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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Buttigieg releases women's health and economic empowerment plan

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Pete Buttigieg Thursday unveiled a new set of policy proposals to address issues involving women’s health and economic empowerment centering on several key areas of improvement including:

  • Gender pay and wealth equity 
  • Women’s health and choice
  • Securing power and influence
  • Building safe inclusive communities for women and families

“Women’s freedom can’t depend on Washington,” the plan says. “It can only come from systematically building women’s power in our economy, our political system, and in every part of our society.”   

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall meeting on Oct. 12, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.Scott Olson / Getty Images

           

The South Bend, Indiana mayor says he will commit to nominating a cabinet and judiciary that is at least half women as well as prioritizing diversity in all presidential appointments across federal agencies, commissions and boards. He also calls for reinstating the White House Council on Women and Girls. 

To close the wage gap, Buttigieg says he would implement a $15 minimum wage, require gender pay transparency and hold employers accountable for discrimination, as well as address factors that disproportionately target women of color and widen the racial wage gap. 

The plan looks to expand gender diversity in “high priority,” sectors including computer science and construction by requiring all federally funded workforce programs to achieve target goals in women’s participation. 

It prioritizes increasing the number of women-owned businesses, and invest in scaling successful businesses, including access to capital and mentorship for women entrepreneurs by over $50 billion. And it details steps to combat sexual assault and harassment in the work place. 

The plan also calls for ending the trade off between career and family for women, including reducing the burden on unpaid family caregivers. It calls for caregivers to be considered eligible for Social Security, and says more details are to come in a forthcoming long-term care plan. 

Buttigieg would invest $10 billion to end workplace sexual harassment and discrimination against women, including a proposal to empower workers to file formal complaints about sexual harassment and discrimination, and stop companies from hiding problems, as well as banning forced arbitration clauses that deny women their right to challenge workplace harassment and discrimination in court. 

Buttigieg emphasizes the need for a “culture change” to occur around issues of sexual harassment and discrimination earlier in life. In order to achieve this a Buttigieg administration would work with states to educate students in public schools on consent and bystander intervention. In addition to reinforcing support for sexual violence prevention programs on college campuses.

In this plan, Buttigieg reiterates many of the polices he’s laid out in previous plans on criminal justice and healthcare aimed at addressing disparities in care and treatment.

Notably, on abortion rights, one of the most fiercely discussed issues in the 2020 election, Buttigieg says he would codify the right to abortion by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, thereby preventing states from interfering in women’s access to abortions. At the ground level the candidate hopes to increase the number of clinicians who offer abortions and expand access to services by allowing them to provide remote medication abortion services.

In battleground Wisconsin, support for impeachment lags behind national polls

WASHINGTON — A new Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin, arguably the most important state for the 2020 presidential race,  is a reminder that the national poll results we’re seeing are a bit different than in the attitudes in top battleground states for 2020. 

In the poll, 46 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin say there is enough cause for Congress to hold impeachment hearings on Trump, versus 49 percent who disagree. That 46 percent is lower than the majorities we’ve seen in most national polls supporting the impeachment inquiry.

 

The poll also finds 44 percent of Wisconsin supporting Trump’s impeachment/removal from office, versus 51 percent who oppose it.

Trump’s job rating in Wisconsin is 46 percent in the poll — slightly higher than his national average in the low 40s.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on supporting the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal during a visit to Derco Aerospace Inc., a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, in Milwaukee, July 12, 2019.Carlos Barria / Reuters

In hypothetical general-election matchups, Biden leads Trump by 6 points in the state, 50 percent to 44 percent. That’s compared with Bernie Sanders’ 2-point lead (48 percent to 46 percent), Elizabeth Warren’s 1-point lead (47 percent to 46 percent), and Pete Buttigieg’s 2-point deficit (43 percent-45 percent).

Most national polling shows all of these Democrats ahead of Trump by double digits or high-single digits.

The poll was conducted Oct. 13-17 of 799 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Castro releases "First Chance Plan" for criminal justice

Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro is out with his new criminal justice plan Wednesday, which he's billing as a "First Chance Plan" to give everyone an "effective first chance to succeed" instead of addressing recidivism after a person is already incarcerated. 

Check out some highlights from the plan and read more at NBC Latino

  • Close all for-profit prisons, reform civil asset forfeiture process, abolish the death penalty
  • Establish “First Chance Advisory Council” + “Second Chance Centers” for formerly incarcerated people to advise on needs to improve prison conditions & prevent incarceration, and provide resources & assistance to newly formerly incarcerated.
  • Stricter standards for juvenile incarceration & allow children up to the age of 21 to be tried through juvenile justice system
  • Invest in public defenders by re-opening & expanding Obama’s Office for Access to justice + ensure fair caseload limits and pay equality
  • Pass legislation “banning the box” on employment application forms
  • Return right to vote to formerly incarcerated people.

AOC backs challenger to Texas Democratic congressman

WASHINGTON — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who knocked off an entrenched Democratic congressman in her 2018 primary election, is backing a Texas Democrat's quest to defeat another incumbent in 2020. 

Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Jessica Cisneros, a human rights lawyer from Laredo who is challenging Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, the former Texas secretary of state whose represented the south Texas district since 2005. 

"Jessica is an incredible candidate who’s rooted in her community, who has served her community, who understands the working families of her community ― and she’s supportive of a progressive agenda,” Ocasio-Cortez told HuffPo as she announced her endorsement. 

Cisneros is running from Cuellar's left, linking him to President Trump and attacking his record as too conservative. 

Cuellar hasn't previously faced much of a challenge at the ballot box since he first won his seat.

But the moderate Congressman has drawn the ire of progressives for not backing party orthodoxy on issues like abortion, immigration and guns. Recently, Cuellar voted to support the Hyde Amendment (which bans the use of federal funds on abortion services) and to strip grants from sanctuary cities and states. He's also previously received an A-rating from the National Rifle Association. 

Cisneros has the backing of Justice Democrats, the same group that helped Ocasio-Cortez mount her underdog bid in 2018. But she's also recently won the endorsement of EMILY's List, the pro-abortion rights group that backs female candidates and wields significant power within the Democratic establishment. 

Cuellar and his campaign have argued his record is a reflection of the moderate leanings of his district. 

"We feel very strongly that the Congressman represents the values of his district very well and that he knows and understands the priorities for his constituents, and we look forward to comparing his record of service to any candidate that gets in the race," Colin Strother, Cuellar's campaign spokesman, told NBC News after Cisneros announced her campaign. 

And he has powerful allies — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, the head of the House Democrats' campaign arm, both said during last month's Texas Tribune Festival that they'll enthusiastically support Cuellar's reelection. 

This is Ocasio-Cortez's second endorsement against a sitting Democratic colleague — she previously backed a Democrat challenging Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, another congressman whose voting record on abortion rights has prompted criticism from the left. 

Julián Castro warns he'll drop out if he can’t raise $800,000 by end of October

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro sent an urgent email to supporters Monday morning, in bolded red text, reading: “If I can’t raise $800,000 in the next 10 days — I will have no choice but to end my race for President.”

The threat is reminiscent of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign, which warned in a September memo that without another $1.7 million raised in 10 days, Booker's campaign wouldn't have a "legitimate long-term path forward." Booker ended up hitting this goal and has already qualified for the November debate stage.

In Castro's email, he warns that without the $800,000, "I won't have the resources to keep my campaign running." The note ties cash intake to high polling numbers, as the candidate struggles to meet the threshold for the November debate, sponsored by MSNBC and The Washington Post. 

“Our campaign is facing its biggest challenge yet,” campaign manager Maya Rupert said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we do not see a path to victory that doesn't include making the November debate stage — and without a significant uptick in our fundraising, we cannot make that debate.”

"This isn’t a gimmick or a threat, it’s the stakes,” Castro’s national press secretary, Sawyer Hackett, tweeted following the email blast. “If we don’t make the debate, fundraising will slow and we will continue to be shut out by the media, leaving us no path to victory. Tom Steyer unfortunately proved cash can get you polls — we need the resources to get there.”

Steyer, who is a billionaire, has injected more than $45 million of his own money into his campaign and has qualified for the debate stage. 

The last fundraising quarter was Castro’s best yet, bringing in $3.5 million. But because he spent heavily, his cash-on-hand total rests at about $672,000 — well below other low-polling candidates like Gov. Steve Bullock, Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Castro’s campaign says it's hit the 165,000 donors needed for the November 20 debate in Georgia, but he has not received any qualifying polls required to be on the stage. The deadline to qualify is Nov. 13.

Buttigieg rises in latest Iowa poll, launches new ad

WASHINGTON — South Bend, Ind. Democratic Mayor Pete Buttigieg has risen to third place in a new Iowa Democratic caucus poll, putting him behind only former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

The South Bend, Indiana mayor netted 13 percent in a new Suffolk University/USA Today poll released Monday morning, trailing Biden's 18 percent and 17 percent respectively. The three were the only candidates to finish in double digits — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders finished at 9 points, followed by billionaire Tom Steyer, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and California Sen. Kamala Harris at 3 percent. 

The finish for Buttigieg marks a 7-point gain from his showing in a June poll by the same outlets. He also narrowly led among voters who watched the Democratic primary debates, and finished behind only Warren when voters were asked to give their second-choice candidate. 

A new face on the national political scene, Buttigieg has emerged as one of the field's strongest fundraisers. After starting at an organizational deficit to better-known candidates, the mayor has directed his massive resources toward building out an organization in early states — he almost tripled the number of staff on payroll between June and September, Federal Election Commission reports show

Also on Monday, Buttigieg's campaign released a new ad that will air in the Quad Cities of Iowa. it's aimed at rural communities, arguing that both urban and rural areas should "have an equal shot at success in this country." 

Suffolk and USA Today polled 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers between Oct. 16 and Oct. 18 with a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. 

An energized Klobuchar gets warm reception in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, N.H. — On the heels of a widely noted performance in Tuesday’s debate, Senator Amy Klobuchar headed straight to New Hampshire for a 30-hour, campaign swing through all of the state's 10 counties where she appeared in various venues this week — from organized town hall event settings to brief stops at breakfast spots and coffee shops.

The Minnesota senator now heads to Iowa for a bus tour and a similar focus on retail politics in another early primary state.

“I just want to make clear that my campaign is yes about debates, yes about reaching out but it's really about this kind of grassroots campaigning,” Klobuchar told reporters after one of her events in Concord.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.NBC News

Her campaign is now touting $1.5 million raised in the 36 hours following the debate. And Klobuchar appeared energized from her performance at many of her events in the Granite State.

“I felt good about the debate,” Klobuchar told reporters in Manchester, ahead of an evening stop at the infamous Red Arrow Diner. “My goal was to make sure that a lot of people understood where I was coming from and how I could lead the country who maybe didn't know who I was or just could heard me once and I think we accomplished that."

"And then we just had this surge of support," she added. "Ever since the debate, we're really doing well online people are really interested.”

Voters that NBC News spoke with at her events were largely impressed with her debate performance, but still skeptical if she could lead the Democratic field and ultimately face President Trump in the general election. One man who said that had voted for Trump in 2016 said he was so frustrated now that he is willing to check out more moderate Democratic candidates, and Klobuchar was the first candidate he’d gone to see in person this cycle.

At an event in Londonderry the evening following the debate, Klobuchar spoke to a large, energized crowd at a town hall of over 250 people. She received a standing ovation as she walked, and chants of “Amy” began to break out from the predominantly elderly audience. As she was introduced, and her debate performance was hinted at, the crowd burst into applause. 

When asked about criticisms she made during the debate about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., more progressive position of Medicare for All and how that would be funded, Klobuchar said, “I don't actually focus much on other people's campaigns and my arguments and the issues that I had on that debate, were really about policy and the voters are going to ultimately decide who they think is the best candidate to lead our ticket."

Pressed in Manchester whether her primary opponents are being forthright in their description of Medicare for All and what it costs, Klobuchar told reporters “they've been very clear and it's right there in writing, it's not disputed that it would kick 149 million off their current insurance. 149 million people in just four years. That's right there on page eight and I think just the issue is how are they going to pay for it? As I said last night, who are they going to send the invoice to? And they're going to have to be forthright about that as well.”

They Voted to Impeach Their Own Party’s President — And Lived to Tell the Tale

WASHINGTON — Democrats in the House of Representatives likely have enough support to impeach President Trump with no Republican votes. And while a handful of Republican members of Congress have expressed cautious support for the ongoing inquiry now entering its fourth week, none have indicated they are actually anywhere close to voting to impeach.

Though it may seem unlikely in today’s hyper-partisan era, it is not unheard of for representatives to vote to impeach a president from their own party.

Twelve members of Congress have voted against their own party’s president at some stage of America’s two previous impeachment proceedings: seven Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee backed articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon in 1974, and five Democrats voted against Bill Clinton on the House floor in 1998.

President Richard Nixon in his White House office after delivering a television address on March 16, 1972.John Duricka / AP file

And while today’s Republicans tread carefully around Trump, who delights in attacking critics in his own party, a look at previous impeachments shows that a vote against one’s own party leader hasn’t necessarily been a political career-ender.

In 1974, at the height of Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee sent three articles of impeachment against President Nixon to the House floor. Nixon resigned before the whole House could vote on them, but seven Republican members of the Judiciary Committee had already voted to advance at least one of the articles of impeachment.

Of those seven, five — M. Caldwell Butler, William Cohen, Hamilton Fish, Robert McClory, and Tom Railsback – went on to win re-election, and all continued to serve in Congress into the 1980s. Only Butler faced a difficult re-election that year, winning with a plurality of 45 percent against two other candidates. One of the seven, freshman Harold Froehlich, lost re-election to a Democrat, and later acknowledged that his vote to impeach had contributed to his defeat, causing enough Republicans in his swing district to abandon him.

The most famous of the seven, Lawrence Hogan, Sr., was also the first to support impeaching Nixon, and is credited with being the crack in the dam leading to the president’s downfall. Hogan retired from Congress in 1974 to run for Maryland governor.

Rep. Lawrence Hogan, R-Md. with party members in 1972.CQ Roll Call via AP Images / AP

Although initially the leading contender for the Republican nomination, his vote to impeach Nixon cost him support, and he narrowly lost the primary. Though he later served as a county executive, Hogan’s vote to impeach is held up as the ultimate act of principled political martyrdom.  

(His son, Larry Hogan Jr, is now the governor of the state and one of the most high-profile Republican elected officials to back the inquiry against Trump.)

The 1998 impeachment of  Bill Clinton  saw five Democrats vote against their own party’s president.

President Clinton walks to the podium to deliver a short statement on the impeachment inquiry in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Dec. 11, 1998.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

Four of the five — Virginia’s Virgil Goode, Texas’s Charles Stenholm and Ralph Hall, and Mississippi’s Gene Taylor — faced no opposition in their next primary, won their next general handily and continued to serve in Congress well into the 2000s. One, Paul McHale, was already a lame duck, having chosen to retire after 1998.

Three of the five Democratic defectors didn’t actually remain Democrats. Goode announced he was leaving the party in 2000, and won an easy reelection as an independent that year before becoming a Republican in 2002. Hall remained a Democrat until 2004, when he became a Republican, and served as such for another 11 years.

Taylor, who eventually lost his seat in the Republican wave of 2010, attempted a comeback bid for his seat in 2014 as a Republican, but was unsuccessful. And though McHale never switched parties, he went on to serve as Assistant Secretary of Defense for President George W. Bush, a Republican.

This series of partisan switches suggests that impeachment could potentially be a realigning factor for the two parties. Does supporting impeachment preclude a Republican from being a Republican?

In the case of Trump’s impeachment, this is already true. The one Republican House member who announced support for Trump’s impeachment, Michigan’s Justin Amash, has already left his party over the issue.

He now serves as an independent.

New poll: 54% support House's decision to open impeachment inquiry

A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that a majority — 54 percent — of American adults approve of the House’s decision to begin an impeachment inquiry, while 44 percent disapprove.

The same poll found that a 58 percent majority says Trump definitely or probably has done things that are “grounds for impeachment.”

And it showed a lack of confidence in both parties when it comes to handling the impeachment inquiry. Fifty-seven percent say they are not confident that Republicans in Congress will be fair and reasonable during the inquiry, while 52 percent say the same of Democrats.

The Pew survey questioned a panel of respondents, which allows for re-asking the same questions to the same people at different points in time. Overall, nine percent of adults who opposed the impeachment proceedings early last month now approve of the House’s decision to open the inquiry.

Of that nine percent, 61 percent are Democrats or independents who lean toward the Democratic Party, while 32 percent are Republicans or independents who lean toward the Republican Party.

Club for Growth takes to airwaves to accuse Romney of disloyalty to Trump

WASHINGTON — The Club for Growth, the conservative outside group that's typically argued for lower taxes, is attacking Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney in a new television ad of being a "Democratic secret asset" hellbent on destroying President Trump with impeachment. 

"Slick, slippery, stealthy: Mitt Romney had us fooled," the ad's narrator says before showing footage of Romney during his 2012 presidential bid praising an endorsement from Trump.

"Now his cover's blown, exposed by news reports as a Democrat secret asset. Sources say Romney’s plotting to take down President Trump with impeachment. Tell Romney, quit colluding with Democrats on impeachment."

The group says the ad will air statewide in Utah on Fox News from Oct. 17 to Oct. 27. Data from media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics shows the group spent about $20,000 to run the ads. 

Romney has been increasingly vocal of the president in recent weeks, tweeting concerns about Trump's public calls for China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and blasting the decision to withdraw American troops from the Turkish and Syrian border. 

The criticism has prompted Trump to attack Romney, calling for his impeachment. Senators cannot be impeached. 

Romney hasn't publicly said whether he supports the House's impeachment investigation or whether he'd vote to remove Trump from office if the Senate holds a formal trial. And while a recent Vanity Fair piece (referenced in the Club ad through a summary of the article written by Blaze Media) said Romney is trying to whip support for impeachment behind the scenes, sources familiar with Romney's thinking denied that report to NBC last week. 

The new ad marks the latest in the Club's major transformation as to its posture toward Trump. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, the group ran attack ads that framed Trump as the one trying to fool Republican voters. 

"Trump wants us to think he's Mr. Tell It Like It Is. But he has a record, and it's very liberal. He really is just playing us for chumps," the 2015 spot said. 

David McIntosh, the president of Club for Growth, told "Meet the Press" in August that the anti-Trump 2015 ads came during the heat of a campaign when the group backed Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. 

"What we base our current position on is the results. President Trump has governed as a free-market conservative — cutting taxes, trying to get rid of Obamacare, deregulating the oil and energy industry, deregulating the internet. And it's working," he said. 

On D.C. “swamp tour,” a handful of Republican voters look to replace Trump

WASHINGTON — Last Thursday, just two miles from where House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump last month, a group of mostly lifelong Republican voters embarked on a bus tour of Trump’s so-called “swamp.” 

Representing a distinct minority of GOP loyalists who oppose the president, they were brought to the nation’s capital city by progressive groups to help shine a public spotlight on what they believe is a scandal-riddled administration.  

“You can't understand the Ukraine scandal without understanding all of the corruption that got us to this point, and that's what we're setting out to show on this bus today,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Institute, a Democratic-leaning group that co-sponsored the tour along with the Revolving Door Project.

Through word of mouth and online solicitation, Taylor’s group found eight vocally anti-Trump voters — including six Republicans — and invited them aboard. (The other two are unaffiliated with either major party.) The voters, whose flights from Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Texas were paid for by organizers, say they’re opposed to the president in 2020 and would support any Democrats who take him on in the general election.

The bus was also packed with reporters, and it made stops at the Trump International Hotel, the Ukrainian Embassy, the Environmental Protection Agency and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home. At each of the 14 “corruption landmarks,” organizers said conflicts of interest and allegations of backroom deals have made the swamp Trump promised to drain “even murkier.”

Participants on this one-time trip said they were shocked to learn that Trump’s current choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, used to be a top coal lobbyist.

“It’s as if you had sued the department to then become the department head,” said Cheryl Rutledge Lindstrom, a registered Republican from Ocala, Fla., who participated in the tour. 

The voters say tales from the swamp, among other reasons, have forced them to draw a line between Trump’s brand of conservatism and the Republican Party they have supported for decades.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll underscores this divide between supporters of Trump and supporters of the Republican Party, with 91 percent of “Trump Republicans” saying there isn’t enough evidence to hold an impeachment inquiry, compared with just 58 percent of “party Republicans” who agree.

“We haven’t changed,” said Mary Miner, a registered Republican from Humboldt, Iowa. "The party has."

Miner and her husband, Wayne, have voted straight-ticket Republican in most elections. Wayne voted for Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes, McCain and Romney — but said he’s switching to the Democratic nominee in 2020.

Steve Anderson, a lifelong Republican voter from Wheaton, Ill., also said he will vote for whomever the Democrats nominate next year.

“Whether I agree with their policies or not matters to some extent. But right now, I don’t think we can argue about policy,” Anderson said. “I think no matter who is running, if Donald Trump is still on the ballot, we need to replace Donald Trump because he is an existential threat to our system.”

Mary and Wayne said they are looking for a candidate who is free of the corruption underscored by the swamp tour. For Mary, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren fits the bill. Wayne hasn’t decided on a candidate but said he likes Democrats Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris.

“It just makes me sick, the amount of corruption we have,” Wayne said. “Everyone who points fingers is pointing three [fingers] back at themselves, and it’s a scary thing to think about.”

The couple said they hope to use what they learned on the tour as “ammunition” for converting Trump supporters ahead of 2020, but Anderson predicts success will be few and far between.

“The level of corruption is endemic through this administration at a scale we’ve never seen, but it’s not going to flip any Trump voters, because they already know,” Anderson said. “And they don’t care.”