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Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

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

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

1008d ago / 10:15 PM UTC

Cory Booker files for N.H. primary ballot as filing period ends

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CONCORD, N.H. — The first in the nation presidential primary ballot is officially set, with Friday at 5 p.m. marking the end of New Hampshire’s candidate filing period. In all, 14 major Democratic presidential candidates filed in person, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to the state to file the paperwork for President Donald Trump and two Republican primary challengers also showed up to file during a two week period that was not without its surprises.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., became the last notable presidential candidate to file Friday morning at the state house. Notably missing from the New Hampshire ballot: former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Democratic hopeful, Mayor of Miramar, Florida Wayne Messam. 

“I love that you all are the first in the nation,” Booker said to N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner as filed. Upon handing over the $1,000 check required, Booker told Gardner he was welcome to donate back some of the fee into his campaign.

This cycle's filing period also marked the 100th anniversary of New Hampshire going “first” in the primary cycle. There has long been debate over whether the order of states in the presidential nominating process should change to better reflect the population of the country, something that Gardner has fought hard to prevent over the past two decades.  

“There will be another filing period in four years,” Gardner told NBC News. He noted that this filing period has had "a lot of excitement, a lot of good will during the filing period and all kinds of individuals, very different status, and they’re all filing the same way. The famous, and the not famous, and that’s been the tradition of it. And this filing period has been very consistent with that tradition and it’s consistent with you never really know what to expect.”

This year's parade of campaigns featured some notable absences — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who had her state director file on her behalf and just before the start of the period slashed her staff in the state and closed all field offices, and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who has shed his entire New Hampshire team and mailed in his paperwork.

And there was a late entry into the race. Mere hours after announcing his candidacy, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick came to the state house in person to officially file to be on the ballot. And while others can still jump into the broader race, like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the ballot for the first voting state has been finalized with the current field as it stands.

Asked about the latest entrant to the race, Patrick, Booker this morning praised having a competitive Democratic field.

“By your metric I do not take it a personal insult that my friends believe that they are the best person to be president,” Booker said. “It is such a good thing that we have a robust competition at a time that we need to make sure that whoever emerges from this is the best person to beat Donald Trump and lead us out of the ditch that he's dug for us and put us in.”

Some constituencies for candidates were surprising. Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg had the biggest and loudest show of force when he was the first to file while the crowds gathered for Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., didn't match expectations.

More moderate candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., had solid but more modest displays of support but that included showings from establishment endorsers, and those trying to surge in New Hampshire like Andrew Yang and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, also had passionate crowds.

Booker’s supporters had a show of force notably stronger and louder than other candidates currently polling in the low single digits in the state, and a comparably bigger squad of state endorsers. But Booker, and other lower-tier candidates, only have 88 days left to translate that support into actual votes had. 

“The favorite moment is the excitement that is there among the people who are coming in with the candidate and the crowds and just the grassroots democracy because that’s what this is all about,” Gardner said. “It’s always been about the little guy, it’s always been about giving the person without the most fame and fortune a chance.”

1008d ago / 4:00 PM UTC

New Warren plan splits Medicare for All into two bills, preserves private plans at first

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WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released her plan for transitioning the country to a Medicare For All health care system Friday, splitting the effort into two legislative pushes that would happen over her first term in office, but holding off — at first — on ending the role of private insurance companies.

Instead, she would pass legislation to offer new Medicare benefits to everyone first and then follow up with legislation to end existing employer plans by her third year in office, once the new system has a foothold.

Image: Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Holds A Town Hall In South Carolina
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., addresses a crowd outside of the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center in Florence, South Carolina on Oct. 26, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images

The two-stage approach could make it easier to pass legislation and give Warren a hedge against attacks that she would eliminate existing plans, but is a departure from legislation by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would transition to Medicare for All over four years but lock everything into one bill.

“The Affordable Care Act made massive strides in expanding access to health insurance coverage, and we must defend Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act against Republican attempts to rip  health coverage away from people,” Warren writes in a Medium post Friday. “But it’s time for the next step.”

The First 100 Days

The first effort — which would be accomplished through a budget reconciliation process that requires only fifty votes in the Senate and isn't subject to filibuster rules — would establish a "true" Medicare For All public option. This would be free for Americans under 18 years old, as well as individuals below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For others, costs would be shared under this plan, but eventually decrease to zero. Warren would also work to bolster the Affordable Care Act and Medicare programs during this early period of her administration, while also reversing actions taken by President Donald Trump's administration that have weakened the ACA.

Others in the 2020 Democratic field have also pushed for a public option, but Warren argues that hers is the most generous because it would be modeled on the Sanders Medicare for All bill and eventually require no premiums or deductibles and cover essential medical needs along with dental, vision, and long-term care.

Warren released a plan to pay for a $20.5T Medicare For All system earlier this month and she says she would use similar elements to finance her plan as they determine its cost, which would at least initially be lower.

"No Later" than year three of a Warren Administration

The second push — occurring “no later” than Warren's third year in office — would move to eliminate the role of private insurance, save for in a select few instances, and would complete the full transition to Medicare For All.

The plan envisions that, at this point, the Medicare For All option would already play such a significant role in the health care system that it would be easier politically and practically to complete the job. Warren also envisions having passed a new ethics bill by this point, that she argues would make it harder for health care industry groups to rally opposition.

The new transition plan also seems designed to rebut criticism from rivals like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg that Warren has no clear path to enacting her plan and would not work to protect the Affordable Care Act in the meantime. “Any candidate who believes more modest reforms will avoid the wrath of industry is not paying attention,” Warren wrote in the Medium post.

1008d ago / 11:00 AM UTC

Former Vermont Gov. Shumlin endorses Biden in Democratic race

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vermont Gov, Peter Shumlin (D) tells NBC News that he is backing former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary contest

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Shumlin explained why he decided to back Biden and back him at this point in the race.

“This is the most important election in my lifetime and maybe in American history,” Shumlin said. “Our country is being governed by the most frightening president in memory who is dividing us."

"He's also managed to turn our greatest allies in the world against us, and coddled dictators and thugs who lead countries that we should fear," he continued. "There is no one more qualified to put this country and help put this planet back together again than Joe Biden.”

Peter Shumlin
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, enters the House Chamber before delivering the State of the State Address at the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt. on Jan. 7, 2016.Andy Duback / AP file

Shumlin, who he served as Governor of Vermont from 2011 to 2017, also served as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) He said as governor he worked closely with the White House and  “watched Joe Biden as a key player for President Obama” in dealing with difficult and complex situations, citing meetings he had alongside Biden and foreign leaders.

“What I saw in Joe Biden was exactly what America needs right now,” Shumlin said, “someone who can work with all parties to bring people together and build consensus, and he's brilliant at it.”

In the 2016 cycle, Shumlin endorsed Hillary Clinton for the presidency, over his fellow Vermonter, Sen. Bernie Sanders. When asked why he didn’t back Sanders once again in this cycle, Shumlin said his decision to endorse Biden did not come as a criticism of the other Democratic presidential candidates but rather stressing Biden’s capabilities in beating President Trump and hitting the ground running with the presidency.

“Listen, I love Bernie Sanders, and I actually am excited about the entire Democratic field I think we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the candidates running,” Shumlin said. “But what we need right now is someone who can actually pull people together to get really difficult things done."

"My endorsement is not an indictment of any of the other candidates," he said. "It is an affirmation that right now America and the world needs Joe Biden, and if we're going to win Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, at least three of those four, we need Joe Biden.”

When asked if Shumlin, who has notable donor ties through his time as chairman of the DGA is planning to help Biden’s campaign with fundraising, he said, “I'll help in any way that I can, this election is really important. I'm actually willing to help in any way that the Biden campaign asks me to help.”

Shumlin stressed that he feels the Democratic electorate does not have to make a binary choice when it comes to who they will back.

“I urge people who are concerned about where our country is right now to be passionate and pragmatic, and we can do both,” he said.

1009d ago / 8:53 PM UTC

Joe Biden proposes $1.3 trillion infrastructure overhaul plan

LOS ANGELES — Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden released a new infrastructure plan Thursday, which aims to create jobs to help revitalize the country's crumbling transportation routes by investing trillions of dollars over the next decade.

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

Biden’s 12-page plan emphasizes how updating America’s infrastructure would benefit the middle class — from shorter commute times thanks to improved roads and transportation lines within cities, to the creation of new modern-day jobs that would be needed to complete all that he proposes.

The plan also includes “green”, or environmentally friendly, proposals for almost every improvement proposed in his plan. The plan lays out ways to build green jobs by prioritizing energy efficient infrastructure that would help lead to his goal of reaching zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

Biden proposes putting $50 billion towards addressing crumbling highways, roads and bridges across the country during his first year in office. After addressing infrastructure in critical need of reparation, Biden — also known as “Amtrak Joe”, for his train commute between Washington D.C. and Delaware as a senator — proposes building multiple high rail systems throughout the U.S., which would eventually connect coast to coast, East to West and North to South. Moreover, he hopes high speed trains will cut commute times from New York City to Washington D.C. by half.

Another $10 billion over a decade would be directed to build more transportation routes in high poverty areas so members of those communities have more access to job opportunities. He’d also create a yearly $1 billion grant for five cities to implement “smart-city technologies” to make cities more green by implementing things like more charging stations for cars and scooters.

The cost of implementing the proposal would total $1.3 trillion over 10 years and would be paid for by taxing the wealthy and corporations “their fair share,” eliminating President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and closing other loopholes that “reward wealth, not work.”

Though the cost of the proposal comes with a hefty price tag, the Biden campaign points out that they will keep a campaign promise that President Trump didn't when it comes to infrastructure. The campaign mocks the president's multiple attempts to hold “Infrastructure Weeks” that have “failed to actually deliver results.”

“Instead, Trump has focused on privatizing construction projects to benefit his wealthy friends, leaving communities across the country suffering and our nation falling behind,”  the plan reads.

 

1009d ago / 7:00 PM UTC

Deval Patrick files in N.H., addresses Medicare for All and Bain Capital

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CONCORD, N.H. — Just a day ahead of the deadline, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick showed up to the statehouse here to file for the New Hampshire primary ballot late Thursday morning. Having announced his presidential campaign just hours prior, Patrick ensured his spot on the first 2020 primary ballot by signing his declaration of candidacy and submitting the $1,000 filing fee at the New Hampshire secretary of state's office.

After filing, Patrick signed the commemorative poster, "With high hopes for everyone everywhere." 

After his surprising entrance into the race, Patrick arrived to the ceremonial occasion with his wife Diane and campaign manager Abe Rakov, a former Beto O’Rourke adviser and leader of Let America Vote, a voting rights group with an extensive network in key early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

“There is a sort of once in a lifetime appetite today to bring big solutions, big enough for the challenges we face — but I think that there has to be more than the big solutions,” Patrick told reporters. “We have to use those solutions to heal us. We have a really, really talented marvelous Democratic field, many of them are my friends, I talk to some of them regularly. And they have made me proud to be a Democrat. But in many ways it has felt to me, watching the race unfold, that we're beginning to break into camps of nostalgia on the one hand and big ideas sort of my way or no way on the other."

Patrick added that he spoke with fellow Massachusetts politician Sen. Elizabeth Warren about the race on Wednesday.

“I want to acknowledge my friendship and enormous respect in particular with Senator Warren. I talked to her last night and I think it was kind of a hard conversation for the both of us, frankly," Patrick said. 

While Patrick does not support Medicare for All proposals, he credited Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for bringing Medicare for All into “a more popular, meaning more broad based discussion.” He added on Sanders and Warren, "Each of them have contributed to improving our dialogue and frankly our ambition as Democrats and that's a terrific, terrific thing. But I think that if we want solutions that last, they can't be solutions that feel to the voting public as if they are just Democratic solutions.”

Patrick said he would be accepting financial support from outside political action committees, — something other Democratic presidential candidates have criticized.

“It’d be hard for me to see how we put all the resources together for an effective campaign without a PAC of some kind,” he said. "I don't know what that is, I don't know where that'll come from, and I wish it weren't so. I wish that campaigns weren't as expensive and I wish that the influence of money that we've seen in Washington wasn't as great as it is.”

Patrick also commented on criticism he's received over his work at a venture capital firm, Bain Capital.  

“I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now … But I do think that capitalism, and I am a capitalist, has a lot to answer for," Patrick said. 

Asked by NBC News about how he would use his approach of inclusion to address gun violence, as news of a  school shooting in California broke Thursday. Patrick said, “I think first of all we have to deal with an exaggeration, really, of what the Second Amendment is about. We can have and should have strong controls to keep particularly military style weapons out of the hands of civilians, strategies for universal background checks and registration, for example.”

Patrick called the New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley this morning — while this was the first time Patrick spoke with Buckley directly, the NHDP confirms that someone in his circle reached out to the party yesterday. NBC News also learned that Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price spoke to the new candidate this morning, and Patrick told Troy he will be in Iowa next week. 

After his stop today in New Hampshire, Patrick will fly to California and then make stops in Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina, Patrick’s campaign manager Abe Rakov tells NBC News. Rakov says that Patrick’s campaign will hire staff in each of those four early states.

1009d ago / 3:57 PM UTC

Democratic Super PAC expands digital strategy to Arizona

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WASHINGTON — One of the top Democratic Super PACs, Priorities USA, is expanding its digital strategy for 2020 outside of the four key battleground states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida) and will now begin focusing on Arizona and key voting groups there.

Priorities USA chair, Guy Cecil, who briefed reporters on the group's strategy Wednesday, said they are investing approximately $2 million to court Arizona voters by “holding Trump accountable, particularly on issues around the economy, health care, wages and jobs.”

That message strategy is already being seen in some of the ads currently running in battleground states, where tax breaks for corporations and Trump’s trade war with China are front and center.

The group also intends to target key groups where the Super PAC says Democrats have room to grow: white women without college degrees and Latinos. To help accomplish that goal, Cecil said his organization will launch a year-long program focused on mobilizing Latino voters in Florida and Arizona.

“Democrats who believe that the only path to winning is by convincing white, working class voters to be with us are wrong. Democrats who believe that the only way we're going to win is by focusing solely on turning out voters are wrong,” Cecil said. “The question we should be asking ourselves is: How do we build the broadest coalition of people who share our beliefs and values?”

Cecil said the decision to expand into Arizona was made after testing their ad strategies in the off-year election when Democrats took control of the Virginia state legislature. The group spent $4 million on local mobilization programs in battleground states in 2019, and intends to continue and expand that for the presidential election in 2020. 

The six-week program “focused on increasing turnout in 2019, building a larger pool of voters going into 2020 ... and also getting a chance for us to learn best about how we need to do our job,” Cecil said. “Unlike a lot of other organizations, everything that we do is tested on the front end and back end, especially when it comes to mobilization.”

Cecil said the strategy is focused on leading Priorities USA to an electoral college win, not a popular vote victory, — which is why the group is focusing on Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, and is watching, but not yet buying, space in Georgia and North Carolina.

Cecil said that while the race is likely to be “incredibly close,” he sees President Trump’s chances narrowing as more voters connect their personal concerns over their economic future and health care options to President Trump’s actions. 

“We are still seeing higher premiums, we're still seeing higher prescription drug costs. All of the pressures on people are continuing to be pressures on people,” Cecil said. “On top of that, they were promised that their tax cut was coming in the mail. Trump made promises … and none of those things have actually happened.”

1009d ago / 12:29 PM UTC

Deval Patrick makes presidential announcement official with video message

WASHINGTON —Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick made his entry into the Democratic presidential race official with a video released Thursday morning, prior to him filing for the New Hampshire primary ballot later in the day — just a day ahead of the deadline to file for the first-in-nation contest.  

1010d ago / 9:30 PM UTC

Elizabeth Warren files for New Hampshire primary

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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.

1010d ago / 2:11 PM UTC

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." 

1011d ago / 7:17 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg speaks in Durham
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

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. 

1011d ago / 6:31 PM UTC

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. 

1012d ago / 3:17 PM UTC

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.

1012d ago / 11:10 AM UTC

Buttigieg rolls out plan to reform the VA on Veteran's Day

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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.”

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg speaks in Durham
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

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.

1012d ago / 11:07 AM UTC

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.

Image: Bernie Sanders, Bill Gardner, Jane Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, smiles after filing to be listed on the New Hampshire primary ballot on Oct. 31, 2019, at the Secretary of State's office in Concord, N.H.Charles Krupa / AP

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.

1013d ago / 4:02 PM UTC

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. 

1014d ago / 8:42 PM UTC

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. 

1014d ago / 8:01 PM UTC

Biden campaign memo says Kentucky, Virginia results help Biden case

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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."

1014d ago / 1:25 AM UTC

Tom Steyer campaign aide resigns following accusations of payments for endorsements

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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."

Image: US-POLITICS-DEMOCRATS-DNC
2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful US billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer speaks on-stage during the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in San Francisco on Aug. 23, 2019.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images

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.” 

1015d ago / 8:37 PM UTC

Joe Biden files for New Hampshire primary, clarifies comments on Elizabeth Warren

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CONCORD, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden officially filed for the New Hampshire primary Friday — marking the third time he has done so in his political career. 

Besides filing for himself in 2007, the second time he ran for president, Biden filed on behalf of then-President Barack Obama in his 2012 reelection bid. Biden ended his first presidential campaign in 1988 before filing for the New Hampshire primary. 

Speaking to reporters afterward, Biden reacted to the news of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg preparing to enter the 2020 contest. 

“I welcome him to the race,” he said.

“Michael's a solid guy, and let's see where it goes," Biden continued. "I have no problem with him getting in the race and in terms of he's running because of me, last polls I looked at I'm pretty far ahead." 

He also clarified his criticism of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., saying his "elitist" comments were in response to her assertion he should run in another primary because he disagrees with her, rather than an attack on her personally.

“I wasn't referring to Elizabeth Warren as being elitist,” he said. “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."

"They're pretty darn smart," Biden continued, "they know what's at stake. And so I was referring to the fact that you can't label the American public if they disagree with you as somehow just dead wrong. That's not how a democracy functions.”

“I'm not saying she's out of touch. What I'm saying is, the way to approach politics today to get things done is not to question peoples' motives,” Biden added.

When asked Biden whether he would testify if he were called to in the House's impeachment inquiry, Biden deflected, saying, “this is about Donald Trump, not about me."

“Let's focus on the problem here. The question is, did the President of the United States violate the Constitution — and did he profit from his office? I've given 21 years of my tax returns. Take a look at 'em. I'd like to see one year of his. One year. He should be quiet otherwise.”

Before filing his official paperwork for the primary, Biden carried on the tradition of stopping by the state house gift shop. There, he signed a campaign poster and guest book.

Looking up at a pin board with presidential campaign bumper stickers and buttons since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Biden said “so many friends up there,” and singularly pointed out a photo of the late Sen. John McCain. 

While in the state house, Biden walked through throngs of supporters beating drums to amplify his recent critique against Trump — that Biden would “beat him like a drum” if he becomes the Democratic nominee. 

The hallways were also lined with Biden’s loyal support case, fire fighters from the International Association of Fire Fighters. 

Jill Biden joined him for his post-filing rally on the state house lawn, where he was introduced by endorser and former New Hampshire Governor John Lynch.

Biden emphasized a message of unity to the energetic crowd.

“Literally the character of our nation is on the ballot, it's about who we are as a country,” said Biden. “We can overcome these four years. It's gonna be hard, we're gonna need somebody who's gonna be able to pull the county together and reunite the world. But it's within our reach.”

 

1016d ago / 7:24 PM UTC

Vice President Mike Pence files Trump's name for New Hampshire primary ballot

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CONCORD, N.H. — Vice President Mike Pence traveled to New Hampshire Thursday to file the official paperwork to put President Donald Trump's candidacy on the first-in-the-nation primary ballot. Upon his arrival in New Hampshire, Pence was greeted by Gov. Chris Sununu, R-N.H., and was later greeted by cheers of "four more years" by the crowd gathered outside outside the state house. 

Hundreds of supporters lined the hallway inside as Pence made his way toward Secretary of State Bill Gardner's office and, in accordance with tradition, stopped at the state house gift shop to sign the guest book. Pence also stopped briefly to address supporters.

“Today I'll add the president's name to the ballot here in the New Hampshire Republican primary,” he said. “We're going to be here in New Hampshire, we're going to be traveling all over the country because I have to tell you, you look over the past three years, despite incredible opposition by the Democrats and their allies in the media, we have delivered.”

“In a very real sense, under President Donald Trump's leadership we've made America great again,” Pence said to loud applause from the crowd. “To keep America great, New Hampshire, we need four more years!”

He then shook hands and took pictures with many of the people at the state house. He made a point to stop and kneel to speak to a World War II veteran who was in wheelchair, with a balloon attached to it that said “100,” to mark his age.

Once Pence walked into the office, packed with press for the official signing, he was met by Gardner. After signing the official paperwork on behalf of the president, he wrote on the commemorative poster, "Here’s to four more years of President Trump in the White House.”

Pence was joined at the signing by Trump campaign New Hampshire co-chairs Fred Doucette, Al Baldasaro and Lou Gargiulo, as well as President Trump’s first campaign manager in 2016 and New Hampshire resident Corey Lewandowski.

NBC News has reported that Lewandowski is mulling a senate run in New Hampshire and he told NBC News Thursday that he will decide whether or not he will run by the end of the year, adding, “if I run, I win.”

Pence took four questions from local reporters on his interactions with Ukrainian President  Volodymyr Zelensky — which are subject to the House of Representative's impeachment probe, and if he’d campaign for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ senate run in Alabama. Pence said, “We’ll let the people of Alabama make that decision."

Pence also reacted to reports that the anonymous author of The New York Times op-ed and an upcoming book claimed in his book that senior officials believed Pence would support the use of the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. 

"You know when those rumors came out a few years ago I dismissed them then. I never heard any discussion in my entire tenure as vice president about the 25th Amendment," Pence said. 

1016d ago / 3:07 PM UTC

Andrew Yang releases first TV ad in Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Entrepreneur Andrew Yang Thursday became the latest Democratic presidential candidate to hit the airwaves in Iowa, releasing his first TV ad that highlights his connections to the Obama administration and emphasizes his ability to take on industries like big tech and health care.

The one-minute ad, titled “New Way Forward,” opens with scenic shots of waves crashing against rocks and views of the San Francisco bridge as a narrator says, “The son of immigrants who came here seeking the American dream — Andrew Yang.” The ad ends on an image of him and his wife, Evelyn.

 

The 60-second ad touts Yang’s record as a businessman and his connections to the Obama administration, “President Obama named Andrew a champion of change, and his ideas are a blueprint for a new way forward,” the narrator says as photos of Yang meeting with the former president flash across the screen.  

The rhythm of the music takes a slightly darker tone as the ad turns to Yang’s plans for taking on Wall Street, big drug companies, and polluters before declaring, “Andrew Yang: parent, patriot — not a politician.” 

The campaign says it is spending more than $1 million to air the ad across the first-in-the-nation caucus state. 

Notably, the ad does not verbally mention Yang’s signature Freedom Dividend plan to give every adult American $1,000 a month, but displays the text “Universal Basic Income” text over a clip of Yang addressing a rally: “We have to rewrite the rules of the 21st century so that they work for us.” 

Of the candidates still in the race, Yang is the 11th Democratic hopeful to release television ads in Iowa this election cycle.  

Yang wasn't in the state during the month of October but did visit on Nov. 1 for the state party's Liberty and Justice dinner. He has instead been spending significant time in New Hampshire and holding rallies in major cities nationwide. The ads, which will run across broadcast channels, allow Yang to reach caucus voters even when he’s not in the state. 

“This is a significant media buy across the state of Iowa,” said Yang senior adviser Mark Longabaugh in the release. “Democratic voters will see Andrew Yang's message multiple times over the next week, learning about his credentials, family and unique plan to move our country 'a new way forward.’” 

The ad is the campaign’s first produced by Devine, Mulvey, and Longabaugh, the media consulting firm and longtime Bernie Sanders advisers who split with the Sanders campaign earlier this year

In latest polls, Yang has 3 percent support in Iowa, 5 percent in New Hampshire, and 3 percent nationally. Yang appears to have qualified for the November date, but has not yet met the polling threshold for the December debate.

1017d ago / 10:06 PM UTC

Amy Klobuchar shuts down women candidates not being "likable"

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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."

1017d ago / 9:14 PM UTC

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
1017d ago / 5:13 PM UTC

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

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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.”

1017d ago / 1:01 PM UTC

As the debate qualification deadline draws near, Bullock and Castro invest in Iowa TV ads

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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.

1018d ago / 6:08 PM UTC

Bevin, Beshear speak as pivotal Kentucky gubernatorial election underway

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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. 

 

1018d ago / 10:57 AM UTC

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.”

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg Campaigns In Des Moines, Iowa
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.

1019d ago / 5:37 PM UTC

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. 

1020d ago / 3:17 PM UTC

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.

1020d ago / 11:56 AM UTC

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.”

Joe Biden
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.

1021d ago / 8:17 PM UTC

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. 

1021d ago / 11:04 AM UTC

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. 

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg speaks in Durham
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.

1022d ago / 9:36 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Presidential Candidates Attend New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the SNHU Arena on Sept. 7, 2019 in Manchester, N.H.Scott Eisen / Getty Images

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.”

1022d ago / 2:42 PM UTC

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. 

Image: US-POLITICS-DEMOCRATS-DNC
2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful US billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer speaks on-stage during the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in San Francisco on Aug. 23, 2019.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images

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. 

1023d ago / 8:54 PM UTC

Bernie Sanders files for New Hampshire primary

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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.”

Image: Bernie Sanders, Bill Gardner, Jane Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, smiles after filing to be listed on the New Hampshire primary ballot on Oct. 31, 2019, at the Secretary of State's office in Concord, N.H. At left is Secretary of State Bill Gardner, and at right is his wife Jane Sanders.Charles Krupa / AP

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.”

1023d ago / 4:43 PM UTC

Two moderate, swing-district Dems only two to buck party on impeachment rules vote

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WASHINGTON — Just two Democratic House members crossed party lines Thursday to vote against the House's plan to move forward in its impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

The vast majority of House Democrats voted with their party on the measure that lays out the plan for public hearings, the inquiry's format and codifies rules for lawmakers and their staffs. Only Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., defected, with Republicans all voting in opposition. 

Independent Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigander who recently left the Republican Party voicing opposition to Trump, voted with the Democrats in favor of the measure. 

In a statement, Peterson called the impeachment process "hopelessly partisan" and said he has "serious concerns with the way the closed-door depositions were run." He added that he wouldn't "make a decision on impeachment until all the facts have been presented.”   

Van Drew said in a statement that he is worried the impeachment "inquiry will further divide the country tearing it apart at the seams and will ultimately fail in the Senate." But he admitted that now that the vote is behind him, he'll make a "judgment call based on all the evidence presented by these investigations."

Both Peterson and Van Drew represent congressional districts that voted for Trump in 2016. They both are among the few Democrats not supporting the impeachment push, but they could still face challenges in 2020 from the right. 

Peterson's district is the most Trump-friendly district in the nation that is represented by a Democrat in Congress. And it's not even close. 

Trump won Peterson’s Minnesota district by 30 points, 61 percent to 31 percent, in 2016. Peterson — known for his work on agriculture issues — has long defied Republican efforts to oust him since he was first elected in 1990. 

Van Drew's southern New Jersey congressional district supported President Obama in 2012 by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. But Trump won the district 50 percent to 46 percent. Despite that shift, Van Drew won the seat in 2018 after then-GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo announced his retirement. 

1023d ago / 2:22 PM UTC

Trump World Series television ad evokes al-Baghdadi raid

WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign dropped a new ad during last night's World Series that emphasizes the president's role in Saturday's raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The spot is similar to others the campaign has run, including many common themes across Trump ads—video of Trump at the southern border to tout his border security push, video of workers to promote the economic performance, and video of regular Trump campaign targets like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former special counsel Robert Mueller. 

But it also features a picture of Trump and top aides monitoring the raid in the Situation Room, video of an air strike and a picture of al-Baghdadi with an 'X' drawn over him. 

"Obliterating ISIS—their caliphate destroyed, their terrorist leader dead. But the Democrats would rather focus on impeachment and phony investigations ignoring of real issues," a narrator says. 

"But that's not stopping Donald Trump. He's no Mr. Nice Guy, but sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington. "

Trump's campaign has also run a series of Facebook ads since the Saturday night raid evoking the raid. 

"Under the fierce leadership of our Commander-in-Chief, the radical ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. Terrorists should never sleep soundly knowing that the U.S. will completely destroy them. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are the very best, and thanks to their bravery and President Trump’s leadership, WE ARE KEEPING AMERICA SAFE!" one ad reads. 

1024d ago / 1:03 AM UTC

Buttigieg becomes first major Democratic candidate to file for N.H. primary

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CONCORD, N.H. — Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday became the first major presidential candidate to file for the first-in-the-nation primary ballot here in 2020, signing the official documents and handing over a $1,000 check to N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner.

As Buttigieg walked to the historic filing desk in Gardner’s office, cheering supporters lined up to greet the South Bend, Indiana mayor.

From now until November 15, every 2020 presidential candidate must file with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office in order to appear on the state’s primary ballot in February. This cycle marks the 100th anniversary of the state's presidential primary.

Most are expected to appear in person for the time-honored tradition, but surrogates may file on behalf of the candidates themselves. For example, Vice President Mike Pence is slated to file for President Donald Trump next week.

Moments after he sealed his spot, Buttigieg was asked if he’s ready to be president.

"We better be,” he said. “I think we've demonstrated to the country that we're ready to do this. And it feels like a lot of people out there are too, which is exciting."

Per tradition, Buttigieg then took questions from local media before visiting the state house gift shop, where he signed campaign merchandise to contribute to the locale’s collection of presidential campaign memorabilia. 

On his way out, Buttigieg crossed paths with a 4th grade class at the state house for a field trip and heard from students who said they hoped he would win the White House, with one student even seizing the moment in front of the cameras to “make a statement” and declaring he would want President Buttigieg to end world hunger. Buttigieg applauded the remarks before being hugged by a few of the students.

In an interview with NBC News, Buttigieg argued that voters should trust him on foreign policy, even over more experienced candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden.

"Around the world is people from new generations stepping up in leadership, many of them elected under the age of 40 as I would be,” he said. “I'm thinking about the President of France, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the new leader of El Salvador. Leaders from a new generation around the world shaping the future of geopolitics in a way that's going to be responsive to the 21st century."

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg speaks in Durham
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

During a brief rally outside the state house Wednesday, Buttigieg embraced the moment.

“We’ve been at it for a good year or so, but this — this feels different,” he told the couple hundred supporters gathered for the occasion. “We are officially a candidate in the New Hampshire primary for president of the United States.”

He reiterated the sentiment at his last event of the day at a town hall in Peterborough. 

“There's something about putting your name on that sheet of paper that reminds you that you are part of a tradition, that you are part of something bigger than even the 2020 presidential election,” Buttigieg said, “although it's hard to think of something much bigger in terms of consequence than what is about to happen in this country.”

1024d ago / 8:41 PM UTC

Harris cuts staff and shifts focus to Iowa amid slump at polls

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WASHINGTON — California Sen. Kamala Harris' presidential campaign is laying off "several dozen" staffers, moving field staff to Iowa and slashing pay to top campaign hands amid her recent decline in the polls.

Harris' campaign made the announcements in a memo released Wednesday from Juan Rodriguez, the campaign manager. 

In that memo, Rodriguez announced that the campaign will "reduce the size of our headquarters staff" in Baltimore while also shifting field staff from Baltimore, New Hampshire, Nevada and California to go "all in on Iowa."

The campaign’s South Carolina operation will remain unchanged.

“There are multiple ways to assess and move forward, and to ensure we’re incredibly competitive in Iowa, not only with a robust organizing campaign — we have more than 100 staff in the state and that’s not changing — and to make sure we have a strong paid media presence in those last days when people are marking their decision, and that requires tough decisions,” Harris campaign communications director Lily Adams told NBC News.

Harris, who joked at the end of last month that she was “moving to Iowa,” has spent 15 days in the Hawkeye State, making five trips there in October. The campaign memo also said Harris would be spending Thanksgiving there.

“She is determined to earn the support of every caucus goer she can in the next 96 days,” the memo said.

Rodriguez also wrote that he and all of the campaign's consultants will take pay cuts, and they will "trim and renegotiate contracts." 

Harris raised just under $12 million in the last quarter, but her fundraising efforts have put her behind frontrunners like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. She spent almost $3 million more than her campaign took in during that quarter, which stretched from July through September. And she ended the quarter with $10.5 million in the bank and held $911,000 in debt.

1024d ago / 6:30 PM UTC

Pro-Biden super PAC officially launches, calling for country to 'unite'

MAQUOKETA, IOWA —A new super PAC aimed at boosting Joe Biden’s candidacy launched Wednesday focused on a key plank of the former vice president’s platform: unifying the country at a time of division.

The new Unite The Country PAC debuted with a 60-second video featuring Biden in his own words appealing to bring the nation together and professing his optimism for the country’s future.

“It’s time to unite the country. Are you in?” the spot concludes.

The primary goal of the new organization, though, is to provide a much-needed financial shot in the arm for the fragile Democratic frontrunner, whose fundraising pass has lagged even as his campaign has continued to spend heavily. Biden allies argue that no other Democratic candidate is facing incoming fire both within his party and from President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

In a statement announcing its formation, the super PAC said it will focus its efforts “on communicating to voters why Joe Biden is not only the best choice to defeat Trump in 2020, but is also the best candidate to restore honor and integrity to the White House and our nation on day one.”

“We know Joe Biden is the best candidate to defeat the President, but so does Donald Trump. We will not sit idly by while Trump spreads lies about a man who has served this country with honor and dignity,” said Steve Schale, a strategist for Unite the Country Strategist said.

Biden had personally disavowed the support of any outside super PAC even before launching his candidacy in April. But as supporters of the former vice president have expressed renewed concern about his ability to finance a long-term campaign, particularly with the GOP apparatus already training its significant war chest on him, his campaign relented, saying in a statement that “it is not surprising that those who are dedicated to defeating Donald Trump are organizing in every way permitted by current law to bring an end to his disastrous presidency.”

The board of the new Super PAC includes a number of veteran Democratic strategists and longtime Biden allies. Schale was a top official in President Obama’s campaigns in the key battleground state of Florida, and also played a role with an organization that sought to draft Biden into the 2016 race.

Schale told NBC News the focus of the PAC’s efforts would be making an affirmative case for Biden.

"We are here to talk about Joe Biden, and defend him from the unprecedented attacks from Trump, not to attack other Democrats,” he said. 

The organization’s board will be chaired by Mark Doyle, a former Biden aide and nonprofit CEO. Fellow Biden alumnus John MacNeil will serve as secretary, and Larry Rasky, who worked on Biden’s 1988 and 2008 campaigns, will serve as Treasurer.

Julianna Smoot, the deputy campaign manager for Obama’s 2012 campaign and the 2008 national finance director, will also play a key role.

1024d ago / 5:05 PM UTC

Trump campaign launches $1 million anti-impeachment television campaign

WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign is out with a new television spot blasting impeachment as a "scam" and a "bunch of bull," as the president looks to sway public opinion in key Democratic primary states as well as some swing states pivotal to his own 2020 bid. 

The campaign started airing the ad Wednesday morning, shortly after the campaign booked $1.15 million in time across Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. from Oct. 30 through Nov. 5, according to spending data from Advertising Analytics. 

The breakdown: $400,000 of that total is booked for Nevada, $387,000 is booked for Pennsylvania, $257,000 is booked for Iowa, $64,000 is booked in Boston (which covers most of New Hampshire) and $42,600 is booked in Washington D.C.

In the spot, a smattering of speakers take turns lambasting impeachment in a variety of settings—at home, in offices, and on factory floors.

"Impeachment is a scam."

Impeachment is a bunch of bull."

"Impeachment is a joke."

"It’s a partisan witch hunt."

 "They can’t get over the fact that Donald Trump won. The Democrats are trying to overturn the election. Ignore how we voted. Donald Trump is an excellent president. Over 6 million new jobs. My job is here, not China. My paycheck is bigger. Black and Hispanic women are finally gaining. Donald Trump is my president." 

Public sentiment appears to be creeping toward supporting impeachment, but strong majorities voters are still not sold on removing Trump from office. 

1024d ago / 11:59 AM UTC

Warren gets influential Iowa endorsement

WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has nabbed the endorsement of Iowa Democratic State Senator Zach Wahls, NBC News has learned.

Wahls, who first rose to national prominence in 2011 with an emotional speech defending his lesbian mothers, is now a rising star in Iowa Democratic politics. And at the age of 28, he could help energize younger voters in the Hawkeye State behind Warren’s presidential campaign.

Image: Elizabeth Warren
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., greets a student after speaking at an assembly at Roosevelt High School on Oct. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall / AP

In a phone interview with NBC News Tuesday night Wahls said that, for him, the biggest themes of this race are both understanding how President Donald Trump won in 2016 and how Democrats can beat him in 2020. “I think Senator Warren offers the clearest explanation on both of those two points,” he said.

He described the Massachusetts senator as “infectiously optimistic about the future of the country."

"So many people want to feel good about politics again," he said, "and she makes you feel good about politics again.”

The Iowa state senator representing parts of Eastern Iowa met Warren in May, and the two have stayed in touch throughout the campaign. But he also cites a “personal connection” to the candidate in his endorsement reasoning: they’re both policy wonks.

He spotted a chart in an early announcement video for Warren that illustrated the diverging paths between worker productivity and hourly compensation. While the labels were hard to make out in the video, “I knew what it was,” Wahls, who has a degree in public policy, said with a laugh. “The first time [Warren] called me, that was most of the conversation,” he said.

Other 2020 candidates have appeared with Wahls over the course of this 2020 campaign. Over the summer, several Democratic presidential hopefuls — including South Ben Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar — appeared at a fundraiser for him.

The endorsement comes as Warren heads back to the state for several days of campaigning, and after receiving the endorsement of Iowa Native, now-California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter.

1025d ago / 2:02 PM UTC

Yes, late-breaking and undecided voters do exist — and matter

WASHINGTON — In today’s highly polarized political times, you might think that undecided, late-breaking voters are an extinct species — akin to the passenger pigeon and the Dodo bird. 

But ahead of this November’s gubernatorial races in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, the Democratic Governors Association believes they certainly exist. 

Image: BESTPIX - Voters In California Head To Polls To Cast Ballots In State's Primary Election
Voters cast their ballots at a lodge on June 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.Mario Tama / Getty Images

And the organization has built a polling model to measure how these late-moving voters might break on Election Day, as well as to determine how to target these voters and spend its final resources. 

“Attitudes aren’t fixed,” said Nick Gourevitch, partner and managing directorof the Global Strategy Group, who was one of the lead Democratic pollsters who created this model for the DGA. 

How the DGA model compared to actual results

Adjusting for late-breaking voter movement.

State Topline Margin Model-Adjusted Margin Actual Margin
Georgia +6 +1 -1
Maine +3 +6 +8
Nevada +1 +4 +4
New Mexico +6 +8 +14
Ohio -8 -3 -4
Oregon +1 +4 +6

“It is enough to make a difference in some places,” he added. 

The DGA and its pollsters developed this model after Kentucky’s surprising gubernatorial result four years ago, when Democratic internal polls — as well as the public ones — showed Democrat Jack Conway with a small but consistent lead. 

But Republican Matt Bevin won that contest — by nearly 9 points. 

After Bevin’s victory, the DGA’s pollsters conducted a post-election panel survey with respondents from previous polling, and they discovered two things. 

One, the undecided voters broke overwhelmingly for Bevin, the Republican. 

And two, a sizable number of Conway voters in their polling defected to Bevin and the GOP. 

After further studying this kind of late movement in the 2016 gubernatorial races of Indiana, Missouri, Montana and West Virginia, the DGA and its pollsters built a statistical model to better predict how these late-breaking voters can affect races. 

Part of the model is based on a simple question: would voters consider supporting the other candidate or is their choice locked in? The answers allow them to predict if particular voters might defect from their stated choice. 

And for undecided voters, the model uses information from the voter file, plus answers on other polling questions, to determine how they might break. 

A year later, the late-breaking model pretty much nailed the results in Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial race, which Democrat Ralph Northam ultimately won. 

The Democrats’ final internal pre-election tracking poll showed Northam with a 5-point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie, with a combined 8 percent saying they were undecided or supporting a third-party candidate. 

When the late-breaking model was added to those numbers, Northam’s lead over Gillespie grew to 11 points, 55 percent to 44 percent. 

He ended up winning by 9 points, 54 percent to 45 percent. 

The model also closely reflected the results of last year’s gubernatorial races in Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Maine and New Mexico. 

The takeaway? Undecided and late-breaking voters do matter. 

That was evident from the 2016 exit polls (when Trump overwhelmingly won voters who decided in the last week in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida), as well as the exit polls in 2018 (when Democrats won late-deciding voters by 6 points). 

And it’s evident from the Democrats’ polling model in their gubernatorial races, says Gourevitch, the Democratic pollster. 

“It’s definitely been helpful to us in terms of … knowing the range of possibilities and outcomes,” he said.

1025d ago / 10:54 AM UTC

'Math to the madness:' Why the Trump campaign’s viral merchandise is actually priceless

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When President Donald Trump debuted a new catchphrase at a Minneapolis rally this month, the crowd went predictably wild.

“By the way, what ever happened to Hunter? Where the hell is he?!” Trump asked the arena, referring to former Vice President Joe Biden’s eldest son, amid the controversy that launched an impeachment inquiry into the president and his dealings with Ukraine. “Hey fellas, I have an idea for a new T-shirt.”

Image: Hats supporting U.S. President Trump are displayed for sale at the Chicken Burn in Milwaukee
Hats supporting President Donald Trump are displayed for sale at the Chicken Burn, a picnic gathering of Republicans and conservatives, in Milwaukee on Sept. 8, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters file

Minutes later, the suggestion became a $25 reality. Before the event was over, the campaign website had a “LIMITED edition” piece of merchandise “while supplies last!” featuring the presidential query: “WHERE’S HUNTER?”

But the goal wasn’t just to sell thousands of inflammatory t-shirts. More valuable than any dollars brought in, according to aides, is the voter data associated with each item the campaign sells.

For months, the Trump campaign has been capitalizing on controversial events to attract and study donors, many of whom had never given to the 2020 team before. Critics have mocked the gimmicky sales but the campaign may be getting the last laugh.

“President Trump is a master of branding and marketing and his campaign is an extension of that. We try to reflect the President’s ability to cut through political correctness and seize on the news cycle,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said.

When plastic straw bans started to spread across the country, campaign manager Brad Parscale saw an opportunity to monetize.

“Liberal paper straws don’t work. STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today,” an advertisement read. So far, the $15 packs of the Trump-branded straws have raised nearly $1 million for the campaign, making them the best-sellers of this kind of viral marketing machine.

That’s more than 60,000 orders, 40 percent of which were placed by new donors, according to a senior campaign official, meaning access to new voters and all sorts of information about them.

In September, after a hurricane map was altered with a black Sharpie to include Alabama, the Trump campaign decided to sell its own kind of thick black markers. For $15, supporters would get 5 fine-tip pens to “set the record straight!” for themselves, featuring — of course — the president’s gold autograph. Those haven’t sold as well as the straws, netting around $50,000, but it helped the campaign crystallize its strategy for converting outrage into retail information.

Last week, after Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said those with concern over political influence in the president’s foreign policy should “get over it,” the campaign seized on the phrasing and designed t-shirts with Trump’s signature hairdo over the letter “o.” 

All of those examples show the lengths to which the campaign has cashed in on the culture war.

They have also been extremely beneficial for the data operation, according to a senior campaign official, who said the information gleaned from the thousands of transactions is invaluable.

Though the total amounts from these sales is a tiny fraction of the $125 million brought in by the president’s whole re-election effort last quarter, the one-two punch of effective political messaging and data collection also helps the campaign identify potential groups and demographics to better target between now and Election Day.

Obtaining phone numbers, emails and physical addresses in this volume, with this ease, is essentially gold for any presidential campaign.

Capitalizing on the “smartest dumb ideas” is also a way to identify the most loyal supporters and then seek out others who may share their key characteristics or online habits, said one digital marketing expert who asked not to be identified because they are consulting with political campaigns. 

This strategy is a huge part of Parscale’s larger approach to collecting and using data. And it's a clear sign that the campaign is more focused on dominating in the digital arena than even four years ago.

Harvesting this kind of information demonstrates there is a “math to the madness” of these quick-turnaround items, according to the marketing expert.

The tchotchkes are easy and cheap to produce (all “Made in the USA”), while delivering nuanced insight into thousands of the president’s most ardent supporters, who would be critical to a potential second term victory.

The campaign can also cross-reference the information they gather from voter scores at the Republican National Committee and try to identify how many times they’ve voted in the past, for whom, and how.

Before he was elected, the president considered himself a master marketer. Perhaps the best example of this skill set is the now-iconic, signature red “Make America Great Again” hat. To date, the Trump campaign says it  has sold more than a million of them, for a grand total of $25 million.

And beyond the viral, news cycle-driven merchandise, the campaign also has consistently targeted the president’s political opponents in its apparel and accessories available for sale on the website.

Just this week, the campaign unveiled special Halloween-themed items that feature House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Rep. Jerry Nadler. D-N.Y., as witches, with a superhero-type Trump flying through the air over Washington D.C. The image is a play on the movie poster for “Hocus Pocus,” with the Trump team playfully labeling the line: “HOAXUS POCUS — Stop the Witch-Hunt!”

1026d ago / 6:55 PM UTC

Steyer's TV ad spending in 2020 race reaches $30 million

WASHINGTON — Wealthy Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has now spent nearly $30 million in TV and radio advertisements, according to ad-spending data as of Oct. 28 from Advertising Analytics.

Steyer’s spending over the airwaves is seven times greater than the second-biggest advertiser in the presidential race (President Trump’s re-election campaign) and 15 times greater than his nearest Democratic rival (South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg).

Image: Tom Steyer
Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer arrives to speak during a news conference on Jan. 8, 2018 in Washington.Carolyn Kaster / AP

Almost all of Steyer’s spending has been targeted in the early nominating states – $7.1 million in Iowa, $7 million in New Hampshire, $5 million in Nevada and $6.3 million in South Carolina – as the Democratic National Committee has used early-state and national polls to set the qualifications for upcoming debates.

So far, Steyer is one of nine Democrats who have qualified for the next debate, on Nov. 20 in Georgia.

The top overall advertisers, as of Oct. 28

  • Steyer: $29.7 million
  • Trump: $4.0 million
  • Buttigieg: $2.0 million
  • Sanders: $1.7 million

The top spenders in Iowa

  • Steyer: $7.1 million
  • Buttigieg: $2.0 million
  • Sanders: $1.7 million
  • Biden: $691,000

 

The top spenders in New Hampshire

  • Steyer: $7.0 million
  • Klobuchar: $514,000
  • Gabbard: $229,000

 

The top spenders in Nevada

  • Steyer: $5.0 million
  • Trump: $457,000

 

The top spenders in South Carolina

  • Steyer: $6.3 million
  • Trump: $549,000
  • Gabbard: $300,000

 

SOURCE: Advertising Analytics

1026d ago / 5:27 PM UTC

Buttigieg and Castro open to conditioning Israel aid money to restricting settlement expansion

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Monday suggested an openness to using U.S. aid as leverage to press Israel to halt its settlement expansion in the West Bank. 

The two were among a handful of Democratic presidential contenders who spoke at a conference hosted by the liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street in Washington. 

“We have a responsibility, and by the way we have mechanisms to do this, to ensure that U.S. taxpayer support to Israel does not get turned into U.S. taxpayer support for a move like annexation,” Buttigieg said from the stage, adding: “The problem of course with annexation is that it is incompatible with a two-state solution, and I believe ultimately moving in that direction represents moving away from peace.”  

In an interview with NBC at the conference, Castro echoed Buttigieg, saying, “I would not take off the table the option of conditioning our aid on Israel not annexing the West Bank.”

Castro, however, said his focus would be to first work with the new Democratic presidential administration in 2021 to “get this [U.S.-Israel] relationship back on track and to work toward a two-state solution and stop any kind of effort to unilaterally annex the West Bank.”

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development also criticized the leading role that Jared Kushner, the White House senior adviser and son-in-law of President Trump, is playing in Middle East peace talks. 

“I wish, though, that this president were more serious and that he would send somebody over there that actually has a track record and experience of being able to help achieve stability and peace,” Castro told NBC, adding that the White House’s peace negotiating “doesn't seem serious.”

America has been a stalwart ally of Israel, sending the country vital military and economic aid. Some U.S. politicians have bristled at Israel's decision to build settlements in the West Bank, arguing the construction in areas that go beyond the nation's initial borders could hamper peace negotiations in the region. But defenders of those settlements believe Israel is well within its rights to build on land Israel now controls after wars in the region. 

President Obama called for Israel to stop building settlements during his administration, putting him at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But President Trump has been largely in lockstep with Netanyahu, and a group of Israelis named a settlement after the American president earlier this year. 

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have previously suggested the conditioning of aid money should be on the table. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke to the group on Sunday, and Sanders and Sen. Michael Bennet will speak on Monday afternoon.

1027d ago / 2:59 PM UTC

Jeffries: Proof of Trump wrongdoing 'hiding in plain sight'

WASHINGTON — New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a member of House Democratic leadership, wouldn't commit to a timeline on impeaching President Trump, arguing Sunday that the House will "continue to proceed in a serious and solemn fashion to undertake our Constitutional responsibility." 

During an interview on Sunday's "Meet the Press," Jeffries said that it's up to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to decide when to turn "transition from the accumulation of information" to "the public presentation" of the House Democrats' charge to impeach Trump. 

"Speaker Pelosi, who by the way, is doing a phenomenal job, has made clear that we are going to continue to proceed in a serious and solemn fashion to undertake our constitutional responsibility," he said.

"We are going to follow the facts, we are gonna apply the law, we’re gonna be guided by the Constitution, we’re gonna present the truth to the American people no matter where that leads because nobody is above the law."

Jeffries went on to argue that evidence of the president's "wrongdoing" is "hiding in plain sight." 

He said the recently released White House memorandum summarizing a summer call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy proves that "Donald Trump pressured a foreign government to target an American citizenship for political gain." And he said that a whistleblower complaint against the president has been "validated" by witnesses that have testified as part of the House's impeachment inquiry. 

1029d ago / 8:11 PM UTC

Sanders' longtime trip director no longer with presidential campaign

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders’ longtime trip director and de-facto body man William Pierce is no longer with the Vermont Senator's 2020 presidential effort — and hasn't been for several weeks now — the Sanders campaign confirms to NBC News.

Image: Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pauses while speaking at a campaign event at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. on Sept. 29, 2019.Cheryl Senter / AP file

In his position, Pierce was responsible for handling logistics and day-of scheduling behind the scenes and also served as a body man of sorts for Sanders, regularly seen working at tasks like making sure the podium was up to Sanders’ specifications at events and controlling crowds around him during rope lines, “selfie” lines, parades and even at airports.

Pierce has been with the campaign since January of 2019, even before the official launch in February. He previously worked for a number of other political organizations including Draft Biden 2016, Obama for America and Sanders’ 2016 run. Pierce left the Sanders campaign in September.

According to Pierce’s publicly available social media profiles, he is now an account executive with iConstituent, a Washington D.C.-based constituent communications software company. 

National Advance staffers David Maddox and Jesse Cornett have been filling Pierce’s role in recent weeks. 

When contacted by NBC News, Pierce would not comment on the record for this story and Sanders' campaign provided no further comment.  

1029d ago / 5:50 PM UTC

Klobuchar proposes plan to reduce college costs, not make it free

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WASHINGTON — Senator Amy Klobuchar is setting up another contrast between herself and her fellow 2020 aspirants, this time on student loan debt and post-secondary education. 

In a plan out Friday the Minnesota senator released a plan calling for tuition-free community college, expanded apprenticeship programs, and doubling federal grants to “reduce the burden of student loans.” That approach juxtaposes sharply with others in the race, specifically Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who advocate for universal and near-universal (respectively) student loan debt forgiveness and free college. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.NBC News

Klobuchar is still riding momentum from last week’s debate where she mounted several forceful challenges to Warren and Sanders’ progressive positions; something she will continue doing, both on the trail and on the November debate stage for which she just qualified. 

The Klobuchar campaign tells NBC News that the plan’s overall price tag is “about $500 billion.” It will be paid for by raising capital gains and dividends rates for those in the top two income tax brackets, limiting the amount of cap gains deferrals, and a 30 percent minimum tax for people making over $1 million (otherwise known as the "Buffett Rule"). 

Here are some key provisions to the proposal:  

  • Tuition-free community college for one and two-year degrees, technical certifications and industry-recognized credentials. To do so, the federal government would match every $1 invested by states for students with $3. States will also be required to maintain spending on higher education and limit the rate of tuition increases if they want to access this federal funding.
  • Expand Pell Grants by doubling the max Pell Grant (which don’t have to be repaid) to $12,000/year and expanding it to families making up to $100,000/year.
  • Allow borrowers to refinance their student loans to lower rates and overhaul the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to require lenders to give better information about eligibility and progress toward forgiveness to borrowers.
  • Create a Worker Training Tax Credit, benefiting businesses who invest in worker training.
1029d ago / 12:30 PM UTC

Cummings funeral marks first Biden-Obama public appearance of 2020 but the former president remains a campaign fixture

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has made Barack Obama a fixture of his campaign, even without the former president’s endorsement and presence on the campaign trail. On Friday, the public will see the two former running mates together for the first time since Biden launched his 2020 campaign, as they gather for the funeral services for Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

Image:Barack Obama and Joe Biden
Barack Obama and Joe Biden walk through the Crypt of the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017.J. Scott Applewhite / Pool via Getty Images file

The former president and vice president were both invited by Cummings’ family to attend the services in Baltimore, where Obama will deliver one of the eulogies, at the request of the late Democrat’s widow.

The two were last seen in public together at two other funerals — for former President George H. W. Bush in December 2018, and for the late Sen. John McCain four months earlier.

Since the launch of the campaign, their families joined together this summer to celebrate the graduations of Obama’s younger daughter and Biden’s granddaughter, who became friends at the same elite Washington high school.

But the two have continued to speak and met privately often between then, according to aides for both men. At a fundraiser last week, Biden told the audience that he sees Obama “a lot.”

He mentions Obama on the trail even more. Just Tuesday, at events in Pennsylvania and Iowa, the former president’s name came up often, both in a policy context and to highlight their eight-year partnership in the White House. In Scranton he joked about Obama’s constant descriptions of his local roots as if he “crawled out of a coal mine,” and talked about how they “fought like hell” to pass the Affordable Care Act. In Iowa later he referred to the assignments Obama gave him as vice president, like developing policy to boost the middle class and on post-secondary education.

The former president has continued an active post-presidency, but done his best to stay out of the 2020 presidential primary and largely avoided commenting on politics generally.

The day Biden announced his candidacy in April, a spokesperson issued a statement noting that Obama “has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made,” and noting that they remained close. While short of an endorsement, it was the only statement Obama’s office issued about a 2020 contender; Biden later told reporters he asked the president not to endorse him.

“Whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits,” he said.

Within days, though, Biden’s campaign released a video that replayed Obama’s own words as he awarded his vice president the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Biden campaign informally consults with Obama advisers to ensure that their use of the president’s likeness and words does not cross beyond what they deem to be appropriate.

Also in attendance at the Cummings funeral Friday will be the last Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and former President Bill Clinton, who will join Obama in speaking. The New York Times reported this week that Clinton has told people privately she would join the 2020 race if she thought she could win, but remained skeptical of there being an opening

Biden downplayed the concern among some Democrats about his candidacy to reporters Wednesday. “Sure I speak to Secretary Clinton, but I haven't spoken to her about this. I have no reason to,” he said. 

1030d ago / 8:12 PM UTC

Sanders wins backing of prominent Iowa Democrat

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is making his first swing through the Hawkeye state since suffering a heart attack earlier this month, and he’s going to be joined by some local political star power.

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker is set to endorse Sanders at the Vermont senator’s rally in Iowa City, Iowa Friday night, NBC News has learned.

Walker, the 31-year-old Cedar Rapids native, is the first African American to hold a position on the Linn County Board of Supervisors. Prior to serving in local government, Walker worked for several political campaigns at the congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential levels.

Sanders campaign aides tell NBC News they view this as a “big get.” Walker was listed on the Des Moines Register’s “50 Most-wanted Democrats” this cycle, along with names that include J.D. Scholten, running for Iowa’s 4th congressional district in the US House, and Sanders 2016 campaign staffer Pete D’Alessandro.

The Sanders campaign promises Walker is more than just an endorsement on paper- He will also be Sanders’ first Iowa co-chair, hitting the trail on behalf of the campaign across the Hawkeye state.

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders Makes First Campaign Stop In Colorado For 2020 Race
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to supporters at a rally at Civic Center Park on Sept. 9, 2019 in Denver.Michael Ciaglo / Getty Images file

“Now is not the time for incrementalism or for candidates wishing to capitalize on disaffected Republicans by repackaging the same failed policy programs of yesteryear,” Walker will tell supporters in Iowa City according to prepared remarks obtained by NBC News. “We cannot afford more piecemeal proposals that will be watered down even more during the legislative process, barely moving the needle in the end. We need to reimagine America’s promise, and we only get there with a bold vision.”

Walker is set to appear alongside Sanders at Friday’s “End Corporate Greed” press conference in Newton, and rally in Iowa City.

1030d ago / 9:56 AM UTC

Buttigieg releases women's health and economic empowerment plan

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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.”   

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg Campaigns In Des Moines, Iowa
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.

1031d ago / 7:16 PM UTC

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.

Image: 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
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.

1031d ago / 6:31 PM UTC

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.
1032d ago / 6:44 PM UTC

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. 

1033d ago / 5:16 PM UTC

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.

1033d ago / 2:08 PM UTC

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. 

1036d ago / 9:30 PM UTC

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.
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.”

1036d ago / 5:31 PM UTC

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.

Richard Nixon
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.

Image: Lawrence Hogan
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.

Image: Bill Clinton Impeachment
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.

1037d ago / 7:09 PM UTC

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.

1037d ago / 4:27 PM UTC

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. 

1037d ago / 2:40 PM UTC

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.”

1038d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

What we learned from third quarter fundraising reports

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

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

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

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

Burn rates tell important stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steyer’s self-funding haul 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boots on the ground

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

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

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

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

One big surprise in staff growth: Andrew Yang. 

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

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

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

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

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

1039d ago / 12:06 AM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1039d ago / 6:10 PM UTC

Democrats get punchy ahead of debate

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

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

Here are a few of the more notable examples: 

Buttigieg takes on all comers

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

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

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

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

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

Candidates pile on O'Rourke over church and state

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

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

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

Read more from NBC's Benjy Sarlin on the blog

Sanders knocks Warren on capitalism

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

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

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

1039d ago / 3:51 PM UTC

Tom Steyer gets his first shot to make a second impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, Steyer acknowledges he still has much to learn.

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

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

1039d ago / 2:15 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1040d ago / 10:10 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1040d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1040d ago / 3:15 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1040d ago / 1:45 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was no immediate comment from the Buttigieg campaign.

1041d ago / 9:43 PM UTC

Pro-Trump group targeting vulnerable Democrats on impeachment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1042d ago / 6:49 PM UTC

ICYMI: Stories you may have missed

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

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

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

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

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

1043d ago / 5:49 PM UTC

Commission on Presidential Debates announces dates and venues for 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1043d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

How impeachment is playing in the top 2020 Senate races

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

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

Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia

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

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

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

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

Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maine

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan

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

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

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

North Carolina

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

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

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

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

1044d ago / 8:09 PM UTC

Buttigieg kicks off early state organizing push following big fundraising haul

and

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mayor Pete Buttigieg is kicking off what they are billing as a “Boot Pledge Pledge” weekend of action Saturday, ramping up his ground game across the four early states in the presidential primary cycle where the campaign has announced dozens of new hires and a host of canvassing and organizing events.

On the heels of a fundraising quarter where the campaign raised $19.1 million dollars, one of the top hauls in the field, Buttigieg is putting that money to use by staffing up and organizing across Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

“We are incredibly grateful for the people that are investing in this campaign,” Jess O’Connell, senior adviser to the Buttigieg campaign, told NBC News. “I think when you look at the state of the race, as it is right now in these early states, there are only a handful of campaigns that are able to have the resources to have the type of organization that is required to reach as many voters as possible for caucusing and voting.”

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

This early state push is a part of what the Buttigieg campaign is calling, “phase three.” Having introduced himself on the national stage, and secured large fundraising hauls that will allow him to stay in the race, the campaign is now focused on building out its organization on the ground to support the kind of "retail politics" that they hope will convince voters to commit to the small-town mayor. 

“More and more now there are the volunteers and the organizers on the ground by the dozens in our early states,” Buttigieg told reporters of his campaign organization in early states after an event in Ossipee, N.H. on August 25.

“And they're doing that work, forming relationships, getting the message out creatively getting in front of people who maybe don't find their way into my Twitter feed or don't tune in for a TV show I'm going to be on so that we can really expand the reach of this campaign. A lot of it happens outside of public view.”

O'Connell told NBC that with less than four months to go before voting begins, "this weekend of action is our opportunity to activate in the strongest way possible our volunteer networks, our high level of organizers.”

The campaign currently has nearly 100 staffers in Iowa and told NBC it will increase that number by about a third. It plans to mark the occasion by holding hundreds of canvasses at over 70 locations across the state this weekend, with more house meetings planned for later this month. 

In New Hampshire, the campaign now has 64 staffers on the ground and 12 field offices in the state. As part of their weekend of action the team is holding 37 events across all ten New Hampshire counties, where they are asking volunteers, grassroots organizers and community leaders to canvass throughout their neighborhoods and ask people to pledge their support to Buttigieg for the primary. The campaign also says there will be a volunteer summit in November, which will build on the weekend of action and growing organization.

 In Nevada, the campaign is hosting 17 canvassing events as a part of the weekend of action and organizing at several Las Vegas Pride events. In addition, they are opening their 7th Nevada office in West Las Vegas with Buttigieg’s husband Chasten Buttigieg this weekend, and are set to open 3 more offices ahead of the October 15th debate in the state.

And in South Carolina, the campaign team is holding 38 canvass kickoff events and set to make roughly 50,000 calls to voters throughout the weekend of action. They are also ramping up their staff numbers from the 33 already on the ground.  They currently have two field offices in the state and are planning to open two more in Charleston and Greenville ahead of the debate next week.

“This is going to be ongoing,” O’Connell said of the on-the-ground organizing emphasis. “And we've been doing this work, but I think this is one of the largest pushes.”

1044d ago / 1:16 PM UTC

Booker plan to end sports 'exploitation' includes payments for college athletes

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., rolled out a plan Thursday as part of his presidential campaign that includes proposals to compensate college athletes for the use of their "name, image or likeness," and seek equal pay for women's sports, including the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team. 

“The systemic problems in sports are issues of economic justice and fairness,” Booker, who played Division I football at Stanford University, said in the campaign release.

“For too long, we have allowed exploitative practices in professional and college sports to fester — somehow treating sports as different from our broader economy. But sports at these levels is a multi-billion dollar business,” he said. “Just as we shouldn’t accept collusion, wage theft, and a massive gender pay gap in any other industry, we shouldn’t accept them in sports. When I’m president, I will work to end these injustices.”

The plan is the first of its kind from a 2020 presidential candidate. 

Booker’s plan comes in the wake of California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing legislation to allow student athletes to profit from endorsement deals and hire agents. Booker would push for a federal version of California’s bill and establish a U.S. Commission on Integrity in Sports. 

Highlights from Booker’s plan include:

  • Establish the U.S. Commission on Integrity in Sports to oversee college athletics, Olympic committees, and other national governing bodies.
  • Allow college athletes to be compensated for their “name, image, or likeness rights” by building on California’s recently passed bill and the Student-Athlete Equity act proposed in Congress.
  • Implement “aggressive, evidence-based, and enforceable standards governing the health, safety and wellness of NCAA athletes.”
  • Improve educational outcomes and graduation rates for NCAA athletes through strengthened Department of Education oversight.
  • Strengthen Title IX to improve gender equity in college sports and sign the Athletics Fair Pay Act into law to close the pay gap in professional women’s sports.
  • Require all college universities to help both current and former NCAA athletes pay sports injury-related medical bills.  

Booker’s plan targets issues within several professional sports leagues -- the U.S. women’s soccer pay gap, poor pay and working conditions for minor league baseball player, exploitative labor policies for NFL cheerleaders and NBA dancers, and anti-competitive NFL practices that led to the case of Colin Kaepernick.

1044d ago / 11:53 AM UTC

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

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Ahead of his appearance at the “Power Our Pride” LGBTQ Town Hall Thursday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out with a new, wide-ranging policy aimed at empowering and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community. 

In the plan Buttigieg speaks to the “urgency of an unfinished promise of full equality under the law” — something he hopes to achieve by focusing on equality in all spheres of life. 

Drawing from his already proposed Douglass and Guns and Hate Action plans, Buttigieg will “vigorously enforce” hate crimes protection laws by training law enforcement specifically surrounding issues in the LGBTQ+ community, like domestic violence and hate crimes against transgender individuals, especially black trans women. 

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

Buttigieg says passing such legislation will be a “top priority” for his administration. His plan also calls for an examination of what it calls unconstitutional religious exemption policies at the federal level with a promise to “refocus, reassign, or remove” offices that he says were put in place to discriminate, specifically citing offices at the Department of Health and Human Services specifically.

The plan, titled, “Becoming Whole: A New Era for LGBTQ+ Americans,” also includes a robust section aimed at addressing disparities in healthcare. The candidate vows to enact policies that will cover gender-affirming care and train clinicians to better understand the health needs of the LGTBQ+ community. For example, he intends to end the ban on blood donation from gay and bisexual men opting for a more science-based approach to determine blood donor deferral guidelines that prevent HIV transmission.

The mayor hopes to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 by funding research and reestablishing the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. Buttigieg would also ensure universal access to anti-HIV medication, PrEP and decriminalize the transmission of HIV.

The policy also calls on Congress to pass the LGBTQ+ Suicide Prevention Act, which would dedicate a task force to address risk factors that often increase rates of suicide among the community, including stigma, homelessness and bullying. In addition, Buttigieg plans to launch a public health campaign to encourage family acceptance and end discrimination against adoptive or foster parents and children based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While also putting an end to, “conversion therapy” nationwide.

Buttigieg will expand on existing programs from the Obama administration to encourage leaders in both private and public sectors to mentor LGBTQ+ youth, while increasing funding for community centers, workforce training and apprenticeship programs. 

The Buttigieg administration would immediately repeal the transgender military ban, while issuing honorable discharges to those forced to leave the service due to identifying as transgender and restoring deserved benefits. 

On the global stage, the presidential hopeful plans to strengthen protections of LGBTQ+ immigrants and refugees in the U.S. & lead against persecution internationally.

1045d ago / 7:03 PM UTC

Elizabeth Warren's campaign clarifies she'll raise big-dollar money for the party as nominee

WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Warren's quote sent shockwaves through the political campaign finance world.

If she became the nominee, she said, she would refuse to attend big-dollar fundraisers — for her campaign and possibly also for the party. Her comments came in an interview with CBS News.

CBS News: "Can you guarantee your supporters that under no circumstances, no matter how much money Donald Trump is raising, you will not take big dollar ..."

Warren: "I’m not going to go do the big dollar fundraisers. I’m just not going to do it."

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

Previously, Warren had said that her ban on high-dollar fundraisers was for the primaries — not the general election.

The significance here: Such a blanket restriction could hurt any Democratic Party effort to narrow the fundraising gap with Republicans, especially after President Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee raised a combined $125 million in the last fundraising quarter. (By comparison, Warren raised nearly $25 million for only her campaign in the quarter.)

Barack Obama’s former national finance director, Rufus Gifford, criticized the initial report.

But in a statement to NBC News, the Warren campaign clarified that the candidate would indeed attend high-dollar events for the party (where individuals can donate tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars) — though not for the campaign (where the maximum primary and general election donation is a combined $5,600).

“When Elizabeth is the Democratic nominee for president, she’s not going to change a thing in how she runs her campaign. That means no PAC money. No federal lobbyist money. No special access or call time with rich donors or big dollar fundraisers to underwrite our campaign,” said Kristen Orthman, the campaign’s communications director.

“When she is the nominee, she will continue to raise money and attend events that are open to the press to make sure the Democratic National Committee, state and local parties, and Democratic candidates everywhere have the resources not just to beat Donald Trump but also to win back Congress and state legislatures all across the country.”

The distinction might open up Warren to charges of hypocrisy; why refuse to attend high-dollar fundraisers for your campaign, but gladly attend them for the party?

But it probably quiets Democrats like Gifford fearful that Warren — if she's the nominee — would unilaterally disarm against the Trump-RNC money machine.

1045d ago / 2:14 AM UTC

Biden's higher education plan aims to ease student loan debt

Former Vice President Joe Biden released his higher education plan Tuesday, aimed at providing options to ease student loan debt and accessibility to a two or four-year institution with the goal of having more people enter the middle class.

Unlike his more progressive Democratic rivals Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Biden will only make tuition debt free for those who attend two years of community college or high-quality training programs. The Biden campaign argues that two free years of community college would cut four year education rates in half since students could transfer their credits to complete their college education.

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

Numerous investments to improve the quality of education in community colleges as well as HBCUs and minority institutions would cost an approximate $750 billion, which will be paid for by increasing taxes on the super wealthy and eliminating the “stepped-up basis” loophole, according to the campaign.

Warren and Sanders are proposing four years of free community and public college tuition and forgiving most if not all existing student debt, respectively.

Biden’s plan would forgive outstanding student debt for those who have responsibly paid it back for 20 years. Those working jobs in “national or community service” like teaching or non-profits, would receive $10,000 student debt relief annually for up to five years for each year that they stay in that vocational job..

People making more than $25,000 would direct pay 5 percent of their discretionary income toward their loan, which is half of the current 10 percent cap. Those who make $25,000 or less would not be expected to pay back the government and would not accrue interest. 

DREAMers, young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, would also be eligible to receive a free two-year education. They would also receive financial aid, based on requirements already established under existing financial aid eligibility.

Dr. Jill Biden, who has worked at community colleges for over 30 years and is currently teaching at Northern Virginia Community College, told reporters on a briefing call Monday evening that Biden’s plan will give students like hers the opportunity to succeed because it was crafted by educators who witness the problems with the higher education system daily.

“What means the most to me is that it comes from listening to educators and students, not telling them what we think they need. It goes beyond tuition and supports a holistic approach to retention and completion. That’s what really makes a difference in my students lives,” she said.

The focus on higher education compliments Biden’s education plan, which aims to triple federal government spending to help hire more teachers, pay teachers more, enroll all 3 and 4-year-olds into pre-Kindergarten and increase coursework rigor across the country.

1046d ago / 1:16 AM UTC

Hillary Clinton camp says former candidate 'just having a little fun' with Trump tweets

WASHINGTON — Is Hillary Clinton running for president again? No, but she sure seems to be relishing the prospect of anything that gets under the president’s skin, as was evident in her response Tuesday to Trump taunting her.

A source close to Clinton indicates that nothing has changed and no, she is not planning to launch another presidential bid. “She’s just having a little fun,” this person told NBC News. 

Earlier this year, Clinton stated definitively that she was not running but also that she was “not going anywhere” and “would keep speaking out.”   

Still, the former secretary of state has raised eyebrows several times over the past year with cryptic comments and tweets, often trolling President Trump. Those close to her say that’s more about adding her voice to the conversation and less about some secret plan to seek the presidency for the third time.

As you may have seen recently, she and daughter Chelsea have a new book out about “Gutsy Women.” It certainly doesn’t take a publicity tour to get the attention of the Oval Office occupant who defeated her though. Trump consistently tweets about “Crooked Hillary” and continues to bring her up at campaign rallies across the country.

Clinton allies point to this as a major reason for her to continue to respond to Trump’s insults — both online and in interviews — and we can expect to see more of that in the months to come. “Why does he get to have all the fun?” another source said.

1046d ago / 9:11 PM UTC

California Sen. Feinstein backs Biden over home-state Harris

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden over her fellow California Sen. Kamala Harris Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo confirmed to NBC News on Thursday.

The news was first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle

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

Feinstein’s endorsement is in no way surprising. Even before Biden jumped into the race, Feinstein told Capitol Hill reporters in January of this year that Biden was her top choice given his decades of political experience.

She welcomed Biden into her San Francisco home last week where she held a fundraiser for him and her husband Richard Blum has co-hosted numerous fundraisers for Biden since he launched his campaign in April.

But the nod gives Biden a key ally in the delegate-rich state of California. The Golden State's junior senator, Harris, is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

1046d ago / 4:40 PM UTC

Democrat John Bel Edwards at 45 percent in new poll of crowded field days before Louisiana gubernatorial election

WASHINGTON — A new poll out just days before Saturday's election shows Gov. John Bel Edwards, D-La., well ahead of the rest of the field with 45 percent support but short of the 50 percent he needs to avoid a runoff election.

Edwards is running in a crowded field that includes two prominent Republican candidates, Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone.

Assuming Edwards is the top vote-getter on Saturday (an almost foregone conclusion considering his station as the incumbent and the only major Democrat running), he will either win the election outright with 50 percent plus one, or move onto a runoff against the second-place finisher. 

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

The new poll, from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, found Edwards at 45 percent of the vote, followed by Rispone at 18 and Abraham at 17. Ten percent of those surveyed were undecided. 

The poll has a margin of error of four percent, which means the majority could be in reach for Edwards and that the two Republican candidates remain locked in a tight race for second place. 

That 50-percent threshold is the big prize for Democrats on Saturday, as they’d love to avoid a runoff entirely and lock in Edwards for another term.

But Republicans have sought to drum up enthusiasm for the election to force Edwards to a runoff, and President Trump is traveling to the state for a rally on Friday, the eve of the election.

Edwards has a favorable rating of 39 percent, while 27 percent view him unfavorably. That +12 net favorability rating is the best of the top three candidates—Rispone's net favorability rating is +7 and Abraham's is +9. 

The survey also shows Edwards leading both candidates in a runoff, Rispone down 9 points and Abraham down 15 points. And the plurality of voters, 45 percent, believe the state is on the right track, compared to the 41 percent who say it's on the wrong track. 

Edwards' job approval rate is 56 percent, while 34 percent say they disapprove of his performance as governor. 

He won the 2015 gubernatorial race after a bruising battle with former Republican Sen. David Vitter, whose campaign was kneecapped by a prostitution scandal from a decade prior.

Since he’s taken office, Edwards has been one of the Democratic Party’s more conservative governors, prompting criticism from his own party by signing a strict bill limiting abortion access. But he also racked up a few high-profile wins for the Democrats, including his decision to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.

Mason-Dixon polled 625 registered voters by phone between Oct. 1 and Oct. 4, all who said they were likely to vote in the Saturday primary. 

1047d ago / 9:36 PM UTC

Trump campaign touts Republican rule changes to keep 2020 convention delegates in line

WASHINGTON — For nearly a year, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has worked to tighten delegate rules among state Republican parties to ensure an orderly convention next summer in Charlotte, according to senior officials.

The goal is to create a “four-day television commercial to 300 million Americans and not an internal debate among a few thousand activists,” an aide told reporters on a conference call Monday.

Last week, 37 states and territories submitted plans to the Republican National Committee with their updated guidelines that would give the campaign more say over delegate selection, mostly to avoid any embarrassment and unnecessary storylines about any potential dissent.

A small group of delegates briefly seized the spotlight during the 2016 convention in Cleveland when they made a failed bid to vote down the convention rules.

This time, senior officials said, the campaign has made a concerted effort to ensure a “predetermined outcome” and essentially plan for more of a coronation than a convention.

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

“We don’t care at all about the lighting or TV camera angles at the convention in Charlotte. We do care about who is seated in all the chairs on the convention floor,” an official said, arguing a “properly executed convention vote is the single most important thing a campaign can do to put their candidate on the pathway to re-election.”

The 10-month effort was underway long before the impeachment inquiry was announced, but the new backdrop becomes more relevant as he continues to fight the congressional review.

For months, the campaign and the RNC have dismissed the president’s primary challengers: former Rep. Joe Walsh, former Gov. Bill Weld and former Gov. Mark Sanford.

“We don’t pay any mind to the guys trying to run in the primary,” one official quipped, noting their focus extends far beyond the summer and into the general to make sure the president is in “the best position to win” next November.

“If any of them paid any amount of attention to the rules that govern the delegate process, they’d know that the pathway has already been closed.”

Earlier this year, several places canceled their presidential primary contests, including in critical early nominating states Nevada and South Carolina. Officials maintained the newer “nuanced” rule changes in dozens of states are “arguably more impactful.”

Now, many states have passed bylaw amendments to bind their delegates to a “winner takes all” election outcome, effectively streamlining and “reshaping” the selection process for the convention.

Notably, on the call, officials pointed to Massachusetts — Weld’s home state — as a place where the campaign felt delegates might be disproportionately allocated, thought they stressed the rule-altering “is not being done from a position of weakness.”  

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

The campaign also pointed to history and the fact that only five presidents who sought re-election were denied a second term. That’s why it was important to confirm state parties have their “ducks in a row,” they said. 

 As the titular leader of the GOP, the president gets to control his party rules and dictate strategy. The incumbency also provides plenty of advantages, including a long runway to make and execute these kinds of plans at the state level.

Aides painted the move as a strategic insurance policy to appear as united and organized as possible heading into next year’s election.

The campaign reiterated it is uniquely positioned to have this stronghold since Trump is the only candidate to ever file for re-election on the day of his inauguration.

1047d ago / 8:30 PM UTC

Harris: I would vote in Senate to remove President Trump from office

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Monday that she would vote to convict President Trump and remove him from office if faced with the choice in the Senate today, arguing that Trump has shown a "consciousness of guilt and attempt to cover up" an attempt to push a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election. 

During an interview on MSNBC Harris entertained the hypothetical vote, which would have to follow a majority vote in the House to impeach Trump. The president can be removed from office after a majority vote for impeachment in the House and a two-thirds vote to remove him in the Senate, a situation seen as unlikely considering GOP control of the Senate. 

"The main subject of the impeachment, which is the issue of yet again, Donald Trump eliciting help from a foreign government to interfere in our election of our president of the United States. In this case we’ve basically got a confession.  We’ve got a display of consciousness of guilt and attempt to cover up," she said.

"You know, I don’t know how much we need but apparently there’s a second whistleblower,  so we’re going to get more. But based on everything we know, including an admission by this president, I don’t know that it leads in any other direction except to vote yes, which is what I believe I will do based on everything I know."

1047d ago / 6:40 PM UTC

Prominent New York Dems face a new crop of young primary challengers for 2020

In 2018, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was celebrating her longshot primary victory over 10-term Democratic congressman Joe Crowley, two other young progressive New York congressional candidates had fallen just short in their challenges against longtime lawmakers. 

Both are back in for 2020, but this time they’re not alone. 

Galvanized by Ocasio-Cortez’s victory and the Democratic Party’s resurgent left wing, a young, diverse group of candidates has emerged to take on four more of New York City’s most prominent Democrats.

The two returning candidates are Suraj Patel, a 35-year-old former Obama staffer who lost a 2018 challenge to 13-term Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney by under 9,000 votes, and Adam Bunkedekko, a 31-year-old Harvard Business graduate and son of Ugandan refugees, who came within 1,100 votes of unseating six-term incumbent Yvette Clarke in Brooklyn’s 9th District.

They’re joined by new congressional hopefuls who range in age from 25 to their mid-40s, a youth movement that stands in contrast to the four incumbents, whose average age is over 63 years old.  

The challengers all support the progressive policies du jour — Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Many also back abolishing ICE and banning assault weapons, policies that are controversial nationwide but crowd-pleasers in the deep-blue city.

And while the current representatives have served a combined 66 terms and were all once members of the State Assembly or the City Council, none of their rivals have held elected office. Most are political newcomers, and several got their start in politics on recent insurgent campaigns that inspired their own runs.

Shaniyat Chowdhury, a 27-year-old bartender and former Marine, is Ocasio-Cortez’s former deputy policy director. Like his old boss, he is trying to unseat the Queens Democratic Party Chair: Rep. Gregory Meeks, who replaced Crowley last year.

But he faces a steeper challenge than Ocasio-Cortez, who harnessed the shifting demographics of her rapidly-diversifying district to put Crowley, who first won the 14th district when it was 58 percent white in 1998, on the defensive. Meeks’ district is solidly-middle-class, majority black and has seen far less population turnover than the 14th over the past decade. 

Mel Gagarin, a 37-year-old member of the Democratic Socialists of America challenging Rep. Grace Meng, worked as an organizer on Tiffany Cabán’s DSA-backed campaign for Queens District Attorney.

Jonathan Herzog, a 2015 Harvard graduate, previously served as Andrew Yang’s Iowa campaign coordinator before mounting his challenge to Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler. Also challenging Nadler is 25-year-old cryptocurrency analyst Amanda Frankel.

Yet another challenger to Nadler has the backing of more traditional political benefactors. Lindsey Boylan, 35, is a former official in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. She raised a respectable $250,000 to start her campaign, including donations from former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey and former CIA director George Tenet (both work at the same firm as Boylan’s husband). But it’s unclear if Boylan, whose campaign began because of what she called Nadler’s failure to pursue President Trump’s impeachment more aggressively , can maintain momentum as the House launches a full-throated impeachment inquiry.

Only one challenger so far is supported by Justice Democrats, the political action committee that helped power Ocasio-Cortez to victory: Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal running against Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel.

Like Joe Crowley, Engel is white, and like Crowley’s district, the 16th District is majority-minority (31 percent black and 25 percent Hispanic). But Bowman, who is black, cannot count on the same demographic shifts as Ocasio-Cortez. Engel’s district has been majority-minority for the 30 years he has represented it, and Engel has dispatched previous primary challengers with ease. 

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez has not made endorsements in her neighbors’ fights. But her 2018 victory remains a guiding light for New York’s newest insurgents. 

Of course, it also serves as a warning light for the remaining incumbents. Unlike Crowley, they won’t be caught off guard this time.

 

1047d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

Trump remains underwater in Virginia, Northam’s approval jumps up

WASHINGTON — Just 37 percent of registered voters in Virginia approve of President Donald Trump’s job performance, while a majority — 51 percent — now give Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam a thumbs-up in the state, according to a new public poll conducted by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University.

The turnaround for Northam is statistically significant: Six months ago, after facing allegations that he appeared in a racist photo during his days in medical school, Northam’s job rating sank to 40 percent in the same poll, with 49 percent of state voter disapproving of his job.

After initially saying that he was in the photo and apologizing, Northam later denied being either man in the picture. He did, however, admit he wore shoe polish on his face during a Michael Jackson impersonation at a 1984 dance competition. 

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

Now the poll shows that 51 percent approve of Northam’s job, while 37 percent disapprove.

With Virginia holding important state legislative elections in November, the Wason Center survey also finds grim numbers for President Trump and the Republican Party in the state.

In addition to Trump’s job-approval rating at just 37 percent in the state, Democrats hold a 13-point lead on the generic ballot, with 49 percent of likely voters saying that they’ll vote for a Democrat in November’s elections, while 36 percent will vote for Republicans.

The poll was conducted Sept. 4-30 of 726 registered voters (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.1 percentage points) and 566 likely voters (plus-minus 4.6 percentage points).

1047d ago / 4:33 PM UTC

Trump campaign spends more than $500,000 on anti-Biden, anti-impeachment ads

WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign has spent more than a half-million dollars over the last eight days on three ads that repeat unproven allegations of impropriety by former Vice President Joe Biden with Ukraine and attack Democrats for trying to impeach him. 

The ads are part of a previously announced digital and cable buy from the campaign that it says will total $8 million across both platforms.

The campaign has spent the most money so far ($348,000, according to media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics) on a spot that frames the impeachment inquiry and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as part of an effort to nullify Trump's 2016 victory. 

"They couldn't defeat him, so now the swamp is trying to take him out. First, the Mueller investigation. Now, Ukraine. Politics at its worst," a narrator says as images of Mueller and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., are displayed on the screen. 

"It isn't pretty, the swamp hates him. But Mr. Nice Guy won't cut it. It takes a tough guy to change Washington — it takes Donald Trump." 

Team Trump has also spent almost $174,000 so far on another spot focused primarily on his unproven accusations against Biden, arguing that Democrats are treating the two situations with a double standard

"They lost the election, now they want to steal this one. Don't let them," the ad says. 

A third spot that emphasizes similar themes started airing on Sunday as well. So far, the campaign has spent about $14,000 to air that ad. 

The attacks primarily accuse Biden of pressuring a Ukranian prosecutor to resign and connecting that act to an investigation by that prosecutor into a company that Biden's son, Hunter, worked for. 

But the decision to push out the prosecutor was supported at the time by the international community.  

The majority of the spending has gone toward airing ads on national television. But the anti-Biden ads have also been running as part of more targeted buys in states that hold early nominating contests in the Democratic presidential primary like Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina.

   

1048d ago / 6:55 PM UTC

Eight presidential candidates stump at SEIU summit

LOS ANGELES — Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls arrived in Los Angeles this weekend to seek the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at their 2019 presidential forum.

In attendance: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former HUD Sec. Julian Castro,  ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The candidates faced a wide variety of questions about migrant detention centers, police reform and climate change. While the topics strayed from labor-specific issues, in the eyes of the SEIU, these are questions central to the labor movement.

“We see all these fights is inextricably linked,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the SEIU. “All of these things that impact our lives, we want to hear from the next presidential candidate what they're going to do.”

While all candidates spoke at length about labor issues and their personal connections to unions, some of the biggest responses they got from SEIU members came from their answers on immigration, ending mass incarceration, and health care. 

Warren received a minute-long standing ovation during her answer about shutting down for-profit detention facilities along the border, with SEIU members clapping their hands and chanting “yes we can.” 

Booker fired up members in his closing remarks about ending mass incarceration and expunging non-violent drug offense records. Biden choked up on stage when recounting the story of his son Beau Biden’s cancer diagnosis and pledged to “protect your right to health care as it were my own family.”

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

While addressing union members, candidates were also exposed to an active and diverse voter base. 

“SEIU represents over 2 million members in all walks of life, and all races, creed, nationalities, orientation, and we can all feel inclusive here,” said Maureen Casey, chapter president of the Hershey Medical Center SEIU in Pennsylvania. “And so we want to know that the President or whoever we support as the union or in our personal views aligns with our principles of being all inclusive for all of all of America.”

SEIU members said they were generally impressed with the candidates but were hesitant to single out a particular candidate.

“I think we really got a chance to see which candidates listen and how they tend to listen,” said Packy Moran, who works as a lecturer at the University of Iowa.  “I think that all eight candidates did well to understand that there's a huge intersectionality between everything that goes on in their campaign and the union, and what we're trying to do in terms of organizing workers and organizing everyone to have more say in their quality of life.”

Others thought it was  too early to pick a candidate and appreciated the chance to hear from a larger field.

“I think it's too early to say,” said Leonardo Diaz, an Uber and Lyft driver who is working to form a union for gig-economy workers. “Because, you know, we’re just listening to them what they saying because everybody — they can promise a lot of things, but we have to see, or sometimes we have to read more about their backgrounds what they did before.”

While candidates are waiting to see who the SEIU will endorse, the organization doesn't feel its on a deadline. 

“I don't know when,” Henry said when asked about when endorsements would come out. “The trigger is local unions, engaging their members through surveys, polls, text messaging, phone banks, meetings, and then listening to our members who, frankly, are kind of all over the map on who they like or what they think.”

But SEIU was impressed with the amount of candidates who came to this forum. Henry suggested that the Democratic field for this cycle has been more pro-union, saying that “they've been way more willing to call out corporations, which is very different than our past experience.”

“They used to do it more in the backchannel,” Henry said. “They would do it politely. Now, they're sort of standing with workers. And I would say that's a big shift.”

1049d ago / 7:04 PM UTC

ICYMI: Stories that got lost in the shuffle

WASHINGTON – With the news cycle jammed amid each drip of the House's impeachment inquiry into President Trump, here are a few of the week's other political stories that got a little lost in the shuffle:

While the unemployment rate fell to a new low of 3.5 percent, economists had predicted the September job numbers to add 145,000 new jobs. The report showed a gain of 136,000 jobs. The new data was released after a turbulent week on Wall Street with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing over a thousand points. 

The Supreme Court will hear a case challenging a Louisiana law that requires abortion clinic doctors to have hospital admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Women's groups say the law would leave just one doctor able to perform abortions in the state. This is the first major abortion case the Court will hear since Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the bench. 

NBC News was given an exclusive look inside camps thought to be detaining a million Muslim Uighers in China. While it's impossible to know if the conditions of the camp were improved or changed for NBC News' visit, the U.S. government and human rights organizations believe about 10 percent of the Uighur population in Xinjiang is locked up. 

According to the South Korea military, North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday. Japan responded saying the missile landed inside of Japan's economic exclusive zone which, if true, would be the closest a North Korean missile got to Japan since November 2017. U.S. and North Korean officials plan to meet within the next week to resume nuclear talks. 

1050d ago / 12:41 AM UTC

Biden bashes Trump as 'most corrupt president we've had'

LOS ANGELES — Joe Biden Friday gave his most forceful response yet to President Donald Trump's repeated attacks and claims that the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, should be investigated for unproven charges of corruption. 

“We got to get something straight. All this talk from the president about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we've had in modern history, he's the definition of corruption,” Biden told reporters in his first press availability in the nearly two weeks since the the Ukraine controversy erupted.

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

"He has corrupted the agencies of government," Biden continued, adding that Trump's efforts are "all about making sure that he in fact allowed somebody else to pick his opponent for him. That's what this is about. And I am not going to stand for it."

“He’s indicted himself by his own statements.”

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

Biden's tone was sharper than usual, stressing his words and pointing his fingers to accentuate the points he was making against a president he said he fears will only grow more erratic as the impeachment inquiry accelerates.

“I'm worried that he gets so unhinged, under the year left to go in this administration, he does something really, really, really stupid in terms of our international interest. I don't mean about our election, he's basically acknowledged he's tried to get people to interfere in our election.”

The Biden campaign released a new ad Saturday attacking President Trump's comments as part of a $6 million broadcast and digital ad buy in the four early primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. 

Biden again insisted that he and his son did not have conflicts of interest when he oversaw U.S.-Ukrainian relations as vice president while Hunter advised a Ukrainian energy company.

Pressed to acknowledge questions about the appearance of his son't work, a defensive Biden said there was “no indication of any conflict of interest, in Ukraine or anywhere else, period.” He also stood by his statement that he had never discussed business with his son after being asked about a picture that showed him golfing with Hunter and a Ukrainian businessman.

“Let's focus on the problem. Focus on this man, what he's doing, that no president has ever done. No President.”

Asked if he would vote to impeach the president if he were still serving in the Senate, Biden responded, "I am not going to speculate what I would do in the Senate."

1050d ago / 5:05 PM UTC

New Hampshire voters scrutinize health care plans in 2020 candidates

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., fights to maintain an edge over former Vice President Joe Biden in New Hampshire, the progressive senator is also struggling to differentiate herself from the ideologically similar Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., — especially when it comes to health care, a top issue for first-in-the-nation voters.

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

It's one of the biggest differences between the Democratic presidential candidates, and while Biden is advocating to continue to build on the Affordable Care Act, Warren has embraced rival Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.

But for Granite Staters who have grown accustomed to Warren having a plan for everything, her lack of a distinctive health care proposal could be a make-or-break for who they decided to support.  

“I'm a co-sponsor on a plan that's out there, and I'm with Bernie on Medicare For All,” Warren told reporters in Keene, N.H. on Sept. 25. “We need to make sure that everybody is covered at the lowest possible cost, and draining money out for health insurance companies to make a lot of profits by saying no, and bankrupting families over their healthcare bills is just not working for America.”

For some New Hampshire voters, her stance isn’t good enough.

“I think she has to be more clear,” said Warren supporter Susan Jones of Pelham, N.H., saying that the neighboring senator needs to explain how she intends to pay for her version of Medicare for All. 

“She always says she’s going to come out with a plan and you never hear one,” Jones told NBC News. “(Sanders) says he’s going to raise taxes and I don’t mind that because ... if you have to raise it a little, raise it somewhat, it’s still going to cover the cost of what you pay for your insurance.”

Sanders, who often touts having written "the damn bill,” for Medicare for All, doesn’t shy away from telling voters that they would be taxed more in order to implement the coverage.

“I don’t want to lie to you,” Sanders said in Manchester, N.H. on Sept. 30, at a Medicare for All small business town meeting. On the trail, he often points to the universal coverage that countries like Canada provide for its citizens, with medication a fraction of the cost compared to in the United States.

In the latest Monmouth University poll of registered New Hampshire Democrats and unaffiliated voters, a majority (56 percent) would like to have a health care public option in addition to private insurance, 23 percent want to replace private insurance with a single public plan like Medicare for All, 10 percent would like to see any reforms limited to better regulation of costs, and 8 percent prefer no changes to the current system. 

Among voters who want a single-payer plan, 40 percent back Warren, 24 percent back Sanders, 17 percent back Biden and 2 percent back South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, D-Ind. Among those who prefer a public option, 27 percent back Biden, 25 percent back Warren, 14 percent back Buttigieg and 7 percent back Sanders. 

New Hampshire has the second oldest median age in the country, and the 226,804 senior citizens in the state account for 17 percent of the population. Health care is a particularly critical issue for this voting bloc, which is expected to double by 2040. 

Kathleen Chertok from Keene, N.H. says she will likely support Warren in the primary and that she would “probably” want Medicare for All to be implemented — but she is also skeptical of its practicality to happen in this political moment.

“I think a lot of candidates have very strong ideas, they don’t always happen immediately,” she said. “So if we didn’t get right there, that would be okay. I worked in health care for a long time, I'm very disillusioned about our health care system and think we need a big change. It's a right for everybody and shouldn't be based on jobs.”

Some Granite Staters, like undecided voter Corrine Dodge, are open to ideas.

“I am looking for someone who will give us comprehensive health care,” said Dodge, who is deciding between Warren, Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI. “Right now I’m looking at Medicare for All. I know somewhere in between there can be compromise, but we need to do something different.”

Other voters are giving their support to candidates citing health care as an argument for electability.

“When I was looking at candidates this was one thing that put me behind Buttigieg,” Monica Swenson, of Bow, N.H., told NBC News. She said her decision to support Buttigieg was because of his support for Medicare for all who want it. “Everyone has a right to medical insurance. I think Bernie and Warren will scare too many people with Medicare for All. I feel giving a choice opens it up to all voters and we can keep working toward equity.”

This week, the Buttigieg campaign announced a six-figure digital ad buy in New Hampshire highlighting his support for "Medicare for All Who Want It." That argument could have sway in a state where 57 percent of residents get private insurance through their employers.  

Doreen Ramos, from Keene, N.H., owns an elder care company and currently suffers from kidney disease. She told NBC News that health care was one of her top issues, and that while she’d love to eventually see a program like Medicare for All implemented across the country, she recognizes that getting that to happen right now is unrealistic. She is an undecided Democratic voter but is leaning towards supporting Biden for president.

“In this country have to figure out a long term care,” she said. “I think Medicaid for All, single-payer system is the way to go, but at some point the country should get there.”

1050d ago / 3:33 PM UTC

Trump campaign targets Biden in key early states

WASHINGTON — As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is taking to the airwaves in the early voting states to slam former Vice President Joe Biden on Ukraine.

Starting this weekend, the campaign will dedicate more than $1 million of an already-existing $8 million ad buy toward anti-Biden spots in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina’s local markets.

The 30-second commercial, titled "Biden Corruption," starts with an ominous voice over: “Joe Biden promised Ukraine $1 billion if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company.” It does not mention, however, that the prosecutor in question was widely denounced for not investigating corruption more intensely.

The ad also accuses Democrats of wanting to “steal” the 2020 election after losing last cycle. It has already aired nationally on cable, though CNN is refusing to air it. In a statement, CNN said the ad "makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets, including CNN." 

But Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh insists that “voters should know about the self-dealing, influence-peddling Bidens as the campaign season progresses.”

The Biden campaign, for its part, announced a $6 million ad buy on Thursday, partially to counter the Trump team’s on-air assault. 

After recently announcing a whopping $125 million haul — combined with the Republican National Committee — in the third quarter, the president’s campaign is flush with cash for this kind of spending. 

Notably, Trump’s re-election team released three impeachment-related ads in less than a week. The other two, entitled “Coup” and “Changing Things,” accuse the Democrats of wanting to “take the president out” for purely political reasons.