The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Amy Klobuchar adds staff in Nevada, other early primary states
MANCHESTER, N.H. — After a well-received debate performance on Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is staffing up. The campaign announced two new hires in Nevada — both of whom came from former Rep. Beto O'Rourke's, D-Texas, presidential campaign.
O'Rourke ended his campaign last month.
The campaign named Marina Negroponte as the new Nevada state director. Negroponte held the same position for O'Rourke's campaign. Cameron “C.H.” Miller joined as Nevada political director — also a position Miller held for O'Rourke.
“Our number one focus is building a strong grassroots operation to win — and win big — in 2020,” Justin Buoen, Klobuchar's campaign manager, said in a statement. “As our momentum continues to grow following Amy’s stand-out debate performance this week, the Amy for America campaign is excited to announce two new, key hires in the state of Nevada. Marina and C.H. bring extensive experience to the team and will help us share Amy’s unifying message and optimistic agenda with caucus-goers across Nevada.”
Klobuchar’s campaign told NBC News that these are the first of new hires they will be making as they ramp up in early primary states. The campaign is doubling offices in Iowa and adding staff in New Hampshire. More hires are expected in South Carolina in the coming weeks.
Klobuchar has been rising in Iowa polls, but has consistently polled low in Nevada. The most recent Nevada poll, conducted by Fox News, has Klobuchar at 2 percent, and she peaked in a Nevada Independent poll earlier this month at 3 percent in the state.
While only the Democratic National Committee can verify which candidates officially qualify for each debate, Klobuchar has passed the donation and polling thresholds to appear at the December debate.
Kamala Harris calls Pete Buttigieg "naive" for comparing black, LGBTQ struggles
ATLANTA — At a breakfast Thursday morning for black women activists in Atlanta, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg "naive" for comparing the struggles of black Americans to those in the LGBTQ community during the Democratic primary debate Wednesday night.
“What he did on the stage, it's just not productive,” Harris said to the room of about 200 mostly black women, after explaining that “those of us who've been involved in civil rights for a long time, we know that it is important that we not compare struggles.”
NBC News asked Buttigieg to respond to Harris calling him “naïve” for drawing parallels between being black and being gay. Buttigieg replied that he was not trying to parallel the two experiences.
“There’s no equating those two experiences. And some people, by the way, live at the intersection of those two experiences," Buttigieg said. "Last night I shared some of my sources for motivation, includes my personal experience, my governing experience and my personal faith.”
The back-and-forth began because of a debate question directed at Harris regarding a stock photo of a Kenyan woman the Buttigieg campaign used while promoting the mayor's Douglass Plan — Buttigieg has since apologized for its use. The plan is aimed at empowering black communities.
During the debate, Harris answered the question by saying some in the Democratic Party have taken the black community’s vote for granted which Buttigieg agreed with. The mayor went on to say that while he has not experienced racial discrimination, he knows the feeling of being an outsider because of his sexuality.
“While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country,” Buttigieg said.
In an interview Wednesday night, Harris called comparing the struggles of marginalized groups “misguided."
“So we’re going to now say that my pain is worse than your pain? We had 400 years of slavery in this country. We had years of lynching," Harris said. "We also have our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who still, under the law, do not have full equality. These are all injustices, but to start comparing one group’s pain to the other is misguided."
Joe Biden launches first bus tour in Iowa
ATLANTA — Former Vice President Joe Biden will embark on an eight day “No Malarkey” Iowa bus tour later this month, where he will be traveling to meet caucus-goers in 18 counties throughout the key early state.
When he kicks off the bus tour, Biden will have already visited the Hawkeye State 15 times, including an upcoming trip this week. The tour's "No Malarkey" title is a reference to a catchphrase Biden has become known for using when calling out inconsistencies. The campaign is touting that he will be stressing “no malarkey” while he crisscrosses the state in the hope that more Iowans see his “honest, upfront and authentic” core.
Biden famously used the term during the 2012 vice presidential debate when then-Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., discussed cuts to defense spending.
“When it comes to protecting health care, rebuilding the middle class, and defeating Donald Trump, Joe will continue laying out a clear vision about how he will deliver results for working families,” campaign manager Greg Schultz said.
The bus tour comes roughly two months before Iowans go before the first-in-the-nation caucuses and as polls have shown him losing substantial ground in the state. The campaign has argued that Biden does not need to win Iowa to become the nominee, but the attempt to barnstorm the state shows their ramped up emphasis to win over caucus-goers before the primary contest heads to friendlier Biden territory like South Carolina.
Five other presidential candidates have held bus tours in the state, but Biden’s eight day stretch is slated to be the longest on-the-bus presence for a candidate. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s and Sen. Kamala Harris’, D-Calif., bus tours won them a flurry of press stories, but only Buttigieg has seen a significant rise in the polls since he drove through the state.
Prior to losing ground in the state, Biden discussed the importance of Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus status, declining to support ideas from Democrats who believe they can clinch the nomination without competing in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“You are the key to the kingdom. You got to go through this gate, I really mean this,” Biden told Iowans in Prole, Iowa back in August. “I'm going to work as hard as I can to try and convince you. I'm among many qualified people, I'm the best qualified people, person for this job.”
The cross-state tour of the Hawkeye State will begin on Nov. 30 in Council Bluffs and end on Dec. 7 in Cedar Rapids.
Pete Buttigieg releases tax returns from time at McKinsey
ATLANTA — Hours ahead of Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released more tax returns from his time working at McKinsey & Company and called on his opponents to disclose income from their time working in the private sector.
“Every candidate in this race should be transparent with voters by disclosing their income in the private and public sectors,” Buttigieg said in a statement.
Buttigieg worked at the multi-national management consulting firm for three years from 2007 – 2010. This release comes as he has faced increased scrutiny of his time at the company.
"As someone who worked in the private sector, I understand it is important to be as transparent as possible about how much money I made during that time,” Buttigieg said in a statement.
In 2007, Buttigieg earned an adjusted gross income of $80,397 and paid $13,954 in taxes, for an effective tax rate of 17.4 percent.
The following year, Buttigieg earned $122,680 as a single person. In all, the candidate paid $25,776 in taxes and received a refund of $1,273 from the federal government.
In April, Buttigieg released 10-year’s worth of tax returns showing a range of taxable income over the last decade from a negative $3,920 in 2011, when he first ran for mayor of South Bend, to a high of $136,129 in 2009, which was his last full year at McKinsey & Co.
Stacey Abrams talks voter suppression ahead of Democratic debate
ATLANTA — The 2018 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee had a simple message when she spoke at a round table on voter suppression here on Tuesday: "My name is Stacey Abrams and I am not the governor of Georgia."
Many in the crowd replied to Abrams saying, “Yes, you are!”
“No, no, no sometimes it seems necessary to tell people that I know this," Abrams replied.
The former lawmaker spoke about her 2018 race for governor and told the crowd that despite her loss to now-Gov. Brian Kemp, “we won” by transforming the electorate in the state. Abrams asserted that the only reason Democrats didn't win the governorship was because of voter suppression.
Abrams has made similar claims before. In April, Abrams told The New York Times Magazine, "I cannot say that everybody who tried to cast a ballot would’ve voted for me, but if you look at the totality of the information, it is sufficient to demonstrate that so many people were disenfranchised and disengaged by the very act of the person who won the election that I feel comfortable now saying, 'I won.'"
Earlier this year Abrams launched “Fair Fight 2020” aimed at ending voter suppression and ensuring fair elections.
Speaking before the group on Tuesday, the former candidate and Georgia lawmaker ticked through barriers to voting access. On voter roll purging, she made a comparison to gun rights — a hot button issues in states like Georgia.
“I don't lose my second amendment rights because I didn't go shooting on Saturday,” she said. “Why should we lose the right to vote because we choose not to vote?”
She emphasized the importance of accessibility to the ballot for all types of voters. “Our accessibility has to be more than lip service and it has to be more than a website,” she said. “It has to be real.”
Abrams closed her remarks encouraging everyone to work and fight together in order to win.
Following her remarks, a panel of local leaders and activists in the fight for access to the ballot addressed the crowd sharing personal stories of voter suppression and how best to combat it. The event was hosted by the Democratic National Committee.
They discussed voting by mail, people with disabilities joining election boards and making election day a holiday. While some politicians have argued for election day to be a holiday, some on this panel said it could disproportionately impact people with disabilities because transit runs on less frequent schedules on holidays, and those in hospitality industries would likely still have to work on a holiday.
New Joe Biden ad highlights work on Violence Against Women Act
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign is highlighting his pledge to end violence against women with a new TV ad set to air Iowa.
The one-minute TV and digital ad coincides with the release of Biden’s new plan to end violence against women. It is part of a previous $4 million ad buy in Iowa that will air in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Targeted voters will also see it on YouTube and Hulu throughout the state.
Biden only briefly appears, leaving the message to be delivered by a sexual assault survivor who introduced him at a New London, N.H. town hall event earlier this month.
Biden has had sexual assault survivors introduce him at several of his rallies — as well as women who have suffered homelessness and economic struggles after leaving their abusers — who felt personally touched and taken care of by an “unknown” senator when he passed the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) in 1994.
Speaking in her own words, the survivor stresses how Biden’s persistence to end domestic violence is a genuine pursuit of his, a cause Biden himself has often described on the campaign trail as a “passion of his life.”
“When someone like myself has gone through domestic violence, physically and mentally broken down, and then one day you read in the newspaper that a senator that you don’t even know is fighting for a bill that you don’t even know to help women like myself, to keep us safe and to provide transitional housing because I was homeless due to domestic violence,” she says in the ad.
“Joe Biden became my hero that day because he didn’t even know me. He was fighting for me and my son Michael even though he didn’t know it. He means so much because of that.”
Biden often says that his fight for women stems from his inability to accept abuses of power whenever he sees them, especially in the case of a man abusing a woman.
His plan comes as the updated VAWA, legislation he spearheaded as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stalls in the Senate. If the upper chamber does not pass the Act during this legislative term, he has promised to enact VAWA in his first 100 days as president.
Besides implementing an updated version of VAWA, a President Biden would tackle ending the rape kit backlog, create a task force to study online sexual harassment, stalking and threats and change housing and tax laws to make it easier for women to chart their next path after the trauma of surviving abuse. His plan also puts forward proposals to specifically help women of color, older women, transwomen and women with disabilities in an effort to change the culture surrounding sexual assaults.
“This is a cultural problem and we're long way from being able to solve it,” Biden said at a recent VAWA round table in Concord, N.H.. “There's only one way to solve it. Make people look at it, make them look at how ugly it is and keep talking about it, keep talking about it for the sake of my granddaughters.”
Gold Star father Khizr Khan endorses Biden for president
"Vice President Biden has always put the country above himself," Khan said in a statement released by the campaign Monday. "From the days after he was first elected Senator to his time serving alongside President Obama, Vice President Biden has never wavered in his commitment to our country. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has consistently chosen self over country, seeking the aid of totalitarian governments to sway elections and undermine our rule of law to serve his self-interest."
The campaign says that Khan, whose son was killed in the Iraq War, will be making his first surrogate campaign visit on Biden's behalf to New Hampshire sometime in early December, but details and dates are still being finalized.
Khan and his wife Ghazala were recently seen at a Biden fundraiser on November 3, held at former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s house. During Biden’s brief remarks, Biden acknowledged that the Khan family knows “what this man is like” given that they were at one point a repeated target of President Donald Trump’s attacks, Marianna as pooler reported from the event.
“I know as well, Mr. Khan, what you’ve gone through. I know just what you suffered and the humiliation,” Biden said at the fundraiser. “I lost a son too and I’ve noticed what he’s trying to do to my living son.” He added that Trump is a man “with very few social redeeming value.”
Deval Patrick wants to be a "bridge builder" in 2020 contest, will accept Super PAC money
WASHINGTON — On the heels of a new Des Moines Register poll showing South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg rocketing to a double-digit lead in Iowa likely Democratic caucus-goers, the newest entry into the Democratic presidential race made his case Sunday morning as a "bridge-builder."
"I have tremendous respect for Mayor Pete," former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said in an exclusive interview on "Meet the Press, "as a I do for Senator Warren, for the vice president and the other candidates who are friends of mine, and who I talk with."
"My entry into the race isn't about them, and I'm not trying to climb on top of them in order to do what I want to do, and what I think I can do."
Patrick added that his record of being a "bridge builder" is important in a time when "the nation is deeply divided."
The former governor officially entered the race on Thursday, hours before the deadline to file for the New Hampshire primary ballot. Patrick originally opted out of a 2020 campaign — but clarified Sunday morning that he had almost jumped into the race a year ago but didn't because of his wife's diagnosis with uterine cancer. Patrick's wife is now cancer-free.
Many of Patrick's positions are held by other Democrats currently in the race — he does not support Medicare for All, but rather a public option, like Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Patrick is also not the first governor to enter the race. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is still in the presidential contest, even though he did not qualified for the November debate, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee dropped out of the contest in August.
The late entry followed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg filing to appear on the Alabama and Arkansas Democratic primary ballots. Bloomberg, if he officially announces an entrance to the race, will not compete in the early primary states, while Patrick will.
Patrick said Sunday morning that unlike some of his other Democratic opponents, he will not discourage financial aid from Super PACs who spend on his behalf. Former Vice President Biden has also indicated he wouldn't discourage the help of a Super PAC. Candidates like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have sworn off the help of Super PACs.
"I'm not crazy about Super PAC money," Patrick said. "I think we need to do some catch-up. So I think we've got to follow and find all sorts of above-board strategies to do that."
Patrick added that he while he wouldn't discourage the help from outside organizations on his behalf, he would want all Super PAC donations to be properly disclosed.
Cory Booker files for N.H. primary ballot as filing period ends
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.”
New Warren plan splits Medicare for All into two bills, preserves private plans at first
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.
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.
Former Vermont Gov. Shumlin endorses Biden in Democratic race
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.”
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.