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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Sanders campaign says candidate is 'looking forward to the October debate' after hospitalization

LAS VEGAS — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., remains in a Las Vegas hospital recovering from heart surgery, but is expected to be discharged "before the end of the weekend" and attend the October debate according to his wife, Jane. 

"Bernie is up and about. Yesterday, he spent much of the day talking with staff about policies, cracking jokes with the nurses and doctors, and speaking with his family on the phone. His doctors are pleased with his progress, and there has been no need for any additional procedures," Jane Sanders said in a statement released by the campaign Thursday. 

"We expect Bernie will be discharged and on a plane back to Burlington before the end of the weekend. He'll take a few days to rest, but he's ready to get back out there and is looking forward to the October debate.” 

The Vermont senator fell ill Tuesday night after a fundraiser in Las Vegas, complaining about chest discomfort. Doctors ultimately inserted two stents after finding a blocked artery. 

The recent statement from Jane Sanders amounted to the first major update from the Sanders campaign since it initially announced the surgery. 

As Sanders recovers, his campaign pulled a recently announced $1.3 million television ad buy in Iowa in what the campaign called a "postponement." Just a day earlier, Sanders announced he raised more than $25 million in the third fundraising quarter, a massive haul larger than any quarterly haul by a Democratic presidential campaign so far. 

Meanwhile, campaign surrogates will be holding events in New Hampshire and South Carolina after the Senator had to miss an appearance at a Las Vegas gun safety forum co-hosted by MSNBC. 

Sanders' health has put a spotlight on the advanced age of the leading Democratic candidates. All three of the top polling candidates — Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — are at least 70 years old.  Sanders is 78 years old, while Biden is 76 and Warren is 70. 

President Trump is 73 years old. 

Dr. Daniel Munoz, the director of the cardiac intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who was not involved in Sanders' care, told NBC News that the procedure is not unusual and that while each case is different, people generally "take it easy for about a week before returning to a full schedule." 

The next Democratic debate is on Oct. 15 in Ohio. 

Immigration, health care dominating Kentucky gov airwaves

WASHINGTON — One month before Kentucky's gubernatorial election, the ad wars are cutting along familiar lines — with Republicans spending heavily on immigration and Democrats focusing on health care. 

Almost half of the $748,000 spent on television ads in the race over the last seven days has been on immigration. Republicans, including Gov. Matt Bevin's campaign and other outside groups, have spent the vast majority of that ($272,000) on ads that accuse Democratic Attorney Gen. Andy Beshear of supporting sanctuary cities, evoking images of notorious gang MS-13 and linking illegal immigration to the opioid crisis. 

Beshear's campaign is also up with one immigration ad, which aims to push back at those attacks and emphasize his endorsement from the state's Fraternal Order of the Police. 

Meanwhile, much of the Beshear campaign's primary messaging is around health care, a strategy evocative of the one that helped Democrats flip a bevy of purple House seats in 2018 (but notably fall short in a Lexington-area district). 

The top two spots for Democrats are super PAC spots attacking Bevin on pre-existing conditions.

And Bevin's campaign has spent about $95,000 on a spot highlighting Bevin's opposition to abortion rights. 

Taken in total, that means that 86 percent of all ad spending in the race focuses primarily on these two issues, more proof that both sides are doubling down on the messaging that's been central to their parties in recent elections. 

Biden to Trump: 'I'm not going anywhere'

RENO, Nev. — Former Vice President Joe Biden delivered his most forceful remarks to date scorning President Donald Trump for putting his own re-election interests over national security and stressing that the president’s attempt to intimidate him will not make him back down as a candidate for the presidency. 

“Let me make something clear to Trump and his hatchet men and the special interests funding his attacks against me: I’m not going anywhere. You’re not going to destroy me. And you’re not going to destroy my family. I don’t care how much money you spend or how dirty the attacks get,” Biden said passionately to an applauding crowd made up of roughly 600 people inside the student center at Truckee Meadows Community College. 

Joe Biden speaks at the Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, 2019.Gabe Ginsberg / for MSNBC

Biden went after Trump for putting national security at risk to “pursue a personal political vendetta” against a potential Democratic opponent. He called it “Exhibit A” in the lists of abuses of power

He also challenged Trump, who he called “unhinged,” in his attempts to try and pick his Democratic opponent in a campaign shaped “on his terms.” 

“I will put the integrity of my whole career in public service to this nation up against his long record of lying and cheating and stealing any day of the week,” Biden said. The line received a standing ovation from the crowd. 

Biden remarks came after President Donald Trump continued to promote false claims about the former vice president’s record in the Ukraine and the role his son Hunter Biden played while advising a Ukrainian energy company in the same time period.

At a press conference Wednesday alongside the Norwegian president, Trump refused to respond to a reporter’s question asking what specifically he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate about the Biden’s. Avoiding the repeated question, Trump simply said “Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked” without providing factual evidence. 

Biden began his speech by ticking through instances where Trump “corrupted and weaponized key agencies of government” as laid out by House investigating committees and the whistleblower’s complaint, someone who he called “courageous” for exposing the president’s “scheme.” 

For the first time since reports of the whistleblower complaint broke, Biden explained his own record while doing business in Ukraine in an effort to clear the narrative hurled against him and Hunter by Trump and his allies that he called for the ousting of a prosecutor who had investigated the company Hunter was advising. 

Biden said his role was to “root out corruption in Ukraine” alongside democratic organizations like the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and backed by the U.S. government. 

“This was a fully transparent policy carried out in front of the whole world and fully embraced by the international community of democracies,” he said. “We weren’t pressing Ukraine to get rid of a tough prosecutor, we were pressing them to replace a weak prosecutor who wouldn’t do his job.” 

Biden blamed Trump for trying to distract the election from the issues, telling the crowd that every “crazed” tweet he wastes time on issues that Biden, as president, would prioritize from climate change to healthcare reform. 

He told the crowd, who was clearly feeding off his energy, that he would refuse to fall victim to Trump’s “lies, smears, distortions and name calling” to instead focus on representing the people and put their interests the White House. 

“I’m not going to let him get away with this. I’m not backing down.”

Booker rolls out child poverty plan

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is out with a new plan specifically targeting child poverty as part of his presidential bid. 

Citing a new study by Columbia University’s Center on Poverty & Social Policy, Booker's campaign says his plan could lift 7.3 million children out of poverty.

“When it comes to child poverty, we cannot be silent,” said Booker in the release. “In the richest country in the world, we have a moral responsibility to look after each other and make sure that every child living in America has the opportunity to grow and thrive.”

“We all benefit when everyone has a stake in our economy. Building on the same American spirit that gave us Social Security, Medicare, nutrition assistance, and so much more, we must come together to ensure that every child has a fair shot to participate in and benefit from our collective promise.”

Booker’s proposal builds on his existing labor, housing and Baby Bond plans, as well as his proposed Senate legislation like the Rise Credit to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The new plan aims to meet basic needs, make work a pathway out of poverty, and knock down barriers to access by:

  • Expanding the Child Tax Credit to create a $250-300 “child allowance” for families with kids
  • Increasing the maximum SNAP benefit (food stamps) by 30 percent, rescinding Trump administration food stamp work requirements and expanding access to summer meals and free and reduced school lunches
  • Increase funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a federal program that gives grants for families in need. 
  • Creating a national transitional jobs program with government-subsidized wages geared toward people living in poverty
  • Passing the Child Care for Working Families Act to increase federal investment in high quality, affordable childcare
  • Eliminating immigration status eligibility requirements for all safety net programs, including health coverage, and rescinding the Trump administration’s “public charge rule” that targets immigrants for deportation if they use such programs 

The release notes there has not been a presidential debate question on child poverty since 1999, and criticizes that “issues of child poverty have been almost entirely absent from the campaign trail, despite the moral and economic imperative to act.”

In Booker’s home of Newark, NJ, 39 percent of children lived in households below the poverty line, according to a 2017 report.

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.

President Trump at a rally in Las Vegas on Sept. 20.John Gurzinski / EPA

 

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.” 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the Palace Hotel on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 26, 2019.Darren Ornitz / Reuters

“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.