one of the letter’s signatories, also penned a Medium blog post condemning the attacks, saying, "It's agonizing, it’s painful, it's demoralizing.”

Splinter first reported the story. 

Earlier this week, the Working Families Party, a minor political party, endorsed Warren over Sanders after a three-month endorsement process in which Warren snagged 61 percent of the vote to Sanders’s 36 percent. The party previously endorsed Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. 

The party’s national director, Maurice Mitchell, the first black man to hold the post, said in a statement announcing the endorsement that Warren “offers hope to millions of working people.” 

The leaders who wrote the letter said Mitchell and Nelini Stamp, also a black Working Families Party leader, have received a deluge of threats since then. The Working Families Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mitchell told The Hill on Friday that the threats he, Stamp and others received were “some of the most violent, disgusting, racist and sexist attacks.” 

In a tweet on Thursday, Sanders condemned the attacks against the Working Families Party leaders.

“This campaign condemns racist bullying and harassment of any kind, in any space. We are building a multiracial movement for justice — that’s how we win the White House.”

Sanders struggled with black voters during the 2016 Democratic primary against Clinton. In 2020, former vice president Joe Biden is leading among African American Democratic primary voters and Warren is doing well with liberal and white Democrats, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll

For Democratic presidential field, timing has been almost everything

1014d ago / 5:19 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Timing has been almost everything in the 2020 Democratic presidential race — at least when it comes to the candidates who’ve made the debate and those forced to end their candidates.

On Friday morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ended his presidential campaign, just four months after he started it on May 16.

And get this: Among the six Democratic presidential candidates who’ve exited the race — de Blasio, Seth Moulton, Eric Swalwell, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee and Kirsten Gillibrand — five announced their bids after February (after Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders were already in the contest).

Image: Democratic Debate
From left, democratic presidential candidates Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, Eric Swalwell take the stage during the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

The one exception is Gillibrand, who announced her exploratory committee (and thus started raising money) on Jan. 15, but ended her candidacy on Aug. 28.

By contrast, eight of the 10 candidates who qualified for September’s debate in Houston announced before March 1, giving them more time to raise money and boost their name identification, given the money and polling requirements to make the debate.

The two Democrats who announced after March 1 but still made September’s debate stage: Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke.

  • Tom Steyer (announced July 9)
  • Former Rep. Joe Sestak (announced June 23)
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (announced May 16) Exited on Sept. 20 
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (announced May 14) 
  • Sen. Michael Bennet (announced May 2)
  • Former VP Joe Biden (announced April 25) Made Sept. Debate 
  • Rep. Seth Moulton (announced April 22) Exited on Aug. 23
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (announced April 8) Exited on July 8 
  • Rep. Tim Ryan (announced April 4)
  • Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke (announced March 14) Made Sept. Debate 
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (announced March 4) Exited on Aug. 15 
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (announced March 1) Exited on Aug. 21
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (announced Feb. 9) Made Sept. Debate 
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (announced Feb. 10) Made Sept. Debate 
  • Marianne Williamson (filed candidacy on Feb. 5)
  • Sen. Cory Booker (announced Feb. 1) Made Sept. Debate 
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (formed exploratory committee Jan. 23, announced April 14) Made Sept. Debate
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (announced Jan. 21) Made Sept. Debate 
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (formed exploratory committee Jan. 23, announced March 17) Exited on Aug. 28
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (announced Jan. 11)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (formed exploratory committee Dec. 31, announced Feb. 9) Made Sept. Debate
  • Former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julián Castro (formed exploratory committee Dec. 12, announced Jan. 12) Made Sept. Debate 
  • Andrew Yang (filed candidacy Nov. 6, 2017) Made Sept. Debate 
  • Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney (announced presidential bid back on July 28, 2017!!!!) 

Congress holds first DC statehood hearing in 25 years

1014d ago / 3:21 PM UTC

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers held the first congressional hearing on DC statehood in 25 years Thursday, as advocates hope to reinvigorate the decades-long push to give the city’s residents full representation in Congress.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non-voting delegate to Congress, has again led the charge, introducing a new statehood bill in January and amassing a record 220 cosponsors in the House.

Image: Eleanor Holmes Norton
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., speaks during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on statehood for the District of Columbia on Sept. 19, 2019.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

If passed, the bill would admit the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” — a territory that would exclude an enclave of monuments and federal buildings. District voters would elect three voting members of Congress, two Senators and one House member, for the first time in U.S. history.

The legislation faces staunch opposition from Republicans, who call it unconstitutional. GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said at Thursday’s hearing that the move was “not what the Founding Fathers intended.”

And it remains a non-starter in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has derided it as “full bore socialism.”

Still, advocates say the issue is getting more high-profile national attention than ever before, even beyond Thursday’s hearing.

All current 2020 Democratic candidates support the idea of D.C. statehood. And a new national advocacy group, 51for51, has been sending young advocates to early primary states to press presidential hopefuls on the issue. Norton confirmed Thursday that she expects a vote in the House on the statehood issue for the first time since 1993.

Many Democratic backers of the legislation have framed the debate in terms of the disenfranchisement of black voters in a city where about half of residents are African-American.

At the hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez said, “The issue of D.C. statehood is rooted in a different evil in our history, which is the history of slavery.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also framed D.C.’s lack of representation as part of a broader conversation about voting rights and disenfranchisement in the U.S.

Despite the looming stonewall in the Senate, advocates say they’re prepared to fight beyond merely a debate in the lower chamber.

Stasha Rhodes, the campaign manager of 51for51, a national advocacy group, said that the group’s goal will require not only more national awareness but a structural reform of the rule requiring 60 votes to pass most bills through the Senate.

“We want [the bill] to pass the House, but we also want success in the Senate,” Rhodes said. And the only way to get success in the Senate is to circumvent the filibuster and get 51 votes.”

Trio of Senate candidates stare down history as they look to rebound from high-profile House losses

1015d ago / 8:15 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — In early 2017, still reeling from the election of Donald Trump and facing Republican dominance on Capitol Hill, Democrats across the country turned their lonely eyes to a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker from the Atlanta suburbs named Jon Ossoff. 

Ossoff was running for Congress in a special election in a traditionally Republican district, but Democrats were hopeful that a growing suburban backlash against the president could lead to an upset. Ossoff’s candidacy became a liberal cause célèbre, but despite raising a record $31 million, he lost the election by 3 percent.

After passing on another House run in 2018, Ossoff is now aiming higher, challenging incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue in 2020.

Image: Democratic Congressional Candidate In Georgia's Special Election Jon Ossoff Campaigns In Georgia
TUCKER, GA - JUNE 20: Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff speaks with volunteers and supporters in a campaign office on Election Day for Georgia's 6th Congressional District on June 20, 2017 in Tucker, Georgia. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Ossoff is the third high-profile House loser from the 2018 cycle to pivot to the Senate. MJ Hegar, whose viral ad highlighting her military service helped her raise $5 million, lost a narrow race to incumbent Rep. John Carter in Texas’s 31st District and is now running against Sen. John Cornyn. And Amy McGrath, a former Marine pilot who also raised millions from a viral ad campaign during her unsuccessful campaign in Kentucky’s 6th District, is now challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

All three — despite their losses — became stars of the midterms by taking once-solid-red districts to nail-biting finishes.

Now they’re looking to use that star power to accomplish something few have done in the past 40 years: parlay a losing House bid into a winning Senate one.

History is not on their side, and the political odds appear to be long, too. All three candidates are running in states Trump won handily in 2016.

But as Dave Wasserman, House Editor for The Cook Political Report and an NBC contributor, notes, “The route to Congress is changing quite rapidly, and voters are looking for nonpoliticians at a higher rate than ever.”

Since 1978, 246 people have won a Senate seat for first time (Dan Coats, Frank Lautenberg, Kent Conrad, and Slade Gorton were all elected as “freshmen” twice during this period). Of those, 111 were already members of the House of Representatives; another 30 were state governors. 

According to an NBC News analysis, only nine were able to do what Ossoff, Hegar, and McGrath are attempting. And none have done it as quickly – just one election cycle after a House loss.

Of the nine, John Kerry, D-Mass., Joe Lieberman , then a Democrat from Connecticut, Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, attained statewide or nationally prominent posts after their initial losses, providing springboards for eventual Senate runs.

Only five people since 1978 have lost a House race and then won a Senate race without holding a statewide elected office or national post in the interim. Three of them, Republicans John East of North Carolina, Mack Mattingly of Georgia and Frank Murkowski of Alaska won their Senate races in the Republican wave year of 1980 after losing House elections in the 60s and 70s.

Peter Fitzgerald, an Illinois State Senator, lost a Republican House primary in 1994, but in 1998 he defeated incumbent Senator Carol Moseley Braun. Fitzgerald served just one term in the US Senate before retiring.

The man who replaced him is the fifth of these cases; also an Illinois state senator at the time. He suffered a bruising House primary defeat in 2000 and returned to the state legislature before a successful U.S. Senate run four years later.

His name was Barack Obama.

It remains to be seen if Ossoff, Hegar, or McGrath can replicate Fitzgerald’s success, let alone Obama’s. All three have nationwide donor lists, broad name recognition, and substantial organization from their previous runs.

But the three Democrats face daunting odds attempting to unseat Republican incumbents in red states, especially during a presidential election year.

The three, Wasserman notes, “are betting big, and it’s too early to say whether 2020 as favorable for Democrats as 2018. They ran in a pretty good year and lost.”

And if they fall short again?

“If you lose two races in two years,” Wasserman says, “it’s a sign you should probably take some time off before reentering the political area.”

Joe Biden picks up three Congressional endorsements

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1015d ago / 7:28 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden picked up three congressional endorsements for his presidential campaign today from Reps. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.  Biden now has 16 endorsements from members of the House of Representatives, which is the same amount as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. 

Image: Joe Biden speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention in Manchester on Sept. 7, 2019.
Joe Biden speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention in Manchester on Sept. 7, 2019.Gretchen Ertl / Reuters file

Butterfield and Cleaver's endorsements, both former chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, come days after the latest NBC News/WSJ poll showed Biden has a 30-point plus lead among African American Democratic primary voters. Biden's polling at 49 percent in that group, while the next highest-polling candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sits at 13 percent. While Biden's been criticized on his civil rights record, Butterfield noted Biden's commitment to civil rights in his endorsement.

"Civil rights brought Joe Biden into the fight, and I know he’ll continue that fight – the fight for equality and the opportunity for economic success. That’s why I proudly endorse Joe Biden for President of the United States," Butterfield said. 

Crist served as governor of Florida as a Republican but switched his party registration to Independent before leaving office. He now serves as a Democratic congressman whose district went for President Trump in 2016, but previously supported President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. 

All three Congressmen expressed Biden’s experienced leadership in bringing consensus on numerous issues as a reason why they’re endorsing him. 

The Biden camp's endorsement release highlighted that these three endorsements followed Rep. Vincente González, D-Texas, flipping his endorsement from former HUD Secretary Julián Castro to Biden after the last Democratic debate.

Harris campaign vows "strong top three" Iowa finish, announces doubling of Iowa staff

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1015d ago / 4:12 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign announced on Thursday a doubling of staff in Iowa and a commitment that the candidate would spend “about half of October” in the state to ensure the California senator finishes in the top-three on caucus night next February.

Image: Presidential Candidates Attend New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the SNHU Arena on Sept. 7, 2019 in Manchester, N.H.Scott Eisen / Getty Images

“We want to make sure that we have a strong top-three finish,” said Juan Rodriguez, Harris’ campaign manager, on a call with reporters on Thursday morning. “I think that will kind of continue to give us a slingshot to go into that early primary state calendar and then make sure that we’re also competitive heading into Super Tuesday.”

A new NBC/WSJ national poll of Democratic voters released this week showed the California senator slumping to fifth place with just 5 percent of voter support —down 8 points from July.  

Rodriguez said the campaign will double its number of Iowa organizers to 110, increasing her total staff to 131 in the Hawkeye State, while also opening up 10 additional field offices.

After a noticeably quiet summer on the campaign trail, Harris’ team said the candidate will visit the state every week in October. The California senator focused much of her summer on holding campaign fundraisers, a move her campaign defended on the call. 

“I feel really good about what we’ve been able to do in decisions about how we’ve built up this campaign to really kick it into high gear in the fourth quarter,” Rodriguez said.

Lily Adams, Harris’ communications director, noted on the call that success in the Iowa caucus on February 3 is “incredibly important to demonstrating electability and viability going forward.”

“It’s important that we make that commitment,” Adams said. She noted the need for the campaign to “demonstrate to Iowa that we’re going to put in the work.”

She asserted that Harris will visit South Carolina “multiple times” in October as well and that the “emphasis on Iowa” does not mean the campaign is pulling back resources from the other early states. 

Adams acknowledged that the campaign expects to see “bouncy polls ahead” but noted that the polling support for candidates in the final months ahead of the caucus has historically fluctuated, pointing to polling figures leading up to the 2004, 2008 and 2016 Democratic caucuses.

“We certainly saw a sugar high after that first debate,” she said, continuing: “I don’t think any of us thought we were going to bounce up and stay there for the rest of our lives.”

When asked by reporters on the call about the candidate’s messaging strategy in the final four months before Iowa, the Harris campaign said the senator will continue to focus her ire on the policies of President Trump and contrast them with policy objectives that are intended to appeal to a broad swath of the electorate. 

The senator, however, scaled back her criticisms of the party’s frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the September debate after taking particular aim during the first debate over his past statements on busing and school segregation. Adams said that Harris will “respectfully” draw contrasts in the future with the rest of the field where needed.

“You’ve got to define what you’re for and against vis a vis the other candidates you’re seeing in this race,” Adams said. “And I think she’s going to respectfully do that.”

Buttigieg unveils health plan, calls it 'glide path' to Medicare for All

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1015d ago / 10:00 AM UTC

WASHINGTON — Democrat Pete Buttigieg is unveiling his long-awaited health care plan that aims to move millions of Americans into government-run health care without imposing it on all Americans all at once — a middle ground that Buttigieg hopes will draw a clear contrast with the "Medicare for All" approach. 

The South Bend, Ind. mayor and presidential candidate described his plan as a "glide path to Medicare for All" in an interview with NBC News. 

Image: Pete Buttigieg
Democratic Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign event in Muscatine, Iowa, on August 14, 2019.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images file

While Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., propose eliminating private insurance in one fell swoop, Buttigieg wants the government to introduce a public plan that would be so competitive that Americans will ultimately choose voluntarily to abandon insurance companies.

"Freedom is one of the main themes of this campaign. And I do think commanding Americans to abandon the coverage they've got is inconsistent with our commitment to freedom," Buttigieg said. 

He said unlike his rivals' "Medicare for All" proposal, his plan allows for as long a transition period as necessary to get the public option up and running well, a concern highlighted by the disastrous rollout of the HealthCare.Gov online insurance marketplace during the Obama administration.

Buttigieg said leaving the current system intact while any unforeseen kinks in the public option are ironed out would be "far less traumatic" than putting the entire country in government-run health care all at once.

Buttigieg's plan hews closely to the proposal backed by former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic primary's front-runner. But their plans differ over how Americans would get enrolled in the new public plan and what subsidies would be available to help them pay for it.

Under Buttigieg's proposal, Americans would again be effectively required to maintain some type of health insurance, a requirement put in place by President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act but nullified by the Trump administration.

Americans whose incomes are so low that they're eligible for free coverage through Medicaid or the public option would be automatically enrolled, along with those eligible for "an affordable insurance option," although Buttigieg's plan doesn't explicitly define what constitutes affordable. Those Americans could opt out of the public option if they have private insurance, and even those with employer-provided insurance could choose to use the public option instead.

Those who aren't automatically enrolled and lack insurance would later be "retroactively enrolled" in the public plan. Buttigieg said they'd have to pay back premiums for the time they were uninsured if they get sick and need coverage.

But critics have long argued that allowing people to wait until they're sick to get insurance drives up health care costs because there are fewer healthier people — who cost less to insure — to pay into the system.

Buttigieg would also expand subsidies to help pay for premiums — currently limited to people whose incomes are less than four times the federal poverty level. Under his plan, Americans could buy into a "gold-level" public option at a premium capped at 8.5 percent of their income.

"This plan is not moderate by historical standards, but it certainly is moderate compared to Medicare for All," said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care policy. "It goes well beyond the Affordable Care Act in providing help paying for healthcare to a much larger number of people and taking significant steps to control costs."

As Buttigieg works to break into the top tier in the crowded Democratic race, his critiques of his competitors and their plans have become increasingly sharp and direct in recent weeks. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll this week found Buttigieg in fourth place at 7 percent, far behind Biden at 31 percent, Warren at 25 percent and Sanders at 14 percent.

In Facebook ads taking aim at Sanders and Warren over health care, Buttigieg has argued their vision would "dictate" a public option to Americans and "risk further polarizing them."

And although Warren and Sanders cite statistics showing Americans support Medicare for All, Buttigieg says in the NBC News interview that a closer look reveals that what the majority are thinking of when they hear "Medicare for All" is actually closer to his plan, not those of the two senators.

The Buttigieg plan also cracks down on exorbitant costs insurance companies charge for providers who are out-of-network by capping their reimbursement rates at double the rate that Medicare pays. It would also aim to end "surprise bills" that result when patients go to an in-network hospital but are unknowingly treated by an out-of-network provider working there.

Benjy Sarlin contributed

Pence taps former DHS press aide as new press secretary

1015d ago / 9:32 AM UTC

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has hired Katie Waldman to be his new press secretary, NBC News has learned.

Waldman, who is currently communications director for Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., previously served as the public defender of the Trump administration’s policy of family separations as deputy press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.

She begins her new position on October 1.

“She’s got extensive experience and she’ll be a great fit in our office,” said Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff. “She’s shown she has the mettle to handle intense environments.”

Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the creation of Space Force at the Pentagon on Aug. 9, 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the creation of Space Force at the Pentagon on Aug. 9, 2018.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file

Waldman, 27, will replace Alyssa Farah who left earlier this month to be a spokeswoman at the Department of Defense.

Waldman is an aggressive and sometimes polarizing communicator but has proven to be a loyal advocate for the Trump administration and its policies.

During her nearly two-year stint at DHS, she was given the agency’s immigration portfolio and empowered to be the lead spokesperson. She consistently defended the administration’s policy of “zero tolerance” that led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents after crossing the southern border.

That experience has proven that she is battle-tested several allies of Waldman told NBC News. 

“She impressed a lot of people in the administration with her work in DHS and on the immigration portfolio in the height of media interest,” said a former DHS official who worked closely with her and is not authorized to speak publicly in a new position.

Waldman will be reporting directly to Short. She’ll be the on-the-record spokesperson for the vice president during a critical time as the president and vice president head into an election year.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who hired Waldman as his first press secretary after he won election to the Senate in 2014, said that Waldman is one of the hardest workers he’s ever met.

“She has a very strong personality,” Daines said. “She has incredible work ethic.”

A senior administration official who used to work at DHS with Waldman said that her experience working for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, two senators and the administration gives her a wide variety of experience.

And, the official added, “she’s pro-Trump and that checks all the boxes.”

Joe Kennedy to announce Massachusetts Senate primary bid against incumbent Ed Markey

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1016d ago / 11:52 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Rep Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., will announce this weekend that he is launching a bid for the U.S. Senate, setting up a primary challenge to a fellow Democrat, incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, a source familiar with the decision confirms to NBC News.

The source added that Kennedy will announce the bid to supporters during a breakfast at East Boston Social Centers. 

The Boston Globe first reported Kennedy's decision. 

Image: Joe Kennedy III
Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., smiles on Capitol Hill on July 26, 2017 in Washington.Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

Kennedy's entry into the race had been long rumored, and the congressman himself previously acknowledged that he was considering a challenge to Markey.

The primary will pit the 38-year-old Kennedy, the fourth-term congressman who's part of one of America's most famous political dynasties, against the 73-year-old Markey, who first joined Congress as a member of the House in 1976. 

A recent poll by Suffolk University and the Boston Globe found that Kennedy would lead Markey by more than 8 points in a field of five primary candidates, and by 14 in a head-to-head primary matchup. 

But Markey has won endorsements in recent weeks from both Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, two prominent progressives.

Booker releases new labor plan as auto strike continues

1016d ago / 4:19 PM UTC

MANCHESTER, NH — Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is out with a new labor plan pegged to the ongoing auto strikes, a proposal that calls for empowering workers to take collective action, restructuring laws to help workers in the gig economy, enacting a slew of worker protections and overhauling America's tax laws. 

Citing the ongoing United Automobile Workers strikes, Booker said in a statement that he "learned the power of collective action from my grandfather who was an assembly line worker and UAW union rep in Detroit."

“He showed me how, when workers stick together, injustices can be corrected and real progress can be made," he said.

"That’s something I’ve carried with me my whole life — and today, as I stand with workers who are fighting for fairer wages and better benefits across the country, I’m outlining how my administration will ensure that our economy leaves no one behind.”

Image: BESTPIX - Democratic Presidential Candidate Cory Booker (D-NJ) Gives Address On Gun Violence And White Nationalism At Mother Emanuel AME Church
Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks to a crowd at Emanuel AME Church on Aug. 7, 2019 in Charleston, S.C.Sean Rayford / Getty Images file

His campaign proposal relies heavily on passing existing legislation and argues for his previously announced Rise Credit, which expands on the Earned Income Tax Credit by providing up to $4,000 to working Americans making less than $90,000 a year, including students and family caregivers as workers, and implementing automatic tax filings.

Notably, Booker’s signature Worker Dividend Act, a bill he sponsored in the Senate, would shift the balance of power from shareholders to workers by forcing corporations to share profits from stock buybacks with their employees.

Other highlights from Booker’s proposal include:

  • Strengthening collective bargaining and protect workers at the federal, state and local levels through legislation such as the PRO Act (protects rights to organize unions and strikes and bans “right to work” laws), Workplace Democracy Act, and Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.
  • Preventing misclassification among gig economy workers by shoring up regulations about when workers can be classified as independent contractors
  • Supporting efforts that allow workers from multiple employers to organize across industries, and also expand workforce training to include local sectoral programs
  • Ensuring federal funds and contracts support companies that provide adequate benefits, respect unions and pay at least $15 an hour
  • Fighting for a $15 minimum wage and closing the gender pay gap by passing his co-sponsored Raise the Wage Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act
  • Prohibiting mandatory arbitration clauses through the Restoring Justice for Workers Act
  • Providing guaranteed paid family leave for taking care of relatives by passing the FAMILY Act
  • Protecting workers from all types of discrimination and harassment through the pro-LGBT Equality Act, Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and Be HEARD Act
  • Investing federal dollars in affordable childcare by building on the Child Care for Working Families Act
  • Giving all Americans an opportunity to work by passing his Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act
  • Restructuring the American tax code by repealing the 2017 GOP tax bill, raising the rate for long-term capital games, adding an annual long-term investment tax for the wealthiest Americans, implementing a “deferral charge” for shifting investments, and closing loopholes that Booker says advantage the wealthiest households

Booker argues his tax reforms could raise as much as $2 trillion over ten years.

His plan also cites the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and Fairness for Farm Workers Acts and Fair Chance Act to ensure fairness for disadvantaged workers from communities of color and the formerly incarcerated, respectively.

Earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren nabbed the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a labor-focused progressive group that supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016.

ACLU dings Joe Biden in new radio ads

1016d ago / 1:20 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union is pressuring Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden to clarify his positions on civil rights with a new ad campaign in the early primary state of South Carolina. 

The group is spending what it tells NBC News is "low six-figure" to run the ad on African-American radio stations in Charleston and Columbia. It follows digital ads and mailers the ACLU has already sent to 100,000 South Carolina voters asking, “Where is Joe Biden on civil rights?” 

The campaign is a response to the former vice president failing to respond to an ACLU effort asking all the 2020 candidates where they stand on civil liberties. 

"Most candidates in the recent debate answered our questions, but Joe Biden did not," the ad's narrator says. "You heard right, Joe Biden passed on a chance to make clear where he stands on voting rights, on criminal justice reform, on police misconduct. We asked how he would address the unnecessary use of force by police.... No response. Voters deserve to know. Does Joe Biden support rights for all?"

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro have also been hit with digital ads from the group for failing to respond, but Biden is a more valuable target given his standing in the polls.

Ronnie Newman, the national political director for the ACLU, said members of his group want "clear, on the record" assurances from every candidate they would use "the full weight" of the presidency to protect civil liberties. 

“This push is not about the narrow question of whether presidential candidates have returned the ACLU questionnaire, but instead about the broader, more fundamental question of whether candidates -- including Joe Biden -- will commit to prioritizing civil liberties and civil rights in their campaigns and eventually, in their presidency," Newman said. 

The ACLU has traditionally not involved itself much in elections, but has been looking to expand its reach outside the courtroom after receiving a flood of donations in the early days of Donald Trump's presidency and retooling itself for a more polarized world.

South Carolina, which will be the fourth state to vote in next year's primaries, is key to Biden's prospects and its Democratic electorate is expected to be majority-African American. 

The Biden campaign pointed NBC News to Jim Felder, a prominent civil rights activist with the NAACP and South Carolina Voter Education Project, who defended the former vice president and questioned why the ACLU was getting involved in a Democratic primary.

"Joe Biden, in my book, is number one on civil rights throughout the years," said Felder, who is supporting Biden. "I don't know of any situation where Joe Biden has been against civil rights."

Felder said he's supported and donated to the ACLU in the past, but that the attack on Biden "just floors me," adding that he had not seen the group be particularly active in South Carolina in recent years. "And why are they getting involved in the presidential race? To jump on candidates like this seems to be a little stretch outside what they typically do," he said.

UPDATED: This post was updated to include a comment from a Biden surrogate. 

As Harris falters, campaign and allies mull next steps

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1016d ago / 10:17 AM UTC

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., once viewed as a top-tier contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has lost considerable ground in the crowded field while other candidates are picking up steam.

With just over four months left until Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, Harris has fallen to five percent support in the latest NBC/WSJ poll released Tuesday, putting her in fifth place behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

It’s a precipitous drop for the former California attorney general, who entered the presidential race with a huge rally in her hometown of Oakland last January. She jumped to prominence after the first nationally televised Democratic debate in June, where she called out Biden, the field’s front-runner, over his past statements on public school busing.

Harris has faded since then. Her second debate performance, in July, was panned as she defended her record as a prosecutor and worked to explain her position on healthcare reform. She did little to bounce in the third debate earlier this month, casting much of her attention toward President Trump.

And she’s had a light campaign schedule this summer.

When Harris returns to Iowa this weekend for the Polk County Democrats’ Steak Fry, it’ll be her first trip to the state in over a month. She’s visited just 18 of Iowa’s 99 counties so far. 

It’s been more than two months since her last visit to South Carolina, where Harris, who is African American, is counting on a robust showing among black voters who make up the majority of the state’s Democratic primary voters.  

And Harris has been in New Hampshire just once in the last two months.

Image: Kamala Harris
An attendee takes a picture with Senator Kamala Harris during the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Annual Pink Ice Gala in Columbia, South Carolina, on Jan. 25, 2019.Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images

By comparison, Biden has campaigned actively in the early contest states. Since August 1, the former vice president has been to Iowa three times, New Hampshire twice and South Carolina twice. He’s also been to 21 of Iowa’s 99 counties, despite having entered the race in April, three months after Harris.

And through the summer, Warren has held well-attended rallies in St. Paul, Seattle, Oakland, Austin and New York City.

Harris, however, has spent much of the summer on a fundraising spree. She held fundraising events in Chicago and New York City last weekend, skipping a major labor summit in Philadelphia on Tuesday to raise money in the Baltimore area instead.

Harris advisers say the candidate will continue to prioritize fundraising ahead of the Sept. 30 third-quarter fundraising deadline. The California senator raised $12 million in the second quarter, less than Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg. 

With falling poll numbers and a sparse campaign schedule, Harris is in need of a healthy fundraising haul to sustain a robust operation heading into the winter.

Campaign spokesman Ian Sams told NBC the campaign wants to “make sure we have the nest egg to be competitive and viable through March” and insisted the candidate will be “on the trail a lot more” come October.

“We’re not playing to win a summer news cycle in the off-year,” Sams said. “We’re playing to win an election. We’re aiming to peak at the turn of the year when we’re approaching votes – and we’re built to do that.”

“Horse-race polling be damned,” he added.

But part of Harris’ struggles comes down to voters’ lack of familiarity with the third-year California senator. 

In the new NBC/WSJ poll, 15 percent of Democratic primary voters said they didn't know her name. By comparison, just 7 percent said that about Warren, and 1 percent said that about Biden and Sanders.

Austin Healy, a 31-year-old Texan who voted for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the state’s 2016 primary, attended an early September campaign rally for Warren in Austin that drew thousands. He told NBC News that he “originally liked [Harris] in the beginning” but followed: “I don’t really know what she stands for – there’s not really a clear message for me.”

Harris, an Oakland native who first served as San Francisco’s District Attorney before becoming California’s attorney general, has also struggled to change perceptions about her time in law enforcement.

It’s a point of frustration for Lateefah Simon, a long-time mentee of Harris who said she was “yelling at the TV” while watching the third debate, imploring Harris to tell the stories that define her record as a progressive prosecutor.

 

Image: Senator Kamala Harris speaks during the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston
Sen. Kamala Harris from California speaks during the 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Houston on Sept. 12, 2019.Mike Blake / Reuters

Simon, who now works on criminal justice reform in California, says Harris needs to “tell it raw” and invoke her personal experiences.

Simon recalls a moment when Harris, then a district attorney, was comforting a mother whose daughter had been killed. When the victim’s mother came into Harris’ office sobbing after the killer’s trial, Harris got down on her knees with her.

“I’m here with you. Look at me. I’m here with you,” Harris had said, their foreheads touching, Simon recounted.

“I have watched her not tell these stories,” Simon recalls. “Why don’t you talk about Claire? You hired me. Why don’t you tell that story?”

Deb Mesloh, a longtime Harris friend and campaign adviser, told NBC News that she has learned to never doubt Harris because she’s shown resilience in tough elections for her district attorney and attorney general posts.  But Mesloh acknowledged the scale of running for president limits the opportunities for Harris to make personal connections with voters.

“What I’d love to see is for her to continue to share her personal story and for her to continue to talk about her life history and the things that inform her leadership and connect with voters in a one-on-one sense so they get to know her,” Mesloh said.

Sams, the Harris campaign spokesman, said the campaign knows it is working up against candidates, namely Biden, Sanders and Warren, who had built-in national reputations before declaring their presidential bids.

“Voters need to understand who you are. They need to understand why you’re running,” Sams said. “The three people atop the polls have been well known nationally for a long time and have strong brands...all the others of us who have not been national figures before have to do even more to tell people what we’re about and get it to stick.”

Michael Bennet targets Iowa Caucus-goers with new TV ad

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1017d ago / 4:58 PM UTC

DES MOINES, IA — Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is the latest candidate to hit TV screens in Iowa with two 30-second ads titled, “Most,” and “Truth. Bennet failed to qualify for the September debate stage and is still struggling to meet the October threshold. The campaign hopes the new ads will introduce potential caucus-goers to the candidate.

“Not enough people have had the chance to meet him or learn what drives him,” campaign spokeswoman Shannon Beckham said. “These ads show who Michael is and how he’s different from other candidates.”

The combined ad buys will ultimately hit a seven-figure spend across TV and digital platforms, according to the campaign. Ad-buy trackers show that the initial TV buys cost the campaign nearly $200,000 with more investment to come over the next several weeks in Iowa, and other early states like New Hampshire. 

That's a significant investment considering Bennet’s campaign ended the second quarter with only $2.2 million in the bank, per FEC filings. In contrast, Tom Steyer has already spent $4.5 million on the air in Iowa, while Joe Biden’s invested $688,000, with Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris trailing closely behind with $635,000 and $562,000 investments, respectively. 

In the ad titled “Most,” Bennet discusses how he’s dedicated his political career to “tackling tough problems,” including jobs, education and immigration reform to make Washington “work for the people again.” Bennet closes the ad focusing on health care saying, “As president, I’ll get everyone covered with a public option or keeping the health plans they already have.”

Bennet has separated himself from the more progressive wing of the Democratic candidates by opposing Medicare for All plans.

Health care  is also the central focus of Bennet's second ad, "Truth." The ad starts with a narrator talking about  how Bennet “pounds truth into the campaign.” 

“The truth is a health care plan that starts by kicking people off their coverage makes no sense,” Bennet says in the ad. “Before we go and blow up everything let’s try this.”

“This” is Bennet’s "Medicare X Plan,” which would allow people to keep their current health care plan or buy into a public option.

Iowans will remember a push in ad spending by former Democratic candidate Kirsten Gillibrand earlier this summer before she ultimately dropped out of the race after failing to qualify for the September debates. 

Bennet’s ads will broadcast in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, in addition to CNN and MSNBC.

Elizabeth Warren's anti-corruption speech highlights

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1017d ago / 4:11 PM UTC

NEW YORK — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., laid out her new anti-corruption proposal in a speech at  Washington Square Park last night.

The speech attracted an audience of 20,000, according to Warren’s campaign.

Here are some highlights of her speech: 

Government corruption has caused "extinction of species", "children slaughtered by assault weapons" and "crippling student loan debt"

Standing in the shadows of one of the U.S.'s most expensive universities, New York University, Warren said that she "has a plan" to root out corruption in government. She blamed that "corruption" for why the government hasn't done enough to stop the ballooning student loan debt, climate change and gun control. 

"Corporate lawyers" as federal judge appointees rule "against vulnerable people" 

Warren lambasted corporate lawyers who make their way to the federal judiciary and rule in "favor of corporations". And she said that "right-wing groups have spent millions of dollars" to ram through unqualified nominees.

As Warren said in the last Democratic presidential debate, she practiced law "for about 45 minutes" before becoming a law professor. 

Warren: "We're here because of some hard-working women" 

At the top of Warren's remarks, she addressed the role that women have played in the fight against corruption, using the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 to make a point about systemic corruption. 

"For years, across the city, women factory workers and their allies had been sounding the alarm about dangerous and squalid conditions—fighting for shorter hours and higher pay," she said, before adding that "the fat profits were making New York’s factory owners rich.

"Take any big problem we have in America today and you don’t have to dig very deep to see the same system at work."

Trump expected to rake in $15 million in 24 hours in California

1017d ago / 3:44 PM UTC

RIO RANCHO, N.M. – After rallying Latino supporters here Monday in a state he lost handily in 2016, President Donald Trump heads to another Democratic stronghold for a two-day fundraising swing in one of his most frequent political targets: California.

The president is expected to raise a whopping $15 million there in about 24 hours for his re-election effort, according to a Republican official familiar with the planning of the events.

Trump will travel to the Bay Area on Tuesday for the first time since taking office to headline a fundraiser lunch that has been shrouded in secrecy. Very few details have been provided, given the protests that broke out when then-candidate Trump campaigned in the region in 2016. 

The Silicon Valley fundraising lunch is expected to bring in $3 million, ahead of a visit to Southern California for various events in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and San Diego. Those gatherings will rake in $5 million, $3 million and $4 million respectively. 

The fundraisers are scheduled to be hosted by Trump Victory, a joint committee between the Trump 2020 campaign and the Republican National Committee. The following individuals are listed as co-hosts, according to “save the date” invites reviewed by NBC News: RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, co-chair Tommy Hicks Jr., RNC Finance Chairman Todd Ricketts and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.

This will mark Trump’s fourth trip to the Golden State since taking office. On his first trip, he inspected border wall prototypes and held a fundraiser in Beverly Hills (March 2018). On the second trip, Trump visited areas devastated by wildfires and met with families affected by the Thousand Oaks shooting (November 2018). The third trip was for another border wall visit and fundraiser in Southern California (April 2019).

Image: Donald Trump border wall prototypes
President Donald Trump reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego, California on March 13, 2018,Evan Vucci / AP

Both parties in New Hampshire prepare for potential Lewandowski Senate bid

1017d ago / 1:29 PM UTC

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Corey Lewandowski hasn’t yet announced a decision on whether to join the field of Republicans hoping to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2020.

But the prospect of President Trump’s pugilistic former campaign manager jumping into the fray has drawn mixed reactions from leaders of both parties, with Democrats expecting an expensive and ugly drawn-out contest and Republicans split over whether a hard-core Trump loyalist offers the best chance to flip the seat. 

Image: Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski arrives to meet with the House Intelligence Committee, about their ongoing probe of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Jan. 17, 2018.
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski arrives to meet with the House Intelligence Committee at the Capitol in 2018.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

Lewandowski would be joining three other GOP figures who have already announced plans to run: Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien and Bryant “Corky” Messner. The primary is September 8, 2020 — nearly a year away. 

But Lewandowski is expected to announce his decision soon, which comes as he is scheduled to testify Tuesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing investigating possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

Right as the Judiciary Committee took a short break from his testimony, Lewandowski tweeted out directing supporters to “StandWithCorey.com” as he teased a “potential Senate run.” 

A “Stand With Corey” super PAC based in New Hampshire filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission announcing its creation on Tuesday. 

Trump fired Lewandowski at the peak of the 2016 campaign, but the two remain close and Trump has all but endorsed him if he decides to run. 

“He's tough, and he's smart, and I'm hearing he's thinking about running for the Senate," Trump announced at a campaign rally in Manchester last month, with Lewandowski sitting nearby. "I think he'd be tough to beat."

The New Hampshire Democratic Party, which publicly said little as other GOP candidates jumped into the Senate contest, has mounted a full court press against Lewandowski. At its state convention this month, the party kicked off its so-called “Corrupt Corey” campaign — passing out business cards and launching a website to draw attention to his lucrative consulting career in the wake of Trump’s election. 

“Corey Lewandowski has spent every minute since the 2016 election selling White House access to the highest bidder, including pay-day lenders, big oil, and even foreign interests,” said Josh Marcus-Blank, the state Democratic Party press secretary. 

Many Democrats relish the prospect of Lewandowski candidacy, saying it would be a fundraising boon both to the party and to Shaheen, who is seeking a second term.  

“People down the ticket want it because they hate Lewandowski,” said Lucas Meyer, president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats. But, Meyer added, the Senate race will likely be close regardless, given the state’s strong independent streak and its battleground status at the presidential level.  

President Trump came within 2,736 votes of beating Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire 2016, and has vowed to contest the state aggressively again. It’s a strategy that could boost Lewandowski among the state’s die-hard Republican voters if he wins the Senate nomination.  

Yet his appeal mainly to the Trump base — and the potential to turn off independent voters as a result — stands in contrast to what strategists of both parties believe is necessary to win a general election in New Hampshire. 

“You don’t win the Senate race unless you attract moderate Republicans,” said Ned Helms, a Democratic activist and former state official.  He added that Lewandowski "is clearly the favorite, and a lot of Republicans are embarrassed by him. It’s a smart idea to go after Corey now.” 

Joe Sweeney, communications director for the New Hampshire Republican Party, dismissed that concern but said the party would remain neutral in the Senate primary.  

“New Hampshire voters are some of the savviest voters in the country,” Sweeney said. “Independent voters make the election, and they’re not afraid to vote criss-crossing on the ballot.” 

A recent University of New Hampshire poll indicated that although Trump’s has just a 42 percent approval rating in New Hampshire, among Republicans that number remains at 82 percent. 

But some Republicans in the state aren’t thrilled at the prospect of a Lewandowski bid.  

“I think what Corey does is he’s going to attract the attention of every Democrat donor in America,”  said a senior Republican consultant who has run a number of statewide races.” But, the operative added, “If he runs, he will be the nominee.” 

A Shaheen adviser, who is not authorized to comment publicly on the race and spoke on condition of anonymity, insists there is “no nervousness” at the prospect of a Lewandowski candidacy. 

“If (Lewandowski) is the nominee he’ll be annoying because he’s nasty and it would make it all more unpleasant than it needs to be, but nobody is worried he would beat Shaheen,” this adviser said.

NBC News attempted to contact Lewandowski about the timing of his decision. 

New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu, who will also face re-election in 2020, decided not to run for Senate and does not intend to endorse any candidate in order to stay neutral in the GOP primary. While there has been some chatter among Republicans in the state that Sununu has a contentious relationship with Lewandowski, his office says the opposite is true. 

“The governor has a good relationship with all of the candidates, and knows that competitive primaries are good for the party. The top priority is defeating Jeanne Shaheen,” said Sununu communications director Ben Vihstadt. 

Despite Democrats’ optimism about Shaheen’s prospects for re-election, Helms noted said her campaign won’t take anything for granted no matter who Republican nominate to challenger her.  

“I’ve never seen Shaheen run any race as if she wasn’t 50 votes behind all the time,” he said. “She would run as if she’s behind until the Wednesday after the election.”

UPDATED: This article was updated with Lewandowski's tweet about a "potential" Senate bid. 

Pete Buttigieg to unveil disaster relief plan in South Carolina

1017d ago / 12:29 PM UTC

DES MOINES, Iowa — One year after Hurricane Florence pummeled the Carolinas and just weeks after Hurricane Dorian lashed the U.S. coastline, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg Tuesday is set to unveil new proposals aimed at helping communities withstand and rebuild in the wake of catastrophic weather events.

The plan titled, “Resilient Communities: A New Disaster Preparedness Approach,” aims to reimagine the way disaster relief and preparation works in the United States.

“It’s time to shift the focus from placing the burden of compliance on individuals and communities, to making it the government’s job to actually help people in their time of greatest need,” the policy reads.

Image: Pete Buttigieg
Democratic Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign event in Muscatine, Iowa, on August 14, 2019.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images file

Within his first 100 days in office, Buttigieg says he’ll set up a disaster commission comprised of federal, state, and local agencies along with volunteer organizations. According to the plan, the commission will make recommendations on a host of issues including how best to streamline disaster relief applications and creating a permanent source of disaster relief funding.

The plan calls for more federal support on the ground following a disaster by increasing the number of FEMA disaster workers and FEMA Corps members while also building a surge-capacity force that would deploy non-FEMA federal employees to disaster sites.

Buttigieg hopes to equip FEMA workers with wi-fi hotspots to help communities reconnect with the rest of the world quickly and modernize the 911 system to allow calls to be rerouted and for those in need to send text messages and location data during a disaster.

At the community level, the candidate hopes to create a culture of resilience by funding community volunteer programs that could, for example, train people to help with evacuations or assist with weather related displacement. Buttigieg also plans to authorize and increasing the budget for FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division, with an emphasis on marginalized communities.

In addition, Buttigieg would incentivize private companies to work with state and local governments on resilience planning. The mayor supports proposed legislation that would authorize loans for states and communities working to incorporate resilience and mitigation while also consolidating grant programs so that communities can afford new technology. For example, a solar micro-grid system atop a fire station that would keep the building operational if power were lost.

While many candidates have released plans on climate change that address resiliency, Buttigieg is the first to release a policy solely focused on the issue.

Joe Biden gets another high-profile Latino endorsement

1018d ago / 12:19 AM UTC

GALIVANTS FERRY, S.C. — Former Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Monday night that he is backing former Vice President Joe Biden for president, giving Biden his second prominent Latino endorsement in recent days. 

Appearing on MSNBC's "Hardball," Salazar said he chose Biden because he has the experience to unite the country and elevate its prominence on the world stage once again.

“We need to have him in the White House today because the country, more than ever before, needs somebody to unite our country and right now we live in a very dangerous world, both here at home and across the world and there's nobody that knows the world issues or the national issues as Joe Biden does,” he said.

Asked whether Biden has the political stamina to last through the primary, Salazar pointed to the multiple personal struggles he faced in life as examples that he knows how to pick himself up when he’s knocked down.

Salazar’s backing is the second endorsement from a prominent Latino politician which comes at a time when the Biden campaign is trying to ramp up efforts courting the Latino community. On Sunday, Rep. Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas, became the third Congressional Hispanic Caucus member to endorse Biden, notably pulling his endorsement from Sec. Julian Castro after he raised questions about Biden's age during last week's debate.

Salazar, who served as Colorado’s senator between 2005 and 2009, notably chose to endorse Biden over his senate-seat successor and fellow moderate, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.

Trump trip to New Mexico highlights his border state problems

1018d ago / 4:33 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — On Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump heads to New Mexico, where he holds a campaign rally at 9:00 pm ET — all in an effort to expand the 2020 battleground map.

But not only is New Mexico a tough state for Trump — he lost it by 8 points in 2016 — it’s part of a region of the country that decisively broke against Trump and the Republicans in the 2018 midterms, especially as the president made illegal immigration and the “caravan” of migrants one of his closing messages in that campaign season.

Image: President Donald Trump holds a Make America Great Again Rally in Las Vegas
President Trump at a rally in Las Vegas on Sept. 20.John Gurzinski / EPA

Just consider what happened last year in the four states that share a border with Mexico and have large Latino populations:

  • California: GOP lost seven House seats
  • Arizona: GOP lost U.S. Senate seat, plus a House seat
  • New Mexico: GOP lost governorship, plus a House seat
  • Texas: GOP lost two House seats, won Senate contest by fewer than 3 points – the worst GOP margin in a major statewide contest in the Lone Star State in three decades.

Elizabeth Warren unveils anti-corruption reform proposals

1018d ago / 11:32 AM UTC

NEW YORK — Amid all the dozens of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plans, there’s really one common thread between them: they aim to take on corruption. 

And corruption itself is the issue of the day Monday, with the Massachusetts senator releasing a 15-page plan for rooting out government corruption — from the White House, to the halls of Congress; Supreme Court justices and federal agencies; and, of course, the revolving door between government officials and employees and the private sector. The plan, Warren writes, “lays out nearly a hundred ways” to fix the corruption problem. 

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Warren speaks at a campaign house party in Hampton Falls
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at a campaign house party in Hampton Falls, N.H. on Sept. 2, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

On the trail, Warren often touts her anti-corruption plan as the most sweeping since Watergate — before lamenting that D.C. needs the most sweeping set of reforms since Watergate. 

This release of this plan comes the same day Warren is set to speak under the arch in New York City’s iconic Washington Square Park, a space — her campaign points out — that’s near where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took place in 1911. That killed 145 workers and spurred major change in the way of workers’ rights and protections. 

This isn’t the first time Warren will use a major moment and location from the history of labor movement to make a larger point: she made her announcement earlier this year at the Everett textile Mill in Lawrence, Mass., where in 1912 women workers went on strike to demand fair wages. 

Among the highlights of the plan: 

  • Require IRS release of tax returns for all candidates running or serving in government. For presidential candidates, Warren recommends releasing at least 8 years of returns.
  • A ban on individual stock trading for government officials.
  • Presidents and vice presidents must put businesses into blind trusts and sell them off.
  • Make sure no future candidate can get political assistance from a foreign government or solicit large hush money payments with out legal consequences by clarifying the definition of “in kind contributions.” 
  • Ban corporate bonuses for executives that leave to serve in government.
  • Lobbyists can’t take government jobs for 2 years after lobbying (with limited exceptions) and corporate lobbyists have to wait 6 years.
  • Elected officials and government appointees would be barred from ever becoming lobbyists.
  • Total Ban lobbying on behalf of foreign entities.
  • Ban lobbyists from being able to donate to, or fundraise/bundle/host fundraisers for, political candidates.
  • Impose a tax on entities that spend more than $500,000/year on lobbying.
  • Ban members of Congress and senior staff from serving on corporate boards in both paid and unpaid capacities.
  • More closely regulates judges’ ability to accept all-expense-paid trips to seminars by establishing a new fund that covers “reasonable” expense for such judicial seminars. Also bans judges from owning individual stocks.
  • Allow continued investigation of judges accused of wrong-doing, even after they step down.
  • Establish a new Office of Public Integrity to investigate ethics complaints, impose penalties on violators, and refer “egregious violations” to the DOJ.

Bernie Sanders' campaign shuffles New Hampshire staff

, and

1019d ago / 10:47 PM UTC

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Sanders campaign is in the middle of a significant staff shuffle, reassigning the campaign’s New Hampshire state director, and adding teams to build operations in Massachusetts and Maine.

“This campaign is building up and spreading out,” campaign manger Faiz Shakir told NBC News.

Image: Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont during a rally in Denver on Sept. 9, 2019.David Zalubowski / AP

The previous New Hampshire director Joe Caiazzo will become the Massachusetts state director. Shannon Jackson, who was a senior advisor to the campaign in 2016, will take over as New Hampshire state director. Ben Collings will lead the campaign’s operation in Maine.

“We’re making some moves to play for the long haul here and to put ourselves in a position to not only do well in the early states, but to do well on Super Tuesday and hopefully by that point secure the nomination,” Shakir explained.

The Vermont senator won New Hampshire in 2016 by more than 20 points. 

Public polls show a tight race in the first in the nation primary state this time around, with one from Emerson college showing the Vermont senator in third place, another from RKM Research showing him in first.

An advisor to Sen. Sanders says the campaign has been conducting internal polling, but would not get into the details of the findings. In the past, the campaign has released memos and briefed reporters on the results of favorable internal polling.

Booker on health care: Don't 'sacrifice progress for purity'

1019d ago / 3:49 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., downplayed the divide within his party on health care while imploring Democrats to aim high but work to make gains where they can. 

Booker has argued he supports the goal of a 'Medicare for All' system, but has also argued for a more pragmatic approach in the short term for trying to cover every American. And he said that the 2018 midterm elections, where Democrats made big gains in the House with a strategy centered on health care, proves that voters are buying what the Democrats are selling. 

Booker was addressing the split that was evident again during last week's Democratic presidential debate. "I feel it when I talk to really good people on that stage that I know, that there is a unifying message here that, look, we are a nation with a savagely broken health care system," he said Sunday on "Meet the Press."

"We're the party that's trying to say, 'everybody should have health insurance.' We're going to fight to get there. We can put the ideal out there but walk and chew gum at the same time. In other words, not sacrifice progress for purity."

Joe Biden to give most his most expansive remarks to date on race Sunday

and

1020d ago / 2:35 AM UTC

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Former Vice President Joe Biden plans to make his most expansive comments to date on the subject of race Sunday, exploring the nation’s ongoing struggle to live up to its founding ideals of equality as his campaign seeks to deepen connections with minority communities. 

First in Alabama, Biden will deliver the keynote address at services marking the 56th anniversary of the bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, a searing moment amid the civil rights movement that took the lives of four young black girls.

On Sunday morning, the Biden campaign released excerpts from the speech.

"The domestic terrorism of white supremacy has been the antagonist of our highest ideals from before our founding," Biden is expected to say. “Lynch mobs, arsonists, bomb makers and lone gunmen — and as we all now realize, this violence does not live in the past."

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers questions during a town hall on July 7, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers questions during a town hall on July 7, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.Meg Kinnard / AP file

 “The same poisonous ideology that lit the fuse at 16th Street pulled the trigger in Mother Emanuel, unleashed the anti-Semitic massacre in Pittsburgh and Poway and saw a white supremacist gun down innocent Latino immigrants in an El Paso parking lot with military-grade weapons declaring it would stop a quote 'Hispanic invasion of Texas,'" the excerpts continue. “We have not relegated racism and white supremacy to the pages of history.”

Later in Miami, Biden will make his most direct appeal to Latino voters to date with a campaign stop that will emphasize the contributions of immigrants in a direct contrast to actions by the Trump administration.

Together, his remarks are expected to build on another recent major speech, in Burlington, Iowa. There, Biden noted that “American history is not a fairy tale,” but a "battle for the soul of this nation” that "has been a constant push-and-pull” between its noble aspirations and a legacy of hatred and injustice borne of the original sin of slavery. 

On Sunday, Biden will delve more deeply into the roots of America’s racial divisions, aides say, and highlight how he views that “there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the centuries that preceded it.”

"We can’t understand this shocking attack without understanding our original sin of slavery and the centuries-long campaign of violence, fear, and trauma wrought upon black people in this country since,” T.J. Ducklo, a Biden campaign spokesperson said previewing his remarks in Birmingham, where he will link that tragic event with recent events.

“The same poisonous ideology that lit the fuse at 16th Street pulled the trigger in Mother Emanuel,” Ducklo said. "The same vitriol and anti-Semitism that launched pogroms in Europe was on full display in Pittsburgh and Poway. The same small-mindedness and xenophobia that targeted Irish and Italian and Chinese immigrants, each in turn, also stalked an El Paso parking lot with military-grade weaponry.

The speech may also highlight a paradox in Biden’s campaign. The former Vice President to the nation’s first black president enjoys some of his strongest support from black voters. But he has also faced intense scrutiny for both his legislative record and past statements on racial issues.

His opponents seized on comments at a June fundraiser about his work with segregationist lawmakers. And Thursday, his response to a question about reparations, including calling for social workers to "help parents deal with how to raise their children” because "they don't know quite what to do” also drew sharp criticism.

Biden appeared to offer a preview of his remarks at a fundraiser in Dallas Saturday  telling donors: "Hate only hides, it doesn't go away. If you give it any oxygen, hate comes out from under the rocks.”

It is not yet clear given the solemn occasion how directly Biden will fault President Trump for stoking racial divisions. In Iowa last month, he condemned the president for “giving license and safe harbor for hate to white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and the KKK,” most notably in his response to Charlottesville. 

Ducklo said Biden intends to call for the nation to again come together "with persistent effort, with fortitude in our actions, and with faith in ourselves and the future to move forward and continue the progress towards living up to our founding values.”

In the afternoon, Biden will continue to stress that message of unity in Miami, where aides say he will tell Latinos at the historic Ball and Chain Cuban nightclub in the heart of Calle Ocho that the “American dream is big enough” to continuing welcoming immigrants into the United States. 

On the campaign trail he has often mentioned how Latinos play a critical role in today’s economy and often thanks immigrants in town halls for choosing America as their new home country. He is expected to “build on a message of values” that run deep in the Latino community and unites Venezuelans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and more Latinos, which will be represented in the crowd.

The campaign is viewing this speech as a continued effort by the vice president as he continues to speak directly to the Latino community. They expect the president to ramp up travel to reach Latino voters directly from the most populated areas like Miami to lesser known pockets in Des Moines, Iowa throughout the fall.  

Marianna Sotomayor reported from Miami.

ICYMI: Debate rewind

1021d ago / 8:29 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Three hours of debate on one night is a lot to ask of an audience, so for those who couldn't commit to it all, here's a quick roundup of some of the best NBC News coverage: 

Image: Democratic presidential candidates Klobuchar, Booker, Buttigieg, Sanders, Biden, Warren, Harris, Yang, O'Rourke and Castro pose before the start of the debate in Houston
Democratic presidential candidates Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Cory Booker, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kamala Harris, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro pose before the start at the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Texas on Sept. 12, 2019.Jonathan Bachman / Reuters

The debate topics were nearly identical to the last two debates: health care, immigration, climate change and gun control. And the progressives vs. the pragmatists divide is still intact, despite former Vice President Joe Biden being sandwiched by the two most left-leaning candidates on the stage, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. So while expectations were high that this debate would establish just who the leader of the field is, nothing much has changed since that first debate in June. 

Unlike the second Democratic debate when candidates didn't shy away from critiquing the Obama record, last night candidates argued why they were best fit to carry-out President Obama's legacy on health care. The most cutting moment? Former HUD Secretary Julán Castro told Biden that he's "fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama" and Biden's not. Biden retorted that that comment would come as a surprise to Obama. 

Heading into this debate, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg were fighting to maintain relevance after high-polling and competitive launches. 

Folks here and NBC News provided real-time analysis as the debate ticked on. Find everything from the Republican response to Beto O'Rourke championing mandatory gun buybacks to fact-checks on statements about child poverty in our debate live blog.

Fourth Democratic debate announced

1021d ago / 6:42 PM UTC

WASHINGTON – The fourth Democratic debate will be held in Westerville, Ohio on Oct. 15, and potentially Oct. 16 if more than 10 candidates qualify and remain in the race. The DNC announced that CNN and The New York Times will co-host the debate. 

Image: The stage before the first Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by NBC in Miami, Fla., on June 26, 2019.
The stage before the first Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by NBC in Miami, Fla., on June 26, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

The debate qualifications were previously released after several candidates missed the cut for the third debate. The qualifications for October's debate are the same as the September debate, meaning that any of the 10 candidates on the stage on the third debate will have already qualified for the next one. 

Tom Steyer, who did not participate on Thursday night, has announced that he met the debate qualifications for October. That would make it 11 participants.

The format of the debate has not been announced, but CNN's Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, plus The New York Times' Marc Lacey, will moderate the debate. 

Conservative PAC ad using AOC ran in just three markets during Democratic debate

1021d ago / 1:46 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — During last night's Democratic debate, some television viewers saw the first TV ad from the new conservative PAC, New Faces GOP. The ad featured a burning picture of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., while the ad's moderator, the PAC's executive director Elizabeth Heng, decried Ocasio-Cortez as "the face of socialism and ignorance". 

The ad is the group's first ad of the 2020 election cycle and it spent $96,000 to run it Thursday night in three media markets: New York City, Washington, D.C. and Fresno-Visalia, Calif. 

Heng, a failed congressional candidate in California, appears in the ad talking about her father's life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime, saying that "forced obedience," and "starvation" are the costs of socialism. Ocasio-Cortez has identified herself as a Democratic Socialist, like presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.  

Ocasio-Cortez responded Thursday, tweeting, "Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren't racist." 

NBC News' Elisha Fieldstadt has more on the ad and the reaction to it here.

Several candidates didn’t make tonight’s debate stage. What are they doing instead?

1022d ago / 4:30 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls will take the debate stage tonight in Houston. A handful of others will not.

Candidates qualified for the party’s third round of 2020 presidential primary debates by having both 130,000 individual donors and reaching at least 2 percent in four qualifying polls.

Image: the stage for the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates
Democratic presidential candidates take the stage for the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates on July 30, 2019, in Detroit.Carlos Osorio / AP

Here’s what some of the other, non-qualifying Democratic contenders are up to Thursday night.

Tom Steyer: The billionaire activist — who appears to have qualified for the October debate — will host a town hall in Iowa before tonight’s debate begins, according to his campaign. Steyer held similar town halls this week in South Carolina, where on Tuesday he received his first presidential endorsement.

Tim Ryan: Though he won’t be on the debate stage, the Ohio congressman is hoping to reach voters with a self-released album detailing his policy points. Ryan dropped his album, called “A New and Better Agenda,” earlier this week on Spotify. He also campaigns today in New Hampshire.

Steve Bullock: During the day Thursday, the Montana governor will host two events in Iowa with former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, according to his campaign. On Tuesday, Bullock’s campaign sought to reassure donors ahead of the debate with a memo emphasizing that the race is far from over. 

“Let’s start by acknowledging two facts: First, we won’t see Gov. Bullock on the debate stage in Houston this Thursday,” wrote campaign manager Jennifer Ridder. “Second, not a single Democratic primary voter or caucus — goer will cast a vote until February — and we won’t choose our nominee until five months after that.”

John Delaney: The former Maryland congressman will be doing press interviews in New York on Thursday, “making the case to voters,” his campaign tells NBC News.

Michael Bennet: The senator from Colorado will be meeting with workers in Iowa. A campaign spokesperson says Bennet plans to watch the debate, though he “knows most Americans aren’t yet tuned into this election.”

Marianne Williamson: The self-help author will watch the debate from Los Angeles, where she is hosting a watch party and will livestream her post-debate commentary, according to her campaign.

Tulsi Gabbard’s and Bill de Blasio’s campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

Surrogates for other campaigns preview possible lines of attack against Warren

1022d ago / 1:41 PM UTC

HOUSTON — It’s been a summer of mostly smooth sailing for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as she has climbed in the polls and doled out near-weekly policy plans, all without much negative attention from her 2020 presidential primary opponents.

That could change Thursday night in Houston — and if it does, we may already have a roadmap to possible attack lines. Not from the other 2020 candidates themselves, but from their surrogates in the waning weeks of summer.

Biden surrogates, for instance, have attacked Warren on what they call hypocrisy — both of her no-big-donor fundraising pledge and her economic pitch.

Ed Rendell talked about the issue in comments to the New York Times this week, asking, “can you spell hypocrite?” Rendell noted that he had held a fundraiser for her in 2018 and also donated to her cause. “She didn’t have any trouble taking our money the year before,” Mr. Rendell told the Times. “All of a sudden, we were bad guys and power brokers and influence-peddlers. In 2018, we were wonderful.” 

He followed the comments with a tough op-ed Wednesday, chiding Warren and saying she “didn’t seem to have any trouble taking our money in 2018, but suddenly we were power brokers and influence peddlers in 2019. The year before, we were wonderful.”

And down in South Carolina, Biden-backing Dick Harpootlian recently gave Politico this quote about the cost of her many plans to address the nation's ills: “She’s promised about $50 trillion worth of benefits in the last 30 days. Her economics are fraud and at some point someone is going to point that out. She’s a multimillionaire professor at Harvard. She can’t rail against the 1 percent — she is one of the 1 percent.” 

Supporters of Sen. Kamala Harris, too, have gone at Warren. Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina lawmaker and now Hardis supporter, told Politico “Warren has gotten a pass in both debates” and said she has an “inability to make her plans actual reality. There are a lot of voters — especially black voters — who will say, ‘A lot of this is pie in the sky and we want pie on the table.’”

And at a late August rally, actress and Sen. Bernie Sanders-backer Susan Sarandon told the crowd: “[Sanders] is not someone who used to be Republican.” She didn’t name names, but the subtle dig could very well apply to Warren, who was previously registered as a Republican until her 40’s. The knock is even more striking, though, because of how Sanders and Warren have avoided going at each other head to head in this race so far.

If she comes under fire from other Democrats on the debate stage Thursday night, those might be some of the lines of attack to expect.

On debate day, Harris nabs endorsement from prominent Latino congressman

1022d ago / 9:59 AM UTC

HOUSTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has won the endorsement of Rep. Ruben Gallego, a rising star in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a Marine Corps veteran, Gallego said in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

“Kamala, number one, does have the best chance of beating Donald Trump,” Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, said over the telephone Wednesday as he listed his reasons for endorsing Harris. “She’s going to be able to appeal to all angles of our Democratic voting base.”

He will serve as national security chair for the campaign, Harris's team said.

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

The boost comes at an auspicious moment for Harris: just hours before she and her rivals take the stage in Houston for the third debate of the primary season and at a time when her poll numbers have stagnated in the single digits. Harris currently ranks fourth in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls at 6.9 percent.

While Gallego may not be a household name for most Americans, his endorsement was sought by other contenders for the nomination.

“We did get approached by basically every other campaign,” he said.

"Ruben has been a champion for immigrants, veterans, and Arizonans for his entire career, and I'm honored to earn his endorsement," Harris said in a statement provided to NBC.

"From his service to our nation in Iraq to his work expanding Medicaid in Arizona to his leadership on immigration and veterans affairs in Congress, Ruben embodies the best of who we are as a nation," she said. "I look forward to working with him on the issues that are waking working people up in the middle of the night -- as well as turning Arizona blue in 2020."

Prior to endorsing Harris, Gallego had been chairman of another campaign — that of close personal friend, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who dropped out of the race.

Just 39, a Harvard graduate who left school to serve in the infantry in Iraq, Gallego was viewed as a potential Senate candidate in Arizona this cycle before deferring to astronaut Mark Kelly.

Both Gallego and Harris pointed to her plan to provide access to housing and health care for half a million more veterans as an area of agreement between them. He said in the interview with NBC that Harris's version of a universal health care plan was the best among the candidates and he praised her work on immigration and other issues of importance to the Latino community.

Trump team boasts that the president delivered North Carolina victory

1023d ago / 5:56 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s re-election team is taking credit for two Republican congressional victories in North Carolina Tuesday, particularly touting a narrow win in a competitive race in a district Trump won by about 12 points in 2016.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale argued there’s “no question” Trump’s last-minute rally and “personal efforts” pushed GOP candidate Dan Bishop over the edge in the Ninth District, where he beat Democrat Dan McCready in a special election after last year’s midterm results were tossed out due to allegations of election fraud.

Trump tweeted late Tuesday night that Bishop “asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race.” Campaign aides declined to offer specifics on what exactly shifted and whether the president himself offered the candidate advice.

Despite lowering expectations earlier this week and pushing back on the notion that the congressional district race wasn’t a “bellwether” for next year, the Trump team is now boasting about what the gains mean heading into a general election.

Though Trump wasn’t on the ballot, Parscale maintained the enthusiasm the president is able to generate when he holds rallies like this week’s in Fayetteville and last months’ in Greenville, N.C., contributed to “driving significant turnout.”

In addition to the traditional campaign rallies, the re-elect effort also held fundraisers, organized a multi-stop tour for Vice President Pence, recorded robocalls and targeted online fundraising.

Bishop echoed that praise for Trump in a Wednesday morning appearance on Fox News where he said that “a lot of credit goes to the president” for his victory.

Aides dismissed criticism, however, that the narrow victory spelled trouble for the Republicans heading into 2020.  “These are isolated moments in time so congratulations to the Democrats for taking moral victory laps last night. We Republicans and President Trump will take the actual victory,” senior political adviser Bill Stepien said.

Asked whether there is concern about maintaining suburban voters versus rural voters, the campaign said it is not focused on “geographic targets” and is instead targeting all kinds of communities, regardless of district or state.

On Wednesday, while expressing displeasure with recent polling that shows his approval rating slipping,  the president argued he “hasn’t even started campaigning yet.”

Notably, Trump is the only modern president to ever file re-election paperwork on the day of his inauguration and his campaign has held dozens of rallies since then. The president officially announced his run for a second term in June, and has held five 2020 events since then.

Image: DOnald Trump, Dan Bishop
President Donald Trump, from left, gives his support to Dan Bishop, a Republican running for the special North Carolina 9th District U.S. Congressional race as he speaks at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.Chris Seward / AP

The House Republican campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, acknowledged Trump’s impact on the race in a memo released Wednesday, where they called him “the most effective surrogate for Republicans.” The group added it believes Trump will be a helpful boost as they try to win back the seats Democrats flipped during the midterms.

Democrats don’t share that perspective, however. They’re confident that the narrow margin of victory in the conservative district is a harbinger of more bad news to come for Republicans in 2020.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a memo released Wednesday that the result shows “Democrats are pushing further into Republican strongholds and Republicans are on their heels heading into 2020.” They went on to point to McCready’s focus on health care as one reason why the race was so close.

Texas’ Democratic Senate candidates stake out tough positions on guns

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1023d ago / 11:07 AM UTC

HOUSTON — In a state that’s widely known for its expansive gun culture, the candidates competing for the Democratic nomination in next year’s Texas Senate race are staking out tough positions on the issue of guns in America. 

“We have to end open carry,” former Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with NBC News. “It negatively contributes to the gun violence epidemic and the gun culture in this country. But more importantly it’s an assault on every bystander.”  

MJ Hegar
MJ Hegar poses for a portrait at her home in Round Rock, Texas, on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Eric Gay / AP

Texas claims the highest number of guns in the country, and is one of several states that allows licensed gun owners to openly carry handguns as long as they’re in a shoulder or belt holster. 

Hegar says she doesn’t worry how her positions on gun regulations could impact her professional future in a region where political leaders have long sought to expand, not restrict, access to firearms.  

“The idea that any gun safety legislation is an infringement on 2nd amendment rights is a lie that the gun lobby has very effectively told everybody,” she said. “I’m a gun owner. I’m a combat vet. But I’m also a mom. I’m going to protect 2nd amendment rights but I’m not going to allow our country to not protect children, too.” 

The nation’s political focus is concentrating on Texas this week as Houston hosts the third Democratic 2020 presidential debate, but the state has also seen its share of attention in the last month with two major deadly mass shootings that have partially reawakened the gun debate here. 

Other Democratic candidates looking to unseat incumbent Republican John Conyn in next year’s Senate race here are also eager to call for changes to America’s gun laws that go further than simply passing universal background checks and red flag laws, like a mandatory buyback and ban of assault weapons like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke called for after last month’s El Paso shooting.  

“It would be expensive,” former Democratic Rep. Chris Bell acknowledged in an interview Tuesday. “But I don't think that assault weapons should simply be confiscated from people who want them legally. I do think that government needs to make that investment and buy those weapons back, and I think it would be money very well spent. I think that's another area where Texas could lead.” 

Longtime political organizer Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez also said she’d support the idea of an assault weapon buyback. 

“I've been waiting my entire adult life for Congress to act to do very basic things like pass universal background checks, to take assault weapons and weapons of war out of the hands of civilians,” she told NBC News. 

Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards emphasized first focusing on passing the “low hanging fruit” legislation like universal background checks and red flag laws, but acknowledged in an interview that the idea of assault weapons bans or buybacks are “something that we need to be exploring.”  

“That’s a conversation, I don’t know if it has the same slam dunk effect as universal background checks,” she said. “But we’ve got to look at keeping our families and our communities safe.”

Jon Ossoff announces Georgia Senate bid

1024d ago / 12:24 PM UTC

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

1025d ago / 6:18 PM UTC

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

1025d ago / 5:22 PM UTC

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

1025d ago / 4:04 PM UTC

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

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1025d ago / 1:43 PM UTC

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'

1026d ago / 3:36 PM UTC

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

1028d ago / 9:53 PM UTC

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

1028d ago / 7:07 PM UTC

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

1028d ago / 4:07 PM UTC

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

1028d ago / 1:34 PM UTC

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

1029d ago / 8:35 PM UTC

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

1029d ago / 7:13 PM UTC

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

1029d ago / 3:41 PM UTC

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

1030d ago / 7:27 PM UTC

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

1030d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

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

1030d ago / 1:59 PM UTC

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

1030d ago / 10:02 AM UTC

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

and

1030d ago / 9:59 AM UTC

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

and

1031d ago / 11:41 PM UTC

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

1031d ago / 9:03 PM UTC

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

1031d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

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

1031d ago / 9:28 AM UTC

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

1033d ago / 2:52 PM UTC

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

1035d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

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

1036d ago / 8:41 PM UTC

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

1036d ago / 7:29 PM UTC

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

1036d ago / 4:18 PM UTC

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

1037d ago / 5:16 PM UTC

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

1038d ago / 8:59 PM UTC

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

1038d ago / 8:12 PM UTC

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

1038d ago / 4:01 PM UTC

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

and

1038d ago / 11:46 AM UTC

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

1039d ago / 12:26 AM UTC

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

1039d ago / 7:50 PM UTC

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

1039d ago / 6:34 PM UTC

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

1039d ago / 3:48 PM UTC

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'

1040d ago / 2:37 PM UTC

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

1042d ago / 5:12 PM UTC

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’

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1042d ago / 10:00 AM UTC

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

1043d ago / 1:00 AM UTC

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

and

1043d ago / 6:35 PM UTC

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

1043d ago / 12:20 PM UTC

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

1043d ago / 11:35 AM UTC

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

1043d ago / 10:00 AM UTC

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

1044d ago / 4:21 PM UTC

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

1045d ago / 6:38 PM UTC

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

1045d ago / 11:58 AM UTC

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

1046d ago / 6:57 PM UTC

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

1046d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

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

1046d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

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

1046d ago / 9:51 AM UTC

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'

1047d ago / 2:31 PM UTC

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

1047d ago / 2:19 PM UTC

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

1047d ago / 12:28 PM UTC

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

1049d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

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

1049d ago / 2:02 PM UTC

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