The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
As the debate qualification deadline draws near, Bullock and Castro invest in Iowa TV ads
DES MOINES, Iowa — Less than three months from the Iowa caucuses, low-polling candidates Gov. Steve Bullock and Sec. Julián Castro are working to stand out in the key early state, announcing new ad buys this week. Neither Democratic candidate has qualified for the November debate stage that would give them a spotlight on national television, but voters in the state will soon begin seeing their faces on screen.
Bullock will begin airing two 30-second ad buys on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Castro debuted his ad following the announcement that his campaign laid off all staffers in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Going all in on Iowa, the Bullock campaign is spending $500,000 on its ads while Castro's buy is around $50,000.
Bullock’s first ad titled, “Responsibility,” opens with archival video of past caucuses as Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who has endorsed Bullock, talks about the important role Iowans will play in choosing a candidate who can beat Donald Trump.
“This year, that’s what matters most,” Miller says, addressing viewers while standing in a gymnasium — the kind of space that is often used as a caucus sites. “And that’s why I strongly support Steve Bullock for President.” Video of Bullock on the campaign trail continues to play as Miller touts Bullock ability to win in a red state.
The second ad, “Only,” opens with strong violin chords as news clips are heard underneath, showcasing Bullock’s ability to “win in rural red America,” along with his record on women’s rights, Medicaid expansion, and dark money in politics. The violin strums reach a crescendo as viewers see Bullock himself appear on screen. The governor looks directly at the camera and says, “I’m Steve Bullock and I approve this message to beat Trump and be a president for all of America.”
Castro’s ad features photos and videos of the former HUD Secretary’s various trips to Iowa, meeting with farmers, greeting families, and marching into the Polk County Steak Fry. It also displays several archival photos from his childhood as Castro’s voice-over emphasizes that Donald Trump will “never understand what makes this country great, what makes a story like yours and mine possible,” along with photos of his wife and children now.
The latest New York Times/Siena College poll show both men polling at under 2% in the first-in-the-nation caucus state with only one week remaining to qualify for the November debate stage.
CORRECTION (Nov. 6, 2019 5:22 p.m. ET) An earlier version of this article misstated the first name of Iowa's attorney general. He is Tom Miller, not Steve.
Bevin, Beshear speak as pivotal Kentucky gubernatorial election underway
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear addressed reporters Tuesday as they cast their votes in the state's closely-watched gubernatorial election, with Bevin hugging President Trump as he seeks to rally Republicans around his campaign and Beshear looking to localize the election.
Bevin defended his campaign's tight embrace of President Trump and his defense of the president during the House impeachment inquiry — the Republican incumbent has spent more than $353,000 on an ad that highlights Trump's praise of Bevin during a recent rally.
"Talk to the average person. Ask the next 100 people who come in here if they care about this impeachment process, and they will tell you almost to a person that they do because they find it to be a charade," he told NBC News.
"We don’t appreciate when a handful of knuckleheads in Washington abdicate their responsibility as elected officials and try to gin up things that are not true because they can’t handle the fact that Hillary Clinton didn’t win."
When asked about Trump's influence on the race, Beshear sought to pivot to an argument that Kentuckians should base their votes on local issues, not national politics.
"This is not about who is in the White House. It’s about what’s going on in your house. It’s about the fact a governor can’t affect federal policy but a governor can certainly impact public education, pensions, healthcare and jobs — four issues that Matt Bevin has been wrong on and we’re going to do a lot of right," he said.
"We’ve tried to run our race on the actual issues that a governor can address."
The Kentucky election is one of three competitive 2019 gubernatorial elections that political prognosticators have their eyes on ahead of 2020. In Mississippi, voters are choosing whether to elevate Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, or switch parties by picking Democratic Attorney Gen. Jim Hood.
And later this month, Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is running against GOP businessman Eddie Rispone.
Buttigieg releases new Iowa ad focusing on the 'fight' against Trump — and beyond
DES MOINES, Iowa — Fresh off a three-day bus tour across Iowa, Pete Buttigieg is releasing a new television ad showcasing his appearance at the state Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration last weekend and highlighting his argument about how the "fight" against President Donald Trump should be waged.
The dinner was the last major party fundraiser in the run-up to the caucuses in February and has been seen as a turning point in then-candidate Barack Obama’s 2007 campaign. Now, Buttigieg is showcasing his speech at the event for all the Democratic voters in the state.
The ad titled, “Sun Comes Up," opens on a wide shot of the South Bend, Indiana mayor with his back to the camera addressing the audience, asking them to envision the day after Donald Trump leaves office.
“The sun’s going to come up over a country even more divided and torn up over politics than we are today,” Buttigieg is seen saying on the backdrop of an American flag. “With crises that still require urgent action.”
This imagery is interwoven with close-ups of solemn faces in the crowd and one woman with tears streaming down her cheek as Buttigieg declares, “I am running to be the president who will pick up the pieces of our divided nation and lead us toward real action.”
Then, the ad turns to the idea of what it means to fight. “We will fight when we must fight, but I will never allow us to get so wrapped up in the fighting that we start to think fighting is the point,” Buttigieg said. “The point it what lies on the other side of the fight.”
The way in which Democrats choose to “fight” has become a defining factor in this election among candidates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who campaigns heavily on the theme, took the stage directly after the mayor and declared, “anyone who comes on this stage and tells you they can make change without a fight is not going to win that fight.”
Buttigieg looks to strike direct contrast with Warren on this issue suggesting his approach to politics is about more than just fighting.
The ad ends showing hundreds of supporters clapping thunder sticks as Buttigieg talks about a theme reminiscent of Barack Obama’s 2007 presidential run — hope.
“The hope of an American experience defined not by exclusion but by belonging, that is what we are here to deliver,” Buttigieg said ending with a pensive close-up on the mayor’s face.
The 60-second spot, is the mayor’s sixth television ad in Iowa. It will run statewide across cable and broadcast channels.
New polling shows a tight 2020 battleground
WASHINGTON — National polling may show Democrats consistently leading President Trump, but new swing-state polling portends a closer race.
New polling from the New York Times and Siena College shows Trump within the margin of error in head-to-head matchups against former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren across Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.
Against Biden, the president lead by 2 points in North Carolina, is tied in Michigan, but is trailing the Democrat in the remaining four states by small margins.
Trump and Sanders split the six states (the Democrat leading Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while the president was ahead in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina).
And with Warren on the hypothetical ticket, Trump leads in Michigan, Florida and North Carolina, is tied in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and trails Warren in Arizona.
Those numbers (all within the poll's margins of error) paint a picture of a presidential race that's sitting on a knife's edge, and far closer than what national polling shows.
Our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Trump with a 45 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval rating. In a national head-to-head of registered voters, Biden led Trump by 9 points, 50 percent to 41 percent, while Warren led by 8 points, 50 percent to 42 percent.
So while Democrats appear to have a lead in the quest to secure the popular vote, as the party was reminded in 2016, the popular vote does not decide presidential elections. And in the states that count, the race is far closer.
Yang: 'I'm a hard-eyed realist about what's happening in our economy'
WASHINGTON — Businessman and Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang regularly muses on the trail about how things like automation, the tax code and global warming are leading toward an unsustainable future in America.
But Yang said Sunday that despite those warnings, there's no reason to be "gloomy" as he pushes his prescription for what he believes could put America back on the right track.
“I'm a hard-eyed realist about what's happening in our economy," he said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I'm here in Iowa, they are seeing 30 percent of their stores and malls close because Amazon is soaking up $20 billion in business every year and paying zero in taxes," he said.
“We have to create a new way forward and rewrite the rules for the 20th-Century economy to work for us, but that doesn't have to mean we have to be, necessarily, very gloomy as we deliver what, to me, is the most important message of our time."
Yang, who initially entered the race with among the lowest name identification ratings in the field, has seen a jolt of momentum in recent months as he's passed far-better established politicians both in fundraising and at the polls.
During his "Meet the Press" interview, Yang took on two of the biggest issues facing Democratic presidential candidates right now: impeachment and health care.
When asked why he supports a 'Medicare-for-All' plan over an expansion of ObamaCare, he argued that while he was a "fan of the themes of ObamaCare" that "it didn't go quite far enough in terms of coverage and allowing Americans to have access to high-quality, affordable care."
And he reiterated his support for impeachment even as he warned that Democrats are "losing" whenever they talk about President Trump.
Biden's New Hampshire campaign touts new push 100 days out
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Exactly 100 days out from the New Hampshire primary, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is touting its position and a new push in this first-in-the-nation primary state, putting an emphasis on ground organization, endorsements and community support while extolling their candidate's durability in the face of political attacks.
In a memo from the campaign's state director, Ian Moskowitz, that was provided exclusively to NBC News, Biden’s New Hampshire campaign says that with the time remaining until the primary their campaign will “continue to expand," in the state, insisting that their candidate “remains well positioned to win in the Granite State and beyond.”
In the most recent New Hampshire polling snapshot on October 29 from CNN/UNH, Senator Bernie Sanders led the field with 21 percent, Senator Elizabeth Warren followed with 18 percent while Biden stood at 15 percent.
The campaign says the fact that Sanders and Warren are from neighboring states (Vermont and Massachusetts) have given them an early advantage in organizing, but note that Biden now has over 50 staff on the ground in New Hampshire, along with their headquarters and nine field offices across the state.
“To date, we have held over 2,000 canvass launches, phone banks, and events across New Hampshire,” the memo says. “We have knocked on over 50,000 doors, made over 275,000 recruitment calls, and have dozens of volunteer leaders confirmed across the entire state.”
And the memo argues that the former vice president has already shown the capacity to weather attacks, from President Trump as well as the rest of the Democratic field.
“Despite nearly six months of constant attacks from President Trump and our opponents, we have built a diverse coalition of supporters, volunteers, and community leaders, and Joe’s poll numbers have remained steady,” Moskowitz says in the memo.
“The Vice President has been consistently attacked from the left and the right — even before he entered the race. While other candidates have risen and fallen, the Vice President has been tried and tested, and his standing in New Hampshire remains strong.”
Later this week Biden will spend two days in New Hampshire, in which he will officially file to be on the ballot at the state house in Concord, NH with Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
Eleven presidential candidates speak at NAACP town hall in Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa – Eleven Democratic presidential hopefuls spoke at a town hall Saturday hosted by the NAACP to discuss criminal justice reform as well as other policies on voters' minds to an audience of about 100 activists. Here are some of the highlights from each candidate's time on stage and press gaggle afterwards.
Cory Booker: Booker spoke about his personal experiences as a black man dealing with disparities in policing in America. He was pressed by an audience member on his support for charter schools. “I support great schools,” Booker said. “You want to come after the charter schools that are educating low income black and brown kids in my city, you are going to have to come through me.”
Amy Klobuchar: Klobuchar apologized for the way police-involved shootings were handled while she was a District Attorney. She has explained on the trail that sending police-involved shootings to a grand jury was common practice, but should change. On Saturday she said, “I'm sorry that we had that process in place. That wasn't the right way to do it and I'm glad that we've changed it and I think that's a very important thing to acknowledge.”
John Delaney: While gaggling with reporters after his appearance, Delaney was asked about his constant staff turnover in Iowa. He said, "The expectations for my campaign are not particularly high right now. So if I do better than expected, which doesn't mean winning Iowa, but performing in a way where you all say 'wow that's a surprise result' – if rural Iowa delivers for me – because I'm talking about their issues, then that I think will change anything.”
Joe Sestak: Sestak spoke about his time in the Navy, recounting a story where he found the "n-word" on one of his ships and how called the entire crew out from the ship and said, “I’ll find you and I’ll kick your ass out of the military. You don’t belong here.” He said never found the person who wrote it but never forgot that.
Andrew Yang: Yang said his signature policy, the Freedom Dividend, is only the foundation of his campaign. "I could not agree more that this thousand dollars a month freedom dividend is just a foundation or a floor.," Yang said. "We need to address the inequities in our educational systems, we need to address the inequities in our criminal justice systems, in our housing systems."
Michael Bennet: While speaking with reporters, Bennet offered a strong rebuke of the party's primary being dominated by Medicare for All arguments. "The fact that we have spent half of or more than half of this primary season debating Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All plan is as much of a reason as I think, that we need different leadership in this party than anything else," Bennet said.
Bernie Sanders: Sanders preached to the crowd about the importance of viewing economic rights as human rights. The senator told stories of being arrested in Chicago and touted his history of activism. He also highlighted the importance of bringing back postal banking for communities that have been historically red lined.
Kamala Harris: Harris was also asked about her record as the Attorney General of California, specifically about a case that involved the death penalty. Harris has been asked before about the use of the death penalty while she was Attorney General during a Democratic primary debate. At Saturday's event she defended her record and said she's consistently been against the death penalty.
Pete Buttigieg: Buttigieg discussed the shooting of Eric Logan in South Bend, Ind. while at the forum and walked through a conversation he had with police officers after the shooting. "Just the mention of the word 'systemic racism' made them feel like their character was under attack," Buttigieg said, " When, in actuality, part of what I was telling them was this problem doesn’t get solved without them working to solve it too.”
Julián Castro: Castro told reporters that his campaign will be spending its resources more-so on Iowa and Texas going forward. "We're going to adjust according to where we're at in this race and so you can expect that we are going to make some adjustments in the days to come to focus on where we think we're strong," Castro said. "Iowa certainly is going to be one of those states we focus on because it's the first state with a caucus. And we will start focusing on Texas because we've been waiting to do that since it comes after those first four states, but we will focus on Texas of course."
Tom Steyer: Steyer spoke at length about his signature policy issue climate change. He told the crowd he's, "the only person in this race who said I'd make climate my number one priority and there's a reason that I'd declare a state of emergency on day one and use the emergency powers of the presidency," Steyer continued, "Because all those plans that people are talking about require passage through the Congress of the United States and the Senate of the United States. And frankly, they're on a different time schedule than mother nature."
Rebecca Hankins and Ryan Beals contributed.
Pete Buttigieg releases disability plan ahead of accessibility forum
DES MOINES, Iowa — Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg unveiled a new plan Saturday aimed at addressing the needs of Americans with disabilities, named the "Dignity, Access, and Belonging: A New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities" plan.
“People with disabilities must learn to navigate a world that all too frequently wasn’t built with them in mind. And these hurdles are even higher for people with disabilities who belong to other marginalized groups,” the plan states. “This reality must change.”
The South Bend, Indiana mayor put his plan out ahead of his participation in the "Accessibility for All" forum in Iowa.
The change Buttigieg is proposing begins with the needs of students with disabilities. By 2025, the South Bend mayor’s goal is to ensure that a majority of students with special needs spend at least 80 percent of their day in general education classrooms. Buttigieg promises to fully fund the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, invest more in autism research and more than double funding for training special education teachers.
Beyond education, Buttigieg outlines his plan to address disparities in the working world which includes implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage for all workers. As announced in his previously released Douglass Plan, a Buttigieg administration would aim to award 25 percent of all federal contracts to underrepresented small business owners, including those with disabilities.
The policy highlights reforms to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Buttigieg hopes to implement a gradual tapering of benefits for those earning more than $1,220/month as opposed to an immediate halt to benefits once a recipient reaches the designated income level. These new rules would allow beneficiaries to receive partial benefits, on a sliding scale, while earning between $1,220 and $3,687 per month. In addition, this plan would eliminate the 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage, so SSDI recipients would have access to Medicare as soon as they begin receiving income benefits.
Buttigieg calls for a $100 billion investment in updating transit systems over the next decade — including making public transportation ADA-compliant and ensuring taxi and ride-sharing apps are made more accessible. The administration would develop a national registry of accessible and affordable housing and create an “Accessible Technology Bill of Rights” to ensure access is built into new technology at the development phase.
In an effort to promote more accessibility within its own operation, the Buttigieg campaign has worked with consultants to implement changes to their website including ensuring all images have alt-text equivalents for screen readers and increasing line height to increase legibility for the visually impaired.
Kamala Harris closes field offices, lays off organizers in New Hampshire
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Kamala Harris’, D-Calif, New Hampshire campaign is closing three field offices in Nashua, Portsmouth and Keene, and has cancelled her trip to New Hampshire that was originally scheduled for next week, saying that she is going "all in" on the Iowa caucuses as a strategy for winning the Democratic nomination.
Harris hasn't been to New Hampshire since Sept. 7 for the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention. The campaign’s headquarters in Manchester will remain open with a scaled down staff, the campaign tells NBC News. The campaign's entire field organizing team has been laid off.
While the campaign said Harris' name will be on the ballot for the New Hampshire primary, she will not be filing in person at the state house in Concord, N.H., an event considered to be a tradition for nearly all presidential candidates. It is still being determined if an in-person surrogate will file in Harris’ place but the campaign says that the paperwork will most likely be mailed in.
"Senator Harris and this team set out with one goal — to win the nomination and defeat Donald Trump in 2020,” Nate Evans, Harris Campaign New Hampshire Communications Director, said in a statement provided to NBC News. “To do so, the campaign has made a strategic decision to realign resources to go all-in on Iowa, resulting in office closures and staff realignments and reductions in New Hampshire. The campaign will continue to have a staff presence in New Hampshire but the focus is and will continue to be on Iowa. Senator Harris will not visit New Hampshire on November 6 and 7, but her name will still be placed on the primary ballot."
Just Wednesday, Harris was pressed on pulling resources out of New Hampshire as part of her revamped focus on Iowa, but she said that that she was still committed to the state.
“We are still committed to New Hampshire — but we needed to make difficult decisions. That's what campaigns require at this stage of the game,” Harris told reporters. “And so we have made those difficult decisions based on what we see to be our path toward victory.”
Tom Steyer unveils plan for rural communities
DES MOINES, Iowa — Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer unveiled a new plan Friday aimed at improving the lives of the 60 million people living in rural America, labeling his new policy “Partnerships with Rural Communities.” The Democratic presidential candidate has typically focused on drawing attention to his ideas for government reform and climate change action, and his new rural plan is one of just a few comprehensive policies released outside of those two topics since he declared his candidacy in August.
On the campaign trail, Steyer often touts his familial connection in Iowa — he grew up visiting his aunt and uncle in Iowa City — and has worked to connect with rural and blue collar workers, despite his billionaire background. The eight page plan addresses issues of concern to rural residents and those who live in Tribal nations, and puts a multi-billion dollar price tag on investing in areas like rural broadband, health care and education.
Steyer plans to commit more than $100 billion toward broadband and fiber access, and another investment of more than $100 billion over ten years to improve infrastructure — ensuring updated roads, bridges and levees are resilient to climate impacts. In addition to working to prevent rural hospital closures, Steyer plans to “revolutionize the way America addresses mental health care” by investing another $100 billion over a decade towards mandating insurance companies to cover mental health care and increased access to telemedicine.
In order to attract young people to rural areas, Steyer proposes expanding the National Public Service Plan to place at least 200,000 funded Americorps and Climate Corps members in rural communities. Appealing to farmers, Steyer wants to build upon the Made in Rural America Initiative to connect American farmers to global markets, emphasizing the need for fair and open trade policies.
While most candidates have hit similar points in their rural policies, Steyer adds community banking to his plan, following his experience starting a not-for-profit bank with his wife, Kat Taylor. He argues that expanded funding for Community Development Financial institutions would promote financial education, reduce predatory lending and foster entrepreneurship in rural areas — leading to economic development.
One of Steyer's main campaign priorities, fighting climate change, isn't lost in this plan. In his rural plan, Steyer would contribute to his clean energy economy goals by investing more than $60 billion for rural grid modernization and $50 billion in rural renewable energy resources like solar and emergency power centers.
Bernie Sanders files for New Hampshire primary
CONCORD, NH -- For the second time, Sen. Bernie Sanders will appear as a presidential candidate on the New Hampshire ballot after making it official Thursday morning at the Secretary of State’s office.
“I just want to say that I think we have an excellent chance to win here again in New Hampshire, to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country and to transform our economy and government so that finally it represents all of us and not just the one percent,” Sanders said standing behind the historic filing desk.
Officially signing the paperwork next to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, Sanders then handed over the $1000 filing fee, making a joke that it’s guaranteed not to bounce. Signing the commemorative poster, Sanders opted for the message, “Forward Together.”
Sanders talked nearly at every chance he had, something he is not known for doing. In a lengthy press conference, Sanders was asked about rivals Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, with whom he is in a tight three-way race, according to the latest state poll.
Sanders forcefully took on Biden regarding super PACs and Medicare for All. Biden's campaign recently softened his opposition to accepting super PAC support until he's elected president and can push for campaign finance reform.
“I've known Joe for many years and I consider Joe to be a friend, but campaigns are about ideas, they're about values,” Sanders said. “If my memory is correct, Joe Biden once said, and I'm paraphrasing, you've got to be careful about people who have super PACs and who they will end up being responsible for. And in this campaign, Joe as I understand it has not done particularly well in getting a lot of donations from working-class people.”
He also added on healthcare, “I would hope that Joe Biden explains to the American people how under his plan which maintains a dysfunctional, wasteful and cruel health care system, a system today which is costing us twice as much per person as do the people of any other industrialized country pay.”
The senator also reacted to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)’s comments that he would not support Sanders’ progressive agenda if elected president.
“I would say to Joe Manchin that maybe he should start worrying about the needs of the working class in his state rather than protecting corporate interests,” Sanders said.”
Sanders then headed outside for a rainy afternoon rally with supporters in front of the statehouse.
“It's a different election,” Sanders told NBC News’ Shaquille Brewster, who asked him moments after filing if there’s more pressure this time around for the New Hampshire primary.
“Now we're running not just essentially against one person, we're running against 19 others. So it's a different dynamic, but I am absolutely confident,” adding, “I think there is no other campaign out there that has the kind of grassroots support that we have.”