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.
Leading progressive groups endorse Rep. Henry Cuellar primary challenger
WASHINGTON — A coalition of prominent progressive groups has endorsed Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration lawyer who is trying to unseat Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar in a Democratic primary, NBC News has learned.
The Democratic primary fight, in a sprawling congressional district that extends south from the San Antonio suburbs down to Loredo on the border with Mexico, is quickly becoming one of the hottest flash-points in the party’s ideological civil war.
Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley have endorsed Cisneros, the latter two veterans of their own high-profile primary victories against entrenched incumbent Democrats last year.
The latest show of support for Cisneros, who once briefly worked for Cuellar, shows major institutional players on the left are increasingly willing to buck tradition by going against a sitting lawmaker.
The new coalition of groups supporting Cisneros Tuesday includes some of the leading reproductive rights groups in the country -- Planned Parenthood Action and NARAL Pro-Choice America -- along with the political arm of the deep-pocked environmental group League of Conservation Voters, the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, and the grassroots organizing group MoveOn.
“I'm proud to stand alongside so many incredible organizations leading the fight against the Trump administration’s hatred and bigotry,” Cisneros said in a statement shared with NBC News.
Cuellar, who first won his seat in 2004 after emerging from a nasty Democratic primary, has come under fire from the left for numerous votes and positions that critics say do not represent his heavily-Democratic, majority-Hispanic district.
Cuellar, for instance, is one of just a tiny handful of House Democrats who has received an A rating from the National Rifle Association. He also voted with Republicans against so-called sanctuary cities, local jurisdictions that refuse to work with federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants.
And he's also taken votes against expanding abortion rights, including in support of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal spending on abortion services.
“As anti-choice politicians continue to wage an all-out assault on the right to access abortion, it’s crucial that Democrats stand united in their commitment to reproductive freedom,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “Henry Cuellar’s record speaks for itself-- from his support for the discriminatory Hyde Amendment to extreme bans on abortion, he has made it clear just how dangerously out-of-touch he is.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, added in a statement that Cisneros is “committed to protecting people’s rights and has pledged to defend her constituents against attacks on those rights and freedoms.”
But Cuellar spokesperson Colin Strother told NBC News his boss is focused on his local constituents, not a national advocacy group and the opinion of “people from outside the district, who don’t know the district, and who can’t vote in the district.”
“It’s unfortunate that so many of these so-called progressive groups are focused on some kind of a purification ritual that does nothing other than feed their ego and their donor base,” Strother added.
Cueller’s district has little risk of falling into Republican hands in 2020. It voted for Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by 20 percentage points in 2016. But some Democrats have warned that primary battles, even in safe districts, will distract the party from preserving its hard-won House majority next year.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of House Democrats, is anticipating more primary challenges to incumbent lawmakers in safe blue districts after Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory last year, and has vowed to stop working with any vendors who work with insurgent candidates.
For Democratic presidential hopefuls, the early bids have caught the worms
WASHINGTON — If there’s been one lesson to the 2020 Democratic presidential race, it’s been this one: The early birds have gotten the worm – at least when it comes to the attention needed to garner support in the polls and qualify for the debates.
Bullock qualified to participate in just one debate, while Sestak never got to make a single debate stage.
Indeed, excluding the newest entrants (Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick), of the 12 Democratic candidates who jumped into the 2020 race AFTER February, only three still remain – former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and billionaire Tom Steyer.
By contrast, of the 12 candidates who got into the race BEFORE March 1, all but one is still in the contest.
That one exception? Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Take a look at the list of Democratic candidates this cycle, ordered by the latest to enter, to see how few of the latest entries are still in the race:
- Michael Bloomberg (who announced on Nov. 24)
- Deval Patrick (who announced on Nov. 14)
- Tom Steyer (who announced on July 9)
- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (who announced on June 23) EXITED on Dec. 1
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (who announced on May 16) EXITED on Sept. 20
- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (who announced on May 14) EXITED on Dec. 2
- Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo (who announced on May 2)
- Former VP Joe Biden (who announced on April 25)
- Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass (who announced on April 22) EXITED on Aug. 23
- Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (who announced on April 8) EXITED on July 8
- Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio (who announced on April 4) EXITED on Oct. 24
- Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke (who announced on March 14) EXITED Nov. 1
- Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (who announced on March 4) EXITED on Aug. 15
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (who announced March 1) EXITED on Aug. 21
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (who announced on Feb. 19)
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (who announced on Feb. 10)
- Marianne Williamson (who filed her candidacy on Feb. 5)
- Sen. Cory Booker (who announced on Feb. 1)
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (who formed an exploratory committee on Jan 23, formally announced on April 14)
- Sen. Kamala Harris (who announced on Jan. 21)
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (who formed an exploratory committee on Jan. 15, formally announced on March 17) EXITED on Aug. 28
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (who announced her decision to run on Jan. 11)
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who formed an exploratory committee on Dec. 31, formally announced on Feb. 9)
- Former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro (who formed an exploratory committee on Dec. 12, formally on Jan. 12)
- Andrew Yang (who filed his candidacy on Nov. 6, 2017)
- Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney (who announced his presidential bid back on July 28, 2017!)
Gavin Newsom endorses Christy Smith for former Rep. Katie Hill's seat
WASHINGTON — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday endorsed California Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special House election to fill former Rep. Katie Hill’s seat.
"We need Christy Smith in Congress. She's proven herself as an effective leader for the people she represents," Newsom said in a statement first made available to NBC News.
"From addressing our increasing wildfire threat to investing more in our public schools, creating middle class jobs, making healthcare more accessible and affordable to combating our climate crisis and enhancing emergency response — Christy has shown that she knows how to bring people together to solve problems and get things done."
Hill, who defeated a GOP incumbent to win the 25th District seat in 2018, resigned in October amid an ethics investigation into allegations she had an affair with a staffer.
California uses a jungle-primary system, which pits all candidates against each other in a primary regardless of party. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the top two move on to a runoff.
The special election primary, which will be held on March 3, is already crowded on both sides of the aisle.
Cenk Uygur, the progressive commentator and co-founder of The Young Turks announced his bid for the seat in late November.
The Young Turks, a widely-viewed progressive media site, regularly spars with establishment Democrats and the party structure. Smith meanwhile has earned a steady stream of establishment Democratic endorsements like 12 members of California’s congressional delegation, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the California League of Conservation Voters.
While Uygur could take up the progressive lane in the race, he's come under fire for alleged misogynistic and homophobic comments he made in the early 2000s. Uygur has since apologized for the comments.
On the Republican side, former Rep. Stephen Knight, who held the seat until Hill flipped the district, is vying to win it back, and former aide to President Trump's 2016 campaign George Papadopoulos also announced. President Trump has not commented on Papadopoulos' run, and he hasn't endorsed Knight. However it's Marine Mike Garcia who has earned theendorsement former California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.
Smith’s Assembly district encompasses 58 percent of the 25th District, and Smith won her election by 5,000 votes in 2018, flipping it from GOP control for the first time since 1978 (Hill became the first Democrat to win the congressional seat since 1990).
The Cook Political Report rated this seat as a “lean Democratic” in the 2020 general election race, even though the seat is currently vacant.
If no candidate hits the 50 percent mark in the March 3 primary, the top two will advance to a general election on May 12.
The special election decides who serves out the rest of Hill's unexpired term, through next year. Voters will also choose a candidate to succeed Hill in 2021 in a separate election on the same ballot
Klobuchar on Bloomberg: It cannot be all about money
WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., took a swipe at billionaire Democratic presidential hopefuls Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer during a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” arguing that their self-funded candidacies send a bad message about money in politics.
“I'm never going to be able to compete with two billionaires. That is true. I'm not going to be able to buy this $30 million ad buy,” she said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC. “It cannot be all about money or rich people would be running and winning in every Senate race in the country. That's not what happens.”
Steyer has been in the race since July, and spent more than $46 million of his own money on his bid through the end of September. And while Bloomberg jumped in last week, he’s already booked $52 million in television advertising time alone.
While Klobuchar praised Bloomberg’s record — he’s also spent his millions championing Democratic priorities like preventing gun violence and climate change — she criticized his decision to jump into the race and the calculus that the party might need a savior as Democrats jockey for position in their primary. .
“It is more about money in politics for me. I have admiration for the work that he's done, but I don't buy this argument that you get in because you say, ‘Oh, everyone else sucks,’” she said.
“I think we have strong candidates. I don't think that any of the polling or the numbers show that people are dissatisfied with all their candidates. They're just trying to pick the right one.”
Happy Thanksgiving: Here's who's led past presidential primaries by Thanksgiving weekend
WASHINGTON — As the presidential election calendar turns to Thanksgiving (and with almost two months to go before Iowa's February caucus), former Vice President Joe Biden holds the lead in national polls right now.
There's still a lot of time left for candidates to flip the script, and national polls don't perfectly capture the dynamics in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, the first states to hold presidential nominating contests. But the national polls do provide a snapshot at how the candidates are resonating with the broader Democratic primary electorate.
Biden's RealClearPolitics average has him at 29.3 percent nationally as of Nov. 26, a nine-point lead over Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' 19.5 percent.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is close behind with 18 percent, but then there's a significant drop-off with the rest of the field.
South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 8 percent, followed by California Sen. Kamala Harris' 4 percent, businessman Andrew Yang's 3 percent and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's 2 percent (former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's average is 2 percent, but he's hardly been included in polls since he launched his surprise bid late last week).
Here are what the national RealClearPolitics averages looked like in some previous cycles at this point in the calendar, Nov. 26 of the year before Election Day.
The writing was already on the wall in the GOP primary by Nov. 26, 2015, with then-candidate Donald Trump and his 27.5 percent a significant lead over Dr. Ben Carson's 19.8 percent.
At that point, Trump's hold on the GOP primary electorate was only getting stronger, while Carson quickly declined toward the middle of the pack.
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were locked in a tight race for third behind them, with 12.5 percent and 11.3 percent respectively.
Then came former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his 5.5 percent, followed by businesswoman Carly Fiorina's 3.5 percent and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 3.3 percent.
The 2016 Democratic primary was a two-person race almost the whole way through, and it particularly was by the end of November 2015.
By Nov. 26, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton averaged 55.8 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, according to the RCP average. While Sanders' momentum was building at that point, he still trailed significantly with 30.2 percent.
With the Iowa caucus just a month out (the caucus used to be in January), eventual nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was locked in a tight battle with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Romney averaged 23.8 percent of the GOP national vote, compared to Romney's 21.3 percent.
Herman Cain followed at third place with 15.5 percent, but his candidacy was on the down-swing too and he ultimately dropped out less than two weeks later.
Two Texans, former Rep. Ron Paul and then-Gov. Rick Perry, were tied at 8 percent.
And former Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann was averaging 4.8 percent.
The man at the top of the polls by Nov. 26, 2008 is a familiar face for those following the 2020 elections—former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani averaged 28 percent about a month before the January Iowa caucus, almost double that of the second-place candidate Fred Thompson, the former actor and Tennessee senator.
Romney, making his first presidential bid, followed at 12.7 percent. And eventual nominee, the late former Arizona Sen. John McCain, sat at just 12.2 percent.
Just like in 2016, Clinton had a commanding lead over the field by the Thanksgiving season, as it looked like she would cruise to the nomination. Her 42.7 percent average was significantly ahead of her next 2020 rival, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his 23 percent.
Harris announces endorsements from 100 Iowa teachers
WAUKEE, Iowa — As Kamala Harris prepares to spend the Thanksgiving holiday on the campaign trail in Iowa, her campaign is unveiling 100 new endorsements from teachers around the Hawkeye state to coincide with the launch of “Iowa Teachers for Kamala” on Wednesday.
“I am honored to have the support of teachers from across Iowa and grateful every day for the work they do to help raise our children,” Harris said in a release. “Educators here in Iowa and across the country have made me a better candidate and I’m grateful to have them on my team.”
Harris’ first campaign policy rollout focused on increasing teacher pay by an average of $13,500, and she often pledges on the trail that one of her first actions as president would be to “say thank you and goodbye to Betsy DeVos” — often met with large applause — adding that teachers “don’t want a gun, they want a raise!”
In a recent push to invest both her time and resources in Iowa, Harris has restructured her stump speech to include various points of “justice” that are on the ballot. “Educational justice” is one on that list and she focuses on teacher pay disparities, noting the fact that many teachers end up working multiple jobs. She also talks about her pledge to take executive action to implement an assault weapons ban within her first 100 days as president as part of her fight for increased school safety.
The educators endorsing Harris teach a wide variety of subjects and grades across the state. The California senator has spent a significant amount of time in Iowa in recent months in an effort to revamp a floundering campaign, but still only registered at 3% in the most recent Des Moines Register/CNN Iowa poll.
Buttigieg reacts to critical article panning his 2011 comments on minority kids and education
DENISON, IA — After his first event Tuesday, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg distanced himself from his 2011 comments about the lack of educational role models in "lower-income, minority neighborhoods," comments highlighted in a recent, scathing article in "The Root."
The article blasted Buttigieg over his words that surfaced on Twitter last week. The post on "The Root" subsequently prompted a profane hashtag about the mayor that corresponded with the headline of the piece.
In the clip from a 2011 South Bend forum, Buttigieg talks about kids from “lower-income, minority neighborhoods” who haven’t seen education work and who don’t have “someone they know personally who testifies to the value of education.”
"Kids need to see evidence that education is going to work for them," Buttigieg said at the time.
"A lot of kids, especially in the lower-income, minority neighborhoods who literally just haven’t seen it work. There isn’t somebody they know personally who testifies to the value of education."
Michael Harriot, the author of the story in "The Root," criticized Buttigieg's for those comments, pointing to issues like the funding disparities that exist between predominately white schools and majority-minority schools, the pay gap for minority workers, and inequality of access to things like technology and advanced classes.
Responding to the article on Tuesday, Buttigieg, said that “some of the characterization of me personally is unfair,” but that what he said in the clip “does not reflect the totality of my understanding then, and certainly now, about the obstacles that students of color face in our system today.”
He added that he sees how his remarks could be viewed as “validating a narrative that sometimes blames the victim for the consequences of systemic racism,” and largely agrees with the author’s perspective.
Buttigieg said he spoke to Harriot this morning about the concerns raised in the article. The mayor acknowledged “the advantages and privileges that I have had, not through any great wealth but certainly through education, through the advantages that come with being white and being male,” which is part of why he wants to make a difference by running for president.
Buttigieg has struggled to gain traction at the polls with black voters, who are overwhelmingly supporting former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign.
His fellow 2020 Democratic hopeful, California Sen. Kamala Harris, criticized him last week for briefly using a stock photo of a person from Kenya in the release of his plan to help black Americans.
When Buttigieg was confronted with that criticism on last week's debate stage, he said: "I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don't yet know me."
"As mayor of a city that is racially diverse and largely low income, for eight years, I have lived and breathed the successes and struggles of a community where far too many people live with the consequences of racial inequity that has built-up over centuries but been compounded by policies and decisions from within living memory," he went on.
"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, turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate, and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here."
With Bloomberg blanketing airwaves, here's what the ad war looks like in early states
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is blanketing the airwaves with his historic $30 million-plus television buy, looking to bring his candidacy to voters across the country.
While Bloomberg is currently planning to skip the early states that are historically the path to the nomination, his 2020 Democratic primary rivals are keeping their eyes on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which hold the first nominating contests on the calendar.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, here is the ad-spending race (TV, radio) in those early nominating states from candidates who have spent at least $10,000 as of Nov. 26, according to Advertising Analytics.
Tom Steyer: $7.8 million
Pete Buttigieg: $2.5 million
Bernie Sanders: $2.4 million
Michael Bennet: $1.1 million
Joe Biden: $840,000
Amy Klobuchar: $650,000
Kamala Harris: $560,000
John Delaney: $492,000
Tulsi Gabbard: $252,000
Elizabeth Warren: $94,000
Julián Castro: $32,000
Steve Bullock: $18,000
Steyer: $8.1 million
John Delaney: $130,000
Joe Sestak: $108,000
Steyer: $5.7 million
Steyer: $7.2 million
—Ben Kamisar contributed
Booker plans six-figure ad buy, early state sprint to make debate stage
MANCHESTER, NH – New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign is in an all-out sprint to qualify for the December debate, per a memo from his campaign manager, Addissu Demissie.
With the upcoming Dec. 12 deadline to qualify for the next Democratic debate looming, the campaign announced a six-figure ad buy featuring Booker’s first radio and digital ads, coupled with reorienting its early state strategy “to become a targeted voter persuasion effort aimed at attaining the debate polling threshold.”
Booker's campaign says it has raised $1 million since last week's MSNBC-Washington Post debate, which helped the campaign eclipse the 200,000 unique donor threshold to put Booker on the road toward qualifying for the next debate.
To qualify for the December debate in California, which will be posted by PBS Newshour and Politico, candidates need to hit that unique donor threshold as well as a polling threshold — either hitting 4 percent in four national or state polls (from different pollsters) or 6 percent in two polls of the early states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
While Booker has the fundraising, he's so far failed to hit 4 percent in any qualifying poll.
In the memo, Demissie outlined a strategic shift from courting small-dollar donors to reaching the DNC-approved poll numbers needed, citing four percent in four polls as the “likeliest path.”
“While we don’t have Michael Bloomberg or even Tom Steyer money, we are pouring what we have into paid persuasion thanks to the surge that came in after the debate and no longer having to spend precious resources on new donor acquisition aimed at hitting the 200,000 threshold,” he wrote, waiving at the billionaire Democrats who are spending their personal wealth on their campaigns.
“Cory 2020 isn’t leaving poll qualification up to margins or error or fate,” Demissie added. “We know the most important thing we can do for Cory Booker right now is to ensure that every dollar spent, every volunteer shift booked, every waking moment our campaign staff spends in the next two weeks is geared toward persuading voters that Cory should be their first choice in this contest.”
As for early state resources on the ground, the campaign plans to use “both traditional methods and new organizing tools” in a poll-focused, targeted voter persuasion effort. And Demissie wrote that the campaign will reorient its on-the-ground organizers in early states to "become a targeted voter persuasion effort aimed at attaining the debate polling threshold."
Demissie noted the campaign still needs to raise more money to place its first TV ad buys, which would be in South Carolina and Iowa, where airwaves are crowded and Steyer alone has spent more than $7 million.
Campaigning in New Hampshire over the weekend, Booker talked to reporters about the need to keep pushing ahead.
“The high percentage of people that are signing commitments to support us, volunteering for our campaign, we need to keep the momentum – fundraising is a big issue for us,” he said. “We've seen billionaires just go on our TVs and bump up their polling numbers. I don't have that kind of personal resources, I'm depending on the people.”
Democratic candidates accuse Bloomberg of trying to buy nomination
ANKENY, Iowa — As Michael Bloomberg hit the trail on the first day of his Democratic primary campaign, his fellow primary contenders didn't shy away from taking hits at the billionaire's massive ad buys.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who rarely comments on other candidates, starting off her remarks at a community event here Monday afternoon by addressing Bloomberg's expensive foray.
"Michael Bloomberg is making a bet about democracy in 2020: he doesn't need people, he only needs bags and bags of money. I think Michael Bloomberg is wrong and that's what we need to prove in this election," Warren said.
"If you get out and knock on a thousand doors, he'll just spend another $37 million dollars to flood the airwaves and that's how he plans to buy a nomination in the Democratic Party,” Warren added.
Warren, who often critiques billionaires' opposition to her wealth tax when addressing voters, leaned into that sentiment Monday, arguing that her wealth tax is a recognition that the wealthy built their fortunes "at least in part using workers all of us helped pay to educate."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also criticized Bloomberg during an event in Salem, New Hampshire, accusing the former New York City mayor of using his billions to "buy the United States government."
"I understand the power of the 1 percent. I mean you're seeing that right now literally with Mayor Bloomberg who has decided to use part of his $55 billion not to buy a yacht, not to buy another home, not to buy a fancy car, but to buy the United States government," Sanders said.
Tom Steyer, a fellow billionaire and Democratic candidate, told NBC News Monday that Bloomberg shouldn't be in the race if he won't commit to a wealth tax, as he has.
"Inequality is such a critical and dangerous part of our society now. So for somebody like him or like me, who's been particularly lucky in America and has, you know, generated a lot of wealth, I think it's particularly important to address specifically the inequality of income and wealth," Steyer said.
At his event in Norfolk, Virginia, Monday, Bloomberg responded the charges he's buying his way into the race.
“For years I've been using my resources for the things that matter to me. I was lucky enough to build a successful company, it has been very successful and I've used all of it to give back to help America… So I'm now in the race, I'm fully committed to defeating Donald Trump,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg is spending $31 million to run television ads this week in the largest television buy in campaign history, according to the trackers at Advertising Analytics.
In its two, 60-second biographic spots, which are already airing, Bloomberg's campaign touts his record on consensus Democratic issues like preventing climate change, pushing for gun violence reform, creating jobs and supporting affordable housing.
—Ali Vitali, Ryan Beals, Gary Grumbach, Priscilla Thompson and Maura Barrett contributed
'An absolute disaster': Sanders blasts MLB over proposed minor league cuts
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday denounced Major League Baseball's plan to shutter more than 40 minor league teams as an "absolute disaster" and suggested Congress and the Trump administration "seriously rethink and reconsider" the league's anti-trust exemption.
"I am writing to urge you and the owners of Major League Baseball franchises not to eliminate any of the 42 Minor League Baseball clubs that have been put on the chopping block. Shutting down 25 percent of Minor League Baseball teams, as you have proposed, would be an absolute disaster for baseball fans, workers and communities throughout the country," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, wrote in a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. "Not only would your extreme proposal destroy thousands of jobs and devastate local economies, it would be terrible for baseball."
"Over 41 million fans went to see a Minor League Baseball game last year — over a million more than the previous year," Sanders added. "Depriving American families in small and mid-sized towns the only opportunity they have to see a live baseball game with future big league players at a reasonable price is both unwise and unnecessary."
Earlier this month, The New York Times detailed 42 minor league teams with which that MLB could soon sever ties, mostly at the lower levels of the minor league system. The league has said that the proposal is part of a broader plan to improve conditions in their affiliated minor leagues, including raising player pay, improving transportation and cutting down on a demanding travel schedule. However, the plan would also drastically cut the number of minor league players MLB has to pay.
MLB did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.
Last week, more than 100 members of Congress signed a letter to Manfred calling on MLB to reconsider the plan, which they said "would undermine the health of the minor league system that undergirds talent development and encourages fan loyalty."
"If this is the type of attitude that Major League Baseball and its owners have then I think it’s time for Congress and the executive branch to seriously rethink and reconsider all of the benefits it has bestowed to the league including, but not limited to, its anti-trust exemption," Sanders wrote Monday.
Baseball has long played a role in the Vermont senator's politics. Sanders told Yahoo News earlier this year that the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1958 taught him "what the power of money is about."
Bloomberg ads blanket the airwaves in record-breaking buy
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's stunning advertising buy has begun, with spots promoting his new Democratic presidential bid popping up on the airwaves Monday.
Bloomberg is spending $31 million this week in the largest weekly ad buy ever, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. The buy eclipses even one from then-President Barack Obama, who spent $24.9 million in a single week during his 2012 re-election.
The ads praise Bloomberg's terms as New York City mayor, pointing to his affordable housing and job creation records. They also mention Bloomberg's push to create a group combating gun violence, as well as how he's "stood up to the coal lobby and this administration to protect this planet from climate change."
One of the spots closes with an early attempt to define the billionaire's last-minute candidacy. The ad pitches Bloomberg as the Democrat who can beat the current occupant of the Oval Office, touting consensus issues that are popular among Democrats but more pragmatic than some of the steps being offered by more progressive candidates.
"Now he's taking on [Trump] to rebuild a country and restore faith in the dream that defines us, where the wealthy will pay more in taxes and the middle class get their fair share. Everyone without health insurance can get it, and everyone who likes theirs keep it," the ad's narrator says.
Bennet hears about health care affordability from family in crisis
MANCHESTER, N.H. — What was originally intended to be a morning of knocking on doors on behalf of a presidential candidate turned into a surprising and powerful encounter about the costs of health care.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., led a canvassing kickoff here Sunday morning for volunteers who were knocking on doors on his behalf. Following a training session and brief remarks that Bennet gave to the group, NBC News was invited to follow Bennet along.
In his second house visit of the day, Bennet and his wife, Susan, met Julie and Shane Rondeau who shared the details of their difficult health issues and talked about how their situation is impacting their family.
Shane, 36, is confined to a wheelchair due to his battle with a brain stem tumor and Julie, 35, revealed that she had been recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis — both health crises coming within six months of one another.
The couple have two young children — a son Sebastian, who was playing video games inside, age 6, and a daughter, 12, who was not home at the time. Bennet and Susan joined Julie and Shane in their living room, along with their dog, a brown lab puppy named Chewbacca.
“A lot has changed,” Julie said about the aftermath of their health struggles.
Shane told Bennet that he initially thought he was going to be the one taking care of Julie when she was diagnosed. Then he got sick himself. A week before Shane's surgery to remove his brain tumor, the tumor hemorrhaged, which greatly complicated his condition. Julie also shared that her daughter has been struggling with depression in light of all of the family's medical issues, even being hospitalized for it recently.
Julie told the Democratic presidential candidate that health care is their key issue for the election. She commented that she’s had good experiences using her private insurance plan through her work as an IT engineer, noting that it has helped with making their home more handicap accessible and paying for some of Shane’s outpatient rehabilitations.
Julie also shared that they are now relying on social security for some of Shane’s medical costs, and that they cannot afford to get a service dog to help Shane when she's working so they are enrolling their dog, Chewbacca, to learn.
Bennet listened to Julie explain that the couple does not qualify for Medicaid since they are technically considered upper-middle class and that she is weighing options of draining her retirement account to create to be able to off-set some of the health care costs.
Bennet responded by saying that when he worked to help pass the Affordable Care Act, he felt there needed to be a public option. He said that if he were elected, he would push for that expansion as well.
“It just makes sense to do that and create it as an alternative,” Bennet said to the couple.
Bennet and his wife spent roughly a half hour visiting with the couple. He told the couple that he’s heard a lot of stories in the 15 years he’s worked in public life as a school superintendent and in the Senate but “you guys are bearing something here that nobody else I’ve ever met has had to.” He added, what the couple is “both facing in terms of medical conditions, with your age, with your kids, it’s a lot for anybody.”
Kamala Harris tells Iowa voters she's 'not a socialist'
WASHINGTON, IA – Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., continued to try and stake out a middle ground for herself in Iowa on Saturday. While speaking with potential caucus-goers, Harris told voters she's "not trying to start a revolution" and she's "not a socialist."
Harris has spent a substantial amount of time in Iowa since October when she laid off dozens of staffers, shifted field staff from other early primary states to the Hawkeye state. Her campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said Harris is going "all in on Iowa," but in the most recent Iowa poll, Harris is polling at 2 percent.
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack endorses Joe Biden
WASHINGTON – Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa, and his wife Christie Vilsack endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in his presidential run on Saturday.
Vilsack announced the endorsement in a USA TODAY op-ed, writing, "While some may argue that Joe Biden’s lifetime of public service is a draw-back, I see it as a strength. I see a well-defined candidate, who has withstood the test of time," Vilsack wrote. "I believe a majority of Americans will find that Joe Biden is the person best prepared and best positioned to heal the divisions within our country and to end the 'disorder' of the last 3 years."
Vilsack's endorsement is Biden's highest-profile Iowa endorsement yet, and comes a week before Biden embarks on an eight-day bus tour of Iowa.
Biden has slipped in recent Iowa polls as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has surged. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has also climbed in the Iowa polls. The newest Iowa poll, from Iowa State University, found Biden in fourth place with 12 percent support – Buttigieg holds a 14-point lead over the former vice president with 26 percent.
After Biden first announced his presidential campaign in April, he traveled to Iowa and told the crowd, " No one is going to work harder to get the support and trust of the Iowa folks than I am this campaign," and, "Ninety-nine counties, here I come!" But Biden has struggled to keep that strong presence.
Back in September, Biden aides said it wasn't necessary for Biden to win Iowa, but that the first in the nation caucus would be "critical."
After serving two terms as governor of Iowa, Vilsack worked in the Obama administration with Biden as the secretary of agriculture. In his endorsement, Vilsack touches on the central point of Biden's campaign: electability.
"The most obvious point to make in selecting a nominee is electability. No leader can change the direction of a country or improve people’s lives if he or she can’t win the election. Given the highest possible stakes in this election, electability has an enhanced role in deciding who the nominee should be," Vilsack said.
Vilsack went on to commend others running for president for writing "extensive, comprehensive and thoughtful plans" in rural areas.
Michael Bloomberg makes multi-million ad buy in major March primary markets
WASHINGTON — While former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hasn't formally announced a run for president, his emerging/inevitable/actual presidential campaign has bought advertising time in dozens of TV markets at a cost of $8.5 million and counting, according to ad-tracking data from Advertising Analytics.
The top markets in his ad buys all have later primary dates, so if Bloomberg formally announces a run, his focus may be on states that current 2020 candidates aren't spending a ton of time in as of now.
The ads from his new buy are set to start airing on Nov. 25. The biggest buys are in the following markets:
- Los Angeles (California—– March 3 primary): $1.2 million
- Chicago (Illinois – March 17 primary): $863,000
- Houston (Texas– March 3 primary): $630,000
- Dallas-Ft Worth (Texas– March 3 primary): $611,000
- New York (April 28 primary): $550,000
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.
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.
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.
Deval Patrick files in N.H., addresses Medicare for All and Bain Capital
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.
Democratic Super PAC expands digital strategy to Arizona
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.”
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.
Elizabeth Warren files for New Hampshire primary
CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., became the latest presidential candidate to formally file paperwork to appear on the Granite State's primary ballot, making the traditional appearance at the Concord state house Wednesday.
Walking down the hallway lined with supporters cheering chants like, “Liz is good, Liz is great, she’s fighting for the Granite State!”, Warren stopped for hugs, handshakes and one pinky promise with a young girl before arriving in the filing room.
Warren was energetic when she entered Secretary of State Bill Gardner's office. As Gardner explained the history of the primary and its $1,000 filing fee, she noted, “No adjustment for inflation!”
After submitting her filing fee and signed paperwork, Warren fist pumped and cheered, “I’m officially in!” before signing “Persist” on the commemorative poster.
Afterwards, Warren answered questions about the two potential new entries in the race, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and fellow Massachusetts politician, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, by stressing her own campaign message.
“When I've been talking about how we can make this country work better not just for those at the top, I've noticed that billionaires go on TV and cry,” she said, adding, “Other billionaires encourage their billionaire buddies to jump into the race. I believe what our election should be about is grassroots. How you build something all across New Hampshire, all across the country and that we really shouldn't have elections that are about billionaires calling all the shots," Warren noted on Bloomberg.
Warren said that she had not spoken to Patrick in the last few days and that she’s “not here to criticize other Democrats.”
Happening simultaneously with Warren's New Hampshire filing was the first public hearing in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Warren was one of the first presidential candidates to call for President Trump to be impeached. She told reporters she had not been able to catch up on the first day of the hearings over impeachment, but affirmed her role in the process when asked about impeachment trials potentially happening in the Senate forcing her off the campaign trail.
“I have constitutional responsibilities,” she said. “I took an oath of office as did everyone in Congress. Part of that oath of office is the basic principle that no one is above the law, that includes the President of the United States and if the House goes forward and sends an impeachment over to the Senate then I will be there for the trial.”
Warren was also asked about the diversity of early voting states and if she was confident she would win the New Hampshire primary.
She immediately said “yes,” adding, “I'm very glad as Democrats that in February we will hear from voters or caucus-goers in four different states and those four states represent a lot of different parts of the country and a lot of different people. It's urban, it's rural, different issues and it's about the opportunity to get out and shake hands with people across this country and that's where I am.”
Warren held a rally with supporters outside on this sunny but frigid afternoon, giving an abbreviated version of her stump speech before stopping by the gift shop to sign memorabilia and hold a “selfie” line inside.
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan endorses Joe Biden for president
WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan Wednesday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president Wednesday morning, saying in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he believes Biden is the best candidate in the Democratic field to defeat President Donald Trump next November.
A one-time 2020 presidential candidate himself, Ryan ended his campaign in October, opting instead to seek re-election to the House. During his presidential run, Ryan campaigned on winning back voters in the midwest who voted for President Trump. He also offered campaign proposals for rebuilding the industrial midwest like building electric vehicles, and bringing manufacturing jobs back to places like his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.
His message often sounded similar to candidates like Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana who is also campaigning on rebuilding the industrial midwest. And like Biden, who campaigns on being able to win the Rust Belt against President Trump.
It was that part of Biden's campaign that got Ryan to endorse him in the still-crowded Democratic field. "This election for many, many Democrats, regardless of where you live, is about who can beat Donald Trump." Ryan said. "And the key to that is who can beat Donald Trump in Michigan, in Wisconsin, in western Pennsylvania, in Ohio. And I'm convinced that that's Joe Biden."
Pete Buttigieg rises to the top in new Iowa poll
WASHINGTON — In a new Democratic primary Iowa poll from Monmouth University, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has risen to a narrow first-place with support from 22 percent of likely caucus-goers, up dramatically from the 8 percent support he received in the last Monmouth University Iowa poll in August.
Closely behind Buttigieg in the poll are former Vice President Joe Biden with 19 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with 18 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., trails with 13 percent.
But just 28 percent of respondents say they are firmly decided on the candidate they would caucus for. That opens the possibility for the top four candidates to either extend their leads in the poll, or for other candidates like Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to gain traction. Klobuchar is sitting at 5 percent in the new poll, and Harris is sitting at 3 percent.
At the time of the last Monmouth Iowa poll in August, Harris was polling 12 percent in Iowa. Since then, she famously said she was going to "move to Iowa", and has laid off most of her New Hampshire staff to focus her campaign on the first caucus state.
Buttigieg's Iowa efforts, which kicked off with a bus tour, seem to be resonating with voters. Seventy-three percent of likely caucus-goers view him as favorable, while Warren, Biden and Sanders trail him in the 60s.
While the poll was taken before former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signaled an interest in entering the race at this late stage, Iowa Democrats were polled on Bloomberg's favorability — and 17 percent said they view him favorably while 48 had an unfavorable view of him.
Bloomberg has indicated that if he does formally enter the race, he will likely bypass the early states in favor of a Super Tuesday-focused strategy.
Four presidential hopefuls go up on Iowa, New Hampshire airwaves
WASHINGTON — Four Democratic presidential candidates began airing new TV ads in the early primary states Tuesday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock all released ads in Iowa that focus on them being the sensible choice to take on President Donald Trump in a general election — either because of their plans, or past leadership.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has a new ad that focuses on him being the candidate to fight for the masses and not the billionaire class.
In addition, Buttigieg released his first two ads in New Hampshire following his four-day bus tour across the state. The two New Hampshire ads, "Had To" and "Unify", focus on Buttigieg bringing a new face to politics to voters in New Hampshire frustrated with "politics so broken, for so long" and "unifying Americans" around solutions that can actually get done — Buttigieg targets his "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan here.
Similarly, Buttigieg's new Iowa ad, entitled "Refreshing," also focuses Buttigieg's "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan. The four-figure ad buy is focused in two Iowa media markets: Des Moines and Ames, and Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City and Dubuque.
Bullock's ad is targeting the same Iowa markets as Buttigieg. His spot repeats media commentators calling Bullock "the only Democratic candidate running who has won a state that Trump won." Buttigieg and Bullock, in theory, target the same voters because they are from more rural, moderate communities. In a new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday, Buttigieg is leading the pack in Iowa at 22 percent, while Biden and Warren closely trail at 19 and 18 percent respectively. Bullock is polling at one percent in the state.
Biden's new ad, like many of his others, draws contrast between himself and President Trump. The ad opens by calling President Trump an "unstable and erratic president", and calls for "strong, steady, stable leadership" like Biden. While many other Biden ads focus on the events at Charlottesville, Va., "Moment" shows images of Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands with President Trump, and shows Biden with members of the military and with former President Barack Obama.
Unsurprisingly, Sanders' new ad, "The Future Belongs to Us", cites "the greed and corruption" of Wall Street as bigger than just President Trump, and argues it is "undermining our democracy." Sanders borrows his usual campaign line that in his administration billionaires would "pay their fair share", and would "guarantee health care for all." Sanders was endorsed by the National Nurses United union Tuesday for his Medicare for All plan and leadership.
Don Blankenship announces bid for Constitution Party's presidential nomination
WASHINGTON — Remember Don Blankenship? The ex-coal magnate turned West Virginia Senate Republican candidate who drew the ire of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with his derisive television ads?
He's back, and running for the presidential nomination for the Constitution Party.
Blankenship announced his bid in a statement Monday morning, noting it comes on Veterans Day "in recognition of America's veterans."
The statement says Blankenship is "attempting to be the first person ever to become an occupant of the White House after having been in the 'big house'" — a reference to the one year he served in prison for a mine safety violation. He claims he was "falsely convicted."
Blankenship emerged on the national political stage during his 2018 bid for Senate, which pit him against then-Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in a tense primary.
With many Republicans concerned about his ability to compete against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the party adopted an 'Anyone but Blankenship' policy, with McConnell, Trump and their allies leading the charge.
That effort prompted Blankenship to furiously push back against those attacks, and launch a series of controversial ads, including one that called McConnell "Cocaine Mitch" and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, a "China person."
Blankenship ultimately lost, and sued the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Donald Trump Jr., a fact he points to in his announcement speech.
Even if Blankenship wins the Constitution Party's nomination, he'll have extremely long odds as a third-party candidate. But he spent $4 million of his own money during his Senate bid. So he could be a wildcard if he decides to spend significant dollars.
Buttigieg rolls out plan to reform the VA on Veteran's Day
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — As a veteran, Pete Buttigieg knows first-hand the challenges of coming home after serving in war. Buttigieg’s service as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves, including a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2014, is something he mentions regularly on the campaign trail when contrasting himself with President Donald Trump.
On Veteran’s Day, the South Bend, Indiana mayor is releasing his plan to reform the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“When you put your right hand up and make a promise to give everything to your country, the promise America makes is to remember you, respect your service, and care for you and your family,” his plan says. “That promise lasts long after you hang up your uniform. It lasts a lifetime.”
Buttigieg joins other 2020 candidates who are fanning out on Veteran’s Day to spotlight their ideas for improving the notoriously troubled U.S. system for caring for veterans after their service. Past presidents who have tried to reform Veterans Affairs have found that progress is slow to come.
Sen. Kamala Harris will also be out on the trail Monday holding veteran-related events. Sen. Bernie Sanders released his own plan for the VA. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her plan in the last few days.
Buttigieg’s plan seeks to fully fund the VA and streamline access to its services. It also calls for an end to veteran homelessness and the decriminalization of mental health issues across the board.
“It's clear we have to do better if we want to see more people getting access to the care that they need,” he said to reporters aboard the bus.
Among the field of 2020 candidates vying for the presidency, Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, are the only Democrats left in the race who have served in the military. While Buttigieg says the VA isn’t his primary health care provider, he recognizes the challenges of what he calls a “convoluted” process.
“We have a system of veteran service officers in counties whose job is it to help people navigate and to advocate for people and really fight for them as they are battling bureaucracy,” he said to reporters on the bus tour. “And those folks do really good work, but it shouldn't be so hard.”
The plan calls for the establishment of a White House coordinator who would work across both Veterran Affairs and the Department of Defense to standardize intake procedures and allow record sharing between the two entities. Buttigieg hopes these reforms would alleviate the challenge of having to track down medical records when transitioning from active duty to veteran status.
The current $16 billion project designed to do just that has hit major snags and delays in the past two years. A Buttigieg administration would aim to execute the project in a way that is human-centered and easy for veterans to navigate.
In addition to providing grants to community veteran organizations working to end the stigma around mental illness and addiction Buttigieg plans to expand access to Veteran Treatment Court which funnel’s vets into rehabilitation centers rather than prison. The wide-ranging plan also includes reforms aimed at addressing discrimination and challenges faced by women, people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who serve.
On Monday, Buttigieg will commemorate Veteran’s Day by attending a ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, NH followed by a Veteran’s Day address at the Rochester Opera House in Rochester, NH to wrap up his four-day bus tour across the state.
Sanders releases $62 billion plan to revitalize the VA
CHARLES CITY, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday released a $62 billion plan to revitalize the Veterans Affairs Administration that proposes, among other things, to repair, modernize and rebuild the infrastructure of the VA to provide “cutting-edge health care services” to veterans.
The plan, released on Veteran's Day, also pledges to fill nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA within his first year in office. Sanders also proposes a simplification of the claims process, so veterans receive compensation in a timely manner, “without bureaucratic red tape,” the campaign says.
Much of the plan focuses on making sure veterans who deserve care, get it. Sanders says he plans to reform what the campaign calls “harmful VA regulations” that restrict access to care and benefits based on type of military discharge. The plan also calls for Veterans to be Able to use the “full complement” of benefits offered in the G.I. Bill.
The campaign released a video Monday, featuring Sanders senior advisors Warren Gunnels and Jeff Weaver, and late Republican Sen. John McCain. The video, titled “Keeping our promises” focuses on Sanders’ and McCain’s bipartisan work to enact the Veterans' Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, a bill that authorized 27 new facilities for the VA, and provided billions to hire doctors and nurses.
Sherrod Brown reiterates he isn't running for president, says he's happy with Dem field
WASHINGTON — Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Sunday that he doesn't share the "hand-wringing anguish that my fellow Democrats have” about the state of the Democratic presidential field, reiterating that he's not interested in running for the office himself.
Brown, who briefly flirted with a presidential bid this year, addressed the state of the race during a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"It's genetic that Democrats wring their hands about presidential candidates. I mean, we always do that. I think it's a good field. I think we're going to beat Trump," he said.
"I go back to the promises this president's made. He makes promises to farmers and then he chooses the oil industry over family farmers in western Ohio. And I think that is eating away at his support."
On the question of whether he'd consider changing his mind and running, Brown said he's never had a "big desire to be president of the United States."
"I love what I'm doing and I just didn't have the huge ambition you need to be president of the United States," he said.
But while he wouldn't discuss the strategies of specific candidates, he shared general advice as to how he thinks the field should position itself. He argued that Democrats have to do "do better" in talking to working-class voters, and that the candidates should focus on trying to strengthen ObamaCare rather than replacing it with a new program like Medicare for All.
"Democrats want to get to universal coverage. Republicans want to take it away. That should be where we all go as a team, as Democrats, on all of this," Brown said.
Pete Buttigieg talks about his challenges attracting support from black voters
CONCORD, N.H. – In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg discussed his campaign's outreach to black voters after an internal campaign memo detailed concerns over the campaign's ability to reach out to the black community, and whether Buttigieg's sexual orientation is an issue for those voters in states like South Carolina.
Buttigieg told NBC News that while "homophobia is a problem" but "it’s unfair to suggest that homophobia is only an issue in the black community, when really it’s an issue in America."
While Buttigieg has jumped toward the top of recent national polls, and polls in Iowa, a Monmouth University poll released a few weeks ago saw Buttigieg polling at only 3 percent in South Carolina among likely Democratic voters in the state. When likely Democratic black voters in South Carolina were polled, that support fell to 1 percent.
Biden campaign memo says Kentucky, Virginia results help Biden case
CONCORD, N.H. — The Biden campaign is pointing to recent Democratic wins in Kentucky and Virginia as evidence that their message of building on the Affordable Care Act is a winning one for Democrats across the country, warning that Medicare for All would be an “unaffordable liability."
In a memo obtained exclusively by NBC News, Biden campaign senior strategist Mike Donilon and pollster John Anzalone said the off-year election wins by Democrats in Republican and swing states were “major proof points that Joe Biden’s health care plan and message are the right formula with which Democrats can retake the White House."
The Biden officials say Kentucky specifically offered a real template for Democratic candidates. Apparent gubernatorial winner Democrat Andy Beshear's message targeted Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for undercutting the state’s successful Obamacare exchange and Medicaid expansion. Bevin borrowed from the Trump playbook of “disproven conspiracy theories” and an appeal from the president himself, the Biden officials laid out.
"Does anyone think Andy Beshear would have beaten Matt Bevin running on Medicare for All?,” the officials wrote. "Because of the grave stakes of 2020 – with implications not only for policy but for who we are as a country – it would be a profound mistake for our party to sacrifice the high ground on the ACA by running on undoing Obamacare, outlawing private health insurance and kicking almost 160 million people off employer-sponsored health insurance, and raising taxes on the middle class."
The memo continued, "Democrats re-took the House by running on protecting the ACA, and now that message has delivered full control of the Virginia state government and even the governor’s mansion in a Trump stronghold. And if this model succeeds in states as challenging for Democrats as Kentucky, it can absolutely gain us the necessary ground to re-take more competitive battleground states, and that is exactly what Joe Biden — more so than any other Democrat running — is poised to do."
The Biden campaign amped up its attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ever since Warren said the former vice president was “running in the wrong primary” for not backing the progressive Medicare for All. Biden responded this week by calling that “my way or the highway“ response “representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share."
Biden said Friday that he wasn’t referring to “Warren as being an elitist.”
“I said the American people out there, they understand what's going on, and they don't like being instructed on what they should believe and what they don't believe."
Tom Steyer campaign aide resigns following accusations of payments for endorsements
DES MOINES, Iowa — Tom Steyer’s Iowa political director, Pat Murphy, has resigned in the wake of reports that he offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing the billionaire's presidential candidacy.
"After the conclusion of an investigation alleging improper communications with elected officials in Iowa, Pat Murphy has offered his resignation from the campaign effective immediately," Steyer campaign manager Heather Hargreaves said in a statement Friday evening.
“Our campaign policy is clear that we will not engage in this kind of activity, or any kind of communication that could be perceived as improper."
In an interview with MSNBC earlier Friday, Steyer said such payments would not have been authorized by the campaign.
“Nothing like that has ever been authorized. Nothing like that ever would be authorized,” Steyer said, noting that he found out about the allegations “through the airwaves.”
While paying for endorsements is not strictly illegal, the action could violate campaign finance laws, if the payments were not disclosed. The Steyer campaign highlighted their policy that they would “not engage in this kind of activity, and anyone who does is not speaking for the campaign or does not know our policy.”
Earlier Friday morning, following a public endorsement from state Rep. Russell Ott, Steyer answered questions a media availability in St. Matthews, S.C., where he reinforced the message that his campaign was working to “make sure we understand exactly what happened.”
“I can promise you we'll deal with the highest, we will make sure this campaign is run with the highest standards of integrity,” Steyer said.
In Iowa, Steyer has received just one endorsement, from former state Rep. Roger Thomas. Thomas confirmed to NBC News that he was never offered money in exchange for his support, and said, “I can positively assure you that I did not receive any compensation from Mr. Steyer or anyone involved in his campaign.”
The resignation of Murphy comes after one of Steyer’s South Carolina deputy state director, Dwane Sims, quit after it was discovered that he used access he had previously been granted while working for the South Carolina Democratic Party to download data about rival Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign.
“What I do know for sure is nothing, no information was ever used,” Steyer said at the same media availability Friday, adding that he called Harris and “left a message to say I'm sorry.”
Joe Biden files for New Hampshire primary, clarifies comments on Elizabeth Warren
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.”
Vice President Mike Pence files Trump's name for New Hampshire primary ballot
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.
Andrew Yang releases first TV ad in Iowa
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.
Amy Klobuchar shuts down women candidates not being "likable"
ROCHESTER, N.H. — After filing to appear on the Democratic primary ballot in New Hampshire Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., appeared at a town hall even where she was asked the "likability" factor and how it could impact the candidates.
The question was asked in reference to a new New York Times/Siena College poll in which some respondents said they'd support a male candidate over a female candidate when the two people's ideologies were similar, which was also featured on an episode of The New York Times’ podcast "The Daily" earlier this week.
Klobuchar responded by focusing on the three female senators in the race, saying that herself, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have all had tough jobs that show they know how to lead in different ways.
"We have all had tough jobs, okay. Tough jobs. And really good tough jobs that show we know how to lead," Klobuchar said. "You have to make tough decisions and that's the truth, and it has haunted all three of us in different ways but I think overall, this is the interesting part, we wouldn't be on that debate stage and where we are running for president if we hadn't been tough enough to have those jobs."
She added, “So I am just like, seriously, this is not a measure we use with men and so I find all of us quite likeable.”
Klobuchar went on to add that the women senators in the presidential race don’t agree on everything, just like men, but that their differences are policy-centered.
“We finally have these women out there and yeah, we don't agree on everything — big surprise —just like men don't,” she said.
Policy differences aside, Klobuchar said it's a positive development that there are so many women running for president this time around and reminisced on what it was like when Hillary Clinton sought the presidency in 2016.
"I cannot even imagine how that felt for her on election night and how everyone felt in this room, but what I do know is she actually did break the glass ceiling because of the fact that we have so many women that are in leadership now."
“Does it make me mad sometimes? Yes, yes it does. And I think experience should be valued,” Klobuchar closed. “I'm just hoping and betting that they are going to connect that experience and ability, not just with a man, but with a woman. Then I win."
Tulsi Gabbard appears to qualify for November debate
WASHINGTON — Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is poised to appear on November's presidential debate stage after finishing with 3 percent in a new poll of Iowa.
That makes Gabbard the 10th candidate expected to appear on the stage at this month's debate in Atlanta, sponsored by MSNBC and The Washington Post. She's hit the threshold of three percent in four national or state polls, as well as raising money from 165,000 unique donors, according to an NBC News analysis of publicly released polls and donor numbers.
That same Quinnipiac University poll found Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden all jockeying for the top position.
Warren led narrowly with 20 percent, followed by Buttigieg's 19 percent, Sanders' 17 percent and Biden's 15 percent.
Behind the pack were:
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., with 5 percent
- Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., with 4 percent
- Billionaire Tom Steyer with 3 percent
- Gabbard with 3 percent
- Businessman Andrew Yang with 3 percent
Amy Klobuchar files in New Hampshire, wouldn't call Warren's ideas "elitist"
CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is officially on the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot after filing at the state house amid traditional fanfare. Nearly 100 supporters greeted Klobuchar in the hallway as she entered the Secretary of State’s office, flanked by key local endorsers — notably, state Sen. Jeanne Dietsch, executive councilor Deb Pignatelli, and former New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster — who, in a show of establishment force, joined her and Bill Gardner behind the desk. After submitting the check, signing the paperwork, and writing “For all of America” on the commemorative poster, she took questions from the press.
While speaking, Klobuchar brought up Tuesday's election results, noting the blue shift in the New Hampshire town, Laconia.
“Our citizens last night made their voices known loud and clear,” she said. “They did it in New Hampshire, but they also did it in the state of Virginia in a big, big way. They did it in Kentucky, a place that in that governor's race, and I think the message to me from all of this because these states are so very different, the political issues are different, some are local elections, some are state elections but the argument is that we are a country of patriots and that we put our country first and that there’s a lot of people out there, including our fired up Democratic base, and including independents and moderate Republicans who've had it.”
Asked what the results say about what’s energizing Democrats right now, Klobuchar said, “I think what distinguished them is that they are there for the people. They had the back of their constituents. Those were tough re-election fights in Virginia and some of those redder and purple districts where people were surprise victors on our side two years ago and they came back again and won. I don't think that was because they were ideologues in any way. I think it's because they did the work of their constituents and people trusted them."
"I think it makes it an even stronger argument for my candidacy," she continued, "because I am someone who has been able to bring in those independents, moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats."
Klobuchar also responded to former Vice President Joe Biden calling Democratic opponent Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ideas “elitist,” telling NBC News, “I wouldn’t use that word” before adding on health care, “I think you just argue it on the merits without saying adjectives about what things are. I think people are in good faith coming up with good ideas.”
She then stopped by the gift shop on her way out, as is tradition, to sign her name to some of her campaign merchandise for their wall’s growing collection, while she also pointed out memorabilia of past candidates like Chris Dodd.
In a rally on the state house lawn afterwards, a fired up Klobuchar spoke to an energized, but older, crowd of around 150. Klobuchar, joined onstage by Pignatelli, briefly hit her usual policy points before again driving home the significance of yesterday’s election results, using the Democratic victories as a way to highlight her often-touted ability to win big in red places and help turnout when on the ballot and stress the “value check” of last night’s election.
She told the crowd, “We are living in a moment in time where our democracy is really hitting back in a good way. Our democracy is about citizens, citizen's making decisions and the president is not the king and to me that is what happened last night. The president is not the king.”
As the debate qualification deadline draws near, Bullock and Castro invest in Iowa TV ads
DES MOINES, Iowa — Less than three months from the Iowa caucuses, low-polling candidates Gov. Steve Bullock and Sec. Julián Castro are working to stand out in the key early state, announcing new ad buys this week. Neither Democratic candidate has qualified for the November debate stage that would give them a spotlight on national television, but voters in the state will soon begin seeing their faces on screen.
Bullock will begin airing two 30-second ad buys on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Castro debuted his ad following the announcement that his campaign laid off all staffers in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Going all in on Iowa, the Bullock campaign is spending $500,000 on its ads while Castro's buy is around $50,000.
Bullock’s first ad titled, “Responsibility,” opens with archival video of past caucuses as Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who has endorsed Bullock, talks about the important role Iowans will play in choosing a candidate who can beat Donald Trump.
“This year, that’s what matters most,” Miller says, addressing viewers while standing in a gymnasium — the kind of space that is often used as a caucus sites. “And that’s why I strongly support Steve Bullock for President.” Video of Bullock on the campaign trail continues to play as Miller touts Bullock ability to win in a red state.
The second ad, “Only,” opens with strong violin chords as news clips are heard underneath, showcasing Bullock’s ability to “win in rural red America,” along with his record on women’s rights, Medicaid expansion, and dark money in politics. The violin strums reach a crescendo as viewers see Bullock himself appear on screen. The governor looks directly at the camera and says, “I’m Steve Bullock and I approve this message to beat Trump and be a president for all of America.”
Castro’s ad features photos and videos of the former HUD Secretary’s various trips to Iowa, meeting with farmers, greeting families, and marching into the Polk County Steak Fry. It also displays several archival photos from his childhood as Castro’s voice-over emphasizes that Donald Trump will “never understand what makes this country great, what makes a story like yours and mine possible,” along with photos of his wife and children now.
The latest New York Times/Siena College poll show both men polling at under 2% in the first-in-the-nation caucus state with only one week remaining to qualify for the November debate stage.
CORRECTION (Nov. 6, 2019 5:22 p.m. ET) An earlier version of this article misstated the first name of Iowa's attorney general. He is Tom Miller, not Steve.
Bevin, Beshear speak as pivotal Kentucky gubernatorial election underway
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear addressed reporters Tuesday as they cast their votes in the state's closely-watched gubernatorial election, with Bevin hugging President Trump as he seeks to rally Republicans around his campaign and Beshear looking to localize the election.
Bevin defended his campaign's tight embrace of President Trump and his defense of the president during the House impeachment inquiry — the Republican incumbent has spent more than $353,000 on an ad that highlights Trump's praise of Bevin during a recent rally.
"Talk to the average person. Ask the next 100 people who come in here if they care about this impeachment process, and they will tell you almost to a person that they do because they find it to be a charade," he told NBC News.
"We don’t appreciate when a handful of knuckleheads in Washington abdicate their responsibility as elected officials and try to gin up things that are not true because they can’t handle the fact that Hillary Clinton didn’t win."
When asked about Trump's influence on the race, Beshear sought to pivot to an argument that Kentuckians should base their votes on local issues, not national politics.
"This is not about who is in the White House. It’s about what’s going on in your house. It’s about the fact a governor can’t affect federal policy but a governor can certainly impact public education, pensions, healthcare and jobs — four issues that Matt Bevin has been wrong on and we’re going to do a lot of right," he said.
"We’ve tried to run our race on the actual issues that a governor can address."
The Kentucky election is one of three competitive 2019 gubernatorial elections that political prognosticators have their eyes on ahead of 2020. In Mississippi, voters are choosing whether to elevate Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, or switch parties by picking Democratic Attorney Gen. Jim Hood.
And later this month, Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is running against GOP businessman Eddie Rispone.
Buttigieg releases new Iowa ad focusing on the 'fight' against Trump — and beyond
DES MOINES, Iowa — Fresh off a three-day bus tour across Iowa, Pete Buttigieg is releasing a new television ad showcasing his appearance at the state Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration last weekend and highlighting his argument about how the "fight" against President Donald Trump should be waged.
The dinner was the last major party fundraiser in the run-up to the caucuses in February and has been seen as a turning point in then-candidate Barack Obama’s 2007 campaign. Now, Buttigieg is showcasing his speech at the event for all the Democratic voters in the state.
The ad titled, “Sun Comes Up," opens on a wide shot of the South Bend, Indiana mayor with his back to the camera addressing the audience, asking them to envision the day after Donald Trump leaves office.
“The sun’s going to come up over a country even more divided and torn up over politics than we are today,” Buttigieg is seen saying on the backdrop of an American flag. “With crises that still require urgent action.”
This imagery is interwoven with close-ups of solemn faces in the crowd and one woman with tears streaming down her cheek as Buttigieg declares, “I am running to be the president who will pick up the pieces of our divided nation and lead us toward real action.”
Then, the ad turns to the idea of what it means to fight. “We will fight when we must fight, but I will never allow us to get so wrapped up in the fighting that we start to think fighting is the point,” Buttigieg said. “The point it what lies on the other side of the fight.”
The way in which Democrats choose to “fight” has become a defining factor in this election among candidates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who campaigns heavily on the theme, took the stage directly after the mayor and declared, “anyone who comes on this stage and tells you they can make change without a fight is not going to win that fight.”
Buttigieg looks to strike direct contrast with Warren on this issue suggesting his approach to politics is about more than just fighting.
The ad ends showing hundreds of supporters clapping thunder sticks as Buttigieg talks about a theme reminiscent of Barack Obama’s 2007 presidential run — hope.
“The hope of an American experience defined not by exclusion but by belonging, that is what we are here to deliver,” Buttigieg said ending with a pensive close-up on the mayor’s face.
The 60-second spot, is the mayor’s sixth television ad in Iowa. It will run statewide across cable and broadcast channels.
New polling shows a tight 2020 battleground
WASHINGTON — National polling may show Democrats consistently leading President Trump, but new swing-state polling portends a closer race.
New polling from the New York Times and Siena College shows Trump within the margin of error in head-to-head matchups against former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren across Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.
Against Biden, the president lead by 2 points in North Carolina, is tied in Michigan, but is trailing the Democrat in the remaining four states by small margins.
Trump and Sanders split the six states (the Democrat leading Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while the president was ahead in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina).
And with Warren on the hypothetical ticket, Trump leads in Michigan, Florida and North Carolina, is tied in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and trails Warren in Arizona.
Those numbers (all within the poll's margins of error) paint a picture of a presidential race that's sitting on a knife's edge, and far closer than what national polling shows.
Our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Trump with a 45 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval rating. In a national head-to-head of registered voters, Biden led Trump by 9 points, 50 percent to 41 percent, while Warren led by 8 points, 50 percent to 42 percent.
So while Democrats appear to have a lead in the quest to secure the popular vote, as the party was reminded in 2016, the popular vote does not decide presidential elections. And in the states that count, the race is far closer.
Yang: 'I'm a hard-eyed realist about what's happening in our economy'
WASHINGTON — Businessman and Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang regularly muses on the trail about how things like automation, the tax code and global warming are leading toward an unsustainable future in America.
But Yang said Sunday that despite those warnings, there's no reason to be "gloomy" as he pushes his prescription for what he believes could put America back on the right track.
“I'm a hard-eyed realist about what's happening in our economy," he said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I'm here in Iowa, they are seeing 30 percent of their stores and malls close because Amazon is soaking up $20 billion in business every year and paying zero in taxes," he said.
“We have to create a new way forward and rewrite the rules for the 20th-Century economy to work for us, but that doesn't have to mean we have to be, necessarily, very gloomy as we deliver what, to me, is the most important message of our time."
Yang, who initially entered the race with among the lowest name identification ratings in the field, has seen a jolt of momentum in recent months as he's passed far-better established politicians both in fundraising and at the polls.
During his "Meet the Press" interview, Yang took on two of the biggest issues facing Democratic presidential candidates right now: impeachment and health care.
When asked why he supports a 'Medicare-for-All' plan over an expansion of ObamaCare, he argued that while he was a "fan of the themes of ObamaCare" that "it didn't go quite far enough in terms of coverage and allowing Americans to have access to high-quality, affordable care."
And he reiterated his support for impeachment even as he warned that Democrats are "losing" whenever they talk about President Trump.
Biden's New Hampshire campaign touts new push 100 days out
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Exactly 100 days out from the New Hampshire primary, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is touting its position and a new push in this first-in-the-nation primary state, putting an emphasis on ground organization, endorsements and community support while extolling their candidate's durability in the face of political attacks.
In a memo from the campaign's state director, Ian Moskowitz, that was provided exclusively to NBC News, Biden’s New Hampshire campaign says that with the time remaining until the primary their campaign will “continue to expand," in the state, insisting that their candidate “remains well positioned to win in the Granite State and beyond.”
In the most recent New Hampshire polling snapshot on October 29 from CNN/UNH, Senator Bernie Sanders led the field with 21 percent, Senator Elizabeth Warren followed with 18 percent while Biden stood at 15 percent.
The campaign says the fact that Sanders and Warren are from neighboring states (Vermont and Massachusetts) have given them an early advantage in organizing, but note that Biden now has over 50 staff on the ground in New Hampshire, along with their headquarters and nine field offices across the state.
“To date, we have held over 2,000 canvass launches, phone banks, and events across New Hampshire,” the memo says. “We have knocked on over 50,000 doors, made over 275,000 recruitment calls, and have dozens of volunteer leaders confirmed across the entire state.”
And the memo argues that the former vice president has already shown the capacity to weather attacks, from President Trump as well as the rest of the Democratic field.
“Despite nearly six months of constant attacks from President Trump and our opponents, we have built a diverse coalition of supporters, volunteers, and community leaders, and Joe’s poll numbers have remained steady,” Moskowitz says in the memo.
“The Vice President has been consistently attacked from the left and the right — even before he entered the race. While other candidates have risen and fallen, the Vice President has been tried and tested, and his standing in New Hampshire remains strong.”
Later this week Biden will spend two days in New Hampshire, in which he will officially file to be on the ballot at the state house in Concord, NH with Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
Eleven presidential candidates speak at NAACP town hall in Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa – Eleven Democratic presidential hopefuls spoke at a town hall Saturday hosted by the NAACP to discuss criminal justice reform as well as other policies on voters' minds to an audience of about 100 activists. Here are some of the highlights from each candidate's time on stage and press gaggle afterwards.
Cory Booker: Booker spoke about his personal experiences as a black man dealing with disparities in policing in America. He was pressed by an audience member on his support for charter schools. “I support great schools,” Booker said. “You want to come after the charter schools that are educating low income black and brown kids in my city, you are going to have to come through me.”
Amy Klobuchar: Klobuchar apologized for the way police-involved shootings were handled while she was a District Attorney. She has explained on the trail that sending police-involved shootings to a grand jury was common practice, but should change. On Saturday she said, “I'm sorry that we had that process in place. That wasn't the right way to do it and I'm glad that we've changed it and I think that's a very important thing to acknowledge.”
John Delaney: While gaggling with reporters after his appearance, Delaney was asked about his constant staff turnover in Iowa. He said, "The expectations for my campaign are not particularly high right now. So if I do better than expected, which doesn't mean winning Iowa, but performing in a way where you all say 'wow that's a surprise result' – if rural Iowa delivers for me – because I'm talking about their issues, then that I think will change anything.”
Joe Sestak: Sestak spoke about his time in the Navy, recounting a story where he found the "n-word" on one of his ships and how called the entire crew out from the ship and said, “I’ll find you and I’ll kick your ass out of the military. You don’t belong here.” He said never found the person who wrote it but never forgot that.
Andrew Yang: Yang said his signature policy, the Freedom Dividend, is only the foundation of his campaign. "I could not agree more that this thousand dollars a month freedom dividend is just a foundation or a floor.," Yang said. "We need to address the inequities in our educational systems, we need to address the inequities in our criminal justice systems, in our housing systems."
Michael Bennet: While speaking with reporters, Bennet offered a strong rebuke of the party's primary being dominated by Medicare for All arguments. "The fact that we have spent half of or more than half of this primary season debating Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All plan is as much of a reason as I think, that we need different leadership in this party than anything else," Bennet said.
Bernie Sanders: Sanders preached to the crowd about the importance of viewing economic rights as human rights. The senator told stories of being arrested in Chicago and touted his history of activism. He also highlighted the importance of bringing back postal banking for communities that have been historically red lined.
Kamala Harris: Harris was also asked about her record as the Attorney General of California, specifically about a case that involved the death penalty. Harris has been asked before about the use of the death penalty while she was Attorney General during a Democratic primary debate. At Saturday's event she defended her record and said she's consistently been against the death penalty.
Pete Buttigieg: Buttigieg discussed the shooting of Eric Logan in South Bend, Ind. while at the forum and walked through a conversation he had with police officers after the shooting. "Just the mention of the word 'systemic racism' made them feel like their character was under attack," Buttigieg said, " When, in actuality, part of what I was telling them was this problem doesn’t get solved without them working to solve it too.”
Julián Castro: Castro told reporters that his campaign will be spending its resources more-so on Iowa and Texas going forward. "We're going to adjust according to where we're at in this race and so you can expect that we are going to make some adjustments in the days to come to focus on where we think we're strong," Castro said. "Iowa certainly is going to be one of those states we focus on because it's the first state with a caucus. And we will start focusing on Texas because we've been waiting to do that since it comes after those first four states, but we will focus on Texas of course."
Tom Steyer: Steyer spoke at length about his signature policy issue climate change. He told the crowd he's, "the only person in this race who said I'd make climate my number one priority and there's a reason that I'd declare a state of emergency on day one and use the emergency powers of the presidency," Steyer continued, "Because all those plans that people are talking about require passage through the Congress of the United States and the Senate of the United States. And frankly, they're on a different time schedule than mother nature."
Rebecca Hankins and Ryan Beals contributed.
Pete Buttigieg releases disability plan ahead of accessibility forum
DES MOINES, Iowa — Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg unveiled a new plan Saturday aimed at addressing the needs of Americans with disabilities, named the "Dignity, Access, and Belonging: A New Era of Inclusion for People with Disabilities" plan.
“People with disabilities must learn to navigate a world that all too frequently wasn’t built with them in mind. And these hurdles are even higher for people with disabilities who belong to other marginalized groups,” the plan states. “This reality must change.”
The South Bend, Indiana mayor put his plan out ahead of his participation in the "Accessibility for All" forum in Iowa.
The change Buttigieg is proposing begins with the needs of students with disabilities. By 2025, the South Bend mayor’s goal is to ensure that a majority of students with special needs spend at least 80 percent of their day in general education classrooms. Buttigieg promises to fully fund the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, invest more in autism research and more than double funding for training special education teachers.
Beyond education, Buttigieg outlines his plan to address disparities in the working world which includes implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage for all workers. As announced in his previously released Douglass Plan, a Buttigieg administration would aim to award 25 percent of all federal contracts to underrepresented small business owners, including those with disabilities.
The policy highlights reforms to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Buttigieg hopes to implement a gradual tapering of benefits for those earning more than $1,220/month as opposed to an immediate halt to benefits once a recipient reaches the designated income level. These new rules would allow beneficiaries to receive partial benefits, on a sliding scale, while earning between $1,220 and $3,687 per month. In addition, this plan would eliminate the 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage, so SSDI recipients would have access to Medicare as soon as they begin receiving income benefits.
Buttigieg calls for a $100 billion investment in updating transit systems over the next decade — including making public transportation ADA-compliant and ensuring taxi and ride-sharing apps are made more accessible. The administration would develop a national registry of accessible and affordable housing and create an “Accessible Technology Bill of Rights” to ensure access is built into new technology at the development phase.
In an effort to promote more accessibility within its own operation, the Buttigieg campaign has worked with consultants to implement changes to their website including ensuring all images have alt-text equivalents for screen readers and increasing line height to increase legibility for the visually impaired.
Kamala Harris closes field offices, lays off organizers in New Hampshire
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Kamala Harris’, D-Calif, New Hampshire campaign is closing three field offices in Nashua, Portsmouth and Keene, and has cancelled her trip to New Hampshire that was originally scheduled for next week, saying that she is going "all in" on the Iowa caucuses as a strategy for winning the Democratic nomination.
Harris hasn't been to New Hampshire since Sept. 7 for the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention. The campaign’s headquarters in Manchester will remain open with a scaled down staff, the campaign tells NBC News. The campaign's entire field organizing team has been laid off.
While the campaign said Harris' name will be on the ballot for the New Hampshire primary, she will not be filing in person at the state house in Concord, N.H., an event considered to be a tradition for nearly all presidential candidates. It is still being determined if an in-person surrogate will file in Harris’ place but the campaign says that the paperwork will most likely be mailed in.
"Senator Harris and this team set out with one goal — to win the nomination and defeat Donald Trump in 2020,” Nate Evans, Harris Campaign New Hampshire Communications Director, said in a statement provided to NBC News. “To do so, the campaign has made a strategic decision to realign resources to go all-in on Iowa, resulting in office closures and staff realignments and reductions in New Hampshire. The campaign will continue to have a staff presence in New Hampshire but the focus is and will continue to be on Iowa. Senator Harris will not visit New Hampshire on November 6 and 7, but her name will still be placed on the primary ballot."
Just Wednesday, Harris was pressed on pulling resources out of New Hampshire as part of her revamped focus on Iowa, but she said that that she was still committed to the state.
“We are still committed to New Hampshire — but we needed to make difficult decisions. That's what campaigns require at this stage of the game,” Harris told reporters. “And so we have made those difficult decisions based on what we see to be our path toward victory.”
Tom Steyer unveils plan for rural communities
DES MOINES, Iowa — Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer unveiled a new plan Friday aimed at improving the lives of the 60 million people living in rural America, labeling his new policy “Partnerships with Rural Communities.” The Democratic presidential candidate has typically focused on drawing attention to his ideas for government reform and climate change action, and his new rural plan is one of just a few comprehensive policies released outside of those two topics since he declared his candidacy in August.
On the campaign trail, Steyer often touts his familial connection in Iowa — he grew up visiting his aunt and uncle in Iowa City — and has worked to connect with rural and blue collar workers, despite his billionaire background. The eight page plan addresses issues of concern to rural residents and those who live in Tribal nations, and puts a multi-billion dollar price tag on investing in areas like rural broadband, health care and education.
Steyer plans to commit more than $100 billion toward broadband and fiber access, and another investment of more than $100 billion over ten years to improve infrastructure — ensuring updated roads, bridges and levees are resilient to climate impacts. In addition to working to prevent rural hospital closures, Steyer plans to “revolutionize the way America addresses mental health care” by investing another $100 billion over a decade towards mandating insurance companies to cover mental health care and increased access to telemedicine.
In order to attract young people to rural areas, Steyer proposes expanding the National Public Service Plan to place at least 200,000 funded Americorps and Climate Corps members in rural communities. Appealing to farmers, Steyer wants to build upon the Made in Rural America Initiative to connect American farmers to global markets, emphasizing the need for fair and open trade policies.
While most candidates have hit similar points in their rural policies, Steyer adds community banking to his plan, following his experience starting a not-for-profit bank with his wife, Kat Taylor. He argues that expanded funding for Community Development Financial institutions would promote financial education, reduce predatory lending and foster entrepreneurship in rural areas — leading to economic development.
One of Steyer's main campaign priorities, fighting climate change, isn't lost in this plan. In his rural plan, Steyer would contribute to his clean energy economy goals by investing more than $60 billion for rural grid modernization and $50 billion in rural renewable energy resources like solar and emergency power centers.
Bernie Sanders files for New Hampshire primary
CONCORD, NH -- For the second time, Sen. Bernie Sanders will appear as a presidential candidate on the New Hampshire ballot after making it official Thursday morning at the Secretary of State’s office.
“I just want to say that I think we have an excellent chance to win here again in New Hampshire, to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country and to transform our economy and government so that finally it represents all of us and not just the one percent,” Sanders said standing behind the historic filing desk.
Officially signing the paperwork next to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, Sanders then handed over the $1000 filing fee, making a joke that it’s guaranteed not to bounce. Signing the commemorative poster, Sanders opted for the message, “Forward Together.”
Sanders talked nearly at every chance he had, something he is not known for doing. In a lengthy press conference, Sanders was asked about rivals Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, with whom he is in a tight three-way race, according to the latest state poll.
Sanders forcefully took on Biden regarding super PACs and Medicare for All. Biden's campaign recently softened his opposition to accepting super PAC support until he's elected president and can push for campaign finance reform.
“I've known Joe for many years and I consider Joe to be a friend, but campaigns are about ideas, they're about values,” Sanders said. “If my memory is correct, Joe Biden once said, and I'm paraphrasing, you've got to be careful about people who have super PACs and who they will end up being responsible for. And in this campaign, Joe as I understand it has not done particularly well in getting a lot of donations from working-class people.”
He also added on healthcare, “I would hope that Joe Biden explains to the American people how under his plan which maintains a dysfunctional, wasteful and cruel health care system, a system today which is costing us twice as much per person as do the people of any other industrialized country pay.”
The senator also reacted to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)’s comments that he would not support Sanders’ progressive agenda if elected president.
“I would say to Joe Manchin that maybe he should start worrying about the needs of the working class in his state rather than protecting corporate interests,” Sanders said.”
Sanders then headed outside for a rainy afternoon rally with supporters in front of the statehouse.
“It's a different election,” Sanders told NBC News’ Shaquille Brewster, who asked him moments after filing if there’s more pressure this time around for the New Hampshire primary.
“Now we're running not just essentially against one person, we're running against 19 others. So it's a different dynamic, but I am absolutely confident,” adding, “I think there is no other campaign out there that has the kind of grassroots support that we have.”
Two moderate, swing-district Dems only two to buck party on impeachment rules vote
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.
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.
Buttigieg becomes first major Democratic candidate to file for N.H. primary
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."
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.”
Harris cuts staff and shifts focus to Iowa amid slump at polls
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
'Math to the madness:' Why the Trump campaign’s viral merchandise is actually priceless
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.”
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!”
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).
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
Buttigieg and Castro open to conditioning Israel aid money to restricting settlement expansion
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.
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.
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.
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.
Klobuchar proposes plan to reduce college costs, not make it free
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sanders wins backing of prominent Iowa Democrat
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.
“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.
Buttigieg releases women's health and economic empowerment plan
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
What we learned from third quarter fundraising reports
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.
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.
Leading gun control group warns candidates 'mandatory buybacks could be dangerous' politically
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.
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.
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
Tom Steyer gets his first shot to make a second impression
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.