The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Elizabeth Warren files for New Hampshire primary
CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., became the latest presidential candidate to formally file paperwork to appear on the Granite State's primary ballot, making the traditional appearance at the Concord state house Wednesday.
Walking down the hallway lined with supporters cheering chants like, “Liz is good, Liz is great, she’s fighting for the Granite State!”, Warren stopped for hugs, handshakes and one pinky promise with a young girl before arriving in the filing room.
Warren was energetic when she entered Secretary of State Bill Gardner's office. As Gardner explained the history of the primary and its $1,000 filing fee, she noted, “No adjustment for inflation!”
After submitting her filing fee and signed paperwork, Warren fist pumped and cheered, “I’m officially in!” before signing “Persist” on the commemorative poster.
Afterwards, Warren answered questions about the two potential new entries in the race, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and fellow Massachusetts politician, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, by stressing her own campaign message.
“When I've been talking about how we can make this country work better not just for those at the top, I've noticed that billionaires go on TV and cry,” she said, adding, “Other billionaires encourage their billionaire buddies to jump into the race. I believe what our election should be about is grassroots. How you build something all across New Hampshire, all across the country and that we really shouldn't have elections that are about billionaires calling all the shots," Warren noted on Bloomberg.
Warren said that she had not spoken to Patrick in the last few days and that she’s “not here to criticize other Democrats.”
Happening simultaneously with Warren's New Hampshire filing was the first public hearing in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Warren was one of the first presidential candidates to call for President Trump to be impeached. She told reporters she had not been able to catch up on the first day of the hearings over impeachment, but affirmed her role in the process when asked about impeachment trials potentially happening in the Senate forcing her off the campaign trail.
“I have constitutional responsibilities,” she said. “I took an oath of office as did everyone in Congress. Part of that oath of office is the basic principle that no one is above the law, that includes the President of the United States and if the House goes forward and sends an impeachment over to the Senate then I will be there for the trial.”
Warren was also asked about the diversity of early voting states and if she was confident she would win the New Hampshire primary.
She immediately said “yes,” adding, “I'm very glad as Democrats that in February we will hear from voters or caucus-goers in four different states and those four states represent a lot of different parts of the country and a lot of different people. It's urban, it's rural, different issues and it's about the opportunity to get out and shake hands with people across this country and that's where I am.”
Warren held a rally with supporters outside on this sunny but frigid afternoon, giving an abbreviated version of her stump speech before stopping by the gift shop to sign memorabilia and hold a “selfie” line inside.
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan endorses Joe Biden for president
WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan Wednesday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president Wednesday morning, saying in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he believes Biden is the best candidate in the Democratic field to defeat President Donald Trump next November.
A one-time 2020 presidential candidate himself, Ryan ended his campaign in October, opting instead to seek re-election to the House. During his presidential run, Ryan campaigned on winning back voters in the midwest who voted for President Trump. He also offered campaign proposals for rebuilding the industrial midwest like building electric vehicles, and bringing manufacturing jobs back to places like his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.
His message often sounded similar to candidates like Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana who is also campaigning on rebuilding the industrial midwest. And like Biden, who campaigns on being able to win the Rust Belt against President Trump.
It was that part of Biden's campaign that got Ryan to endorse him in the still-crowded Democratic field. "This election for many, many Democrats, regardless of where you live, is about who can beat Donald Trump." Ryan said. "And the key to that is who can beat Donald Trump in Michigan, in Wisconsin, in western Pennsylvania, in Ohio. And I'm convinced that that's Joe Biden."
Pete Buttigieg rises to the top in new Iowa poll
WASHINGTON — In a new Democratic primary Iowa poll from Monmouth University, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has risen to a narrow first-place with support from 22 percent of likely caucus-goers, up dramatically from the 8 percent support he received in the last Monmouth University Iowa poll in August.
Closely behind Buttigieg in the poll are former Vice President Joe Biden with 19 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with 18 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., trails with 13 percent.
But just 28 percent of respondents say they are firmly decided on the candidate they would caucus for. That opens the possibility for the top four candidates to either extend their leads in the poll, or for other candidates like Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to gain traction. Klobuchar is sitting at 5 percent in the new poll, and Harris is sitting at 3 percent.
At the time of the last Monmouth Iowa poll in August, Harris was polling 12 percent in Iowa. Since then, she famously said she was going to "move to Iowa", and has laid off most of her New Hampshire staff to focus her campaign on the first caucus state.
Buttigieg's Iowa efforts, which kicked off with a bus tour, seem to be resonating with voters. Seventy-three percent of likely caucus-goers view him as favorable, while Warren, Biden and Sanders trail him in the 60s.
While the poll was taken before former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signaled an interest in entering the race at this late stage, Iowa Democrats were polled on Bloomberg's favorability — and 17 percent said they view him favorably while 48 had an unfavorable view of him.
Bloomberg has indicated that if he does formally enter the race, he will likely bypass the early states in favor of a Super Tuesday-focused strategy.
Four presidential hopefuls go up on Iowa, New Hampshire airwaves
WASHINGTON — Four Democratic presidential candidates began airing new TV ads in the early primary states Tuesday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock all released ads in Iowa that focus on them being the sensible choice to take on President Donald Trump in a general election — either because of their plans, or past leadership.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has a new ad that focuses on him being the candidate to fight for the masses and not the billionaire class.
In addition, Buttigieg released his first two ads in New Hampshire following his four-day bus tour across the state. The two New Hampshire ads, "Had To" and "Unify", focus on Buttigieg bringing a new face to politics to voters in New Hampshire frustrated with "politics so broken, for so long" and "unifying Americans" around solutions that can actually get done — Buttigieg targets his "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan here.
Similarly, Buttigieg's new Iowa ad, entitled "Refreshing," also focuses Buttigieg's "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan. The four-figure ad buy is focused in two Iowa media markets: Des Moines and Ames, and Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City and Dubuque.
Bullock's ad is targeting the same Iowa markets as Buttigieg. His spot repeats media commentators calling Bullock "the only Democratic candidate running who has won a state that Trump won." Buttigieg and Bullock, in theory, target the same voters because they are from more rural, moderate communities. In a new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday, Buttigieg is leading the pack in Iowa at 22 percent, while Biden and Warren closely trail at 19 and 18 percent respectively. Bullock is polling at one percent in the state.
Biden's new ad, like many of his others, draws contrast between himself and President Trump. The ad opens by calling President Trump an "unstable and erratic president", and calls for "strong, steady, stable leadership" like Biden. While many other Biden ads focus on the events at Charlottesville, Va., "Moment" shows images of Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands with President Trump, and shows Biden with members of the military and with former President Barack Obama.
Unsurprisingly, Sanders' new ad, "The Future Belongs to Us", cites "the greed and corruption" of Wall Street as bigger than just President Trump, and argues it is "undermining our democracy." Sanders borrows his usual campaign line that in his administration billionaires would "pay their fair share", and would "guarantee health care for all." Sanders was endorsed by the National Nurses United union Tuesday for his Medicare for All plan and leadership.
Don Blankenship announces bid for Constitution Party's presidential nomination
WASHINGTON — Remember Don Blankenship? The ex-coal magnate turned West Virginia Senate Republican candidate who drew the ire of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with his derisive television ads?
He's back, and running for the presidential nomination for the Constitution Party.
Blankenship announced his bid in a statement Monday morning, noting it comes on Veterans Day "in recognition of America's veterans."
The statement says Blankenship is "attempting to be the first person ever to become an occupant of the White House after having been in the 'big house'" — a reference to the one year he served in prison for a mine safety violation. He claims he was "falsely convicted."
Blankenship emerged on the national political stage during his 2018 bid for Senate, which pit him against then-Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in a tense primary.
With many Republicans concerned about his ability to compete against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the party adopted an 'Anyone but Blankenship' policy, with McConnell, Trump and their allies leading the charge.
That effort prompted Blankenship to furiously push back against those attacks, and launch a series of controversial ads, including one that called McConnell "Cocaine Mitch" and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, a "China person."
Blankenship ultimately lost, and sued the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Donald Trump Jr., a fact he points to in his announcement speech.
Even if Blankenship wins the Constitution Party's nomination, he'll have extremely long odds as a third-party candidate. But he spent $4 million of his own money during his Senate bid. So he could be a wildcard if he decides to spend significant dollars.
Buttigieg rolls out plan to reform the VA on Veteran's Day
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — As a veteran, Pete Buttigieg knows first-hand the challenges of coming home after serving in war. Buttigieg’s service as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves, including a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2014, is something he mentions regularly on the campaign trail when contrasting himself with President Donald Trump.
On Veteran’s Day, the South Bend, Indiana mayor is releasing his plan to reform the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“When you put your right hand up and make a promise to give everything to your country, the promise America makes is to remember you, respect your service, and care for you and your family,” his plan says. “That promise lasts long after you hang up your uniform. It lasts a lifetime.”
Buttigieg joins other 2020 candidates who are fanning out on Veteran’s Day to spotlight their ideas for improving the notoriously troubled U.S. system for caring for veterans after their service. Past presidents who have tried to reform Veterans Affairs have found that progress is slow to come.
Sen. Kamala Harris will also be out on the trail Monday holding veteran-related events. Sen. Bernie Sanders released his own plan for the VA. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her plan in the last few days.
Buttigieg’s plan seeks to fully fund the VA and streamline access to its services. It also calls for an end to veteran homelessness and the decriminalization of mental health issues across the board.
“It's clear we have to do better if we want to see more people getting access to the care that they need,” he said to reporters aboard the bus.
Among the field of 2020 candidates vying for the presidency, Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, are the only Democrats left in the race who have served in the military. While Buttigieg says the VA isn’t his primary health care provider, he recognizes the challenges of what he calls a “convoluted” process.
“We have a system of veteran service officers in counties whose job is it to help people navigate and to advocate for people and really fight for them as they are battling bureaucracy,” he said to reporters on the bus tour. “And those folks do really good work, but it shouldn't be so hard.”
The plan calls for the establishment of a White House coordinator who would work across both Veterran Affairs and the Department of Defense to standardize intake procedures and allow record sharing between the two entities. Buttigieg hopes these reforms would alleviate the challenge of having to track down medical records when transitioning from active duty to veteran status.
The current $16 billion project designed to do just that has hit major snags and delays in the past two years. A Buttigieg administration would aim to execute the project in a way that is human-centered and easy for veterans to navigate.
In addition to providing grants to community veteran organizations working to end the stigma around mental illness and addiction Buttigieg plans to expand access to Veteran Treatment Court which funnel’s vets into rehabilitation centers rather than prison. The wide-ranging plan also includes reforms aimed at addressing discrimination and challenges faced by women, people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who serve.
On Monday, Buttigieg will commemorate Veteran’s Day by attending a ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, NH followed by a Veteran’s Day address at the Rochester Opera House in Rochester, NH to wrap up his four-day bus tour across the state.
Sanders releases $62 billion plan to revitalize the VA
CHARLES CITY, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday released a $62 billion plan to revitalize the Veterans Affairs Administration that proposes, among other things, to repair, modernize and rebuild the infrastructure of the VA to provide “cutting-edge health care services” to veterans.
The plan, released on Veteran's Day, also pledges to fill nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA within his first year in office. Sanders also proposes a simplification of the claims process, so veterans receive compensation in a timely manner, “without bureaucratic red tape,” the campaign says.
Much of the plan focuses on making sure veterans who deserve care, get it. Sanders says he plans to reform what the campaign calls “harmful VA regulations” that restrict access to care and benefits based on type of military discharge. The plan also calls for Veterans to be Able to use the “full complement” of benefits offered in the G.I. Bill.
The campaign released a video Monday, featuring Sanders senior advisors Warren Gunnels and Jeff Weaver, and late Republican Sen. John McCain. The video, titled “Keeping our promises” focuses on Sanders’ and McCain’s bipartisan work to enact the Veterans' Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, a bill that authorized 27 new facilities for the VA, and provided billions to hire doctors and nurses.
Sherrod Brown reiterates he isn't running for president, says he's happy with Dem field
WASHINGTON — Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Sunday that he doesn't share the "hand-wringing anguish that my fellow Democrats have” about the state of the Democratic presidential field, reiterating that he's not interested in running for the office himself.
Brown, who briefly flirted with a presidential bid this year, addressed the state of the race during a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"It's genetic that Democrats wring their hands about presidential candidates. I mean, we always do that. I think it's a good field. I think we're going to beat Trump," he said.
"I go back to the promises this president's made. He makes promises to farmers and then he chooses the oil industry over family farmers in western Ohio. And I think that is eating away at his support."
On the question of whether he'd consider changing his mind and running, Brown said he's never had a "big desire to be president of the United States."
"I love what I'm doing and I just didn't have the huge ambition you need to be president of the United States," he said.
But while he wouldn't discuss the strategies of specific candidates, he shared general advice as to how he thinks the field should position itself. He argued that Democrats have to do "do better" in talking to working-class voters, and that the candidates should focus on trying to strengthen ObamaCare rather than replacing it with a new program like Medicare for All.
"Democrats want to get to universal coverage. Republicans want to take it away. That should be where we all go as a team, as Democrats, on all of this," Brown said.
Pete Buttigieg talks about his challenges attracting support from black voters
CONCORD, N.H. – In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg discussed his campaign's outreach to black voters after an internal campaign memo detailed concerns over the campaign's ability to reach out to the black community, and whether Buttigieg's sexual orientation is an issue for those voters in states like South Carolina.
Buttigieg told NBC News that while "homophobia is a problem" but "it’s unfair to suggest that homophobia is only an issue in the black community, when really it’s an issue in America."
While Buttigieg has jumped toward the top of recent national polls, and polls in Iowa, a Monmouth University poll released a few weeks ago saw Buttigieg polling at only 3 percent in South Carolina among likely Democratic voters in the state. When likely Democratic black voters in South Carolina were polled, that support fell to 1 percent.
Biden campaign memo says Kentucky, Virginia results help Biden case
CONCORD, N.H. — The Biden campaign is pointing to recent Democratic wins in Kentucky and Virginia as evidence that their message of building on the Affordable Care Act is a winning one for Democrats across the country, warning that Medicare for All would be an “unaffordable liability."
In a memo obtained exclusively by NBC News, Biden campaign senior strategist Mike Donilon and pollster John Anzalone said the off-year election wins by Democrats in Republican and swing states were “major proof points that Joe Biden’s health care plan and message are the right formula with which Democrats can retake the White House."
The Biden officials say Kentucky specifically offered a real template for Democratic candidates. Apparent gubernatorial winner Democrat Andy Beshear's message targeted Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for undercutting the state’s successful Obamacare exchange and Medicaid expansion. Bevin borrowed from the Trump playbook of “disproven conspiracy theories” and an appeal from the president himself, the Biden officials laid out.
"Does anyone think Andy Beshear would have beaten Matt Bevin running on Medicare for All?,” the officials wrote. "Because of the grave stakes of 2020 – with implications not only for policy but for who we are as a country – it would be a profound mistake for our party to sacrifice the high ground on the ACA by running on undoing Obamacare, outlawing private health insurance and kicking almost 160 million people off employer-sponsored health insurance, and raising taxes on the middle class."
The memo continued, "Democrats re-took the House by running on protecting the ACA, and now that message has delivered full control of the Virginia state government and even the governor’s mansion in a Trump stronghold. And if this model succeeds in states as challenging for Democrats as Kentucky, it can absolutely gain us the necessary ground to re-take more competitive battleground states, and that is exactly what Joe Biden — more so than any other Democrat running — is poised to do."
The Biden campaign amped up its attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ever since Warren said the former vice president was “running in the wrong primary” for not backing the progressive Medicare for All. Biden responded this week by calling that “my way or the highway“ response “representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share."
Biden said Friday that he wasn’t referring to “Warren as being an elitist.”
“I said the American people out there, they understand what's going on, and they don't like being instructed on what they should believe and what they don't believe."
Tom Steyer campaign aide resigns following accusations of payments for endorsements
DES MOINES, Iowa — Tom Steyer’s Iowa political director, Pat Murphy, has resigned in the wake of reports that he offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing the billionaire's presidential candidacy.
"After the conclusion of an investigation alleging improper communications with elected officials in Iowa, Pat Murphy has offered his resignation from the campaign effective immediately," Steyer campaign manager Heather Hargreaves said in a statement Friday evening.
“Our campaign policy is clear that we will not engage in this kind of activity, or any kind of communication that could be perceived as improper."
In an interview with MSNBC earlier Friday, Steyer said such payments would not have been authorized by the campaign.
“Nothing like that has ever been authorized. Nothing like that ever would be authorized,” Steyer said, noting that he found out about the allegations “through the airwaves.”
While paying for endorsements is not strictly illegal, the action could violate campaign finance laws, if the payments were not disclosed. The Steyer campaign highlighted their policy that they would “not engage in this kind of activity, and anyone who does is not speaking for the campaign or does not know our policy.”
Earlier Friday morning, following a public endorsement from state Rep. Russell Ott, Steyer answered questions a media availability in St. Matthews, S.C., where he reinforced the message that his campaign was working to “make sure we understand exactly what happened.”
“I can promise you we'll deal with the highest, we will make sure this campaign is run with the highest standards of integrity,” Steyer said.
In Iowa, Steyer has received just one endorsement, from former state Rep. Roger Thomas. Thomas confirmed to NBC News that he was never offered money in exchange for his support, and said, “I can positively assure you that I did not receive any compensation from Mr. Steyer or anyone involved in his campaign.”
The resignation of Murphy comes after one of Steyer’s South Carolina deputy state director, Dwane Sims, quit after it was discovered that he used access he had previously been granted while working for the South Carolina Democratic Party to download data about rival Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign.
“What I do know for sure is nothing, no information was ever used,” Steyer said at the same media availability Friday, adding that he called Harris and “left a message to say I'm sorry.”