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Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

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Warren releases health records from yearly physical

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released the results of her latest yearly physical Friday, along with a letter from her longtime doctor stating that the Massachusetts senator is in “excellent health” and “there are no medical conditions or health problems that would keep her from fulfilling the duties of the President of the United States.”

In addition to the letter from Dr. Beverly Woo, Warren’s campaign released results of blood work and routine lab tests. Dr. Woo points out that the 70 year-old's only medical condition is hypothyroidism, common in millions of Americans. The results are from Warren’s latest physical — done earlier this year, in January.

Image: Elizabeth Warren Files For NH Primary, Holds Town Hall
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to her supporters after officially filing to be on the ballot for the New Hampshire state primary at the State House on Nov. 13, 2019 in Concord, N.H.Sarah Rice / Getty Images

While Warren’s clean bill of health may help reassure voters about her transparency and physical condition, it’s also likely to re-ignite calls for her fellow septuagenarian contenders to release their own health-related materials.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, has promised to release his medical records to the public “before there’s a first vote.” Asked back in September about concerns of his acuity, Biden replied: “What the hell concerns?” before asking the reporter who made the inquiry if he wanted to wrestle.

“I mean there’s no reason for me not to release my medical records,” Biden said at the time.

Senator Bernie Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack in October and has similarly promised to release his medical records at some point. “I want to make it comprehensive,” he told the Associated Press in late October. “The answer is I will, probably by the end of the year.” Sanders’ campaign manager later specified that the Independent Vermont senator would release his medical records by the end of December.

During his 2016 bid, Sanders did release a letter from his doctor that deemed him “in overall very good health.”

Cory Booker pushes need for diverse coalition in 2020 race

DES MOINES, IA — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., warned Democrats in a speech Thursday that the struggles of minority candidates are "a problem" that could hurt the party's ability to engage the voters it needs to defeat President Trump in 2020. 

Praising California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the presidential primary this week, Booker argued that the issue goes deeper than just one candidate. 

“It is a problem that we now have an overall campaign for the 2020 presidency that has more billionaires in it than black people,” Booker said during one of his first more formal speeches Des Moines Thursday morning.

“This is not about one candidate. It is about the diverse coalition that is necessary to beat Donald Trump."

“That is the story of how we beat bullies and bigots and demagogues and the powerful, the so-called powerful in every generation. It's the story of America," he added. 

The audience cheered on Booker as he echoed a famous Martin Luther King Jr. quote, modernizing the context to his typical message of unity. 

“We're all in this together; injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Booker said. “In America, there is not a black destiny or a white destiny or rural destiny and a suburban destiny, there is one American destiny.”

While Harris had qualified for this month's debate, her departure means that the six candidates who have already qualified are all white. 

Booker is the top-polling black candidate in the race right now — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick recently entered the race, but has so far gained little traction — but he's still on the outside looking into the December debate. He's hit the party's donor threshold, but still needs to hit 4 percent in four qualifying polls or 6 percent in two qualifying early-state polls.

Businessman Andrew Yang and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard are each one poll away from qualifying, while the rest of the field has a long way to go.  

During a conversation with reporters after the event, Booker expressed that a successful candidate needs to engage African American, Latinx, and Asian American voters. 

“We need to make sure that we have a person that can inspire a coalition,” he said, “where everybody feels energized and excited. And if you can’t do that, please get out of this race.”

And he expressed frustration with polling, noting that he’s often just one percentage point from reaching qualifying polls for the debate stage (which equates to just a handful of people) and expressed that the success of a campaign shouldn’t be based on “a 400 person sample size and three people,” but that the national press should be looking at his energy on the ground in Iowa.

John Kerry endorses Joe Biden's presidential bid

WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is throwing his support behind former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid.

Kerry praised Biden in a statement released by the Biden campaign on Thursday, where he said "there’s never been a time more urgent for leadership at home."

“I believe Joe Biden is the President our country desperately needs right now, not because I’ve known Joe so long, but because I know Joe so well. I’ve never before seen the world more in need of someone who on day one can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart," he wrote. 

Image: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a town hall in South Carolina on Nov. 21, 2019.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a town hall in South Carolina on Nov. 21, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images file

"Joe is uniquely the person running for president who can beat Donald Trump and get to work on day one at home and in the world with no time to waste."

Kerry will campaign with Biden on Friday in Iowa and then travel with the former vice president to New Hampshire on Sunday. 

The endorsement comes as Biden has amplified his qualifications to be commander-in-chief given his extensive experience in foreign policy. On Wednesday, his campaign released a video hitting President Trump on foreign policy and arguing "the world is laughing at President Trump." 

Kerry has a long history with Biden — both not only served together in the Obama administration, but in the Senate, both on the Foreign Relations Committee. When Biden left the Senate to join the White House, Kerry succeeded him as the chairman of that committee.

With his deep relationships on Capitol Hill, Biden is outpacing his Democratic peers in endorsements from sitting lawmakers too. He's backed by 22 congressional representatives, five senators and three sitting governors — more of each category, and more endorsements in total, than any other candidate in the race. 

Buttigieg is up in the polls, but lagging in endorsements

WASHINGTON — While South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has won a few notable endorsements in recent days (from progressive veterans group Vote Vets and a few former Obama administration officials), he’s so far struggled to gain support from prominent members of his party.

Buttigieg has picked up endorsements from just three House Democrats, and no U.S. senators or governors have publicly said they stand behind him. For months, Virginia Rep. Don Beyer was Buttigieg’s lone congressional endorsement – until last week, when Indiana Rep. Peter Visclosky and New York Rep. Kathleen Rice backed the mayor for the Democratic nomination.

Image: US-POLITICS-VOTE-IOWA-BUTTIGIEG
Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks in Fairfield, Iowa on Aug. 15, 2019.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images

After surging in Iowa and New Hampshire polls, Buttigieg is now among the top four contenders in the crowded primary race, but his fellow frontrunners have continually outpaced him in endorsements.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field, with 30 total endorsements from House members, senators and governors, according to NBC News’ tally of FiveThirtyEight’s endorsement tracker. Meanwhile, the other members of the Top 4 – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – clock in at 12 and six major endorsements, respectively.

Before she dropped out of the race Tuesday, California Sen. Kamala Harris had racked up 19 major endorsements, putting her in second place. With 13 endorsements, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker actually leads both Warren and Sanders.

The only candidates who made the board but have fewer congressional endorsements than Buttigieg are former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney – with two apiece.

Here’s how Buttigieg’s endorsements stack up against those of his competitors:

Pete Buttigieg

3 Representatives

0 Senators

0 Governors

 

Joe Biden

22 Representatives

5 Senators

3 Governors

 

Cory Booker

11 Representatives

1 Senator

1 Governor

 

Elizabeth Warren

11 Representatives

1 Senator

0 Governor

 

Amy Klobuchar

4 Representatives

1 Senator

1 Governor

 

Bernie Sanders

5 Representatives

1 Senator

0 Governor

 

Julian Castro

2 Representatives

0 Senators

0 Governors

 

John Delaney

2 Representatives

0 Senators

0 Governors

Biden video chides Trump after NATO leaders' hot mic moment

WASHINGTON — Almost as soon as President Trump returned from his overseas trip, Joe Biden tweeted out a new video pointing to Wednesday's hot-mic moment with NATO leaders to argue that the world isn't taking Trump seriously.  

The video includes footage from a Wednesday hot-mic moment with NATO leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron referencing Trump's long press conferences, as well as 2018 footage of the United Nations General Assembly laughing after Trump touted his achievements. 

“The world sees Trump for what he is — insincere, ill-informed, corrupt, dangerously incompetent and incapable, in my view, of world leadership,” Biden says in the video.

“And if we give Donald Trump four more years, we’ll have a great deal of difficulty of ever being able to recover America’s standing in the world and our capacity to bring nations together.”

The ad closes with pictures of Biden, as the words "We need a leader the world respects" flash on the screen. 

Shortly after the Biden campaign released the video, Trump's campaign said in a tweet that: "Of course the leaders of foreign countries wish Joe Biden were president — they'd love to continue ripping off our country!"

Reporter's Notebook: President Trump's scrapped NATO press conference

LONDON — President Donald Trump’s oversees travels are never short on unscripted moments. But the president's decision to scrap a scheduled press conference, after NATO meetings ended, with reporters waiting in the room for it to start was a surprising move, even for Trump.

Early in the morning Wednesday, dozens of reporters were bused out by the White House to the location of the NATO gatherings being held more than an hour from London to attend the event.

Image: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump attend the annual NATO Leaders Meeting at the Grove Hotel in Watford
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump attend the annual NATO Leaders Meeting at the Grove Hotel in Watford, Britain Dec. 4, 2019.Jeremy Selwyn / Reuters

Two hours before the press conference was scheduled to start, television crews were in place and dozens of reporters were seated in the room where the event would be held when the president, unprompted, suggested he might not have a press conference.

“We will go directly back, I think we have done plenty of press conferences unless you’re demanding a press conference, but I think we’ve answered plenty of questions,” President Trump told the traveling press pool, the small group of reporters that travel with him, during a photo opportunity with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump had spent about two hours over the course of the previous day taking questions from the press pool. But that small group consisting of about 13 journalists is no substitute for the full White House press corp which includes hundreds of reporters from a range of media outlets.

The president’s remark about the press conference set off mass confusion for the next hour among White House staff, both with the president and with the press, who didn’t know whether he was serious about the change of plans. Reporters were sent scrambling to figure out what was happening and sources were unreachable.

Even after Trump had suggested the press conference was off, NATO staff on-site and security continued to prepare for the president’s arrival, at one point setting up a rope line for additional security in front of the stage where he was set to speak.

It wasn’t until the president tweeted an hour later that reporters and staff were told by the president the event was off. At the time, dozens of reporters were seated in the room where it was to be held and others were waiting at a media center for staff to escort them over.

Following the scrapped press conference, Trump was also overheard mocking what he expected the media’s reaction to be during the same meeting where Trump complimented himself on his jab at Trudeau. 

“Oh. And then you know what they’ll say?” Trump said. “‘He didn’t do a press conference! He didn’t do a press conference!’” 

As Trump was preparing to leave, other leaders, including Macron and Trudeau, held their own press conferences — giving them a moment to look presidential on the world stage that Trump had denied himself of. 

Sally Bronston contributed. 

Joe Biden says he'd consider Kamala Harris for VP pick

AMES, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden has often said on the campaign trail that he would prefer to pick a woman as his vice presidential pick — on Wednesday he went a step further and said former 2020 competitor Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., would be on his list to consider. 

“Of course I would. Look Senator Harris has the capacity to be anything she wants to be. I mean it sincerely. I talked to her yesterday,” he said. “She's solid, she can be president someday herself, she can be vice president, she could go on to be a Supreme Court justice, she could be attorney general. I mean she has enormous capability.”

Biden and Harris' relationship became more strained after Harris attacked Biden on his position on busing during the first Democratic debate in June. The pair first met when Biden’s late son Beau was attorney general of Delaware and Harris held the same position in California. 

On Wednesday, Biden indicated he has moved past that moment. 

“I’m not good at keeping hard feelings,” he said while boarding his ‘No Malarkey’ bus.

 

Swelling staff size and shrinking media spending predated Harris' exit from presidential race

WASHINGTON — When California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris suspended her campaign on Tuesday, she made it clear she felt her cash-strapped organization could no longer support a bid for president. 

"Over the last few days, I’ve come to one of the hardest decisions of my life. So here’s the deal, guys. My campaign for president simply does not have the financial resources to continue — and the financial resources we need to continue," she said in a video posted to Twitter.

"I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it has become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete. 

There had been signs as of late that Harris' campaign was struggling — she cut staff this fall as her campaign sought to reset by shifting many of its resources to Iowa, and a recent New York Times story cited interviews with "more than 50 current and former campaign staff members and allies" to paint a picture of a floundering operation. 

While finances are likely a piece of a larger puzzle (and we won't see Harris' fourth-quarter books until early next year), a look through campaign spending reports sheds light on what Harris meant when she pointed the finger at a dwindling bank account. 

Harris jumped into the race as one of the best-funded and highest-polling candidates, an early frontrunner in the months before it was certain that former Vice President Joe Biden would enter the race.

She spent the first three months of her campaign in third place in the RealClearPolitics polling average and raised more money from individuals ($12 million) than any other candidate except Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in the first quarter of 2019. 

Harris kept up that pace with a robust fundraising schedule, one that kept her from pivotal early states for significant stretches. 

And at her campaign's nadir (after her viral clash with Biden on the June debate stage on the issue of race and busing), she flirted with that second-place spot behind Biden. 

That marquee moment helped to fill the campaign's coffers — she raised almost $2 million during just the day after the June debate. And the campaign used those resources to massively expand the number of salaried staff from about 160 by the end of June to about 315 by the end of October, according to an NBC News analysis of FEC reports. 

But such a massive staff can be a strain on resources, as indicated by the Harris campaign's late October announcement that it was cutting staff in order to "effectively compete with the top campaigns and make the necessary investments in the critical final 100 days to the caucus," as campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said in a memo

Another sign of Harris' struggle could be seen in her media spending. 

The campaign spent just $562,000 on TV and radio advertising over her entire campaign, millions behind the likes of Biden, Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had at one point been fighting with Harris for a top polling spot. 

In fact, her campaign hadn't run a television advertisement since Sept. 6, according to media-tracker Advertising Analytics. 

And the situation on Facebook was dire too. She spent just $32,000 for ads on the platform since early October, virtually disappearing from the platform in her campaign's final weeks. By comparison, billionaire Tom Steyer spent $4.3 million over that span, while Buttigieg and Warren both spent more than $800,000. 

Outside allies were moving to give the California senator reinforcements — the pro-Harris super PAC People Standing Strong booked more than $500,000 in pro-Harris ads Tuesday morning. 

But by Tuesday afternoon, with their candidate officially out of the race, the group began cancelling those buys.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp taps Kelly Loeffler to fill Sen. Isakson's seat

WASHINGTON — Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Wednesday tapped business executive Kelly Loeffler as his pick to fill outgoing Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat, angering some of the President Trump's allies who were hoping Kemp would choose Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., instead. 

Last week, Kemp called attacks on his pick "absolutely absurd" and that he would only pick a candidate who was "100% supportive" of president Trump. 

Fox News host and close ally of the president Sean Hannity this week described Loeffler as a "RINO", or Republican In Name Only" while asking why Kemp would appoint Loeffler over Collins who has been a strong defender of the president throughout the impeachment hearings.

Loeffler, however, seems poised to introduce herself as a strong supporter of the president.

In a prepared statement on the appointment, first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Loeffler will say, "I’m a lifelong conservative. Pro-Second Amendment. Pro-military. Pro-wall. And pro-Trump." Loeffler has never run for office or served in government. 

Collins has not closed the door on running for the seat in 2020 against Loeffler, telling reporters in November he has heard from those "encouraging" him to run for statewide office and he is "strongly" listening. 

Loeffler will be only the second female senator from Georgia. The first, Rebecca Latimer Felton, was the first woman to occupy a seat in the Senate but served for just one day. 

Senate Republicans have welcomed the pick. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement, "Ms. Loeffler has an impressive record in business and community leadership. I am confident she is well prepared to continue Sen. Isakson’s historic legacy of advocating for veterans, strengthening our national defense, and fighting for middle-class families." 

And the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Loeffler was a "phenomenal pick."

"Her business acumen and leadership gives Georgia a unique and valuable voice in the U.S. Senate who can help President Trump and our Republican majority continue to bolster a record-breaking economy, strengthen our military and confirm Constitutionalist judges," the NRSC said in a statement. 

The president has not yet weighed in on the appointment. Isakson is leaving his seat at the end of the month due to health concerns, and Loeffler will be up for reelection next November. 

Pete Buttigieg earns endorsement from VoteVets PAC

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg Wednesday received the endorsement of the progressive VoteVets PAC.

“The number one priority has to be beating Donald Trump,” said Jon Soltz, chair of VoteVets. “We need a candidate who will win. Bar none, Pete gives us the best shot at doing just that. It is time to rally around him, and stop the walking, talking national security threat that is Donald Trump.”  

Image: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg holds a town hall event in Creston
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg holds a town hall event in Creston, Iowa on Nov. 25, 2019.Scott Morgan / Reuters

Soltz went on to say that a veteran like Buttigieg gives Democrats the best shot to win in 2020 because, "Veterans can win voters in the purple and red areas of the country that other Democrats cannot." 

The only other veteran in the Democratic contest is Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. 

This endorsement means Buttigieg now has the support of a Super PAC behind him to help fund his campaign. Of the four top polling candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is the only one who does not have an outside organization in a position to spend money on her behalf.

VoteVets will immediately cut a maximum donation check to Pete 2020, according to the press release, and will utilize its social media networks and email list to support the campaign’s message.

“Further plans to energize veterans and military families across the country will be unveiled as the campaign moves ahead,” the group said in the statement.

Last month, Buttigieg told NBC News he would not take “corporate PAC money.”

“I also think it is really important that there be transparency in terms of people understanding who your supporters are which the reporting system creates but is why dark money is such a problem when you are looking at what goes on at the Super PACs,” he added.

However in October, Buttigieg said in an interview with Snapchat that he didn't endorse Warren's plan to refuse any money from high-dollar donors in a general election. 

"We're not going to beat [President Trump] with pocket change.” Buttigieg said. “I think you need the full spectrum of support in order to compete, especially if we want to go against someone like Donald Trump."

Pete Buttigieg looks to win over black voters during Carolina swing

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Presidential hopeful South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg dismissed his low polling figures among nonwhite voters as a consequence of being “new on the scene,"  to a room of predominantly black South Carolinians on Tuesday.

“I know that as somebody who is new on the scene I got to earn that trust. We have to have those conversations. We got to share our own city's story where we have had the good, the bad and the in-between in terms of the life of our own city," Buttigieg said. 

Buttigieg is leading polls in Iowa and hovering near the top of polls in New Hampshire. But in South Carolina, he's struggling to gain traction. On Tuesday, he finished a three-day swing through the Carolinas, in an effort to expand his reach. 

Buttigieg, like other contenders in the Democratic race are struggling to gain traction with African-American voters. In a Quinnipiac national poll released last week, former Vice President Joe Biden maintained a large lead with black voters with 43 percent support, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was in second with only 11 percent. Buttigieg garnered just 4 percent support among black voters. 

While speaking to a a group in Allendale County, S.C., where three-quarters of the population is African-American, Buttigieg wasn't the first speaker attendees wanted to engaged with. Willa Jennings, the county party chairwoman, directed the group’s opening question to Buttigieg’s guest at the meeting: South Bend Councilwoman Sharon McBride.

“Could you tell us some of the things that Mayor Pete has done in South Bend to benefit the citizens in your city?” Jennings queried. "We go out and vote in full force, but everybody forget about us and they don't come back anymore."

McBride asserted that Buttigieg pushed to increase the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, initiated a study on disparities in the cities among women and minorities, and pressed for increased investments in city housing infrastructure.

Jennings, taking the microphone back, then turned to Buttigieg: “I hear a lot about you don't have support from African Americans. I just want to know why you don't have that support, and where did they get—where did the news media get that idea from that you don't have support?”

Buttigieg acknowledged, in part, that he was one of the candidates at “five percent or less” among black voters in the “last poll.” He followed, “But I don't think that's permanent."

Earlier in the day, Buttigieg stopped at a farm owned by Sophia Bowman in Canadys, S.C. After her meeting Buttigieg, Bowman said that she is inclined to vote for the mayor. She said it reminded her of seeing Bill Clinton in 1992. She noted they both "spoke with clarity.” 

“If other South Carolinians get to hear him, I think he’s got a chance,” Bowman rationalized. “Priming the pump. Us, here in the South, [we are] regular people. It takes awhile for us to like you.” 

But some younger voters say they are looking for more from Buttigieg’s efforts to build a closer relationship with communities of color. 

During a visit to South Carolina State University, a historically black university, Charles Patton a 22-year-old senior pulled the mayor aside about an answer Buttigieg gave during the November debate in which he referenced his experience as a gay man when asked about the systemic oppression communities of color have endured.

“Sometimes when you speak I hear what you say when you talk about your experience as a gay man and how you got the right to marry and all those things, but it comes across as you comparing struggles,” Patton said.

Later, Patton told NBC News, "When you compare struggles, you're almost erasing the struggle or, or the experience of being black in America and you almost diminish it because, yes, you are gay, but you're still a white man in America, and he knows that."

The Buttigieg campaign launched a $2 million ad buy across South Carolina on Tuesday intended to juice up voters’ familiarity with the mayor. The latest Quinnipiac poll out of the state showed that 47 percent of South Carolina voters are still not familiar enough with Buttigieg to form an opinion.

That extends outside of South Carolina, too.

In neighboring North Carolina, where voters will weigh in on Super Tuesday, Almertia Williams, a consistent voter, told NBC News this summer that she was eyeing the candidacies of Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris. When NBC News asked about Buttigieg she said she "did not" know he was running. 

“You got to show up, and you got to show up in places that maybe haven’t heard from campaigns for awhile,” Buttigieg told NBC News after a Sunday church service in North Carolina. “We take the opportunity and that obligation seriously. And you’ll continue to see that from us.”

NBC's Matt Wargo contributed. 

Incoming Dem chair on the 2020 gov races: “I think we’re going to have a good year”

WASHINGTON — The upcoming elections in 2020 will bring us the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the general-election presidential contest and the battle for control of Congress.

It also will feature 11 contests for governor in states like New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana and Washington.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the incoming chair of the Democratic Governors Association, says he’s bullish about his party’s chances in next year’s gubernatorial contests, building upon Democrats’ successes in 2017 (when Murphy won his race), in 2018 (when Democrats picked up seven governorships) and in 2019 (when they won in Kentucky and Louisiana).

“I think we’re going to have a good year,” Murphy said in an interview with NBC News on Monday afternoon.

“I think it’s a combination of outstanding candidates, speaking to the kitchen-table issues that folks care about,” he added in explaining Democrats’ recent successful campaigns. “I think it’s a statement also that governors have never mattered more.”

Image: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a news conference talking about an expected snowstorm
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in January mandating that the state's schools include instruction on the contributions of LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.Julio Cortez / AP

“So with all of the craziness that’s going on in Washington, governors are not only where the progress is being made in an affirmative, positive sense. But they’re also the last line of defense.”

Asked to reconcile those kitchen-table issues with his party’s impeachment proceedings against President Trump in Washington, Murphy said that Democrats and their candidates can do both at the same time.

 “I am proud of the process that [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi initiated on this impeachment track,” he stated.

“By the same token, I’m the governor of New Jersey. So let me get back to moving the needle on stuff that I know I can move the needle on.”

 Asked about Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who suspended his presidential campaign on Monday and can't run for an additional gubernatorial term thanks to term limits, Murphy said he’s surprised that a Democratic governor – either current or former – hasn’t “caught fire” in the 2020 presidential race.

“On both sides of the aisle, there’s a long history of governors who have gone on to be president or vice president, and I’m a little surprised that a governor on our side hasn’t caught fire,” Murphy noted.

“But having said that, we have extraordinary candidates. We have an extraordinary field.”

 Murphy has endorsed fellow Garden State politician and Sen. Cory Booker in the 2020 presidential race.

 “I came out of the blocks on day one for Cory Booker … and I’m staying with Cory as long as Cory is in,” he said. “But I’m going to be for whoever the Democratic nominee is going to be, period.”

The marquee gubernatorial contests of 2020 will be in North Carolina (where Dem Gov. Roy Cooper is running for re-election), in Montana (with the race to replace Bullock), in New Hampshire (where GOP Gov. Chris Sununu is running for re-election) and in Vermont (where GOP Gov. Phil Scott is running for re-election).

While Murphy and the DGA are bullish about their prospects in 2020, officials at the Republican Governors Association counter that Republicans are defending governorships in GOP-friendly states like Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.

They also point out that New Hampshire’s Sununu and Vermont’s Scott won office in 2016 (when Hillary Clinton carried those blue states) and in 2018 (in a strong Democratic cycle).

 And the RGA believes Montana is theirs for the taking, given Trump’s 20-point win the state in 2016.

 “We feel very bullish about flipping Montana,” Dave Rexrode, the RGA’s executive director, told NBC News.

Klobuchar endorsed by former Bullock backer in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa — Just one day after Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced he was dropping out of the Democratic presidential race, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., scooped up an endorsement from a prominent former Bullock backer, Iowa State Rep. Bruce Bearinger. 

During his campaign, Bullock consistently touted his record of winning in a Republican-heavy, rural state and his policy views that were seen as moderate in the wide Democratic field as proof of his ability to win the general election. Klobuchar also occupies much of that same territory and is often described as a moderate with a record in dealing with rural issues. She sits on the Agriculture Committee in the Senate and reminds voters at campaign events that she’s won “every race, every place, every time.”

Bearinger, who represents the rural population of Oelwein in Northeast Iowa, pointed to Klobuchar’s bipartisan track record and her knowledge of agricultural issues in expressing his support. 

“Amy understands that to win in 2020, and for the next President to govern successfully, our party has to reach out to voters who felt overlooked in 2016, particularly in rural America,” Bearinger said in a statement to NBC News.   

Bearinger was previously drawn to Bullock’s commitment to rural America, highlighting such in his original endorsement of the governor: “Steve understands the unique hardships we face — in our schools, hospitals and farms. Working with a legislature more Republican than our own, he’s proven he can bring those priorities across the finish line."

Bullock suspended his campaign Monday morning, after failing to qualify for multiple national debate stages.

Klobuchar proposes expansion of national service programs

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Ahead of her 19th trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is rolling out a national service policy plan that seeks to create more service opportunities and enhance accessibility for programs across communities and the country at large.

Image: Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks during the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta
Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks during the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate in Atlanta on Nov. 20, 2019.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Klobuchar’s two-page plan centers on three key areas to support existing national service programs:

  • Investing in AmeriCorps, a Climate Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Peace Corps
  • Establishing National Volunteer Programs
  • Fixing and Expanding Public Service Loan Forgiveness

In order to further invest in existing programs and establish new ones, Klobuchar’s plan calls for investing in programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps by increasing the number of service positions and for targeting the opportunities towards high school students, 1-2 year degree college students or those with vocational training certifications.

She also is seeking to establish a Climate Civilian Conservation Corps — a climate national service program based off of an idea initially put forward by former presidential candidate and Washington Governor Jay Inslee — to recruit an additional 50,000 people “to address the impacts of climate change and create the climate resilience workforce of the future.”

Her plan also calls for establishing national volunteer programs, including a part-time volunteer service program centered on emergency response and disaster-relief training, as well as expanding the National Care Corps to support those who are working as caregivers by providing benefits and other support for costs.

Finally Klobuchar’s plan aims to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by expanding the program’s eligibility, enhance clarity from lenders on details of eligibility and forgiveness, increase flexibility for lenders and streamline the verification requirements.

Klobuchar says that to pay for her national service plan that she will pass bipartisan legislation already introduced to the Senate to reduce single-use drug waste, citing studies that highlight the manufacturing of over-sized doses and discarded reimbursement costs for some drug products. 

Buttigieg unveils plan to target health care inequities

COLUMBIA, S.C. — With heath care continuing to be one of the key issues in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out with a new plan focused on addressing inequality in the system.

The plan, titled, “Health Equity and Justice in America,” comes amid a Buttigieg campaign swing through the south, where the mayor has met with several groups to discuss the issue.

Image: Reverend William Barber introduces Pete Buttigieg during Sunday morning service at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., on Dec. 1, 2019.
Reverend William Barber introduces Pete Buttigieg during Sunday morning service at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., on Dec. 1, 2019.Logan Cyrus / AFP - Getty Images

The policy places a heavy emphasis on measures that can be taken to ensure equity in health before someone reaches a hospital or clinic by addressing what Buttigieg calls, “structural barriers.”

“Most of our health outcomes are determined by what happens outside a clinic or hospital: by where we can live, what we can eat, and what jobs we have access to,” the plan states.

Buttigieg plans to adopt a “Health in All Policies” approach to policy implementation, establishing Offices of Health Equity and Justice within key federal agencies including Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The candidate aims to empower local public health departments by creating a Public Health Infrastructure Fund that would funnel more resources into communities with the most need. Under his plan the federal government would contribute $500 million increasing annually until the $4 billion a year gap between current spending and existing needs is met. Individual states would be required to match these funds on a sliding scale based on the median income of a given state.

A Buttigieg administration would require federally funded health programs to collect and monitor data related to healthcare quality, cost, and outcomes for specific demographics based on, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The administration would then use that data to award financial incentives based on measured equitable outcomes.

Within his first 100 days Buttigieg says he will launch a National Health Equity Strategy Task Force. In addition, he promises to invest in finding cures to diseases that disproportionately impact minority communities, in part by mandating that federally-funded research trials include diverse samples of people and communities.

This latest healthcare addendum comes months after the release of over-arching Buttigieg’s Medicare For All Who Want It policy which was announced in September.

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.

That’s especially true after the recent exits by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (who announced his presidential bid on May 14) and former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa. (who announced on June 23).

Bullock qualified to participate in just one debate, while Sestak never got to make a single debate stage.

Image: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 8, 2019.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 8, 2019.John Locher / AP

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. 

Presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed Smith in October, and Hill endorsed Smith in November

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). 

Image: The set and ten podiums for the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate are seen the day before the debate at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia
The set and ten podiums for the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate are seen the day before the debate at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta on Nov. 19, 2019.rendan McDermid / Reuters

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. 

2016

GOP primary

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. 

Democratic primary

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. 

2012

Republican primary

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. 

2008

Republican primary

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. 

Democratic primary

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."

Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In Debate In Atlanta, Georgia
Pete Buttigieg speaks as Elizabeth Warren listens during the Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta on Nov. 20, 2019.Alex Wong / Getty Images

"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. 

Iowa

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

New Hampshire

Steyer: $8.1 million

Klobuchar: $600,000

Gabbard: $230,000 

John Delaney: $130,000

Joe Sestak: $108,000

Nevada

Steyer: $5.7 million 

South Carolina

Steyer: $7.2 million

Gabbard: $305,000

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. 

Image: Sen. Cory Booker speaks at a Democratic presidential debate in Houston on Sept. 12, 2019.
Sen. Cory Booker speaks at a Democratic presidential debate in Houston on Sept. 12, 2019.Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images file

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. 

Image: Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg speaks at a gun control advocacy event on Feb. 26, 2019, in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP

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. 

So far, Bloomberg is running two similar bio spots that tout his rise from the middle class to becoming one of the world's wealthiest businessmen. 

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. 

Check out both ads here and here. 

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." 

Image: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he holds a campaign rally at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Los Angeles
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he holds a campaign rally at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Los Angeles Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.Damian Dovarganes / AP

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.

Image: Joe Biden
Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a house party at former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's house on July 15, 2019, in Waukee, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall / AP

"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.

On Thursday, Bloomberg filed federal papers officially declaring himself a candidate in the race. He has already filed to appear on two state primary ballots: Alabama and Arkansas.

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.

Image: Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks during the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta
Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks during the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate in Atlanta on Nov. 20, 2019.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

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.

Image: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he holds a campaign rally at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Los Angeles
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he holds a campaign rally at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Los Angeles Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.Damian Dovarganes / AP

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.

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

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.

All the candidates on the November debate stage have released some tax returns except for entrepreneur Andrew Yang. 

 

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." 

Image: Stacey Abrams, 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals
Stacey Abrams speaks onstage at Featured Session: Lead from the Outside: How to Make Real Change during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Hilton Austin on March 11, 2019.Danny Matson / Getty Images for SXSW

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

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who publicly criticized Donald Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, is endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden for President.

Image: Ghazala and Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan, father of fallen US Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan and his wife Ghazala on the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 28, 2016.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

"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.

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

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

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

The First 100 Days

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

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

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

"No Later" than year three of a Warren Administration

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

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

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

Former Vermont Gov. Shumlin endorses Biden in Democratic race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Biden proposes $1.3 trillion infrastructure overhaul plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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. 

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg speaks in Durham
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at campaign town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. on Oct. 25, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

Closely behind Buttigieg in the poll are former Vice President Joe Biden with 19 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with 18 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., trails with 13 percent.

But just 28 percent of respondents say they are firmly decided on the candidate they would caucus for. That opens the possibility for the top four candidates to either extend their leads in the poll, or for other candidates like Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to gain traction. Klobuchar is sitting at 5 percent in the new poll, and Harris is sitting at 3 percent. 

At the time of the last Monmouth Iowa poll in August, Harris was polling 12 percent in Iowa. Since then, she famously said she was going to "move to Iowa", and has laid off most of her New Hampshire staff to focus her campaign on the first caucus state. 

Buttigieg's Iowa efforts, which kicked off with a bus tour, seem to be resonating with voters. Seventy-three percent of likely caucus-goers view him as favorable, while Warren, Biden and Sanders trail him in the 60s. 

While the poll was taken before former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signaled an interest in entering the race at this late stage, Iowa Democrats were polled on Bloomberg's favorability — and 17 percent said they view him favorably while 48 had an unfavorable view of him. 

Bloomberg has indicated that if he does formally enter the race, he will likely bypass the early states in favor of a Super Tuesday-focused strategy. 

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.”

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg speaks in Durham
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at campaign town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. on Oct. 25, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

Buttigieg joins other 2020 candidates who are fanning out on Veteran’s Day to spotlight their ideas for improving the notoriously troubled U.S. system for caring for veterans after their service. Past presidents who have tried to reform Veterans Affairs have found that progress is slow to come.

Sen. Kamala Harris will also be out on the trail Monday holding veteran-related events. Sen. Bernie Sanders released his own plan for the VA. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her plan in the last few days.

Buttigieg’s plan seeks to fully fund the VA and streamline access to its services. It also calls for an end to veteran homelessness and the decriminalization of mental health issues across the board.

“It's clear we have to do better if we want to see more people getting access to the care that they need,” he said to reporters aboard the bus.

Among the field of 2020 candidates vying for the presidency, Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, are the only Democrats left in the race who have served in the military. While Buttigieg says the VA isn’t his primary health care provider, he recognizes the challenges of what he calls a “convoluted” process. 

“We have a system of veteran service officers in counties whose job is it to help people navigate and to advocate for people and really fight for them as they are battling bureaucracy,” he said to reporters on the bus tour. “And those folks do really good work, but it shouldn't be so hard.”

The plan calls for the establishment of a White House coordinator who would work across both Veterran Affairs and the Department of Defense to standardize intake procedures and allow record sharing between the two entities. Buttigieg hopes these reforms would alleviate the challenge of having to track down medical records when transitioning from active duty to veteran status. 

The current $16 billion project designed to do just that has hit major snags and delays in the past two years. A Buttigieg administration would aim to execute the project in a way that is human-centered and easy for veterans to navigate.

In addition to providing grants to community veteran organizations working to end the stigma around mental illness and addiction Buttigieg plans to expand access to Veteran Treatment Court which funnel’s vets into rehabilitation centers rather than prison. The wide-ranging plan also includes reforms aimed at addressing discrimination and challenges faced by women, people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who serve.

On Monday, Buttigieg will commemorate Veteran’s Day by attending a ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, NH followed by a Veteran’s Day address at the Rochester Opera House in Rochester, NH to wrap up his four-day bus tour across the state.

Sanders releases $62 billion plan to revitalize the VA

CHARLES CITY, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday released a $62 billion plan to revitalize the Veterans Affairs Administration that proposes, among other things, to repair, modernize and rebuild the infrastructure of the VA to provide “cutting-edge health care services” to veterans.

The plan, released on Veteran's Day, also pledges to fill nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA within his first year in office. Sanders also proposes a simplification of the claims process, so veterans receive compensation in a timely manner, “without bureaucratic red tape,” the campaign says.

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

Much of the plan focuses on making sure veterans who deserve care, get it. Sanders says he plans to reform what the campaign calls “harmful VA regulations” that restrict access to care and benefits based on type of military discharge. The plan also calls for Veterans to be Able to use the “full complement” of benefits offered in the G.I. Bill.

The campaign released a video Monday, featuring Sanders senior advisors Warren Gunnels and Jeff Weaver, and late Republican Sen. John McCain. The video, titled “Keeping our promises” focuses on Sanders’ and McCain’s bipartisan work to enact the Veterans' Access,  Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, a bill that authorized 27 new facilities for the VA, and provided billions to hire doctors and nurses.

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."

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

In an interview with MSNBC earlier Friday, Steyer said such payments would not have been authorized by the campaign.

“Nothing like that has ever been authorized. Nothing like that ever would be authorized,” Steyer said, noting that he found out about the allegations “through the airwaves.”

While paying for endorsements is not strictly illegal, the action could violate campaign finance laws, if the payments were not disclosed. The Steyer campaign highlighted their policy that they would “not engage in this kind of activity, and anyone who does is not speaking for the campaign or does not know our policy.”

Earlier Friday morning, following a public endorsement from state Rep. Russell Ott, Steyer answered questions a media availability in St. Matthews, S.C., where he reinforced the message that his campaign was working to “make sure we understand exactly what happened.”

“I can promise you we'll deal with the highest, we will make sure this campaign is run with the highest standards of integrity,” Steyer said.

In Iowa, Steyer has received just one endorsement, from former state Rep. Roger Thomas. Thomas confirmed to NBC News that he was never offered money in exchange for his support, and said, “I can positively assure you that I did not receive any compensation from Mr. Steyer or anyone involved in his campaign.”

The resignation of Murphy comes after one of Steyer’s South Carolina deputy state director, Dwane Sims, quit after it was discovered that he used access he had previously been granted while working for the South Carolina Democratic Party to download data about rival Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign.

“What I do know for sure is nothing, no information was ever used,” Steyer said at the same media availability Friday, adding that he called Harris and “left a message to say I'm sorry.” 

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.”

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

The way in which Democrats choose to “fight” has become a defining factor in this election among candidates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who campaigns heavily on the theme, took the stage directly after the mayor and declared, “anyone who comes on this stage and tells you they can make change without a fight is not going to win that fight.”

Buttigieg looks to strike direct contrast with Warren on this issue suggesting his approach to politics is about more than just fighting. 

The ad ends showing hundreds of supporters clapping thunder sticks as Buttigieg talks about a theme reminiscent of Barack Obama’s 2007 presidential run — hope.

“The hope of an American experience defined not by exclusion but by belonging, that is what we are here to deliver,” Buttigieg said ending with a pensive close-up on the mayor’s face. 

The 60-second spot, is the mayor’s sixth television ad in Iowa. It will run statewide across cable and broadcast channels.

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.”

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

In the most recent New Hampshire polling snapshot on October 29 from CNN/UNH, Senator Bernie Sanders led the field with 21 percent, Senator Elizabeth Warren followed with 18 percent while Biden stood at 15 percent.

The campaign says the fact that Sanders and Warren are from neighboring states (Vermont and Massachusetts) have given them an early advantage in organizing, but note that Biden now has over 50 staff on the ground in New Hampshire, along with their headquarters and nine field offices across the state.

“To date, we have held over 2,000 canvass launches, phone banks, and events across New Hampshire,” the memo says. “We have knocked on over 50,000 doors, made over 275,000 recruitment calls, and have dozens of volunteer leaders confirmed across the entire state.”

And the memo argues that the former vice president has already shown the capacity to weather attacks, from President Trump as well as the rest of the Democratic field.

“Despite nearly six months of constant attacks from President Trump and our opponents, we have built a diverse coalition of supporters, volunteers, and community leaders, and Joe’s poll numbers have remained steady,” Moskowitz says in the memo. 

“The Vice President has been consistently attacked from the left and the right — even before he entered the race. While other candidates have risen and fallen, the Vice President has been tried and tested, and his standing in New Hampshire remains strong.”

Later this week Biden will spend two days in New Hampshire, in which he will officially file to be on the ballot at the state house in Concord, NH with Secretary of State Bill Gardner.

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. 

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg speaks in Durham
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at campaign town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. on Oct. 25, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

“People with disabilities must learn to navigate a world that all too frequently wasn’t built with them in mind. And these hurdles are even higher for people with disabilities who belong to other marginalized groups,” the plan states. “This reality must change.”

The South Bend, Indiana mayor put his plan out ahead of his participation in the "Accessibility for All" forum in Iowa.

The change Buttigieg is proposing begins with the needs of students with disabilities. By 2025, the South Bend mayor’s goal is to ensure that a majority of students with special needs spend at least 80 percent of their day in general education classrooms. Buttigieg promises to fully fund the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, invest more in autism research and more than double funding for training special education teachers.

Beyond education, Buttigieg outlines his plan to address disparities in the working world which includes implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage for all workers. As announced in his previously released Douglass Plan, a Buttigieg administration would aim to award 25 percent of all federal contracts to underrepresented small business owners, including those with disabilities.

The policy highlights reforms to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Buttigieg hopes to implement a gradual tapering of benefits for those earning more than $1,220/month as opposed to an immediate halt to benefits once a recipient reaches the designated income level. These new rules would allow beneficiaries to receive partial benefits, on a sliding scale, while earning between $1,220 and $3,687 per month. In addition, this plan would eliminate the 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage, so SSDI recipients would have access to Medicare as soon as they begin receiving income benefits.

Buttigieg calls for a $100 billion investment in updating transit systems over the next decade — including making public transportation ADA-compliant and ensuring taxi and ride-sharing apps are made more accessible. The administration would develop a national registry of accessible and affordable housing and create an “Accessible Technology Bill of Rights” to ensure access is built into new technology at the development phase.

In an effort to promote more accessibility within its own operation, the Buttigieg campaign has worked with consultants to implement changes to their website including ensuring all images have alt-text equivalents for screen readers and increasing line height to increase legibility for the visually impaired.

Kamala Harris closes field offices, lays off organizers in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Kamala Harris’, D-Calif, New Hampshire campaign is closing three field offices in Nashua, Portsmouth and Keene, and has cancelled her trip to New Hampshire that was originally scheduled for next week, saying that she is going "all in" on the Iowa caucuses as a strategy for winning the Democratic nomination. 

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

Harris hasn't been to New Hampshire since Sept. 7 for the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention. The campaign’s headquarters in Manchester will remain open with a scaled down staff, the campaign tells NBC News. The campaign's entire field organizing team has been laid off.

While the campaign said Harris' name will be on the ballot for the New Hampshire primary, she will not be filing in person at the state house in Concord, N.H., an event considered to be a tradition for nearly all presidential candidates. It is still being determined if an in-person surrogate will file in Harris’ place but the campaign says that the paperwork will most likely be mailed in.

"Senator Harris and this team set out with one goal — to win the nomination and defeat Donald Trump in 2020,” Nate Evans, Harris Campaign New Hampshire Communications Director, said in a statement provided to NBC News. “To do so, the campaign has made a strategic decision to realign resources to go all-in on Iowa, resulting in office closures and staff realignments and reductions in New Hampshire. The campaign will continue to have a staff presence in New Hampshire but the focus is and will continue to be on Iowa. Senator Harris will not visit New Hampshire on November 6 and 7, but her name will still be placed on the primary ballot."

Just Wednesday, Harris was pressed on pulling resources out of New Hampshire as part of her revamped focus on Iowa, but she said that that she was still committed to the state.  

We are still committed to New Hampshire — but we needed to make difficult decisions. That's what campaigns require at this stage of the game,” Harris told reporters. “And so we have made those difficult decisions based on what we see to be our path toward victory.”

Tom Steyer unveils plan for rural communities

DES MOINES, Iowa — Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer unveiled a new plan Friday aimed at improving the lives of the 60 million people living in rural America, labeling his new policy “Partnerships with Rural Communities.” The Democratic presidential candidate has typically focused on drawing attention to his ideas for government reform and climate change action, and his new rural plan is one of just a few comprehensive policies released outside of those two topics since he declared his candidacy in August. 

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

On the campaign trail, Steyer often touts his familial connection in Iowa — he grew up visiting his aunt and uncle in Iowa City — and has worked to connect with rural and blue collar workers, despite his billionaire background. The eight page plan addresses issues of concern to rural residents and those who live in Tribal nations, and puts a multi-billion dollar price tag on investing in areas like rural broadband, health care and education. 

Steyer plans to commit more than $100 billion toward broadband and fiber access, and another investment of more than $100 billion over ten years to improve infrastructure — ensuring updated roads, bridges and levees are resilient to climate impacts. In addition to working to prevent rural hospital closures, Steyer plans to “revolutionize the way America addresses mental health care” by investing another $100 billion over a decade towards mandating insurance companies to cover mental health care and increased access to telemedicine. 

In order to attract young people to rural areas, Steyer proposes expanding the National Public Service Plan to place at least 200,000 funded Americorps and Climate Corps members in rural communities. Appealing to farmers, Steyer wants to build upon the Made in Rural America Initiative to connect American farmers to global markets, emphasizing the need for fair and open trade policies. 

While most candidates have hit similar points in their rural policies, Steyer adds community banking to his plan, following his experience starting a not-for-profit bank with his wife, Kat Taylor. He argues that expanded funding for Community Development Financial institutions would promote financial education, reduce predatory lending and foster entrepreneurship in rural areas — leading to economic development.  

One of Steyer's main campaign priorities, fighting climate change, isn't lost in this plan. In his rural plan, Steyer would contribute to his clean energy economy goals by investing more than $60 billion for rural grid modernization and $50 billion in rural renewable energy resources like solar and emergency power centers. 

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.”

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

Sanders talked nearly at every chance he had, something he is not known for doing. In a lengthy press conference, Sanders was asked about rivals Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, with whom he is in a tight three-way race, according to the latest state poll.

Sanders forcefully took on Biden regarding super PACs and Medicare for All. Biden's campaign recently softened his opposition to accepting super PAC support until he's elected president and can push for campaign finance reform. 

“I've known Joe for many years and I consider Joe to be a friend, but campaigns are about ideas, they're about values,” Sanders said. “If my memory is correct, Joe Biden once said, and I'm paraphrasing, you've got to be careful about people who have super PACs and who they will end up being responsible for. And in this campaign, Joe as I understand it has not done particularly well in getting a lot of donations from working-class people.”

He also added on healthcare, “I would hope that Joe Biden explains to the American people how under his plan which maintains a dysfunctional, wasteful  and cruel health care system, a system today which is costing us twice as much per person as do the people of any other industrialized country pay.”

The senator also reacted to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)’s comments that he would not support Sanders’ progressive agenda if elected president.

“I would say to Joe Manchin that maybe he should start worrying about the needs of the working class in his state rather than protecting corporate interests,” Sanders said.”

Sanders then headed outside for a rainy afternoon rally with supporters in front of the statehouse.

“It's a different election,” Sanders told NBC News’ Shaquille Brewster, who asked him moments after filing if there’s more pressure this time around for the New Hampshire primary. 

“Now we're running not just essentially against one person, we're running against 19 others. So it's a different dynamic, but I am absolutely confident,” adding, “I think there is no other campaign out there that has the kind of grassroots support that we have.”

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."

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Buttigieg speaks in Durham
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at campaign town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. on Oct. 25, 2019.Brian Snyder / Reuters

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the DGA model compared to actual results

Adjusting for late-breaking voter movement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The top overall advertisers, as of Oct. 28

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

The top spenders in Iowa

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

 

The top spenders in New Hampshire

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

 

The top spenders in Nevada

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

 

The top spenders in South Carolina

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

 

SOURCE: Advertising Analytics

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

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

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

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

Here are some key provisions to the proposal:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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.”   

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg Campaigns In Des Moines, Iowa
Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall meeting on Oct. 12, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.Scott Olson / Getty Images

           

The South Bend, Indiana mayor says he will commit to nominating a cabinet and judiciary that is at least half women as well as prioritizing diversity in all presidential appointments across federal agencies, commissions and boards. He also calls for reinstating the White House Council on Women and Girls. 

To close the wage gap, Buttigieg says he would implement a $15 minimum wage, require gender pay transparency and hold employers accountable for discrimination, as well as address factors that disproportionately target women of color and widen the racial wage gap. 

The plan looks to expand gender diversity in “high priority,” sectors including computer science and construction by requiring all federally funded workforce programs to achieve target goals in women’s participation. 

It prioritizes increasing the number of women-owned businesses, and invest in scaling successful businesses, including access to capital and mentorship for women entrepreneurs by over $50 billion. And it details steps to combat sexual assault and harassment in the work place. 

The plan also calls for ending the trade off between career and family for women, including reducing the burden on unpaid family caregivers. It calls for caregivers to be considered eligible for Social Security, and says more details are to come in a forthcoming long-term care plan. 

Buttigieg would invest $10 billion to end workplace sexual harassment and discrimination against women, including a proposal to empower workers to file formal complaints about sexual harassment and discrimination, and stop companies from hiding problems, as well as banning forced arbitration clauses that deny women their right to challenge workplace harassment and discrimination in court. 

Buttigieg emphasizes the need for a “culture change” to occur around issues of sexual harassment and discrimination earlier in life. In order to achieve this a Buttigieg administration would work with states to educate students in public schools on consent and bystander intervention. In addition to reinforcing support for sexual violence prevention programs on college campuses.

In this plan, Buttigieg reiterates many of the polices he’s laid out in previous plans on criminal justice and healthcare aimed at addressing disparities in care and treatment.

Notably, on abortion rights, one of the most fiercely discussed issues in the 2020 election, Buttigieg says he would codify the right to abortion by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, thereby preventing states from interfering in women’s access to abortions. At the ground level the candidate hopes to increase the number of clinicians who offer abortions and expand access to services by allowing them to provide remote medication abortion services.

In battleground Wisconsin, support for impeachment lags behind national polls

WASHINGTON — A new Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin, arguably the most important state for the 2020 presidential race,  is a reminder that the national poll results we’re seeing are a bit different than in the attitudes in top battleground states for 2020. 

In the poll, 46 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin say there is enough cause for Congress to hold impeachment hearings on Trump, versus 49 percent who disagree. That 46 percent is lower than the majorities we’ve seen in most national polls supporting the impeachment inquiry.

 

The poll also finds 44 percent of Wisconsin supporting Trump’s impeachment/removal from office, versus 51 percent who oppose it.

Trump’s job rating in Wisconsin is 46 percent in the poll — slightly higher than his national average in the low 40s.

Image: President Donald Trump delivers remarks on supporting the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal during a visit to Derco Aerospace Inc., a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, in Milwaukee
President Donald Trump delivers remarks on supporting the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal during a visit to Derco Aerospace Inc., a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, in Milwaukee, July 12, 2019.Carlos Barria / Reuters

In hypothetical general-election matchups, Biden leads Trump by 6 points in the state, 50 percent to 44 percent. That’s compared with Bernie Sanders’ 2-point lead (48 percent to 46 percent), Elizabeth Warren’s 1-point lead (47 percent to 46 percent), and Pete Buttigieg’s 2-point deficit (43 percent-45 percent).

Most national polling shows all of these Democrats ahead of Trump by double digits or high-single digits.

The poll was conducted Oct. 13-17 of 799 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

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.

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

Her campaign is now touting $1.5 million raised in the 36 hours following the debate. And Klobuchar appeared energized from her performance at many of her events in the Granite State.

“I felt good about the debate,” Klobuchar told reporters in Manchester, ahead of an evening stop at the infamous Red Arrow Diner. “My goal was to make sure that a lot of people understood where I was coming from and how I could lead the country who maybe didn't know who I was or just could heard me once and I think we accomplished that."

"And then we just had this surge of support," she added. "Ever since the debate, we're really doing well online people are really interested.”

Voters that NBC News spoke with at her events were largely impressed with her debate performance, but still skeptical if she could lead the Democratic field and ultimately face President Trump in the general election. One man who said that had voted for Trump in 2016 said he was so frustrated now that he is willing to check out more moderate Democratic candidates, and Klobuchar was the first candidate he’d gone to see in person this cycle.

At an event in Londonderry the evening following the debate, Klobuchar spoke to a large, energized crowd at a town hall of over 250 people. She received a standing ovation as she walked, and chants of “Amy” began to break out from the predominantly elderly audience. As she was introduced, and her debate performance was hinted at, the crowd burst into applause. 

When asked about criticisms she made during the debate about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., more progressive position of Medicare for All and how that would be funded, Klobuchar said, “I don't actually focus much on other people's campaigns and my arguments and the issues that I had on that debate, were really about policy and the voters are going to ultimately decide who they think is the best candidate to lead our ticket."

Pressed in Manchester whether her primary opponents are being forthright in their description of Medicare for All and what it costs, Klobuchar told reporters “they've been very clear and it's right there in writing, it's not disputed that it would kick 149 million off their current insurance. 149 million people in just four years. That's right there on page eight and I think just the issue is how are they going to pay for it? As I said last night, who are they going to send the invoice to? And they're going to have to be forthright about that as well.”

They Voted to Impeach Their Own Party’s President — And Lived to Tell the Tale

WASHINGTON — Democrats in the House of Representatives likely have enough support to impeach President Trump with no Republican votes. And while a handful of Republican members of Congress have expressed cautious support for the ongoing inquiry now entering its fourth week, none have indicated they are actually anywhere close to voting to impeach.

Though it may seem unlikely in today’s hyper-partisan era, it is not unheard of for representatives to vote to impeach a president from their own party.

Twelve members of Congress have voted against their own party’s president at some stage of America’s two previous impeachment proceedings: seven Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee backed articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon in 1974, and five Democrats voted against Bill Clinton on the House floor in 1998.

Richard Nixon
President Richard Nixon in his White House office after delivering a television address on March 16, 1972.John Duricka / AP file

And while today’s Republicans tread carefully around Trump, who delights in attacking critics in his own party, a look at previous impeachments shows that a vote against one’s own party leader hasn’t necessarily been a political career-ender.