IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.

For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.

1140d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

What we learned from third quarter fundraising reports

and

WASHINGTON — With all eyes focused on Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, the candidates released their third-quarter fundraising reports yesterday evening too. 

Many had already pushed out some top-line numbers meant to display their campaigns in the best light, but the massive paper reports offer an objective look at the health of these campaigns with just a few months to go before voting begins. 

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In Fourth Debate In Ohio
From left, candidates Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro stand together at the start of the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on Oct. 15, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Here are some of the takeaways from the NBC Political Unit:  

Burn rates tell important stories

A candidate’s burn rate (the amount spent divided by the amount raised) is one key metric used to read a fundraising report. Generally, a campaign wants to be taking in more money than it’s putting out, but it’s possible that a heavy investment now can pay off later, especially if a candidate is sitting on a war chest that can allow them to take on a heavy bill in the short term. 

That’s what former Vice President Joe Biden appears to be hoping for — his campaign burned through almost $17.7 million last quarter, bringing in $15.7 million for a burn rate of 112 percent. 

He has enough in the bank, almost $9 million, to cushion that spending rate. But Biden was the only one of the top-four polling candidates (Biden, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg) whose cash on hand dropped from the beginning of the fundraising quarter. 

Sanders leads the pack with $33.7 million on hand, followed by Warren's $25.7 million and Buttigieg's 23.4 million. 

Biden was far from the only candidate with a high burn rate. Every candidate except Sanders, Warren, businessman Andrew Yang, Buttigieg, and author Marianne Williamson spent more than they brought in, and Buttigieg and Williamson’s burn rates were both about 95 percent. 

That includes some heavy proportional spending other candidates, who are either trying to snag a spot on the November debate stage or remain relevant and viable as the distance between the tiers of candidates increases.  

Steyer’s self-funding haul 

Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer’s campaign had been a bit of an enigma up until now — since he announced his campaign in July, he didn’t have to file a quarterly fundraising report until Tuesday. 

But now that he’s opened up his books, one thing is clear: Steyer’s personal wealth is the driving force of his campaign, and it’s driving a massive engine. 

Steyer contributed $47.6 million of his personal wealth to his campaign, helping him to spend $47 million overall last quarter. He raised just $2,047,432.86 from individuals, more than only fellow-self-funder John Delaney (the former Maryland congressman), and Ryan. 

That spending has proven to be a game-changer for Steyer, who made his first debate appearance Tuesday night after failing to qualify for the first three Democratic debates. And he’s already qualified for the next debate in November.

His third-quarter FEC filing tells a story of a campaign without wide support, but with a candidate who has enough money to single-handedly carry his campaign for as long as he wants. 

This kind of personal contribution to the campaign drove some of his Democratic opponents to cry foul. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke said Steyer “succeeded in buying his way” onto the stage. And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said Steyer’s wealth “has helped him gain in the polls like no one else.” But this seems to be a personal investment and strategy Steyer is happy to continue.   

So how much of this money has Steyer burned through? With the total amount raised, Steyer’s burn rate is pretty in line with the rest of the field at 94.72 percent. But what’s his burn rate when only accounting for the cash he’s brought in from individuals? 2,424 percent.  

Boots on the ground

If a big burn rate is the sign of a campaign investment, then it’s important to figure out where that money is going. 

Each of the four top polling candidates prioritized building out their staff this cycle, as Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg all increased their staff since the end of the second quarter.

Buttigieg essentially tripled his staff — last quarter he had about 130 payrolled staff, but he has almost 450 now.  Sanders and Warren, who already had a large staff, doubled the number of people on their payroll to about 560 and 610 members, respectively.

Harris, who has fallen out of the top-polling group, still grew her staff to just over 300 members from about 160. 

One big surprise in staff growth: Andrew Yang. 

Yang had just about 20 people on the payroll at the end of June. While his organization still trails behind higher-polling candidates, he more than tripled his staff and it’s grown to over 70. Yang’s a long way off from the larger campaigns, but he closed the third quarter with a big fundraising increase, a low burn rate and a relatively big investment in staff. 

So where does this leave Biden? While he has a high burn rate and less cash on hand than the beginning of the quarter, his staff numbers doubled. Biden has about 450 staff on the payroll, compared to the about 190 he reported last quarter. 

Only four campaigns didn’t significantly increase their payrolled staff: Castro, O’Rourke, Delaney and Ryan. 

O’Rourke and Castro still have about 130 and 40 payrolled staff respectively, while Delaney has about 50 and Ryan just five.

Castro and O’Rourke have both made the donation threshold for the next debate, but haven’t met the polling measure.

1140d ago / 12:06 AM UTC

Leading gun control group warns candidates 'mandatory buybacks could be dangerous' politically

and

One of the nation's leading gun-control groups is warning presidential candidates that mandatory gun buybacks are not especially popular, even as that debate percolates within the Democratic field. 

A memo sent to the 2020 Democratic campaigns by Giffords, an advocacy group named after former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in 2011, warned that "Democratic candidates for president benefit among primary voters by focusing on background checks and extreme risk protection orders, not the mandatory buyback of assault weapons." 

The memo, from Giffords' political director Joanna Belanger, was sent Friday and shared new polling data commissioned by the group.

"When primary voters are presented with a series of hypothetical profiles for candidates, they overwhelmingly prefer a Democrat who focuses on background checks to one who simply mentions guns or one who focuses on mandatory gun buybacks," the memo, which has since been made public, continued. "Voter skepticism about mandatory buybacks is fueled by the belief that we need to focus on solutions that are proven to work and have broad agreement across party lines."

The group's pollster, Global Strategy Group, added in polling summary: "Supporting background checks is the key to winning over persuadable voters whereas mandatory buybacks could be dangerous."

Mandatory buybacks drew virtually no support from any major gun safety groups or national Democrats until recently, when presidential candidates like former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke embraced the concept and raised its profile. 

The policy would not only ban assault weapons but take the extra step of requiring gun owners to sell existing assault weapons back to the government. “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," O'Rourke said in the last Democratic debate.

Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said they too support mandatory buybacks, while Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana has criticized the idea.

In an interview with NBC News, Giffords Executive Director Peter Ambler stressed the unity in the 2020 Democratic field around major gun issues, saying the disagreement on buybacks "is a side story playing out at the margins."

But he added that Democrats will be best able to take on the National Rifle Association if they remain united around consensus issues like background checks and red flag laws.

"Something that candidates should take note of is that what voters want, even in the primary, is not for candidates to do the most extreme thing just for the sake of doing the most extreme thing," Ambler said.

Established gun safety groups, like Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, have still largely backed alternative approaches, but at least one major new player in the debate has come out for mandatory buybacks.

March For Our Lives, the gun safety movement launched with student survivors of the Parkland shooting, made it a part of their comprehensive policy plan in August. The group co-hosted a candidate forum on gun safety issues last month with Giffords, which was broadcast on MSNBC. 

1141d ago / 6:10 PM UTC

Democrats get punchy ahead of debate

WASHINGTON — It's time for another Democratic debate, and the candidates have already been laying the groundwork in the days leading up to Tuesday's big event.

Recent days have been filled with candidates taking shots at their rivals as they look for a shot of momentum. 

Here are a few of the more notable examples: 

Buttigieg takes on all comers

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been criticizing several of his fellow candidates. He hit Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's decision to shy away from big-dollar fundraisers for her campaign (but not for the party), telling Snapchat's "Good Luck America" that Democrats can't win with "pocket change."

His campaign is also taking on Warren and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders for their support for Medicare-for-All, which Buttigieg has referred to as a "my-way-or-the-highway" approach, with a new digital ad that contrasts his plan with theirs. 

And he's been at the center of a spat over former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's plan for mandatory buybacks of certain semi-automatic weapons. 

O'Rourke has been criticizing Buttigieg for not supporting his plan, saying during a gun violence town hall sponsored by MSNBC that the mayor is someone who is "worried about the polls and want[s] to triangulate or talk to the consultants or listen to the focus groups."

Buttigieg swiped back during the Snapchat interview, calling O'Rourke's plan confiscation. But that prompted criticism from both Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

Candidates pile on O'Rourke over church and state

O'Rourke sparked a kerfuffle last week when he told CNN that churches and religious organizations should lose their tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage. 

Buttigieg told CNN on Sunday that O'Rourke's idea would "deepen the divisions" on the issue and Massachusetts Warren's campaign put out a statement Monday disagreeing with O'Rourke, but not mentioning him by name. 

O'Rourke and his campaign have since walked away from those comments, and he now says his main concern was about discrimination by institutions providing public services. 

Read more from NBC's Benjy Sarlin on the blog

Sanders knocks Warren on capitalism

There's fighting along the left flank too, with Sanders knocking Warren during a recent ABC interview. 

When asked why candidates should choose him over his fellow Medicare-for-All, big-money blasting progressive, Sanders responded by arguing that "Elizabeth, as you know, has said that she's a capitalist through her bones. I'm not," adding that the "greed and corruption" in the country requires a fundamentally different approach. 

—Benjy Sarlin, Melissa Holzberg, Ali Vitali, Ben Pu and Deepa Shivaram contributed

1141d ago / 3:51 PM UTC

Tom Steyer gets his first shot to make a second impression

and

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer will get his first shot on the national debate stage Tuesday, alongside 11 other contenders. His face has been seen on TV screens in living rooms across the country, thanks to an about $20 million ad campaign aimed at boosting his own bid, on top of a series of ads aimed at impeaching President Trump prior to his announcement. 

But now Steyer is hoping voters will re-imagine his billionaire persona and see him as an “outsider” far removed from the world of Washington D.C.

“It's an unusual thing for people, to meet somebody who's described as a billionaire,” Steyer said. “Let me tell you who I think I am, because I think people don't really understand that.”

Image: Tom Steyer listens during a town hall event in Ankeny, Iowa, on Jan. 9, 2019.
Tom Steyer listens during a town hall event in Ankeny, Iowa, on Jan. 9, 2019.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

What people may not understand, according to Steyer, is that he doesn’t travel in private planes — in fact he flies commercial “100 percent” of the time — and gold faucets aren’t a staple in his bathroom. Steyer argues that his work with environmental advocacy group Next Gen America and other grassroots organizations puts him at odds with the wealthy class to which he belongs.

“I actually have a record for 10 years of organizing people against those elites,” Steyer said. “Do I think I'm not lucky? You know, extraordinarily lucky and have advantages? No, I do. But take a look about how I’ve used it.”

Even so, the candidate at times seems disconnected from issues impacting average Americans.

At a house party in Iowa, the key first in the nation caucus state, one elderly man asked the candidate about robocalls that often target senior citizens. In the scenario, a caller, claiming to be an official from the IRS, tells the person on the line that he or she owes the government money. Upon hearing this, Steyer raised his eyebrows in shock, responding “Is that right?” The rest of the attendees nodded in agreement, pointing out that the caller was a fraud.

“Oh, it’s a scam?” Steyer asked, “I didn’t know that.”

Legislative efforts have been underway in both the House and Senate to crack down on robocalls for years, after the Federal Trade Commission received more than 3.7 robocall complaints in 2018 alone — but Steyer seemed unfamiliar with the issue.

At another event, a voter from western Iowa expressed concern about the impacts of ethanol waivers. The waivers, issued by the Trump administration, allow oil companies to opt-out of blending ethanol into their fuel, thus eliminating demand for the bushels of corn that Iowa farmers produce for this purpose. This comes amid a trade war that's also affecting local farmers’ bottom line.

As the potential caucus-goer described the waivers as “turning it all upside down,” Steyer interrupted. “What are the oil waivers? I’m not familiar. What exactly does that refer to?” asked the man running for president, who touts that he’s been organizing in Iowa for the past seven years.

Steyer doesn’t deny that he faces a learning curve. “There are things in this world that I don’t know,” he said.

Despite his lack of knowledge on the intricacies of some issues, Steyer argues that is less important than listening to voters' concerns and being able to respond in real-time.

“When someone explains that to me? Do I have a framework for thinking about what I think about that? Yes,” Steyer said.

The next morning, while answering questions from caucus-goers, he’d clearly done his homework. Steyer spun an inquiry about agriculture and trade into questioning the President’s move to issue waivers to 81 ethanol plants, “Does he know anything about ethanol? Here’s a guy that doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

The disconnect could become concerning for voters as they consider which candidate to support in the caucuses because some doubt that Steyer will be able to expand beyond the issues that he’s invested in.

“He already had Next Gen out doing advocacy for the environment, and then he decided to say [Trump] is a fraud. He riled up his Next Gen audience, so he already has that support cooked in, and that’s what you’re seeing right now,” Tony Currin of Johnson County told NBC News. 

Others, including 68-year-old Al McGaffin a retired teacher in Iowa who attended a meet-and-greet with the candidate, say Steyer has no problem connecting with audiences and would bring a fresh perspective to the presidency.

“His expertise, his ability to understand economics, his ability to understand people and the world, I think he can handle it, I think he’s got the experience,” McGaffin said.

Still, Steyer acknowledges he still has much to learn.

“You don't start at the finish line. The process is super important. You’ve got to think about the processes being a learning experience,” Steyer said. “And that learning experience is important and not threatening.”

“I'll try and say what I think try to be myself and try to present myself as a different candidate from everybody else, which is true, and try and be straightforward about it.” Steyer said. “It's really introducing myself and honestly, that's how I see it.”

1141d ago / 2:15 PM UTC

Andrew Yang wants tech companies to pay users for their personal data

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Presidential candidate Andrew Yang wants your data to be just that: yours.

As a presidential candidate, Yang recently released a proposal establishing data as a property right, meaning users should have control over their personal data — and get paid for it.

“Right now we have this lack of data dignity, there's a tyranny of the tech companies and then we're just looking up and hoping for the best. We can change that,” Yang told NBC News. “And there is more value to be generated if we buy in and accept because right now a lot of the data that's getting sold and resold is anonymous.” 

The idea, he argues, would benefit companies because if users were compensated for their data — from jogging routes to dining preferences — then they would provide more information. The burden would then be on companies to share with each user how they are using, reselling and profiting from that data.

“Right now technology companies are selling and reselling our data and we're none the wiser,” said Yang. “We're seeing none of that value. At this point, our data is worth more than oil. And if that's the case, then we should be benefiting from it, not just the companies.” 

“It's our data, it's our value, it's our property and getting us a share of that value will be an immense game changer for many, many Americans,” he added. “It's not just about the money though, it's about the control, it's about the autonomy, it's about the agency. It's our data, we should know what's happening to it, and we should be able to change our preferences.”

Yang views this “data dividend” as a supplement to or part of his signature proposal, the freedom dividend, in which the government would pay each adult citizen $1,000 a month.

Asked what his idea would look like in practice, with companies like Facebook paying users for information shared, Yang said “that’s the fun part.”

“We have to find out how they're monetizing our information and then get a fair share of that,” he said. “Right now it's difficult to determine precisely because we don't know what they're doing with our information.”

Recently, Gigi Sohn, a former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) special counsel under President Obama criticized Yang’s plan, arguing, “it’s impractical and I also think it will only lead to more litigation.”

Asked if his idea would lead to more privacy problems rather than fewer, Yang told NBC News his idea is not unique, citing the European Union’s approach to data protection rules and the recently passed California Consumer Privacy Act.

“If it was on the companies, where we owed them money, then we know there'd be absolutely no issue,” he said. “But because they are taking our data and profiting from it, that it’s somehow an administrative burden? It really doesn't make any sense.”

1141d ago / 10:10 PM UTC

O’Rourke clarifies position on churches and same-sex marriage as 2020 rivals weigh in

WASHINGTON —Beto O’Rourke clarified his stance on LGBTQ rights and religious institutions as some 2020 Democratic rivals distanced themselves from comments he made last Thursday in which he appeared to back ending tax-exempt status for churches that oppose same-sex marriage. O’Rourke and his staff have since said that was not his intended position.  

Elizabeth Warren’s spokeswoman Saloni Sharma put out a statement on Monday disavowing the concept of denying tax-exempt status to churches over marriage rights. 

"Elizabeth will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community until every person is empowered and able to live their life without fear of discrimination and violence,” the campaign statement said. “Religious institutions in America have long been free to determine their own beliefs and practices, and she does not think we should require them to conduct same-sex marriages in order to maintain their tax exempt status." 

On Sunday, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticized O’Rourke’s stance on CNN, suggesting his rival had perhaps misunderstood the implications of his remarks and that his position would “deepen the divisions that we’re already experiencing at a moment when we’re actually seeing more and more people motivated, often by compassion and by people they love, moving in the right direction on LGBTQ rights.” 

President Trump also invoked O’Rourke’s comments over the weekend, calling him a “wacko” in a speech to the Values Voters Summit.

However, O’Rourke has since ruled out ending tax-exempt status for churches that refuse to endorse or perform same-sex marriage, with the candidate and his staff saying on Sunday and Monday that they would not look to influence religious doctrine, but instead target specific instances of potential discrimination by religiously affiliated institutions. 

“To be specific, the way that you practice your religion or your faith within that mosque or that temple or synagogue or church, that is your business, and not the government's business,” O’Rourke said on MSNBC on Sunday. “But when you are providing services in the public sphere, say, higher education, or health care, or adoption services, and you discriminate or deny equal treatment under the law based on someone's skin color or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation, then we have a problem.”

In the same interview, O’Rourke mentioned a 1983 Supreme Court ruling against Bob Jones University that ruled the religiously affiliated school could be stripped of its tax-exempt status for discriminating on the basis of race. He suggested the Equality Act, a House-passed bill backed by Democratic leadership that would extend civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, would clarify that similar types of discrimination were against the law. 

The initial exchange on Thursday with CNN’s Don Lemon at a forum sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign appeared to go further: O’Rourke was asked whether churches and other religious organizations should “lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage” and answered in the affirmative.

“Yes,” O’Rourke said. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as president, we are going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

The courts are still sorting out the limits of religious exemptions and LGBTQ protections.

Meanwhile, Republicans and many religious organizations are opposed to new civil rights legislation that they fear could force religious schools, charities, and hospitals to take actions they believe violate their faith. But O’Rourke seems to be getting closer to mainstream Democratic and activist territory now, rather than carving out a new position entirely.

1142d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

Big ad spending disparity helps Rispone win second slot in LA gov runoff

WASHINGTON — Businessman Eddie Rispone is the GOP's standard-bearer in the Lousiana governor's race after Republicans kept incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards under 50 percent on Saturday. And Rispone punched that ticket thanks in no small part to a massive spending edge over Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham. 

Edwards was the clear leader (no other major Democrat was running in the "jungle primary," which pits the whole field against each other regardless of political party) with 47 percent of the vote. Rispone finished with 27 percent, followed by Abraham's 24 percent. 

Image: Eddie Rispone speaks at the Louisiana GOP Unity Rally in Kenner on Oct. 5, 2019.
Eddie Rispone speaks at the Louisiana GOP Unity Rally in Kenner on Oct. 5, 2019.Sophia Germer / The Advocate via AP

Rispone's camp spent $8.1 million ahead of Saturday's "jungle primary," about as much as Edwards' campaign did and significantly more than the $2 million spent by Abraham. And a healthy chunk of that money went to blistering attacks on Edwards, particularly in the final days. 

Out of the $672,000 Rispone spent in the final seven days of the race, more than a third of that was spent on attack ads targeting Abraham, according to data from the media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. 

Abraham, by comparison, tried to frame himself as above the fray in the final days. His campaign ran $157,000 worth of ads down that same stretch, the vast majority on a spot that framed him as the candidate who "rose above it all" despite the "noise and negative campaigning." 

If the Democrat had won the majority of votes on Saturday, he'd win re-election outright. But instead, he now has to face Rispone in a runoff next month. 

Look for some serious spending to come in this race as Republicans and Democrats furiously face off in the battle for one of the few red-state gubernatorial seats held by a Democrat. 

1142d ago / 3:15 PM UTC

Sanders campaign co-chair: Heart attack makes senator's commitment to Medicare for All personal

DOVER, NH — As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) takes time off to recover from his recent heart attack, his surrogates have been out on the trail in full swing. This weekend, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fame held five campaign events across the first-in-the-nation primary state, opening field offices and kicking off Green New Deal canvassing with ice cream scoops and energetic speeches. 

Cohen, one of Sanders’ four national campaign co-chairs, told a crowd at the campaign’s Dover, New Hampshire field office that Sanders “health-wise is doing great.”

“His people are trying to hold him back, telling him, ‘you ought to rest up for a bit,’ but the plan is that he’s going to be in the debate on Tuesday and after that he’s going to be hitting trail full steam ahead,” he said to dozens of supporters as they sampled Americone Dream and Cherry Garcia ice cream, two of Ben & Jerrys’ signature flavors.

In a one-on-one interview, Cohen said Sanders has always believed health care is a human right and “he feels it more than ever now.”

“He is raring to go, he just can’t wait to get back on the trail,” he told NBC News. “He is more committed than ever to Medicare for All, he realizes that if somebody who didn’t have decent health insurance was in the position that he was in, they’d be saddled with medical debt, medical bankruptcy, for the crime of having a heart problem.”

According to Cohen, the mood of the campaign is an upbeat, revitalized one. Sanders returns to the trail on Saturday with a rally in Long Island City, NY.   

“It was kind of like a rallying call — people are more psyched, more motivated than ever,” said Cohen. “There’s a real sense that it’s not about him, it’s about us, and that we all need to rise to the occasion because this is the only presidential candidate in my lifetime who has ever had such a progressive, such a view in favor of regular everyday people.”

To him, voter concerns about Sanders’ health are exaggerated, especially since the Vermont senator has always been active.

“Personally, I had quadruple bypass open-heart surgery. That’s a big thing. This guy had a couple of little stents put in. That is not a big thing,” he said.

“I go out on the campaign trail with the guy, I’m out there three days, and I gotta go home and recuperate and he just keeps on going,” Cohen added.

“He was in good shape before this, I think he’s going to be in better shape because now that he’s got his arteries unclogged, he’s got the energy to go out there and unclog all the corruption in our government.”

1142d ago / 1:45 PM UTC

Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, plans three-country fundraising tour

WASHINGTON — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign is turning to Americans living overseas for an extra infusion of campaign cash.

Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Glezman Buttigieg, will embark next week on a three-country European fundraising tour, holding five events over three days, according to invitations obtained by NBC News.

Image: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, in Indiana on April 14, 2019.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, in Indiana on April 14, 2019.Zbigniew Bzdak / TNS via Getty Images file

Chasten Buttigieg will be in the U.K. on Oct. 22 for a cocktail party in Hampstead, just outside London, hosted by Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for the film “Milk.” An invitation to the event says it will go “late” into the night.

Earlier that evening, he’ll be in London for a reception hosted by Eric Beinhocker, a University of Oxford professor and alumnus of McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm where Pete Buttigieg once worked. Lia Larson, a managing director for Goldman Sachs in London, is also a host.

Both London-area events are being co-hosted by Kevin MacLellan, chairman of global distribution and international for NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News.

Then, Chasten Buttigieg will head to France for a reception and a dinner in Paris. He’ll join the campaign’s national investment chair there for a question-and-answer session.

A day later, Chasten Buttigieg will be in Switzerland for a fundraiser at the Geneva home of Ambassador Charles Adams, who was former President Barack Obama’s envoy to Finland and also served on the Obama campaign’s national finance committee.

Under U.S. campaign finance law, campaigns cannot accept donations from foreign nationals. But they can raise money from American citizens or green-card holders living abroad, and it's not unusual for campaigns to do so. The invitations obtained by NBC News state that attendees must provide a copy of their passport or green card to attend.

There was no immediate comment from the Buttigieg campaign.

1142d ago / 9:43 PM UTC

Pro-Trump group targeting vulnerable Democrats on impeachment

WASHINGTON – As the impeachment inquiry enters its fourth week, a pro-Trump policy organization is taking out its first ads of the 2020 cycle looking to damage vulnerable Democrats in their districts, NBC News has learned.

America First Policies, the non-profit arm of the main Trump super-PAC America First Action, will spend more than $1 million to single out 28 lawmakers who the GOP-aligned group believes could face political peril amid the impeachment push. 

The 30-second spots, which echo President Donald Trump’s language and accuse House Democrats of launching a “witch hunt,” are set to appear on Facebook, via text message and on cable television.

A narrator asserts “the radical left will stop at nothing” over images of Rep. Adam Schiff, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the so-called “Squad,” all of whom are favorite foils for the president.

The ads all start the same, but end with a focus on the particular representative in their home district, urging voters to call and tell their lawmakers to “end the witch hunt, oppose impeachment, put America first.” The appropriate phone number will flash on the screen as well. 

Notably, most of the House Democratic Caucus, which includes the two dozen in districts the president won in 2016, have called for some type of movement on impeachment, according to an NBC News tally.

“The impeachment charade must end, so we can pass better trade deals, strengthen our military, and improve our economy,” said Brian O. Walsh, president of America First Policies. “Congress needs to get back to work for the people they represent, and end these hyper-partisan investigations.”

The seven-figure campaign starts Monday and is expected to run for three weeks. The breakdown includes $283,000 for Facebook advertisements; $530,000 for texts that will urge voters to contact their representatives and $250,000 for the television portion. The broadcast ads will air in Iowa's First District, Virginia's Seventh District and Pennsylvania's Eighth District home to Democratic Reps. Abby Finkenauer, Abigail Spanberger, and Matt Cartwright. 

The organization recently conducted polling on the impeachment inquiry in key swing districts and says it found the majority of Americans “oppose impeachment, want Congress to focus on kitchen-table issues and approve of the President looking into 2016 election meddling.”

But a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found 55 percent nationally favor the inquiry, versus 39 percent who believe there isn’t enough evidence to impeach Trump.

Vice President Mike Pence, a top surrogate on this issue, started campaigning against susceptible pro-impeachment Democrats across the country last week and will continue to do so throughout the month.

1144d ago / 6:49 PM UTC

ICYMI: Stories you may have missed

WASHINGTON – Between impeachment and President Trump's decisions to remove troops from Kurdish territory in Syria and sending more troops to Saudi Arabia, some stories got lost in the shuffle. Here are some stories to keep an eye on from the week: 

A wind-fueled wildfire in the San Fernando Valley caused 13,000 homes to be under forced evacuation orders on Thursday. By Friday morning the fire ballooned from 60 to 4,700 acres and was still not under control. During the fires, Pacific Gas & Electric decided to cut the power to parts of Central and Northern California as part of fire-prevention even though the fires have not been said to be caused by power lines. 

Before taking part in trade talks with the Chinese government this week, the U.S. placed many Chinese surveillance companies on an "Entity List" which is the same restrictive list Huawei was placed on earlier this year. Officials said they made this decision because "these entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups." 

Federal judges in California and California blocked a Trump administration policy that would have made it easier for the government to deny legal status to immigrants who use or were deemed likely to need public assistance. The rule was set to go into effect next week. 

European Commission negotiators announced they would "intensify discussions" to try and come to an agreement for the U.K. to leave the European Union before a no-deal exit occurs. While the deadline is Oct. 31, British lawmakers passed a law that would force British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek an extension if a deal is not reached by next Saturday. 

1145d ago / 5:49 PM UTC

Commission on Presidential Debates announces dates and venues for 2020

WASHINGTON — The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday its dates and venues of three general election presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. 

The first presidential debate will be held on Sept. 29, 2020 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. That will be followed by the second debate on Oct. 15 at the University of Michigan, and the third on Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. 

The vice presidential debate will be held on Oct. 2 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. 

The Commission on Presidential Debates is a nonpartisan organization that has produced all general election debates since 1987. 

According to the CPD, in order to be participate in the debates, candidates "must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recently publicly-reported results at the time of the determination."

The CPD has not yet announced which polling organizations will be accepted, but the organization stated it will announce who will be participating in the first presidential debate after Labor Day in 2020. 

This will be the second time Belmont University has been selected to host a presidential debate, the first one coming in 2008. And 2020 marks the first time the commission has selected a school in either Utah or Indiana. 

1145d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

How impeachment is playing in the top 2020 Senate races

WASHINGTON — As House Democrats continue their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and Republicans flock to his defense, senators facing re-election in competitive states are getting caught in the crossfire.

Here’s how the impeachment inquiry is playing out in next year’s top Senate races.

Alabama

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones has not said whether he supports impeachment, but says he supports “a fact-finding mission.”

“The allegation that the president withheld military aid in order to pressure Ukraine — even indirectly — to investigate a political opponent is a very serious matter. It’s critical to national security for the House and Senate to perform their constitutional oversight role and investigate,” Jones tweeted after the story first surfaced in late September.

Image: Sen. Chris Murphy Holds A Press Conference With Fellow Democratic Senators On Protecting Medicaid
Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) speaks during a news conference on healthcare on April 30, 2019 on Capitol Hill.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

Several of the Republicans jockeying to unseat Jones have blasted Democrats over the impeachment inquiry. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., called out Jones directly for his hesitation to pick a side.

“I have a straightforward question for Alabama’s Democrat Senator Doug Jones: Do you support these impeachment proceedings? Every leader in our country should have to say whether they stand with President Trump and the American people or if they stand with the Socialist Squad,” Byrne said in a statement.

Arizona

Appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally has come out strongly against the House’s inquiry, but said she is supportive of the Senate Intelligence Committee looking into the matter.

Image: U.S. Senator McSally speaks during Senate Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on preventing sexual assault on Capitol Hill in Washington
U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) speaks during a Senate Armed Subcommittee hearing on preventing sexual assault where she spoke about her experience of being sexually assaulted in the military on Capitol Hill on March 6, 2019. Earlier in the hearing, McSally said she had been raped by a superior officer and felt "horrified" by how her experiences were handled.Joshua Roberts / Reuters

“Unlike what we're seeing on the House side, before they even have any facts moving forward, and some of the concerns there, the Senate Intelligence Committee has shown itself to be pretty bipartisan and thoughtful in the way they address these issues," she said on Monday.

McSally’s likely Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly, said the allegations against Trump must be investigated, but he stopped short of supporting impeachment.

"We've got to work through the details," said Kelly, a former NASA astronaut, on ABC’s “The View.” "It's a process."

Colorado

Incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has yet to take a hard stance on impeachment, though he did put out a statement denouncing Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry to appease the far-left isn’t something the majority of Americans support and will sharply divide the country,” Gardner said.

This week, Gardner struggled to answer direct questions about whether putting pressure on a foreign leader would ever be appropriate. The video of his exchange with reporters was widely circulated on social media Thursday.

Meanwhile, Gardner’s Democratic challengers, including former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, say they support impeachment. Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, slammed Gardner over his continued support of Trump.

“Look, @CoryGardner — this is all you have to fear if you stand up to your party, as you promised to do in 2014: a tweetstorm from your dear leader. That and maybe a primary,” Romanoff tweeted, referencing Trump’s tweets attacking Sen. Mitt Romney, one of the few Senate Republicans to publicly condemn the president’s actions.

Georgia

Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue has defended Trump, saying his actions do not warrant impeachment.

"There is absolutely nothing in this phone call that rises to the level of that [impeachment]," Perdue told The Associated Press.

Several of the Democrats seeking to unseat Perdue, including defeated congressional candidate Jon Ossoff, have announced their support for impeachment.

“If Trump pressured a foreign power to smear his political opponent, dangling security assistance as leverage, he should be impeached,” Ossoff tweeted.

Kentucky

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would “have no choice” but to take up impeachment proceedings if the House voted to impeach Trump.

In a new campaign ad, the incumbent Republican doubled down on his defense of Trump by promising that under his leadership, impeachment is dead on arrival.

"Nancy Pelosi's in the clutches of a left-wing mob. They finally convinced her to impeach the president," McConnell said. "All of you know your Constitution. The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader.”

"But I need your help," he added. "Please contribute before the deadline."

Democrat Amy McGrath, who’s challenging McConnell in 2020, says she supports the impeachment inquiry and has called on the Republican senator to “do his job.”

“For the record, soliciting (or accepting) dirt on your political opponents from a foreign country is wrong, un-American, and illegal. Asking foreign countries to intervene in our elections is not okay. After 34 years in Washington, I would think @SenateMajLdr would know that,” McGrath tweeted.

McConnell’s campaign has fired back at McGrath, armed with comments she made earlier this year opposing impeachment.

“Yet another flip-flop makes it all the more clear that McGrath is a political opportunist who values the contributions from her California donors over the convictions of the people of Kentucky,” McConnell’s campaign manager Kevin Golden told the Lexington Herald Leader.

Maine

Incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins has declined to comment on the House’s impeachment inquiry, but says Trump made a “big mistake” by asking China to investigate the Bidens.

“The constitutional role of a senator during an impeachment trial includes serving as a juror,” Collins said in a statement. “As such, at this point, it is not appropriate for a senator to comment on the merits of the House inquiry or to prejudge its outcome.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to journalists while walking to the Senate floor on Jan. 24, 2019.Melina Mara / The Washington Post/Getty Images file

Sara Gideon, a Democrat seeking to unseat Collins in 2020, has not explicitly endorsed impeachment but has criticized the Republican senator for putting Trump “ahead of Mainers.”

“I’m tired of hoping that Susan Collins does the right thing when she has shown time and time again that she puts Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell ahead of Mainers,” Gideon said in a tweet.

Michigan

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters backed the House inquiry but has not said whether he would support Trump’s removal from office.

“Should this case come before the Senate, I will be a juror and reach my decision based on a careful and thorough evaluation of the facts,” he said in a statement.

Peters’ potential Republican challenger, John James, has stayed silent on impeachment.

North Carolina

Incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis slammed Democrats over the impeachment inquiry.

“This is yet another pathetic attempt by Democrats to destroy President Trump with falsehoods to overturn the results of the 2016 election. It has not worked in the past, and it will not work now,” he tweeted.

Cal Cunningham, one of the top Democrats seeking to unseat Tillis in 2020, stopped short of calling for impeachment, but he needled the Republican senator over previous comments in which he said it was his duty to “preserve the separation of powers and to curb ... executive overreach.”

“It’s time for Sen. Tillis to honor his words and his duty,” the former state Senator said in a statement.

1145d ago / 8:09 PM UTC

Buttigieg kicks off early state organizing push following big fundraising haul

and

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.”

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

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.”

1146d ago / 1:16 PM UTC

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.

1146d ago / 11:53 AM UTC

Buttigieg releases plan for 'A New Era for LGBTQ+ Americans'

, and

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. 

Image: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the 2019 Presidential Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in Galivants Ferry
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the 2019 Presidential Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in Galivants Ferry, S.C. on Sept. 16, 2019.Randall Hill / Reuters

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.

1147d ago / 7:03 PM UTC

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."

Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a campaign rally in Keene, N.H., on Sept. 25, 2019.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a campaign rally in Keene, N.H., on Sept. 25, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters file

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.

1147d ago / 2:14 AM UTC

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.

Joe Biden speaks at the UnidosUS Annual Conference's Luncheon in San Diego
Joe Biden speaks at the UnidosUS Annual Conference's Luncheon in San Diego on Aug. 5, 2019.UnidosUS

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.

1147d ago / 1:16 AM UTC

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.

1147d ago / 9:11 PM UTC

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

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden waits to be introduced during the 2019 Presidential Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in Galivants Ferry, S.C., on Sept. 16, 2019.Randall Hill / Reuters

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. 

1148d ago / 4:40 PM UTC

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. 

Image: John Bel Edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at an end-of-year news conference on Dec. 20, 2017 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.Melinda Deslatte / AP

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. 

1148d ago / 9:36 PM UTC

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.

Donald Trump
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 18, 2016.Mark J. Terrill / AP file

“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.”  

Image: Delegates scream and yell after announcment that the convention would not hold a roll-call vote at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio
Delegates yell after the temporary chairman of the Republican National Convention announced that the convention would not hold a roll-call vote on the Rules Committee's report and rules changes and rejected the efforts of anti-Trump forces to hold such a vote in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 18, 2016.Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters file

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.

1148d ago / 8:30 PM UTC

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."

1149d ago / 6:40 PM UTC

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.

 

1149d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Ralph Northam, Pam Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, with his wife, Pam, refused calls to resign after a racist yearbook photo emerged in February.Steve Helber / AP file

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).

1149d ago / 4:33 PM UTC

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.

   

1150d ago / 6:55 PM UTC

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.”

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Attend "Union For All" Summit In Los Angeles
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the SEIU Unions for All Summit in Los Angeles, California on Oct. 4, 2019.Mario Tama / Getty Images

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.”

1151d ago / 7:04 PM UTC

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. 

1151d ago / 12:41 AM UTC

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.

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Attend "Union For All" Summit In Los Angeles
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the SEIU Unions for All Summit in Los Angeles, California on Oct. 4, 2019.Mario Tama / Getty Images

"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.”

Charges that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine and put pressure on that country's president to investigate the Bidens are the basis for the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

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."

1152d ago / 5:05 PM UTC

New Hampshire voters scrutinize health care plans in 2020 candidates

and

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.

Image: 2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during a town hall at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California
2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during a town hall at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on Aug. 21, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images file

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.”

1152d ago / 3:33 PM UTC

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.

1152d ago / 7:47 PM UTC

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

, and

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. 

1153d ago / 5:03 PM UTC

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. 

1153d ago / 11:48 AM UTC

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
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.”

1153d ago / 9:59 AM UTC

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.

1154d ago / 5:38 PM UTC

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”

1154d ago / 10:00 AM UTC

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.

1154d ago / 12:19 AM UTC

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.

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

 

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. 

1154d ago / 9:32 PM UTC

More than 50 former female ambassadors call on administration to protect Yovanovitch

and

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.” 

Image: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak during a press conference at the Palace Hotel on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City
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. 

1154d ago / 8:10 PM UTC

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.

1154d ago / 8:05 PM UTC

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.

1155d ago / 5:55 PM UTC

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. 

1156d ago / 7:03 PM UTC

Sanders releases income inequality tax proposal

and

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.

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Climate Forum at Georgetown University on Sept. 19, 2019.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Climate Forum at Georgetown University on Sept. 19, 2019.Jose Luis Magana / AP

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. 

1156d ago / 5:50 PM UTC

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

Buttigieg: $900,000

Biden: $688,000

Delaney: $622,000

Harris: $562,000

Bennet: $365,000

 

Iowa TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30

Steyer: $5.0 million

Gillibrand: $924,000

Buttigieg: $900,000

Biden: $688,000

Harris: $562,000

 

New Hampshire TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30

Steyer: $3.8 million

Gillibrand: $728,000

Gabbard: $229,000

 

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

Gabbard: $297,000

SOURCE: Advertising Analytics

1156d ago / 3:27 PM UTC

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. 

1158d ago / 3:54 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Migrant families turn themselves to U.S. Border Patrol to seek asylum following an illegal crossing of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo
Migrant families turn themselves to U.S. Border Patrol to seek asylum following an illegal crossing of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas on Aug. 23, 2019.Loren Elliott / Reuters

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. 

1159d ago / 3:52 PM UTC

Twelve candidates will share the stage at next Democratic debate

WASHINGTON — The October Democratic primary debate will feature all 12 qualifying candidates on one night. 

The debate will be held on Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio, and hosted by CNN and The New York Times. The three prior Democratic debates have all limited the size of the stage to 10 candidates. The first two debates were held on two separate nights to accommodate all 20 candidates who qualified for those while the September debate only had 10 candidates who qualified. 

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

The 12 candidates who have already qualified for the October debate are: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, D-Ind., former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Andrew Yang.

Steyer and Gabbard are the only additions to the debate stage. Gabbard appeared at the first two debates but failed to qualify for the third, and this will be Steyer's first time qualifying for the debate. 

All other candidates have until Oct. 1 to qualify for the debate, but it's unlikely any will do so. 

1159d ago / 1:12 PM UTC

Elizabeth Warren releases plan to combat lobbyists

and

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has a new plan to tackle corruption — this time focusing on empowering Congress by funding agencies that would lessen reliance on lobbyist knowledge.

Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren speaks during a Town Hall at Keene State College on Sept. 25, 2019 in Keene, N.H.Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Warren claims that Congress has defunded or underfunded many of the services that lawmakers would ordinarily turn to in order to understand complex legislative topics, resulting in lawmakers turning to lobbyists.

“Members of Congress should have the resources they need to make decisions without relying on corporate lobbyists,” Warren wrote. “My anti-corruption plan reinstates and modernizes the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), strengthens congressional support agencies and transitions congressional staffers to competitive salaries so that Congress can act based on the best expertise and information available.“

The Office of Technology Assessment is an office that used to publish reports to help Congress understand complex science and tech topics. The office was dismantled in 1995 by a Republican congressional majority. Warren says the office should be led by a single director and should also expand on what kind of topics the office can write about, “such as preparing for hearings, writing regulatory letters, and weighing in on agency rulemaking.”

In addition, Warren calls for increased funding for other Congressional support agencies like the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Government Accountability Office. Warren says these funding increases will be paid for by “a tax on excessive lobbying.” Warren also calls for increased salaries for congressional staffers in order to better retain staff.

This is yet another piece in Warren’s overall campaign against what she calls corruption in Washington. “These reforms are vital parts of my plan to free our government from the grip of lobbyists — and restore the public’s trust in its government in the process,” Warren wrote.

Warren has also called for the elimination of “lobbying as we know it” and “shutting down the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street.”

1160d ago / 7:10 PM UTC

Booker: Withholding Ukraine aid for political gain would be 'treasonous'

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called accusations that President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine for political purposes "treasonous," hours after a new report quoted Trump attacking the whistleblower who raised concerns about the president's conversations with the Ukrainian president. 

Speaking from New Hampshire during an appearance on MSNBC, Booker responded to Thursday's testimony from Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire as well as a new report in the New York Times that Trump called the whistleblower "close to a spy" and added: "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right?"

"It's not surprising that Donald Trump doesn't know the difference between patriotism and treason. If there are any treasonous actions here, it is coming from the White House," he said, before pointing to the allegation that Trump may have linked American aid to Ukraine to the country investigating former Vice President Joe Biden. 

"We as Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, approved that aid. And now we are realizing that this president was withholding that aid, not for national security purposes, in fact, violating national security interests, to pursue his own personal benefit. That's outrageous, and in my opinion, that is treasonous," Booker added. 

1161d ago / 4:27 PM UTC

Pete Buttigieg’s latest television ad takes aim at Medicare For All

DES MOINES, IA — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out with his latest TV ad for his presidential campaign Wednesday, which takes aim at some of his opponents’ support of “Medicare for All.”

Throughout the 30-second spot titled, “Your Choice,” Buttigieg explains how his “Medicare for All Who Want It,” plan would work. Graphics on-screen help the viewer follow along,  pointing out how his plan will, “go about it in a very different way than [his] competitors.”

He ends the video looking directly into the camera, delivering this definitive line, “Now, others say it’s 'Medicare for All,' or nothing. I approve this message to say, the choice should be yours.”

The spot is the candidate's third television ad to go up in Iowa, and the campaign says it will air statewide across broadcast, cable and digital platforms. 

Buttigieg used similar language during the September debate when the conversation turned to Medicare for All. “I trust the American people to make the right choice for them. Why don't you?,” Buttigieg said on stage, directing his comments at Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who wrote the primary 'Medicare for All' bill.

This sentiment is echoed by Buttigieg on the campaign trail, who repeatedly touted his health care plan during his recent four-day bus tour through Iowa. 

Buttigieg officially debuted his plan last week, which he says would allow millions of Americans to opt into a public insurance plan. That competition, he argues, would force private insurers to compete, driving costs down or create an organic shift of Americans toward the new public option. Buttigieg's campaign estimates the plan would cost $1.5 trillion over the next decade. 

This might be the first time he's making this argument on television, but Buttigieg's Facebook ads have been more direct in calling out Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., by name for their support for 'Medicare for All.' 

“Medicare for All Who Want It will create a public alternative, but unlike the Sanders-Warren vision it doesn’t dictate it to the American people and risk further polarizing them," one ad reads.