The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Trump campaign spends more than $2 million on Facebook after Dems begin impeachment push
President Trump’s reelection campaign has launched a massive counteroffensive online in the wake of the House’s impeachment inquiry, spending more than $2.3 million dollars on Facebook ads last week.
“They are trying to stop ME because I am fighting for YOU,” reads one ad designed to reach voters in states across the country. “President Trump wakes up every day and battles the Fake News Media and a Radical Democrat Party. He does this because he loves the American people!” reads another.
The Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising operation between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, has spent $1.2 million on Facebook between September 24 and September 30 to run ads on Trump's Facebook page, according to data publicly available via Facebook's ad library report.
The committee has also spent $820,000 to run ads through Vice President Mike Pence's page - his ads are focused largely on driving people to Trump rallies, while Trump's ad focuses on peddling an image of a President under attack and driving donations. Trump’s campaign has spent another $356,000 over the past week.
A large number of the Facebook ads currently running on Trump's page include a recently released video that aims to tie Vice President Biden to the Ukraine scandal and accuses the Democrats of trying to “steal” the 2020 elections.
Since May 2018, the Trump reelection campaign has spent nearly $20 million on the platform, Facebook data shows. And the reelection effort is raking in cash — the campaign and the RNC announced Tuesday it raised $125 over the last three months.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement that the campaign is spending $8 million on an advertising buy to run that video on both cable and digital channels. It’s unclear, however, how much the campaign is planning to spend through each medium.
Also on Tuesday, the RNC placed almost $2.1 million in broadcast advertising time in a handful of markets, many home to vulnerable Democratic House members, according to data from media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
By comparison, in the same time span, former Vice President Joe Biden has spent $111,000 on the platform. In many of those ads, Biden’s campaign is using Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to drive potential Biden supporters to sign a "Stand with Joe" petition, asking users to share their contact info”
Klobuchar makes first TV ad buy in Iowa, New Hampshire
LAS VEGAS — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is getting on the airwaves in all-important Iowa and New Hampshire.
The campaign will spend six figures on its first TV ad buy of the Democratic primary, according to a campaign official. The thirty-second spot, shared first with NBC News, highlights Klobuchar's bipartisan, moderate pitch to voters.
"If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes in our politics and you are tired of the noise and the nonsense, you’ve got a home with me," she says in the ad.
The ad closes with the Minnesota Senator on the Democratic debate stage, stating: "I don’t want to be the president for half of America. I want to be the president for all of America."
Klobuchar's move to get on TV comes as other campaigns are beginning to put their campaign war chests into advertising as well.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced his first paid TV ad Monday — a more than $1 million buy in the Hawkeye State. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren's, D-Mass., campaign recently announced in a memo that it would begin an ad-buying blitz across the early voting states for TV and digital, to the tune of eight-figures.
Trump, RNC combine for $125 million raised in third quarter
WASHINGTON – In a massive show of fundraising force, President Donald Trump’s re-election team announced Tuesday it had raised a record $125 million in the third quarter of 2019.
This giant haul, amassed between the president’s 2020 operation and the Republican National Committee, comes as the combined GOP effort is amassing an overwhelming war chest while Trump's possible Democratic rivals are still spending their way through a primary.
The Trump campaign reported having $156 million cash on hand, with a monstrous $308 million raised this year alone — approaching the $333 million the Trump team raised during the entire 2016 cycle.
A major contributing factor to the strong fundraising is the current impeachment inquiry stemming from the president’s conversations with the leader of Ukraine, according to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
“We are investing millions on the airwaves and on the ground to hold House Democrats accountable, highlight their obstruction, and take back the House and re-elect President Trump in 2020,” McDaniel said in a statement to NBC News.
The campaign quickly capitalized on the announcement of the congressional investigation last week. Within 24 hours of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s press conference announcing the impeachment inquiry, the Trump team said it raised $5 million.
By the end of the week, Trump’s son Eric was boasting the campaign had attracted 50,000 new donors as well. During that time, the president himself headlined fundraisers in New York City that brought in $8 million.
That, combined with a giant two-day swing in California the week before, meant the campaign alone raised nearly $30 million in the last two weeks of the quarter.
“President Trump has built a juggernaut of a campaign, raising record amounts of money at a record pace,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said, delighting in the “absolutely huge” figures.
Unlike other presidents in recent history, Trump virtually never stopped running even after his 2016 victory. He is the only president in modern history to file paperwork for another term on the day of his inauguration.
The campaign and RNC did not provide a detailed breakdown of the numbers. More information about the fundraising effort, including how much the Trump-aligned committees spent last quarter, will be available by Oct. 15, the deadline for committees to file third-quarter fundraising reports.
More than 50 former female ambassadors call on administration to protect Yovanovitch
WASHINGTON — More than 50 former female U.S. ambassadors are calling on President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a letter to protect foreign service officers from political retaliation in the wake of the ousting of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
The signatories of the letter are members of an organization of current and former ambassadors, Women Ambassadors Serving America. They point specifically to Trump’s comments about Yovanovitch to Ukrainian President Zelenskiy during a July 25 phone call, saying they “demean and threaten” the former ambassador and “raise serious concerns.”
“This appears to be a threat of retaliation for political reasons, which is both shocking and inappropriate,” they write. “For U.S. diplomacy to be an effective instrument of statecraft, it is vital that the non-partisan, non-political work of the dedicated public servants of the U.S. Department of State be respected and honored — just as we honor the contributions of U.S. military service members and other government colleagues.”
Among those who signed the letter are former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power and Dana Shell Smith, former U.S. ambassador to Qatar.
Only one current U.S. ambassador signed the letter: Catherine Ebert-Gray, a career foreign service officers who serves as the U.S. envoy to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Her signature comes with a notable caveat; She adds that “The views expressed are my own and not necessarily those of the U.S. government. Signing a public letter critical of the Trump administration could put current ambassadors at professional risk, which likely explains why Ebert-Gray is the only one to sign the letter.
Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who was named ambassador to Ukraine at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, was abruptly recalled by Trump in May, ahead of when her term in Kiev was scheduled to end.
In Trump’s July 25 call, according to a memo about the call released by the White House, Trump called Yovanovitch “the woman” and “bad news.”
In the letter, the former ambassadors say Yovanovitch is a “highly respected” senior diplomat who may have been “singled out for retribution for partisan, political reasons.” They say allowing partisanship to enter diplomacy risks undercutting “U.S. diplomatic efforts and the safety of U.S. personnel worldwide.”
House Democrats have demanded that Yovanovitch and other U.S. officials named in the whistleblower complaint appear Thursday for a joint deposition with the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees.
But Pompeo released a letter publicly on Tuesday to House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel pushing back, calling it an attempt to “intimidate" and "bully" them and saying he would “use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead.”
Late Tuesday, two congressional committee aides told NBC News that Yovanovitch will indeed sit for a joint deposition – but not until Oct. 11. The aides said that delayed appearance comes with the agreement of both the committees and counsel.
S.C. poll: Biden leads, retains huge advantage with black voters
A new poll of Democratic voters in South Carolina shows that Joe Biden remains the frontrunner in the early primary state. And the former vice president retains a major advantage with African American Democrats, although Elizabeth Warren bests him among white Democrats.
The poll, conducted by Winthrop University, shows Biden leading with 37 percent support overall, followed by Warren at 17 percent. Bernie Sanders receives 8 percent support, while 7 percent of Democrats back Kamala Harris. Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker receive 4 and 3 percent, respectively. No other candidate gets more than 2 percent among all voters.
Among African American voters, it’s 46 percent for Biden, 10 percent for Harris, 9 percent for Warren, 8 percent for Sanders, and 4 percent for Booker. Buttigieg, who has struggled for traction with nonwhite Democratic voters, received zero percent support among African American voters.
Among white Democrats, it’s 29 percent for Warren, 22 percent for Biden, and 10 percent for Buttigieg.
The poll is on the list of qualifying surveys for candidates hoping to meet the DNC’s requirements to participate in November’s Democratic debate. Booker’s 3 percent support in the Winthrop poll puts him just one qualifying poll away from making the stage. The deadline for qualifying will be seven days before the date of the November debate.
The poll was conducted September 21-30, 2019. The margin of error among 463 Democratic registered voters is +/- 4.6 percent.
Sanders to go up on air with first buy of $1.3 million
LOS ANGELES — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is already putting some of the money raised during his $25 million third-quarter to use, with the campaign Tuesday afternoon announcing its first paid TV advertisement of the 2020 cycle.
The $1.3 million ad buy, titled “Fights for us,” will begin hitting the airwaves in Iowa on Thursday and run for two weeks.
The ad focuses on Sanders being what the narrator calls a “fighter” for the working class, and features video from his campaign announcement in February, as well as various campaign stops at Fight for $15 marches and "Medicare for All" rallies.
The campaign says this ad was produced entirely in-house. NBC News confirmed last week that the campaign filmed another, yet to be released, spot during a recent town hall in Des Moines.
The image of Sanders as a lifelong advocate for workers rights and the rights of the middle class has been a key messaging point for the campaign. And the push has picked up in recent weeks as Sanders tries to distinguish himself from Sen. Warren, who is rising in the polls with similar messaging.
The campaign made the decision to begin skipping some of the recent all-candidate “cattle-call” events to instead attend events that include standing on union picket lines and supporting workers.
Until now, Sanders hadn't hit the airwaves in any state. So far, billionaire Tom Steyer has been the largest spender in Iowa on television and radio with $5 million. South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has spent $900,000 so far on ads in the state, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden's $688,000 and $562,000 from California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign, according to spending data from Advertising Analytics.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., spent $924,000 on television ads in Iowa this cycle. But she dropped out of the race over the summer.
Claudia Tenney joins group of former GOP lawmakers running for revenge in 2020
Former GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney announced a comeback bid Tuesday, an attempt to win back the New York congressional seat she held before losing in 2018.
Tenney announced her bid Tuesday morning in a video, shared on social media, that centers on the idea of resilience, sharing the story of her trying to raise her child as a single mother. The video doesn't explicitly mention her past bid or President Trump, who loomed large over her 2018 loss. Trump won the district by 15 points in 2016.
If she makes it through the GOP primary, she'll run against Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi, the former state assemblyman who narrowly defeated her in 2018.
Tenney is far from the only former Republican lawmaker looking to win a federal office in 2020. Here's a look at some of her former colleagues who are trying to do the same thing.
Karen Handel, R-Ga.
Handel is no stranger to a tough race — she won the pivotal Georgia 2017 special House election that took center-stage as the first major referendum on the Trump administration.
But while she vanquished Democrat Jon Ossoff (who is now running for Senate) in that race, she lost her seat slightly more than a year later when Democrat Lucy McBath beat her in the 2018 midterms.
Handel quickly launched her campaign to win back her old seat earlier this year, and has been trying to paint McBath as too liberal for the purple district.
David Valadao, R-Calif.
Valadao jumped back into the fray this past summer with a quest to win back the seat he lost last cycle to Democrat TJ Cox.
Cox has been one of the top freshman targets for Republicans this cycle who have hammered him for his business record.
Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Issa is unique in that he didn't lose in 2018 like his other colleagues on this list—he decided to retire instead of running again in a difficult race. Democrats ultimately flipped his seat in the 49th Congressional District, but Issa is seeking a new home: the 50th Congressional District, currently represented by indicted GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter.
Hunter's fate is uncertain, as he faces charges that he misused his campaign cash, and GOP leaders stripped him of his committee assignments in response to those charges. But Hunter barely beat Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar last November.
Scott Taylor, R-Va.
Taylor's southeastern Virginia seat didn't initially seem like a top candidate to flip in 2018, but when the dust settled, the Republican congressman found himself out of a job, defeated by Democrat Eliane Luria.
Now out of office, he's set to run against Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in a state that's been drifting toward Democrats in recent years.
Jason Lewis, R-Minn.
Lewis is the other member of the class of vanquished Republican congressmen of 2018 seeking to win a new gig in the Senate. After beating Democrat Angie Craig in 2016, Lewis couldn't fend her off again last November.
He announced his Senate bid this summer against Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith.
Sanders releases income inequality tax proposal
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., unveiled an income inequality tax plan Monday, proposing to raise taxes on companies “with exorbitant pay gaps between their executives and workers.”
This tax comes a week after Sanders released a wealth tax that would tax net worth above $32 million on an increasing scale.
Sanders’ campaign says this income inequality tax plan will raise an estimated $150 billion over the next decade, and the revenue generated will be used to pay for his plan to eliminate medical debt.
Sanders’ proposal would impose tax rate increases on companies with CEO-to-median-worker ratios above 50-to-1, meaning if the CEO is being paid 50 times more than the median worker is being paid, taxes would go up. The tax proposal would apply to all private and publicly held corporations with annual revenue of more than $100 million. According to the plan, if the CEO did not receive the largest paycheck in the firm, the ratio will be based on the highest-paid employee.
In the plan, the campaign calls out American companies by name, including Home Depot, American Airlines and McDonalds, among others. The campaign says if Sanders’ plan had been in effect last year, McDonald’s would have paid up to $110.9 million more in taxes, Walmart would have paid up to $793.8 million more in taxes, JP MorganChase would have paid up to $991.6 million more in taxes, Home Depot would have paid up to $538.2 million more in taxes, and American Airlines would have paid up to $18.8 million more in taxes.
The campaign says that if companies increased annual median worker pay to just $60,000 and reduced their CEO compensation to $3 million they would not owe any additional taxes under this new tax plan.
Tom Steyer's ad spending approaches $20 million
WASHINGTON — Democrat Tom Steyer has now spent nearly $20 million over the TV and radio airwaves — substantially more than any other Democrat running in the 2020 presidential contest, according to ad-spending data from Advertising Analytics.
In total, Steyer has dropped $16.8 million in TV and radio ads, with most of it targeted to the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
And the spending appears to be helping him — at least when it comes to qualifying for the upcoming debates: CNN polls of Nevada and South Carolina released over the weekend showed Steyer reaching or surpassing the 3 percent needed to qualify for November’s Democratic debate.
To participate in November’s debate, candidates must reach at least 3 percent support in four qualifying polls or 5 percent in two early-state polls.
Total TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $16.8 million
Gillibrand: $1.7 million (has ended campaign)
Gabbard: $1.0 million
Iowa TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $5.0 million
New Hampshire TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $3.8 million
Nevada TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $3.0 million
South Carolina TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $3.8 million
SOURCE: Advertising Analytics
Sixth Texas House Republican announces retirement
WASHINGTON — A sixth Republican House member from the state of Texas won’t run for re-election in 2020.
Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and a member of the state’s delegation since 1994, made the announcement in a statement Monday.
“We are reminded, however, that 'for everything there is a season,' and I believe that the time has come for a change,” he said. “Therefore, this is my last term in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Thornberry joins five other Texas GOP colleagues in announcing his retirement. Reps. Pete Olson, Mike Conaway, Will Hurd, Kenny Marchant and Bill Flores have also said they’re calling it quits.
But unlike some of his fellow retirees, Thornberry represents a district that’s very unlikely to be competitive in the next election.
His Panhandle-area district is heavily conservative, voting for both Donald Trump and Mitt Romney with 80 percent of the vote. Thornberry won his last reelection by a similar margin.
ICYMI: Political stories of the week that didn't include the "I" word
WASHINGTON – The last week in Washington has been filled with information dumps on President Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the whistleblower report and House Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry. With all of that in mind, here are some stories you may have missed that don't include the word "impeachment".
A federal judge blocked new Trump administration regulations that would have allowed for migrant children to be held indefinitely. The judge ruled that the rule would violate the 1997 Flores agreement sets standards for how and where migrant children are held.
Three years after Congress created a federal control board to oversee Puerto Rico's finances, the board filed a plan that would decrease the U.S. territory's debt by 60 percent. If the plan is approved, it would reduce Puerto Rico's annual debt service to under 9 percent – it is currently almost 30 percent.
Religious-based adoption agencies that contract with the state of Michigan won't have to place children in LGBTQ homes based on a preliminary injunction from a federal judge. The Attorney General of Michigan, Dana Nessel, who argued agencies couldn't discriminate against LGBTQ homes, is the first openly-gay statewide officeholder.
The Arkansas state government decided to relinquish partial control of the city's schools to be run by a locally-elected school board. The plan was never made available for public comment. Those concerned with the plan say that the part of the schools that will be run by an elected board are the better-performing, majority white areas of the city, while the lesser-performing, majority black and latino parts of the school system will be run by the state or a third party. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) rejected the notion that this would lead to a resegregation of schools.