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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Amy Klobuchar shuts down women candidates not being "likable"

ROCHESTER, N.H. — After filing to appear on the Democratic primary ballot in New Hampshire Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., appeared at a town hall even where she was asked the "likability" factor and how it could impact the candidates. 

The question was asked in reference to a new New York Times/Siena College poll in which some respondents said they'd support a male candidate over a female candidate when the two people's ideologies were similar, which was also featured on an episode of The New York Times’ podcast "The Daily" earlier this week.

Klobuchar responded by focusing on the three female senators in the race, saying that herself, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have all had tough jobs that show they know how to lead in different ways.

"We have all had tough jobs, okay. Tough jobs. And really good tough jobs that show we know how to lead," Klobuchar said. "You have to make tough decisions and that's the truth, and it has haunted all three of us in different ways but I think overall, this is the interesting part, we wouldn't be on that debate stage and where we are running for president if we hadn't been tough enough to have those jobs." 

She added, “So I am just like, seriously, this is not a measure we use with men and so I find all of us quite likeable.”

Klobuchar went on to add that the women senators in the presidential race don’t agree on everything, just like men, but that their differences are policy-centered. 

“We finally have these women out there and yeah, we don't agree on everything — big surprise —just like men don't,” she said. 

Policy differences aside, Klobuchar said it's a positive development that there are so many women running for president this time around and reminisced on what it was like when Hillary Clinton sought the presidency in 2016. 

"I cannot even imagine how that felt for her on election night and how everyone felt in this room, but what I do know is she actually did break the glass ceiling because  of the fact that we have so many women that are in leadership now." 

“Does it make me mad sometimes? Yes, yes it does. And I think experience should be valued,” Klobuchar closed. “I'm just hoping and betting that they are going to connect that experience and ability, not just with a man, but with a woman. Then I win."

Tulsi Gabbard appears to qualify for November debate

WASHINGTON — Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is poised to appear on November's presidential debate stage after finishing with 3 percent in a new poll of Iowa. 

That makes Gabbard the 10th candidate expected to appear on the stage at this month's debate in Atlanta, sponsored by MSNBC and The Washington Post. She's hit the threshold of three percent in four national or state polls, as well as raising money from 165,000 unique donors, according to an NBC News analysis of publicly released polls and donor numbers. 

That same Quinnipiac University poll found Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden all jockeying for the top position. 

Warren led narrowly with 20 percent, followed by Buttigieg's 19 percent, Sanders' 17 percent and Biden's 15 percent. 

Behind the pack were: 

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., with 5 percent
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., with 4 percent
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer with 3 percent 
  • Gabbard with 3 percent
  • Businessman Andrew Yang with 3 percent

Amy Klobuchar files in New Hampshire, wouldn't call Warren's ideas "elitist"

CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is officially on the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot after filing at the state house amid traditional fanfare. Nearly 100 supporters greeted Klobuchar in the hallway as she entered the Secretary of State’s office, flanked by key local endorsers — notably, state Sen. Jeanne Dietsch, executive councilor Deb Pignatelli, and former New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster — who, in a show of establishment force, joined her and Bill Gardner behind the desk. After submitting the check, signing the paperwork, and writing “For all of America” on the commemorative poster, she took questions from the press.

While speaking, Klobuchar brought up Tuesday's election results, noting the blue shift in the New Hampshire town, Laconia.

“Our citizens last night made their voices known loud and clear,” she said. “They did it in New Hampshire, but they also did it in the state of Virginia in a big, big way. They did it in Kentucky, a place that in that governor's race, and I think the message to me from all of this because these states are so very different, the political issues are different, some are local elections, some are state elections but the argument is that we are a country of patriots and that we put our country first and that there’s a lot of people out there, including our fired up Democratic base, and including independents and moderate Republicans who've had it.”

Asked what the results say about what’s energizing Democrats right now, Klobuchar said, “I think what distinguished them is that they are there for the people. They had the back of their constituents. Those were tough re-election fights in Virginia and some of those redder and purple districts where people were surprise victors on our side two years ago and they came back again and won. I don't think that was because they were ideologues in any way. I think it's because they did the work of their constituents and people trusted them."

"I think it makes it an even stronger argument for my candidacy," she continued, "because I am someone who has been able to bring in those independents, moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats."

Klobuchar also responded to former Vice President Joe Biden calling Democratic opponent Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ideas “elitist,” telling NBC News, “I wouldn’t use that word” before adding on health care, “I think you just argue it on the merits without saying adjectives about what things are. I think people are in good faith coming up with good ideas.”

She then stopped by the gift shop on her way out, as is tradition, to sign her name to some of her campaign merchandise for their wall’s growing collection, while she also pointed out memorabilia of past candidates like Chris Dodd.

In a rally on the state house lawn afterwards, a fired up Klobuchar spoke to an energized, but older, crowd of around 150.  Klobuchar, joined onstage by Pignatelli, briefly hit her usual policy points before again driving home the significance of yesterday’s election results, using the Democratic victories as a way to highlight her often-touted ability to win big in red places and help turnout when on the ballot and stress the “value check” of last night’s election.

She told the crowd, “We are living in a moment in time where our democracy is really hitting back in a good way. Our democracy is about citizens, citizen's making decisions and the president is not the king and to me that is what happened last night. The president is not the king.”

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.”

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall meeting which he hosted at Roosevelt High School on Oct. 12, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.Scott Olson / Getty Images

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.”

Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, speaks at a house party campaign stop on July 13, 2019, in Atkinson, N.H.Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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. 

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at campaign town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. on Oct. 25, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

“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.