The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Trump remains underwater in Virginia, Northam’s approval jumps up
WASHINGTON — Just 37 percent of registered voters in Virginia approve of President Donald Trump’s job performance, while a majority — 51 percent — now give Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam a thumbs-up in the state, according to a new public poll conducted by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University.
The turnaround for Northam is statistically significant: Six months ago, after facing allegations that he appeared in a racist photo during his days in medical school, Northam’s job rating sank to 40 percent in the same poll, with 49 percent of state voter disapproving of his job.
After initially saying that he was in the photo and apologizing, Northam later denied being either man in the picture. He did, however, admit he wore shoe polish on his face during a Michael Jackson impersonation at a 1984 dance competition.
Now the poll shows that 51 percent approve of Northam’s job, while 37 percent disapprove.
With Virginia holding important state legislative elections in November, the Wason Center survey also finds grim numbers for President Trump and the Republican Party in the state.
In addition to Trump’s job-approval rating at just 37 percent in the state, Democrats hold a 13-point lead on the generic ballot, with 49 percent of likely voters saying that they’ll vote for a Democrat in November’s elections, while 36 percent will vote for Republicans.
The poll was conducted Sept. 4-30 of 726 registered voters (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.1 percentage points) and 566 likely voters (plus-minus 4.6 percentage points).
Trump campaign spends more than $500,000 on anti-Biden, anti-impeachment ads
WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign has spent more than a half-million dollars over the last eight days on three ads that repeat unproven allegations of impropriety by former Vice President Joe Biden with Ukraine and attack Democrats for trying to impeach him.
The ads are part of a previously announced digital and cable buy from the campaign that it says will total $8 million across both platforms.
The campaign has spent the most money so far ($348,000, according to media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics) on a spot that frames the impeachment inquiry and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as part of an effort to nullify Trump's 2016 victory.
"They couldn't defeat him, so now the swamp is trying to take him out. First, the Mueller investigation. Now, Ukraine. Politics at its worst," a narrator says as images of Mueller and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., are displayed on the screen.
"It isn't pretty, the swamp hates him. But Mr. Nice Guy won't cut it. It takes a tough guy to change Washington — it takes Donald Trump."
Team Trump has also spent almost $174,000 so far on another spot focused primarily on his unproven accusations against Biden, arguing that Democrats are treating the two situations with a double standard
"They lost the election, now they want to steal this one. Don't let them," the ad says.
A third spot that emphasizes similar themes started airing on Sunday as well. So far, the campaign has spent about $14,000 to air that ad.
The attacks primarily accuse Biden of pressuring a Ukranian prosecutor to resign and connecting that act to an investigation by that prosecutor into a company that Biden's son, Hunter, worked for.
But the decision to push out the prosecutor was supported at the time by the international community.
The majority of the spending has gone toward airing ads on national television. But the anti-Biden ads have also been running as part of more targeted buys in states that hold early nominating contests in the Democratic presidential primary like Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina.
Eight presidential candidates stump at SEIU summit
LOS ANGELES — Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls arrived in Los Angeles this weekend to seek the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at their 2019 presidential forum.
In attendance: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former HUD Sec. Julian Castro, ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The candidates faced a wide variety of questions about migrant detention centers, police reform and climate change. While the topics strayed from labor-specific issues, in the eyes of the SEIU, these are questions central to the labor movement.
“We see all these fights is inextricably linked,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the SEIU. “All of these things that impact our lives, we want to hear from the next presidential candidate what they're going to do.”
While all candidates spoke at length about labor issues and their personal connections to unions, some of the biggest responses they got from SEIU members came from their answers on immigration, ending mass incarceration, and health care.
Warren received a minute-long standing ovation during her answer about shutting down for-profit detention facilities along the border, with SEIU members clapping their hands and chanting “yes we can.”
Booker fired up members in his closing remarks about ending mass incarceration and expunging non-violent drug offense records. Biden choked up on stage when recounting the story of his son Beau Biden’s cancer diagnosis and pledged to “protect your right to health care as it were my own family.”
While addressing union members, candidates were also exposed to an active and diverse voter base.
“SEIU represents over 2 million members in all walks of life, and all races, creed, nationalities, orientation, and we can all feel inclusive here,” said Maureen Casey, chapter president of the Hershey Medical Center SEIU in Pennsylvania. “And so we want to know that the President or whoever we support as the union or in our personal views aligns with our principles of being all inclusive for all of all of America.”
SEIU members said they were generally impressed with the candidates but were hesitant to single out a particular candidate.
“I think we really got a chance to see which candidates listen and how they tend to listen,” said Packy Moran, who works as a lecturer at the University of Iowa. “I think that all eight candidates did well to understand that there's a huge intersectionality between everything that goes on in their campaign and the union, and what we're trying to do in terms of organizing workers and organizing everyone to have more say in their quality of life.”
Others thought it was too early to pick a candidate and appreciated the chance to hear from a larger field.
“I think it's too early to say,” said Leonardo Diaz, an Uber and Lyft driver who is working to form a union for gig-economy workers. “Because, you know, we’re just listening to them what they saying because everybody — they can promise a lot of things, but we have to see, or sometimes we have to read more about their backgrounds what they did before.”
While candidates are waiting to see who the SEIU will endorse, the organization doesn't feel its on a deadline.
“I don't know when,” Henry said when asked about when endorsements would come out. “The trigger is local unions, engaging their members through surveys, polls, text messaging, phone banks, meetings, and then listening to our members who, frankly, are kind of all over the map on who they like or what they think.”
But SEIU was impressed with the amount of candidates who came to this forum. Henry suggested that the Democratic field for this cycle has been more pro-union, saying that “they've been way more willing to call out corporations, which is very different than our past experience.”
“They used to do it more in the backchannel,” Henry said. “They would do it politely. Now, they're sort of standing with workers. And I would say that's a big shift.”
ICYMI: Stories that got lost in the shuffle
WASHINGTON – With the news cycle jammed amid each drip of the House's impeachment inquiry into President Trump, here are a few of the week's other political stories that got a little lost in the shuffle:
While the unemployment rate fell to a new low of 3.5 percent, economists had predicted the September job numbers to add 145,000 new jobs. The report showed a gain of 136,000 jobs. The new data was released after a turbulent week on Wall Street with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing over a thousand points.
The Supreme Court will hear a case challenging a Louisiana law that requires abortion clinic doctors to have hospital admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Women's groups say the law would leave just one doctor able to perform abortions in the state. This is the first major abortion case the Court will hear since Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the bench.
NBC News was given an exclusive look inside camps thought to be detaining a million Muslim Uighers in China. While it's impossible to know if the conditions of the camp were improved or changed for NBC News' visit, the U.S. government and human rights organizations believe about 10 percent of the Uighur population in Xinjiang is locked up.
According to the South Korea military, North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday. Japan responded saying the missile landed inside of Japan's economic exclusive zone which, if true, would be the closest a North Korean missile got to Japan since November 2017. U.S. and North Korean officials plan to meet within the next week to resume nuclear talks.
Biden bashes Trump as 'most corrupt president we've had'
LOS ANGELES — Joe Biden Friday gave his most forceful response yet to President Donald Trump's repeated attacks and claims that the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, should be investigated for unproven charges of corruption.
“We got to get something straight. All this talk from the president about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we've had in modern history, he's the definition of corruption,” Biden told reporters in his first press availability in the nearly two weeks since the the Ukraine controversy erupted.
"He has corrupted the agencies of government," Biden continued, adding that Trump's efforts are "all about making sure that he in fact allowed somebody else to pick his opponent for him. That's what this is about. And I am not going to stand for it."
“He’s indicted himself by his own statements.”
Biden's tone was sharper than usual, stressing his words and pointing his fingers to accentuate the points he was making against a president he said he fears will only grow more erratic as the impeachment inquiry accelerates.
“I'm worried that he gets so unhinged, under the year left to go in this administration, he does something really, really, really stupid in terms of our international interest. I don't mean about our election, he's basically acknowledged he's tried to get people to interfere in our election.”
The Biden campaign released a new ad Saturday attacking President Trump's comments as part of a $6 million broadcast and digital ad buy in the four early primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Biden again insisted that he and his son did not have conflicts of interest when he oversaw U.S.-Ukrainian relations as vice president while Hunter advised a Ukrainian energy company.
Pressed to acknowledge questions about the appearance of his son't work, a defensive Biden said there was “no indication of any conflict of interest, in Ukraine or anywhere else, period.” He also stood by his statement that he had never discussed business with his son after being asked about a picture that showed him golfing with Hunter and a Ukrainian businessman.
“Let's focus on the problem. Focus on this man, what he's doing, that no president has ever done. No President.”
Asked if he would vote to impeach the president if he were still serving in the Senate, Biden responded, "I am not going to speculate what I would do in the Senate."
New Hampshire voters scrutinize health care plans in 2020 candidates
MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., fights to maintain an edge over former Vice President Joe Biden in New Hampshire, the progressive senator is also struggling to differentiate herself from the ideologically similar Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., — especially when it comes to health care, a top issue for first-in-the-nation voters.
It's one of the biggest differences between the Democratic presidential candidates, and while Biden is advocating to continue to build on the Affordable Care Act, Warren has embraced rival Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.
But for Granite Staters who have grown accustomed to Warren having a plan for everything, her lack of a distinctive health care proposal could be a make-or-break for who they decided to support.
“I'm a co-sponsor on a plan that's out there, and I'm with Bernie on Medicare For All,” Warren told reporters in Keene, N.H. on Sept. 25. “We need to make sure that everybody is covered at the lowest possible cost, and draining money out for health insurance companies to make a lot of profits by saying no, and bankrupting families over their healthcare bills is just not working for America.”
For some New Hampshire voters, her stance isn’t good enough.
“I think she has to be more clear,” said Warren supporter Susan Jones of Pelham, N.H., saying that the neighboring senator needs to explain how she intends to pay for her version of Medicare for All.
“She always says she’s going to come out with a plan and you never hear one,” Jones told NBC News. “(Sanders) says he’s going to raise taxes and I don’t mind that because ... if you have to raise it a little, raise it somewhat, it’s still going to cover the cost of what you pay for your insurance.”
Sanders, who often touts having written "the damn bill,” for Medicare for All, doesn’t shy away from telling voters that they would be taxed more in order to implement the coverage.
“I don’t want to lie to you,” Sanders said in Manchester, N.H. on Sept. 30, at a Medicare for All small business town meeting. On the trail, he often points to the universal coverage that countries like Canada provide for its citizens, with medication a fraction of the cost compared to in the United States.
In the latest Monmouth University poll of registered New Hampshire Democrats and unaffiliated voters, a majority (56 percent) would like to have a health care public option in addition to private insurance, 23 percent want to replace private insurance with a single public plan like Medicare for All, 10 percent would like to see any reforms limited to better regulation of costs, and 8 percent prefer no changes to the current system.
Among voters who want a single-payer plan, 40 percent back Warren, 24 percent back Sanders, 17 percent back Biden and 2 percent back South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, D-Ind. Among those who prefer a public option, 27 percent back Biden, 25 percent back Warren, 14 percent back Buttigieg and 7 percent back Sanders.
New Hampshire has the second oldest median age in the country, and the 226,804 senior citizens in the state account for 17 percent of the population. Health care is a particularly critical issue for this voting bloc, which is expected to double by 2040.
Kathleen Chertok from Keene, N.H. says she will likely support Warren in the primary and that she would “probably” want Medicare for All to be implemented — but she is also skeptical of its practicality to happen in this political moment.
“I think a lot of candidates have very strong ideas, they don’t always happen immediately,” she said. “So if we didn’t get right there, that would be okay. I worked in health care for a long time, I'm very disillusioned about our health care system and think we need a big change. It's a right for everybody and shouldn't be based on jobs.”
Some Granite Staters, like undecided voter Corrine Dodge, are open to ideas.
“I am looking for someone who will give us comprehensive health care,” said Dodge, who is deciding between Warren, Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI. “Right now I’m looking at Medicare for All. I know somewhere in between there can be compromise, but we need to do something different.”
Other voters are giving their support to candidates citing health care as an argument for electability.
“When I was looking at candidates this was one thing that put me behind Buttigieg,” Monica Swenson, of Bow, N.H., told NBC News. She said her decision to support Buttigieg was because of his support for Medicare for all who want it. “Everyone has a right to medical insurance. I think Bernie and Warren will scare too many people with Medicare for All. I feel giving a choice opens it up to all voters and we can keep working toward equity.”
This week, the Buttigieg campaign announced a six-figure digital ad buy in New Hampshire highlighting his support for "Medicare for All Who Want It." That argument could have sway in a state where 57 percent of residents get private insurance through their employers.
Doreen Ramos, from Keene, N.H., owns an elder care company and currently suffers from kidney disease. She told NBC News that health care was one of her top issues, and that while she’d love to eventually see a program like Medicare for All implemented across the country, she recognizes that getting that to happen right now is unrealistic. She is an undecided Democratic voter but is leaning towards supporting Biden for president.
“In this country have to figure out a long term care,” she said. “I think Medicaid for All, single-payer system is the way to go, but at some point the country should get there.”
Trump campaign targets Biden in key early states
WASHINGTON — As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is taking to the airwaves in the early voting states to slam former Vice President Joe Biden on Ukraine.
Starting this weekend, the campaign will dedicate more than $1 million of an already-existing $8 million ad buy toward anti-Biden spots in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina’s local markets.
The 30-second commercial, titled "Biden Corruption," starts with an ominous voice over: “Joe Biden promised Ukraine $1 billion if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company.” It does not mention, however, that the prosecutor in question was widely denounced for not investigating corruption more intensely.
The ad also accuses Democrats of wanting to “steal” the 2020 election after losing last cycle. It has already aired nationally on cable, though CNN is refusing to air it. In a statement, CNN said the ad "makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets, including CNN."
But Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh insists that “voters should know about the self-dealing, influence-peddling Bidens as the campaign season progresses.”
The Biden campaign, for its part, announced a $6 million ad buy on Thursday, partially to counter the Trump team’s on-air assault.
After recently announcing a whopping $125 million haul — combined with the Republican National Committee — in the third quarter, the president’s campaign is flush with cash for this kind of spending.
Notably, Trump’s re-election team released three impeachment-related ads in less than a week. The other two, entitled “Coup” and “Changing Things,” accuse the Democrats of wanting to “take the president out” for purely political reasons.
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).
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.
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.