The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Buttigieg kicks off early state organizing push following big fundraising haul
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mayor Pete Buttigieg is kicking off what they are billing as a “Boot Pledge Pledge” weekend of action Saturday, ramping up his ground game across the four early states in the presidential primary cycle where the campaign has announced dozens of new hires and a host of canvassing and organizing events.
On the heels of a fundraising quarter where the campaign raised $19.1 million dollars, one of the top hauls in the field, Buttigieg is putting that money to use by staffing up and organizing across Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
“We are incredibly grateful for the people that are investing in this campaign,” Jess O’Connell, senior adviser to the Buttigieg campaign, told NBC News. “I think when you look at the state of the race, as it is right now in these early states, there are only a handful of campaigns that are able to have the resources to have the type of organization that is required to reach as many voters as possible for caucusing and voting.”
This early state push is a part of what the Buttigieg campaign is calling, “phase three.” Having introduced himself on the national stage, and secured large fundraising hauls that will allow him to stay in the race, the campaign is now focused on building out its organization on the ground to support the kind of "retail politics" that they hope will convince voters to commit to the small-town mayor.
“More and more now there are the volunteers and the organizers on the ground by the dozens in our early states,” Buttigieg told reporters of his campaign organization in early states after an event in Ossipee, N.H. on August 25.
“And they're doing that work, forming relationships, getting the message out creatively getting in front of people who maybe don't find their way into my Twitter feed or don't tune in for a TV show I'm going to be on so that we can really expand the reach of this campaign. A lot of it happens outside of public view.”
O'Connell told NBC that with less than four months to go before voting begins, "this weekend of action is our opportunity to activate in the strongest way possible our volunteer networks, our high level of organizers.”
The campaign currently has nearly 100 staffers in Iowa and told NBC it will increase that number by about a third. It plans to mark the occasion by holding hundreds of canvasses at over 70 locations across the state this weekend, with more house meetings planned for later this month.
In New Hampshire, the campaign now has 64 staffers on the ground and 12 field offices in the state. As part of their weekend of action the team is holding 37 events across all ten New Hampshire counties, where they are asking volunteers, grassroots organizers and community leaders to canvass throughout their neighborhoods and ask people to pledge their support to Buttigieg for the primary. The campaign also says there will be a volunteer summit in November, which will build on the weekend of action and growing organization.
In Nevada, the campaign is hosting 17 canvassing events as a part of the weekend of action and organizing at several Las Vegas Pride events. In addition, they are opening their 7th Nevada office in West Las Vegas with Buttigieg’s husband Chasten Buttigieg this weekend, and are set to open 3 more offices ahead of the October 15th debate in the state.
And in South Carolina, the campaign team is holding 38 canvass kickoff events and set to make roughly 50,000 calls to voters throughout the weekend of action. They are also ramping up their staff numbers from the 33 already on the ground. They currently have two field offices in the state and are planning to open two more in Charleston and Greenville ahead of the debate next week.
“This is going to be ongoing,” O’Connell said of the on-the-ground organizing emphasis. “And we've been doing this work, but I think this is one of the largest pushes.”
Booker plan to end sports 'exploitation' includes payments for college athletes
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., rolled out a plan Thursday as part of his presidential campaign that includes proposals to compensate college athletes for the use of their "name, image or likeness," and seek equal pay for women's sports, including the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team.
“The systemic problems in sports are issues of economic justice and fairness,” Booker, who played Division I football at Stanford University, said in the campaign release.
“For too long, we have allowed exploitative practices in professional and college sports to fester — somehow treating sports as different from our broader economy. But sports at these levels is a multi-billion dollar business,” he said. “Just as we shouldn’t accept collusion, wage theft, and a massive gender pay gap in any other industry, we shouldn’t accept them in sports. When I’m president, I will work to end these injustices.”
The plan is the first of its kind from a 2020 presidential candidate.
Booker’s plan comes in the wake of California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing legislation to allow student athletes to profit from endorsement deals and hire agents. Booker would push for a federal version of California’s bill and establish a U.S. Commission on Integrity in Sports.
Highlights from Booker’s plan include:
- Establish the U.S. Commission on Integrity in Sports to oversee college athletics, Olympic committees, and other national governing bodies.
- Allow college athletes to be compensated for their “name, image, or likeness rights” by building on California’s recently passed bill and the Student-Athlete Equity act proposed in Congress.
- Implement “aggressive, evidence-based, and enforceable standards governing the health, safety and wellness of NCAA athletes.”
- Improve educational outcomes and graduation rates for NCAA athletes through strengthened Department of Education oversight.
- Strengthen Title IX to improve gender equity in college sports and sign the Athletics Fair Pay Act into law to close the pay gap in professional women’s sports.
- Require all college universities to help both current and former NCAA athletes pay sports injury-related medical bills.
Booker’s plan targets issues within several professional sports leagues -- the U.S. women’s soccer pay gap, poor pay and working conditions for minor league baseball player, exploitative labor policies for NFL cheerleaders and NBA dancers, and anti-competitive NFL practices that led to the case of Colin Kaepernick.
Buttigieg releases plan for 'A New Era for LGBTQ+ Americans'
DES MOINES, Iowa — Ahead of his appearance at the “Power Our Pride” LGBTQ Town Hall Thursday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out with a new, wide-ranging policy aimed at empowering and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community.
In the plan Buttigieg speaks to the “urgency of an unfinished promise of full equality under the law” — something he hopes to achieve by focusing on equality in all spheres of life.
Drawing from his already proposed Douglass and Guns and Hate Action plans, Buttigieg will “vigorously enforce” hate crimes protection laws by training law enforcement specifically surrounding issues in the LGBTQ+ community, like domestic violence and hate crimes against transgender individuals, especially black trans women.
Buttigieg says passing such legislation will be a “top priority” for his administration. His plan also calls for an examination of what it calls unconstitutional religious exemption policies at the federal level with a promise to “refocus, reassign, or remove” offices that he says were put in place to discriminate, specifically citing offices at the Department of Health and Human Services specifically.
The plan, titled, “Becoming Whole: A New Era for LGBTQ+ Americans,” also includes a robust section aimed at addressing disparities in healthcare. The candidate vows to enact policies that will cover gender-affirming care and train clinicians to better understand the health needs of the LGTBQ+ community. For example, he intends to end the ban on blood donation from gay and bisexual men opting for a more science-based approach to determine blood donor deferral guidelines that prevent HIV transmission.
The mayor hopes to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 by funding research and reestablishing the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. Buttigieg would also ensure universal access to anti-HIV medication, PrEP and decriminalize the transmission of HIV.
The policy also calls on Congress to pass the LGBTQ+ Suicide Prevention Act, which would dedicate a task force to address risk factors that often increase rates of suicide among the community, including stigma, homelessness and bullying. In addition, Buttigieg plans to launch a public health campaign to encourage family acceptance and end discrimination against adoptive or foster parents and children based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While also putting an end to, “conversion therapy” nationwide.
Buttigieg will expand on existing programs from the Obama administration to encourage leaders in both private and public sectors to mentor LGBTQ+ youth, while increasing funding for community centers, workforce training and apprenticeship programs.
The Buttigieg administration would immediately repeal the transgender military ban, while issuing honorable discharges to those forced to leave the service due to identifying as transgender and restoring deserved benefits.
On the global stage, the presidential hopeful plans to strengthen protections of LGBTQ+ immigrants and refugees in the U.S. & lead against persecution internationally.
Elizabeth Warren's campaign clarifies she'll raise big-dollar money for the party as nominee
WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Warren's quote sent shockwaves through the political campaign finance world.
If she became the nominee, she said, she would refuse to attend big-dollar fundraisers — for her campaign and possibly also for the party. Her comments came in an interview with CBS News.
CBS News: "Can you guarantee your supporters that under no circumstances, no matter how much money Donald Trump is raising, you will not take big dollar ..."
Warren: "I’m not going to go do the big dollar fundraisers. I’m just not going to do it."
Previously, Warren had said that her ban on high-dollar fundraisers was for the primaries — not the general election.
The significance here: Such a blanket restriction could hurt any Democratic Party effort to narrow the fundraising gap with Republicans, especially after President Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee raised a combined $125 million in the last fundraising quarter. (By comparison, Warren raised nearly $25 million for only her campaign in the quarter.)
Barack Obama’s former national finance director, Rufus Gifford, criticized the initial report.
But in a statement to NBC News, the Warren campaign clarified that the candidate would indeed attend high-dollar events for the party (where individuals can donate tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars) — though not for the campaign (where the maximum primary and general election donation is a combined $5,600).
“When Elizabeth is the Democratic nominee for president, she’s not going to change a thing in how she runs her campaign. That means no PAC money. No federal lobbyist money. No special access or call time with rich donors or big dollar fundraisers to underwrite our campaign,” said Kristen Orthman, the campaign’s communications director.
“When she is the nominee, she will continue to raise money and attend events that are open to the press to make sure the Democratic National Committee, state and local parties, and Democratic candidates everywhere have the resources not just to beat Donald Trump but also to win back Congress and state legislatures all across the country.”
The distinction might open up Warren to charges of hypocrisy; why refuse to attend high-dollar fundraisers for your campaign, but gladly attend them for the party?
But it probably quiets Democrats like Gifford fearful that Warren — if she's the nominee — would unilaterally disarm against the Trump-RNC money machine.
Biden's higher education plan aims to ease student loan debt
Former Vice President Joe Biden released his higher education plan Tuesday, aimed at providing options to ease student loan debt and accessibility to a two or four-year institution with the goal of having more people enter the middle class.
Unlike his more progressive Democratic rivals Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Biden will only make tuition debt free for those who attend two years of community college or high-quality training programs. The Biden campaign argues that two free years of community college would cut four year education rates in half since students could transfer their credits to complete their college education.
Numerous investments to improve the quality of education in community colleges as well as HBCUs and minority institutions would cost an approximate $750 billion, which will be paid for by increasing taxes on the super wealthy and eliminating the “stepped-up basis” loophole, according to the campaign.
Warren and Sanders are proposing four years of free community and public college tuition and forgiving most if not all existing student debt, respectively.
Biden’s plan would forgive outstanding student debt for those who have responsibly paid it back for 20 years. Those working jobs in “national or community service” like teaching or non-profits, would receive $10,000 student debt relief annually for up to five years for each year that they stay in that vocational job..
People making more than $25,000 would direct pay 5 percent of their discretionary income toward their loan, which is half of the current 10 percent cap. Those who make $25,000 or less would not be expected to pay back the government and would not accrue interest.
DREAMers, young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, would also be eligible to receive a free two-year education. They would also receive financial aid, based on requirements already established under existing financial aid eligibility.
Dr. Jill Biden, who has worked at community colleges for over 30 years and is currently teaching at Northern Virginia Community College, told reporters on a briefing call Monday evening that Biden’s plan will give students like hers the opportunity to succeed because it was crafted by educators who witness the problems with the higher education system daily.
“What means the most to me is that it comes from listening to educators and students, not telling them what we think they need. It goes beyond tuition and supports a holistic approach to retention and completion. That’s what really makes a difference in my students lives,” she said.
The focus on higher education compliments Biden’s education plan, which aims to triple federal government spending to help hire more teachers, pay teachers more, enroll all 3 and 4-year-olds into pre-Kindergarten and increase coursework rigor across the country.
Hillary Clinton camp says former candidate 'just having a little fun' with Trump tweets
WASHINGTON — Is Hillary Clinton running for president again? No, but she sure seems to be relishing the prospect of anything that gets under the president’s skin, as was evident in her response Tuesday to Trump taunting her.
A source close to Clinton indicates that nothing has changed and no, she is not planning to launch another presidential bid. “She’s just having a little fun,” this person told NBC News.
Earlier this year, Clinton stated definitively that she was not running but also that she was “not going anywhere” and “would keep speaking out.”
Still, the former secretary of state has raised eyebrows several times over the past year with cryptic comments and tweets, often trolling President Trump. Those close to her say that’s more about adding her voice to the conversation and less about some secret plan to seek the presidency for the third time.
As you may have seen recently, she and daughter Chelsea have a new book out about “Gutsy Women.” It certainly doesn’t take a publicity tour to get the attention of the Oval Office occupant who defeated her though. Trump consistently tweets about “Crooked Hillary” and continues to bring her up at campaign rallies across the country.
Clinton allies point to this as a major reason for her to continue to respond to Trump’s insults — both online and in interviews — and we can expect to see more of that in the months to come. “Why does he get to have all the fun?” another source said.
California Sen. Feinstein backs Biden over home-state Harris
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden over her fellow California Sen. Kamala Harris Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo confirmed to NBC News on Thursday.
The news was first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle.
Feinstein’s endorsement is in no way surprising. Even before Biden jumped into the race, Feinstein told Capitol Hill reporters in January of this year that Biden was her top choice given his decades of political experience.
She welcomed Biden into her San Francisco home last week where she held a fundraiser for him and her husband Richard Blum has co-hosted numerous fundraisers for Biden since he launched his campaign in April.
But the nod gives Biden a key ally in the delegate-rich state of California. The Golden State's junior senator, Harris, is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Democrat John Bel Edwards at 45 percent in new poll of crowded field days before Louisiana gubernatorial election
WASHINGTON — A new poll out just days before Saturday's election shows Gov. John Bel Edwards, D-La., well ahead of the rest of the field with 45 percent support but short of the 50 percent he needs to avoid a runoff election.
Edwards is running in a crowded field that includes two prominent Republican candidates, Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone.
Assuming Edwards is the top vote-getter on Saturday (an almost foregone conclusion considering his station as the incumbent and the only major Democrat running), he will either win the election outright with 50 percent plus one, or move onto a runoff against the second-place finisher.
The new poll, from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, found Edwards at 45 percent of the vote, followed by Rispone at 18 and Abraham at 17. Ten percent of those surveyed were undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of four percent, which means the majority could be in reach for Edwards and that the two Republican candidates remain locked in a tight race for second place.
That 50-percent threshold is the big prize for Democrats on Saturday, as they’d love to avoid a runoff entirely and lock in Edwards for another term.
But Republicans have sought to drum up enthusiasm for the election to force Edwards to a runoff, and President Trump is traveling to the state for a rally on Friday, the eve of the election.
Edwards has a favorable rating of 39 percent, while 27 percent view him unfavorably. That +12 net favorability rating is the best of the top three candidates—Rispone's net favorability rating is +7 and Abraham's is +9.
The survey also shows Edwards leading both candidates in a runoff, Rispone down 9 points and Abraham down 15 points. And the plurality of voters, 45 percent, believe the state is on the right track, compared to the 41 percent who say it's on the wrong track.
Edwards' job approval rate is 56 percent, while 34 percent say they disapprove of his performance as governor.
He won the 2015 gubernatorial race after a bruising battle with former Republican Sen. David Vitter, whose campaign was kneecapped by a prostitution scandal from a decade prior.
Since he’s taken office, Edwards has been one of the Democratic Party’s more conservative governors, prompting criticism from his own party by signing a strict bill limiting abortion access. But he also racked up a few high-profile wins for the Democrats, including his decision to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.
Mason-Dixon polled 625 registered voters by phone between Oct. 1 and Oct. 4, all who said they were likely to vote in the Saturday primary.
Trump campaign touts Republican rule changes to keep 2020 convention delegates in line
WASHINGTON — For nearly a year, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has worked to tighten delegate rules among state Republican parties to ensure an orderly convention next summer in Charlotte, according to senior officials.
The goal is to create a “four-day television commercial to 300 million Americans and not an internal debate among a few thousand activists,” an aide told reporters on a conference call Monday.
Last week, 37 states and territories submitted plans to the Republican National Committee with their updated guidelines that would give the campaign more say over delegate selection, mostly to avoid any embarrassment and unnecessary storylines about any potential dissent.
A small group of delegates briefly seized the spotlight during the 2016 convention in Cleveland when they made a failed bid to vote down the convention rules.
This time, senior officials said, the campaign has made a concerted effort to ensure a “predetermined outcome” and essentially plan for more of a coronation than a convention.
“We don’t care at all about the lighting or TV camera angles at the convention in Charlotte. We do care about who is seated in all the chairs on the convention floor,” an official said, arguing a “properly executed convention vote is the single most important thing a campaign can do to put their candidate on the pathway to re-election.”
The 10-month effort was underway long before the impeachment inquiry was announced, but the new backdrop becomes more relevant as he continues to fight the congressional review.
For months, the campaign and the RNC have dismissed the president’s primary challengers: former Rep. Joe Walsh, former Gov. Bill Weld and former Gov. Mark Sanford.
“We don’t pay any mind to the guys trying to run in the primary,” one official quipped, noting their focus extends far beyond the summer and into the general to make sure the president is in “the best position to win” next November.
“If any of them paid any amount of attention to the rules that govern the delegate process, they’d know that the pathway has already been closed.”
Earlier this year, several places canceled their presidential primary contests, including in critical early nominating states Nevada and South Carolina. Officials maintained the newer “nuanced” rule changes in dozens of states are “arguably more impactful.”
Now, many states have passed bylaw amendments to bind their delegates to a “winner takes all” election outcome, effectively streamlining and “reshaping” the selection process for the convention.
Notably, on the call, officials pointed to Massachusetts — Weld’s home state — as a place where the campaign felt delegates might be disproportionately allocated, thought they stressed the rule-altering “is not being done from a position of weakness.”
The campaign also pointed to history and the fact that only five presidents who sought re-election were denied a second term. That’s why it was important to confirm state parties have their “ducks in a row,” they said.
As the titular leader of the GOP, the president gets to control his party rules and dictate strategy. The incumbency also provides plenty of advantages, including a long runway to make and execute these kinds of plans at the state level.
Aides painted the move as a strategic insurance policy to appear as united and organized as possible heading into next year’s election.
The campaign reiterated it is uniquely positioned to have this stronghold since Trump is the only candidate to ever file for re-election on the day of his inauguration.
Harris: I would vote in Senate to remove President Trump from office
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Monday that she would vote to convict President Trump and remove him from office if faced with the choice in the Senate today, arguing that Trump has shown a "consciousness of guilt and attempt to cover up" an attempt to push a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election.
During an interview on MSNBC Harris entertained the hypothetical vote, which would have to follow a majority vote in the House to impeach Trump. The president can be removed from office after a majority vote for impeachment in the House and a two-thirds vote to remove him in the Senate, a situation seen as unlikely considering GOP control of the Senate.
"The main subject of the impeachment, which is the issue of yet again, Donald Trump eliciting help from a foreign government to interfere in our election of our president of the United States. In this case we’ve basically got a confession. We’ve got a display of consciousness of guilt and attempt to cover up," she said.
"You know, I don’t know how much we need but apparently there’s a second whistleblower, so we’re going to get more. But based on everything we know, including an admission by this president, I don’t know that it leads in any other direction except to vote yes, which is what I believe I will do based on everything I know."
Prominent New York Dems face a new crop of young primary challengers for 2020
In 2018, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was celebrating her longshot primary victory over 10-term Democratic congressman Joe Crowley, two other young progressive New York congressional candidates had fallen just short in their challenges against longtime lawmakers.
Both are back in for 2020, but this time they’re not alone.
Galvanized by Ocasio-Cortez’s victory and the Democratic Party’s resurgent left wing, a young, diverse group of candidates has emerged to take on four more of New York City’s most prominent Democrats.
The two returning candidates are Suraj Patel, a 35-year-old former Obama staffer who lost a 2018 challenge to 13-term Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney by under 9,000 votes, and Adam Bunkedekko, a 31-year-old Harvard Business graduate and son of Ugandan refugees, who came within 1,100 votes of unseating six-term incumbent Yvette Clarke in Brooklyn’s 9th District.
They’re joined by new congressional hopefuls who range in age from 25 to their mid-40s, a youth movement that stands in contrast to the four incumbents, whose average age is over 63 years old.
The challengers all support the progressive policies du jour — Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Many also back abolishing ICE and banning assault weapons, policies that are controversial nationwide but crowd-pleasers in the deep-blue city.
And while the current representatives have served a combined 66 terms and were all once members of the State Assembly or the City Council, none of their rivals have held elected office. Most are political newcomers, and several got their start in politics on recent insurgent campaigns that inspired their own runs.
Shaniyat Chowdhury, a 27-year-old bartender and former Marine, is Ocasio-Cortez’s former deputy policy director. Like his old boss, he is trying to unseat the Queens Democratic Party Chair: Rep. Gregory Meeks, who replaced Crowley last year.
But he faces a steeper challenge than Ocasio-Cortez, who harnessed the shifting demographics of her rapidly-diversifying district to put Crowley, who first won the 14th district when it was 58 percent white in 1998, on the defensive. Meeks’ district is solidly-middle-class, majority black and has seen far less population turnover than the 14th over the past decade.
Mel Gagarin, a 37-year-old member of the Democratic Socialists of America challenging Rep. Grace Meng, worked as an organizer on Tiffany Cabán’s DSA-backed campaign for Queens District Attorney.
Jonathan Herzog, a 2015 Harvard graduate, previously served as Andrew Yang’s Iowa campaign coordinator before mounting his challenge to Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler. Also challenging Nadler is 25-year-old cryptocurrency analyst Amanda Frankel.
Yet another challenger to Nadler has the backing of more traditional political benefactors. Lindsey Boylan, 35, is a former official in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. She raised a respectable $250,000 to start her campaign, including donations from former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey and former CIA director George Tenet (both work at the same firm as Boylan’s husband). But it’s unclear if Boylan, whose campaign began because of what she called Nadler’s failure to pursue President Trump’s impeachment more aggressively , can maintain momentum as the House launches a full-throated impeachment inquiry.
Only one challenger so far is supported by Justice Democrats, the political action committee that helped power Ocasio-Cortez to victory: Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal running against Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel.
Like Joe Crowley, Engel is white, and like Crowley’s district, the 16th District is majority-minority (31 percent black and 25 percent Hispanic). But Bowman, who is black, cannot count on the same demographic shifts as Ocasio-Cortez. Engel’s district has been majority-minority for the 30 years he has represented it, and Engel has dispatched previous primary challengers with ease.
For her part, Ocasio-Cortez has not made endorsements in her neighbors’ fights. But her 2018 victory remains a guiding light for New York’s newest insurgents.
Of course, it also serves as a warning light for the remaining incumbents. Unlike Crowley, they won’t be caught off guard this time.