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Marianne Williamson cuts entire campaign staff
NEW YORK — Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson has laid off the remainder of her campaign staff, two sources confirmed to NBC News on Thursday.
Williamson’s former campaign manager Patricia Ewing and former New Hampshire state director Paul Hodes confirmed the layoffs, first reported by WMUR, to NBC News, citing financial issues. As of Tuesday, the campaign had no staffers, although it's unclear how many staffers Williamson had before the decision was made.
The best-selling author and spiritual advisor struggled to gain traction in national polls despite nearly a year of campaigning in early voting states.
At its height, the campaign had 45 staffers focused on the four early-voting states. In the third quarter of 2019, the campaign raised more than $3 million, a rise from fundraising totals of $1.5 million in both the first and second quarters of last year. Williamson has not released fourth-quarter financial details yet, which are due at the end of the month.
When asked by NBC News whether or not Williamson would stay in the race through the Iowa Caucuses, Ewing only said “she might -- she’s thinking about it.”
In an email to supporters Thursday evening, Williamson wrote, "we've had a wonderful team, and I am deeply grateful for their energy and talents. But as of today, we cannot afford a traditional campaign staff."
"I am not suspending my candidacy, however," she continued. "A campaign not having a huge war chest should not be what determines its fate."
End-of-year fundraising reports still hold plenty of unanswered questions
WASHINGTON — The start of the new year means a whole batch of campaign finance data, and presidential candidates are already selectively releasing numbers to paint their campaigns in the best light.
We already know that President Trump's reelection campaign raised a staggering $46 million in the last three months of 2019, that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and businessman Andrew Yang shattered their own personal fundraising records with $34.5 million and $16.5 million respectively. And we know that former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden netted $24.7 million and $22.7 million, respectively.
But since the campaigns don't have to release their full, official fundraising reports until the end of this month, we only know what they want us to know.
Once filed, those official reports will give us one more important glimpse under their financial hoods shortly before the Iowa caucus.
Here are some big questions about those fundraising reports from NBC News' Political Unit.
Will the top Democrats match Trump in cash on hand?
It's tough to compare fundraising between the Democratic candidates and Trump's reelection for a whole host of reasons, including the size of the Democratic field, the role being played by each party committee and how early things still are in the Democratic nominating calendar.
But there's one thing that's clear — the combined Trump/GOP effort is raising money at a historic clip, one that will both give Republicans an early advantage and put pressure on the eventual Democratic nominee to quickly match it.
One big question is whether the top-four polling Democrats can match Trump's cash on hand.
As of Sept. 30, Sanders ($33.7 million), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($25.7 million), Buttigieg ($23.4 million) and former Vice President Joe Biden ($9 million) had a combined $91.8 million banked. Trump's campaign had $83.2 million, although it will also benefit from the Republican National Committee's massive cash advantage over the Democratic National Committee.
The Trump campaign says it closed 2019 with $102 million on hand.
The Democratic cash-on-hand numbers will also be helpful for intraparty comparisons too, as to whether Biden can quell concerns about his cash reserves being markedly lower than his competitions; whether Buttigieg's big investments have left a dent in his bank account; and whether Warren's stagnant polling has prompted any change in spending.
How dire was Kamala Harris' cash situation when she dropped out?
When California Sen. Kamala Harris suspended her campaign last month, she blamed the decision on a recognition that her campaign "lacked the financial resources to continue."
But since her shuttered campaign will still have to file its end-of-the-year report, we'll get to see how dire the situation really was.
As we wrote at the time, Harris' began 2019 as one of the better-fundraising candidates, and her staff size ballooned as the campaign tried to take advantage of her early momentum. But just months later, her campaign started slashing staff and cutting ad spending before ultimately shuttering altogether.
So her forthcoming filing will paint a clearer picture of what Harris saw when she made the decision to close up shop.
How much is Bloomberg spending?
If billionaire Tom Steyer made a splash earlier this year with his largely self-financed bid, then former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg set off a tidal wave.
Steyer has spent $67.4 million on television and radio ads since he jumped in in July. Bloomberg has almost doubled that ($120.9 million) in the six weeks since he launched his campaign, according to Advertising Analytics.
That's an unprecedented sum, more than every other candidate including Steyer combined.
While we know about Bloomberg's massive ad spending, we don't know how much he's spent on other important pieces of his campaign, the staffing and on-the-ground work that makes or breaks a campaign.
So look for his report to shed light on just how massive the Bloomberg investment really is.
Are the struggling candidates running out of steam?
There's an old adage about the life and death of a campaign: "A candidate doesn't drop out because they run out of ideas, they drop out because they run out of money."
That's another reason why these forthcoming reports will be interesting — to shed light on other candidates who are struggling to stay afloat.
It's likely that former Housing Sec. Julián Castro's end-of-year report could add some context to why he decided to close his doors less than two days after the books closed on 2019. And the reports will also show what resources candidates like Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had to begin the year.
—Carrie Dann, Mark Murray and Melissa Holzberg contributed
Biden raises $22.7 million in final quarter of 2019
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Powered by a surge of online donations that the campaign attributes in part to stepped-up attacks from President Donald Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign posted its strongest fundraising quarter to date.
Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden announced in a new video posted on Twitter Thursday that they have raised $22.7 million in the fourth fundraising quarter, which is still less when compared to some of his rivals, but is a significant sum compared nonetheless.
As in previous quarters, Biden finds himself trailing behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has raised an impressive $34.5 million at the end of the fundraising cycle. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg also raised more than Biden, hauling in $24.7 million.
But the numbers are a boost from the $15.7 million he raised last quarter, which left the campaign with only $8.9 million on hand after spending on internal resources, TV and digital ads across the early primary states.
In the second quarter of 2019, Biden raised $21.5 million, raising the most of any Democratic candidate per day in that quarter in which he launched his bid.
His slow fundraising between July, August and September brought into question whether the Biden campaign could sustain itself throughout the primary, concerns that contributed to former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumping into the race. It also motivated Biden donors to mobilize a Super PAC to support the former vice president.
Senior campaign advisers had forecasted stronger numbers this quarter in part thanks to President Donald Trump’s continued attacks against Biden throughout the House impeachment investigation.
Those advisers also say that they’ve also seen former bundlers for California Sen. Kamala Harris and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke join them since those candidates dropped out of the race.
Biden has held a total of 114 fundraisers in 2019. Late last month, the campaign announced the names of 230 bundlers who have raised more than $25,000 for Biden since he launched his campaign in late April of 2019.
Biden scores endorsement from Iowa Rep. Finkenauer
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer Thursday became the first Democratic member of Iowa's congressional delegation to endorse a candidate in the party's presidential contest, throwing her support behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
Finkenauer, who is one of three of the state's Democratic members of Congress, is expected to join Biden on the trail as he kicks off the new year campaigning in her Eastern Iowa district. And the endorsement comes after a long, shared political history between the two.
She worked on Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign as a volunteer coordinator and was the lone Iowa Democratic candidate in 2018 to receive Biden's endorsement. Biden even appeared at a rally with Finkenauer during the closing weeks of that campaign which ended in her victory over incumbent Republican Rep. Rod Blum.
Finkenauer represents the 1st district of Iowa, which is most of the northeast corner of the state — including Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Dubuque. The district covers 20 counties with a high concentration of working-class voters. Fifteen of those supported Obama by double digits in 2008 and 2012, but swung to Donald Trump in 2016.
The Biden campaign noted in its announcement that the only Democratic members of Congress from any of the first four Democratic presidential nominating states who have endorsed in the presidential primary have backed Biden — Finkenauer and Nevada Rep. Dina Titus.
Biden is planning to hit 10 counties in Iowa over the next five days.
—Marianna Sotomayor contributed
Corey Lewandowski won't run for Senate in New Hampshire
MANCHESTER, N.H. — After months of speculation, President Trump's former 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski announced Tuesday he will not be running for Senate in New Hampshire to challenge Democrat incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Lewandowski wrote in a tweet that while he would forgo a run, his priorities remained his family and re-electing President Trump.
Lewandowski added that he plans to endorse in the N.H. Republican primary, which so far includes Bryant “Corky” Messner, retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, and former state Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien.
Lewandowski had been having conversations with local Republican leaders about a potential run, several officials told NBC News. Multiple sources said Lewandowski would have been a “formidable” candidate had he challenged Shaheen.
“I've got a young family, I want to make sure I can spend time with them,” he said. “We've talked about this a lot now. I was in Washington last week with the president both Friday of last week and then Monday of this week, talking again. I talked with Senate leadership about this race to understand the resources that would be available to take on a two-term incumbent U.S. senator, looked at her voting record, realized that she no longer aligns with the values of New Hampshire, all these things are pointing us in the right direction."
The New Hampshire Democratic Party reacted to Lewandowski's announcement shortly after his initial tweet.
“While Messner, Bolduc, and O'Brien tear each other down in the contentious primary Lewandowski has left behind, Senator Shaheen will continue working across the aisle for New Hampshire, leading efforts to lower prescription drug costs and making sure veterans and their families get the benefits they deserve," said NHDP spokesman Josh Marcus-Blank.
The New Hampshire Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bennet launching campaign's first New Hampshire television ad
WEST LEBANON, N.H. — Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet is launching his presidential campaign's first New Hampshire television ad aimed at contrasting him with President Donald Trump.
In the new one-minute spot, Bennet talks to the camera to argue that he's "the opposite of Trump," pitching himself as the candidate who can bridge the political divide and get results on issues like health care.
Bennet’s campaign announced last week they need to raise $700,000 by Jan. 16 of next year to have the resources to compete in New Hampshire, including for the launch of his new ad. It says as of Friday the campaign has raised just over $165,000 toward that goal, so it will now put $60,000 into TV and digital this week.
The campaign told NBC News it will increase its ad buy over the coming weeks as it continues to raise, and they intend to reach a six-figure buy, and that it needs to raise more to keep the ad on the air in the coming weeks.
“Voters are asking one question in this election: Who can beat Donald Trump?” campaign spokesperson Shannon Beckham said in a statement.
“To beat Trump, we need the opposite of Trump, and Michael represents that in every way. People who are exhausted by the daily circus in the White House are looking for a candidate who will return things back to normal and start to make progress for their families."
The ad buy comes on the heels of Bennet announcing he would hold 50 town halls in New Hampshire in the final 10 weeks leading up to the state’s primary. His current tally is at 21 town halls, and with an impending impeachment trial in the Senate, the logistics of the rest are to be determined.
“I just know that New Hampshire hasn't made up its mind yet and that's why I'm here,” Bennet told reporters last week in Peterborough, NH. “I think our states are very similar and the politics are similar, and I'm hoping to do well here.”
Bennet is set to return to New Hampshire for a seven-day trip starting December 30, including hosting a first event of 2020 at 12:01 AM on January 1st.
Amy Klobuchar to hit 99th and final Iowa county on presidential campaign
ESTHERVILLE, IA — Sen. Amy Klobuchar is set to visit her 99th county in Iowa on Friday morning, completing her quest to hit every county in the state during her presidential bid.
She’s the only presidential candidate who qualified for last month's debate stage to accomplish the feat (the only other candidate to complete the full tour is John Delaney, who’s been campaigning since 2017.)
Friday’s swing includes stops in Emmet, Kossuth and Humboldt counties - which all voted for President Trump in the 2016 general election - before heading to Des Moines to celebrate the completion of the full tour.
Emulating her habit of visiting all of her home state of Minnesota’s 87 counties, Klobuchar has emphasized the importance of meeting people in their communities on the campaign trail, touting her ability to appeal to moderate Democrats, Independents and Republicans.
Friday’s final three counties come after Klobuchar embarked on a busy four-day, 27 county bus tour last weekend. She passed through the southern edge of the state before swing up through northwest Iowa - historically conservative pockets of the state.
With just over a month until Iowa’s caucus, Klobuchar has seen her standing in the polls improve. In last month's Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll, she was the first choice for 6 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, good for fifth place. She also finished in fifth place (with 5 percent) in Monmouth University's November poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers.
The voters who could decide the 2020 election
WASHINGTON — In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 48 percent of registered voters say they are certain to vote against President Trump, and 34 percent say they’re certain to vote for him.
In the middle are 18 percent of voters who say they might vote either way depending on the Democratic nominee.
Who are these 18 percent of voters — given that Trump needs to win two-thirds of them to reach the national 46 percent he won in 2016, or four-in-five of them to get to 48 percent?
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal pollsters call them “squishy Republicans” or “nominal Republicans.” They’re disproportionately younger men who identify as independents or moderates.
President Trump’s job rating with them is 55 percent (compared to 44 percent overall in the poll), they favor Republicans by 20 points in congressional preference (versus the D+7 lead overall) and a plurality of them believe Trump did something wrong regarding Ukraine — but that it doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.
So the name of the game for 2020 is Trump trying to win as many of these squishy/nominal Republicans as possible to assemble a winning coalition, or the eventual Democratic nominee cutting into enough of these voters to deny the president that coalition.
And how do these up-for-grabs view the Democratic contenders? Check out these numbers:
Mike Bloomberg is spending big in his presidential bid. Here’s how other self-funders fared.
WASHINGTON — Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has wasted no time putting his massive fortune to use in the race for the Democratic nomination. Worth an estimated $55 billion, the 2020 hopeful has already dwarfed his rivals by spending over $100 million on advertising since he announced his campaign just weeks ago. And Bloomberg is paying for it all himself — his website notably lacks a “donate” button, and he’s said he won’t seek any contributions.
Though he may be the wealthiest candidate in history, he’s not the only billionaire or self-funder to try his hand at presidential politics, not even in 2020.
Among Democrats, Bloomberg joins Tom Steyer, a California hedge fund billionaire who has plowed $47 million into his own campaign, according to his latest FEC filings, and garnered just enough support for three coveted debate invitations. Another multimillionaire, former congressman John Delaney, has given more than $24 million to his campaign to much less success, rarely even reaching 1 percent in national polls.
The three are spending all that money to earn a chance at challenging yet another billionaire: Donald Trump. And while Trump’s reelection effort is a fundraising juggernaut, his 2016 campaign was powered in part by his own wealth, to the tune of $66.1 million in personal contributions and loans.
Though there have long been self-funders in presidential politics, it is notable that 2020 involves so many of them. “This is by no means new,” says Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. “As campaigns grow ever more expensive, this will continue to be a trend.”
Apart from the current president, those who have relied largely on their own wealth to win the presidency have historically come up empty-handed.
In 1992, Texas billionaire Ross Perot launched an independent bid for the White House and spent $64 million (that’s $118 million in 2020, adjusted for inflation) on his way to winning 19 percent of the popular vote, a modern record for independent candidates.
Perot famously bought 30-minute infomercials where he talked economic policy direct to camera from his desk, using charts and a pointer. During his Reform Party run four years later, Perot spent significantly less — $20 million inflation-adjusted — and saw his popular vote share decrease to just over 8 percent.
The first time publisher Steve Forbes sought the Republican nomination, in 1996, he self-funded with an inflation-adjusted $61 million. But like his signature tax policy, his campaign fell flat. Time Magazine referred to it as “wacky, saturated with money and ultimately embarrassing to all concerned,” and he finished a distant third place with 11 percent of the total primary vote.
Undeterred, Forbes jumped back into the fray in 2000, and spent another $60 million to even meeker results: a handful of delegates and no primary victories.
The 2000s saw several very wealthy men run for president: John Kerry in 2004, Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012, and Jon Huntsman in 2012. Of the three, Romney in 2008 was the most prolific self-funder, spending $54 million in 2019 dollars, over a third of his total campaign expenditure (in 2012 he stopped self-funding). Kerry gave his campaign almost $9 million in 2019 dollars, but fundraised several hundred million more. And Huntsman loaned his campaign over $5 million, more than he raised from donors. None of the three became president.
Can Bloomberg overcome history? While he’s been successful at “buying himself a head start,” Krumholz cautions that for billionaires, “the money represents a shortcut around the hard slog of campaigning, but generally not to victory.”
Michael Bloomberg releases first part of health care plan
LOS ANGELES — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled out the contours of his health care plan on Thursday, adding his voice to the issue that has defined, and vexed, the Democratic primary field all year.
Bloomberg's proposal would be a “Medicare-like” public option — which places him in step with other “moderate’ candidates in the 2020 Democratic field, like former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor of South Bend, Ind. Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. The proposal also aims to bolster the Affordable Care Act, expand coverage and cut costs of prescription drugs and health care prices.
The two-page plan, which Bloomberg is promoting over several campaign stops in Tennessee, is the first of a two-part health care plan. The second part will focus on public health and be released in the new year, according to the Bloomberg campaign.
Several Democrats in the 2020 field prescribe a public option as either their end goal or, in the case of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as part of a longer-term process to get to a Medicare For All system. Bloomberg, however, does not intend for Medicare for All to be the goal.
On a campaign-hosted call with reporters before the plan’s release and Bloomberg aides were clear that a public option was not a stepping stone to Medicare for All, emphasizing the realities of Congress as a key reason why.
“We’re going for a more achievable approach,” one aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan.
Aides were also clear that Bloomberg’s plan, like those of other moderates, envisions a continued role for private insurance. The campaign referred to Americans being able to keep plans they were promised.
“We’re not trying to completely rock the boat and get everyone off the plan if they like it," an aide said.
Bloomberg proposes capping out-of-network charges at 200 percent of Medicare rates, in order to keep health care prices down. To lower the cost of prescription drugs, Bloomberg plans to empower the Health and Human Services Secretary to negotiate prices with pharmaceuticals.
The plan also seeks to expand coverage and subsidies, in addition to creating the public option. The campaign said it hasn't yet gotten a formal estimate of what the price tag will be for the entire plan, but informally puts the cost at $1.5 trillion to create the public option and expand subsidies. The campaign believes that by capping out of network charges and negotiating drug costs, the total cost could be brought to to $1 trillion.
Donald Glover to endorse Andrew Yang, co-host Los Angeles event
WASHINGTON — Actor Donald Glover, also known by his musical stage name Childish Gambino, will endorse 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Thursday in Los Angeles at a joint event they're calling “The 46 Campaign.”
The collaboration campaign event takes place just hours before Yang is expected to take the debate stage at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. for the final Democratic presidential primary debate of 2019.
He will be joined on-stage by former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer. Yang was the last candidate to qualify under the Democratic National Committee's thresholds and will be the only candidate of color on the debate stage.
“The 46 Campaign” is expected to sell collaboration merchandise in “limited quantities,” according to Glover’s Instagram story, with all proceeds going towards to the Yang campaign. Glover also noted there will not be any music at the event.
S.Y. Lee, Yang's national press secretary, confirmed to NBC News that Glover will endorse at the event, and that the merchandise on sale will include sweatshirts, hats and posters.
In addition to being a Golden Globe-winning actor and influential rapper, Glover has become increasingly political in his music and art in recent years. Under the stage name Childish Gambino, Glover broke onto the national political stage upon the May 2018 release of his award-winning song, “This is America.”
The anthem and its accompanying music video, which trended as the No. 1 song in the United States for three weeks, depicts stark political themes including gun violence, police brutality and the experience of being black in the United States. “This is America” went on to win four Grammy Awards that year.
Yang has garnered a few celebrity endorsements or donations to his campaign, including actor Nicolas Cage, musician Rivers Cuomo, actor Noah Centineo, investor Sam Altman and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Booker ad to air during Thursday's debate
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Cory Booker. D-N.J. will not be on tonight’s debate stage, but viewers watching CNN in select markets will see the presidential candidate in his first television ad of the election cycle.
“How long are these things, 30 seconds? Are you sure we can afford this?” Booker jokes in the ad. “You're only gonna see this ad once because I'm not a billionaire. I won't be on tonight's debate stage, but that's okay because I'm going to win this election anyway. This election isn't about who can spend the most, or who slings the most mud. It's about the people.”
The 30-second spot, “Together,” will air during CNN’s simulcast of the debate in 22 markets, including the first four early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
The cable ad buy is the first part of a half-million dollar investment in television and digital ads, originally planned solely for Iowa. It comes during what campaign manager Addisu Demissie indicated will be the best fundraising quarter yet for the campaign — Booker has raised more than $3 million since the last democratic debate.
On Saturday, Booker led the 2020 Democratic field in calling on the DNC to ease qualification thresholds for future debates.
Booker has 2 percent support in the latest NBC News/WSJ national poll released Thursday.
Collins' decision to seek re-election puts her in middle of fight for Senate control
WASHINGTON — Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins announced Wednesday she's running for re-election, a decision setting up one of the most competitive Senate races of the 2020 cycle.
Collins announced her decision in a letter where she framed herself as a "centrist who still believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship."
“I promised the people of Maine a decision this fall on whether I would seek reelection. The fundamental question I had to ask myself in making my decision was this: in today’s polarized political environment, is there still a role for a centrist who believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship? she asked.
“I have concluded that the answer to this question is “yes,” and I will, therefore, seek the honor of continuing to serve as Maine’s United States Senator."
The decision was not a big surprise, as Collins’s campaign has already spent $1.2 million on television ads and raised almost $5.7 million so far this cycle (through September). But the Republican hadn’t officially confirmed her intentions until Wednesday.
Collins is a Senate mainstay, serving in the body since the 1996 election. But this reelection could be the toughest in her political career.
Democrats see a narrow path toward taking the Senate in 2020, which would almost certainly include defeating Collins and could make her seat one that decides the body's balance of power. Many believe Collins is at a uniquely vulnerable point in her political career thanks in part to President Trump's languishing approval rating as well as her decision to vote in favor of Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.
And she'll also be right at the center of the impeachment battle as a pivotal vote in any Senate trial deciding whether to remove Trump from office.
That's why there's been an uncharacteristically huge amount of television spending (almost $7 million) in the race already, with Democrats outspending Republicans $4.3 million to $2.7 million.
The Democrats' top candidate is state House Speaker Sara Gideon, but she faces a primary challenge from progressive Betsy Sweet, the former head of the Maine Women's Lobby.
Joe Biden releases medical assessment, described as 'healthy, vigorous'
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump may call Joe Biden “sleepy,” but the former vice president’s physician states that the 77-year-old is in good health and nowhere near slowing down.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor of The George Washington University released a three-page medical summary of Biden's health on Tuesday at the request of his patient, in which he described Biden as a “healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief.”
There is no new notable change in Biden’s medical history based on previous medical records released during his time as vice president. Biden survived two brain aneurysms in the late 1980s — one did not rupture. And while the condition was later complicated by subsequent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, O'Connor states there are currently no serious threats to Biden’s health and medical conditions from his past are currently under control.
Biden is taking blood thinners and medication for acid reflux, cholesterol and seasonal allergies. Dr. John Torres, an NBC News medical correspondent, notes that acid reflux can occasionally cause a hoarse voice, which has become noticeable at times on the campaign trail.
O’Connor has been Biden’s primary physician since 2009, and also released the results of Biden's most recent physical exam, which showed him to be in stable health. Notably, his doctor points out that Biden’s good health can be attributed to his decision not to smoke, drink and commitment to working out “at least five days per week.”
Critics of the former vice president’s age often suggest the septuagenarian is mentally and physically too old to be president, however, O'Connor makes no mention of any mental deficiencies, stating that Biden’s last physical showed his that his “cranial nerves and vestibular function are normal.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, two of the other septuagenarian Democratic candidates, have also released medical assessments. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has not yet released his.
Biden has also had his gallbladder removed and has been preemptively treated for non-cancerous polyps and skin abrasions in recent years.
Klobuchar to open fundraisers up to press
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will be opening up her future presidential campaign fundraisers to press starting Wednesday, her campaign tells NBC News.
Amid tensions and a growing debate over fundraising transparency among Democratic primary contenders, Klobuchar is joining candidates South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who recently decided to open up their fundraisers to press.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has been doing so with a pooled press system from the beginning of his campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has made a central campaign talking point her rejection of high-dollar fundraisers, held her first campaign fundraiser in the Los Angeles area last week. While Warren did not attend in person the event was made open to press. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders does not hold fundraisers for his campaign.
Klobuchar’s campaign confirms to NBC News that they will disclose bundlers for campaign donations on her behalf, but provided no details on the timing.
For all future fundraising events, Klobuchar’s campaign will utilize a pool system for a single reporter to attend and cover fundraising events. The campaign will then distribute the pool report at the conclusion of the event.
Klobuchar’s first fundraiser open to the press will be Wednesday in Los Angeles ahead of Thursday’s debate.
Biden campaign responds to impeachment vote in new TV ad
Former Vice President Joe Biden 's presidential campaign is out with a new TV ad ahead of Wednesday's House vote to impeach President Donald Trump, a spot that refers to the 2020 election as a fight for America's soul.
The one-minute cable TV ad, called “Soul of America,” will air in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina through Thursday and rebukes Trump by embracing former Vice President Joe Biden’s core message about the need to unite and restore the country’s soul. The ad buy is part of the campaign’s $6 million paid media expense in the first four early primary states.
The ad features clips of Biden’s first blistering speech against Trump delivered early this summer in Burlington, Iowa, where he strongly assailed Trump for having “no moral leadership” or interest in uniting the country. In that same speech, he went on to accuse Trump of trying to lead “with a toxic tongue” that has “publicly and unapologetically embraced the political strategy of hate, racism and division.”
The ad hinges on the reminder Biden often delivers on the campaign trail about restoring the soul of America: that America has never lived up to its ideal written by Thomas Jefferson in the preamble of the Constitution, but it has never flat-out abandoned it as Trump has.
It starkly contrasts the achievements America has made despite centuries of slavery and racism, which Biden points out took true leadership to try and stamp out such malice. The ad shows famous moments in African American history before quickly pivoting to images of Trump and the flashpoints that have happened under his watch like Charlottesville.
“If we give Donald Trump four more years, this will not be the country envisioned by Washington. This will not be the nation bound together by Lincoln. This will not be the nation lifted up by Roosevelt or inspired by Kennedy,” Biden reminds. “It will not be the nation that Barack Obama proves bends towards justice.”
Though the ad never mentions the word impeachment, it makes clear on Biden’s belief that the most important and reliable place to remove Trump from office is in the ballot box next November.
“We can’t and I will not let this man be reelected President of the United States of America,” the ad ends.
New Klobuchar Iowa ad emphasizes her roots
DES MOINES, Iowa — Amy Klobuchar's campaign has released a new television ad touting her Midwestern roots and her “record of bringing people together.” The six-figure ad buy comes right before the next presidential debate on Thursday and will air in across multiple markets in Iowa.
The Minnesota senator chose to target President Trump directly, saying, “If we don’t stop Donald Trump this time, shame on us. Americans deserve a President who has their back, who isn’t afraid to take on powerful forces, who has a record of bringing people together. And most importantly, who gets things done.”
“I know what it takes to win in the Midwest,” Klobuchar adds, reiterating a point Iowans hear often in her stump speech. “It’s not flyover country to me — it’s home.”
The ad is in line with the Minnesota senator's message on the campaign trail, where she frequently draws contrasts between her own beliefs and Trump’s policies in her attempt to cast herself as a natural opponent to the president.
“We come from a country where no matter where you come from or who you know or where you worship or who you love that you can make it in the United States of America,” Klobuchar said at a recent event in Dubuque, Iowa. “And that's really where we begin because we have a president right now who tries to shatter those dreams. He tries to shatter those dreams every single morning when he goes after immigrants, when he goes after people of color, when he goes after people that he doesn't agree with.”
Klobuchar, who frequently jokes that she can see Iowa from her Minnesota porch, will embark on a four-day bus tour through Iowa, vowing to hit 27 counties by the tour’s end. The campaign claims she will have hit 96 counties by the tour’s conclusion — leaving her only three short of hitting all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Klobuchar appears to have solidified her spot in fifth place in Iowa following the last two debates. In recent Iowa-specific polls, she garnered 10 percent in Emerson’s latest poll and 6 percent in the famed Iowa Des Moines Register poll in November.
Buttigieg ad takes on Trump by not talking 'Trump'
DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg's campaign is out with a new television ad highlighting his strategy for taking on President Donald Trump, but viewers shouldn’t expect to hear the president’s name or even see him in the 30-second spot — and for Buttigieg, that’s the point.
The ad, titled “Talk About You,” opens with a graphic that reads, “Pete Buttigieg, speaking about Donald Trump,” and that three seconds is the only time Trump is mentioned by name. Throughout the rest of the ad, the president is simply referred to as “him.”
“What it's really going to take is denying him the power to change the subject,” Buttigieg says on screen as he’s speaks to a group of voters. “The more we're talking about him, the less we're talking about you,” he says as voters nod in agreement.
Buttigieg promises the room full of people that he will, “keep our focus on what matters most, and have the discipline to make sure the conversation stays there too.”
The ad will run statewide in Iowa beginning on Tuesday.
While it may be focused on Trump, the ad also seeks to draw a clear distinction between Buttigieg’s approach to taking on the president and that of his opponents for the Democratic nomination.
Some candidates have released ads that feature Trump prominently, including Former Vice President Joe Biden’s ad titled, “Laughed At.” Senator Bernie Sanders’ first TV ad of this election cycle titled, “Fights for Us,” also includes a clip of the president.
That Buttigieg’s ad doesn't mention the president directly is no accident. A statement by the campaign announcing the ad states, “The ad highlights how Pete would take on Donald Trump by focusing on the issues that are impacting people every day — rather than keeping the focus on Donald Trump.”
County-to-County: Do moderate Republicans hold the key to Trump's impeachment and re-election?
WASHINGTON — As the impeachment process hurdles on through a divided Congress (and public) that seems to be ever-hardening, there is one group of voters who could make a big difference in the political equation for the 2020 election and possibly the eventual outcome of the Senate trial: moderate Republicans who have never been die-hard Trump supporters.
To gauge their reaction on the process, "Meet the Press" assembled a group of six voters who fit that bill in Kent County, Michigan to ask them if they were paying attention to the proceedings and what they were hearing from their friends and neighbors. What they responded with was a mix of disgruntlement and shoulder-shrugging inevitability.
All the members of the panel, several of whom said they do not plan to vote for the president in 2020, signaled that they were all-but-certain the impeachment proceedings would lead to an acquittal for the president. Some said they wanted to see him censured. But there was general agreement that the next step was to “bring on the election.”
Kent is a one of the five locales in the County-to-County Project NBC News launched for 2020 to track different kinds of voter communities through the next presidential election and it's important for two big reasons.
First, Kent, the home of former President Gerald Ford, has long been a bastion of what might be thought of as establishment Republicanism. It’s less diverse than the nation as whole, it’s well-educated and it has high incomes. It’s voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election from 1968 onward — except for 2008 when it narrowly voted for Barack Obama.
It was also a weak point for President Trump in 2016. Even as he carried Michigan in the election, he won Kent by the smallest margin of any Republican in last 50 years. In short, it is an ideal place to see if Trump’s support is weakening among those voters.
Second, those moderate Republicans are particularly crucial in the impeachment story right now because they are likely the only voters that could make the process bipartisan and ultimately impact the outcome of the fight. Democrats and strong Republicans are already deeply dug in on the issue.
President Trump’s time in office has been eventful in many ways, but not in the polling data. The majority of voters have made up their mind on him — for or against. Since his inauguration his job approval rating has stayed in a narrow eight-point band in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll, between 47 percent and 39 percent. In October, his approval number was 45 percent.
Andrew Yang releases public-option health care plan
MANCHESTER, NH – Andrew Yang on Monday released his health care proposal, one that creates a public option but still retains the ability for Americans to keep their private insurance.
Yang's campaign said the plan explores “ways to reduce the burden of healthcare on employers, including by giving employees the option to enroll in Medicare for All instead of an employer-provided healthcare plan.”
The "New Way Forward” care plan is a clear departure from his previous support for Medicare for All – still listed as one of “Andrew’s 3 Big Policies” on his campaign website homepage. The proposal instead more closely resembles the plans for a "public option" being championed by candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“To be clear, I support the spirit of Medicare for All, and have since the first day of this campaign. I do believe that swiftly reformatting 18% of our economy and eliminating private insurance for millions of Americans is not a realistic strategy, so we need to provide a new way forward on healthcare for all Americans,” Yang said in the release.
“As Democrats, we all believe in healthcare as a human right. We all want to make sure there is universal affordable coverage. We know we have a broken healthcare system where Americans spend more money on healthcare to worse results. But, we are spending too much time fighting over the differences between Medicare for All, “Medicare for All Who Want It,” and ACA expansion when we should be focusing on the biggest problems that are driving up costs and taking lives.”
The plan doesn't provide a total cost, or a funding source. His proposal also does not include at what age Americans can opt-in to Medicare, nor does it address the millions of Americans currently uninsured or provide information on how copays, deductibles, and premiums would be impacted for those who are insured.
The "Medicare for All" proposals by candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., envision a landscape where private insurance is rendered obsolete. Yang has changed his stance on Medicare for All over recent months, but has maintained support for keeping private insurers if they can compete in the market.
In a June conversation with a New Hampshire voter, Yang referred to himself as "pro-Medicare for All" and said he thought health care should be a "basic right."
But by last month, he told reporters that "the difference between my approach and Senator Sanders and Senator Warren is that I disagree that everyone hates their private insurance plan."
Here are more details from Yang's plan:
- Control the cost of life-saving prescription drugs, through negotiating drug prices, using international reference pricing, forced licensing, public manufacturing facilities, and importation.
- Invest in technologies to finally make health services function efficiently and reduce waste by utilizing modernized services like telehealth and assistive technology, supported by measures such as multi-state licensing laws.
- Change the incentive structure by offering flexibility to providers, prioritizing patients over paperwork, and increasing the supply of practitioners.
- Shift our focus and educating ourselves in preventative care and end-of-life care options.
- Ensure crucial aspects of wellbeing, including mental health, care for people with disabilities, HIV/AIDs detection and treatment, reproductive health, maternal care, dental, and vision are addressed and integrated into comprehensive care for the 21st century.
- Diminish the influence of lobbyists and special interests in the healthcare industry that makes it nearly impossible to draft and pass meaningful healthcare reform.
Michael Bennet says Biden, Buttigieg stole his health care plan
PITTSBURGH – In a rare clash between the candidates over health care, former Vice President Joe Biden last week accused South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of stealing his proposal to build on the Affordable Care Act with a public option. On Saturday, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said Biden and Buttigieg took their public option plans from him.
“I’ve been robbed blind by everybody!” Bennet told NBC News on Saturday, after the MSNBC Public Education Forum. “I mean if Mayor Pete sole it from Joe Biden, Joe stole it from me."
Bennet co-sponsored his Medicare-X plan, which would create a public option, in 2017.
One of the signature policy debates of the Democratic primary has been the most effective way to expand access to health care and lower costs – either through building on the Affordable Care Act or transitioning to a fully public system like Medicare For All. Biden has gone on the offensive against Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren over her Medicare for All proposal, calling it unrealistic and unaffordable.
But during his bus tour of Iowa last week, Biden he turned his attention to Buttigieg, who also has proposed a plan that includes a public option.
“He stole it,” Biden told reporters at the time.
Buttigieg countered that he had been discussing a public option since before Biden even entered the race, and plans like his and Biden’s were hardly new in the Democratic Party.
Bennet said it was his they were modeling their own plans on.
“As Bernie says over and over again, he's the guy who wrote the damn bill on Medicare for All. Well, I'm the guy that wrote the damn bill on the public option,” Bennet said.
Bennet also argued that Buttigieg has flip-flopped on health care since entering the race because he had initially appeared to support Medicare for All.
"I'm not sure where Joe Biden, was but he didn't get it done,” Bennet added. "And, I didn't need to take a poll or get ready to run for president to know what I believe about it.”
Bennet, who has struggled to break into the top tier in the Democratic field, said his policy reflected his experience running and winning in a battleground state.
"I'm the only candidate in the race who has actually won two national elections in the swing state,” Bennet said. "When you’ve done that, you learn to say the same thing in a primary that you say in a general election. And you suck it up and tell people what you think and, and in the end I think people respect you for it even if they disagree with your particular position on any given issue."
Pete Buttigieg will allow Netflix CEO to host fundraiser despite charter school support
PITTSBURGH – South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg said on Saturday he will allow Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to co-host a fundraiser on his behalf, despite Hastings support for charter schools. Buttigieg made the remarks after his appearance at the MSNBC Public Education Forum.
Buttigieg opposes federal school voucher programs.
“I have no plans to make a change there,” Buttigieg said in response to questions about Hastings' appearance.
Hastings sits on the board of a public charter school and has donated millions of dollars to various educational institutions including charter schools. Buttigieg emphasized that his position on the issue will not change despite the views of those who contribute to his campaign.
“There are 700,000 donors to my campaign,” Buttigieg said. “Some of them may disagree with me on some of those issues, but my stance will not change, including my support for teachers and my support for labor.”
Buttigieg recently opened his closed-door fundraisers to the press amid criticism from Democratic presidential opponents like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
In his K-12 education policy, Buttigieg proposes banning for-profit charter schools and hold public charters schools to the same level of accountability, rigor and oversight as traditional public schools. He’s also emphasized the need for the resources to be fair for schools across the board.
Charter schools have become a hot-topic in the 2020 Democratic race, with most candidates declaring opposition to “for profit” charter schools as candidates look to earn the support of teacher’s unions.
Tom Steyer staffs up in South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Billionaire Tom Steyer is doubling down on the South Carolina ground game for his presidential bid and increasing the size of his campaign throughout the state.
The Steyer campaign currently has over 60 paid directors and organizers on the ground in the state, and plans to add an additional 40 by the end of the year, according to Tiffiany Vaughn Jones, the campaign's South Carolina communications director.
A staff presence of over 100 will ensure that the Steyer campaign has a dominating presence in the state. As of mid-December, the Sanders campaign has the second-largest roster of staffers, with over 50 on the payroll.
“The official title for our organizers are community organizers,” said Brandon Upson, Steyer’s National Organizing Director. “We’re hiring people specifically in the communities that they live in, have been raised in, so that they can organize their neighbors, their family members.”
One of those community organizers, Alonzo Canzater, said he decided to support the campaign after learning more about the investments Steyer himself has made to assist with the water crisis in his own backyard and sponsoring local food drives.
For Canzater, he hopes that this personal investment means a President Steyer wouldn't forget about South Carolina voters.
“A lot of presidents, they try to use the African American community to get those votes, but once they get in there, we don’t see them. But I think Tom is going to stick to his word," Canzater said.
Canzater likened his job to being the “face of the campaign” in South Carolina. “I go to a lot of neighborhoods I grew up in," he said, "just try to push them and encourage them to vote because their vote does count.”
While Steyer has focused on his ground game in South Carolina, other Democratic candidates continue to attack him for spending his personal fortune on staying the race.
“Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — two women senators who, together, won more than 11.5 million votes in their last elections — have been forced out of this race, while billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg have been allowed to buy their way in,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote in a fundraising email earlier this month.
Steyer campaign South Carolina state director Jonathan Metcalf pushed back on those assertions.
“The idea of a billionaire may conjure up some image." Metcalf said. "But Tom Steyer is the first person in his family to make money. And then what did he do? He decided to give half of it away to good causes he believes in.”
Metcalf also dismissed the idea that Steyer was buying his way into the race, saying the enthusiasm of their' teams community organizers is “something you really can't put a price tag on.”
Michael Bloomberg releases new piece of his climate change plan
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is doing his best to catch up in the 2020 Democratic primary plan race. On Friday, Bloomberg released a piece of his climate change program that calls for slashing emissions by 50 percent in the next 10 years, replacing all coal plants in the United States with clean power and stopping new construction of gas plants.
Friday’s proposal is part of a larger goal to get the U.S. to clean energy status “as soon as humanly possible” and “ideally before 2045 or 2050,” according to Bloomberg, who has invested millions of dollars in environmentally-friendly candidates, and causes, for years.
“The president refuses to lead on climate change, so the rest of us must,” Bloomberg said in a statement, released before he was set to hold an event in Northern Virginia to highlight the plan. “We’ve proven that you can transition to clean energy and strengthen the economy at the same time. As president, I'll accelerate our transition to a 100% clean energy economy.”
Some other details:
- Bloomberg’s plan aims to get to 80 percent clean electricity by the end of his second term in office (2028), by phasing out all carbon and health threatening pollution.
- This plan, as many Democratic plans do, will also reinstate emissions standards instituted by former President Barack Obama and then rolled back by President Donald Trump.
- He also proposes quadrupling investment in federal research and development into clean energy to at least $25 billion per year.
- Environmental justice should be “central to decision-making” for federal agencies
- End fossil fuel subsidies and bar fossil fuel leases on federal lands.
- There are also incentives for clean energy projects around the U.S.
Biden releases new Iowa ads on healthcare
DES MOINES, Iowa — Joe Biden's campaign began running its eighth television ad in Iowa Friday morning emphasizing the candidate's focus on health care — a top issue for a majority of voters in 2020. The ad, combined with supplemental digital ads, is the latest in a $4 million investment in ad buys in Iowa from November through caucus day on February 3.
"Protect" will air on television in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids and on Hulu’s streaming service statewide. It plays like a general election ad, directly hitting President Trump’s effort to “destroy Obamacare,” while touting Biden’s plan to build on that health law and reminding viewers that he helped pass the Affordable Care Act with President Obama “in the first place.” Biden’s health care plan would expand Obamacare by adding a public option but also allowing voters to keep their private insurance if they want it.
"Trust" and another complementary video will run on social media platforms statewide. “Trust” features Charlene Harmon, a supporter from Ankeny, who received a cancer diagnosis but luckily had insurance that covered her recovery. Harmon credits Joe Biden’s empathy when discussing her support.
“I know he understands what we’ve been through,” Harmon says to camera. “To me, that makes him real.”
The second video is an addition to the campaign’s “On the Road with Joe” series, highlighting conversations the former vice president has on the rope line following campaign events, including an interaction where a woman from Davenport told Biden that the ACA saved her son’s life. (Differing from the previous two ads somber soundtrack, this ad also plays out under the song, “High Hopes” by Panic At The Disco!, which is notably Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s anthem on the campaign trail).
The latter two ads emphasize the campaign’s messaging in recent weeks, which is Biden’s empathy and ability to connect with those who have suffered. Along the eight-day “No Malarkey” bus tour route through Iowa, many voters brought up Biden’s empathy as a selling factor. During the bus tour, Biden heavily stressed his commitment to strengthening rural communities by recognizing the difficulty they face in accessing quality health care.
Michael Bloomberg releases medical assessment on health
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg released a recent assessment from his doctor on Thursday, deeming the 77-year-old to be in “outstanding health.” While Bloomberg has had some health issues, for instance atrial fibrillation, those are currently controlled with medicine.
The release comes at a time where fellow 2020 candidates have pushed each other on transparency. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70, — a fellow 2020 septuagenarian — released a similar medical assessment last week. Former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, have yet to release their own health updates this cycle.
Dr. Stephen Sission of John Hopkins University saw Bloomberg in July 2019 and said in his statement, "Mr. Bloomberg is a 77-year-old man in outstanding health. There are no medical concerns, present or looming, that would prevent him from serving as President of the United States."
Sisson pointed out a few other things in his assessment of Bloomberg:
- Bloomberg had a coronary stent put in in 2000.
- He takes a blood thinner and medication to control his cholesterol.
- He’s had small skin cancers removed.
Trump campaign says impeachment has 'ignited a flame' under the Trump base
ARLINGTON, Va. — As the House Judiciary Committee debated the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Thursday morning, his senior campaign officials were across the river in Virginia arguing the nearly two and a half month long inquiry has motivated Republicans so fiercely that it “makes our job easier in some ways.”
Pointing to increases in recent fundraising and new volunteers, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale claimed that “pretty much every metric that we have” shows that the president’s base is so “frustrated” and “upset” that Democrats have “ignited a flame underneath” them with the election less than a year away.
“Any time he’s attacked, any time people try to lessen that he’s a legitimate president in any way, his voters fight back. And I think that that is a motivation,” Parscale told reporters at a 2020 briefing near their campaign headquarters in Rosslyn, Va.
That said, senior campaign officials conceded they certainly would rather not have the president impeached because they firmly believe he “did nothing wrong.” They pointed to recent campaign polling in congressional districts of vulnerable Democrats as evidence that more moderate politicians in swing districts who vote for impeachment may be voted out of office come November.
Parscale also said impeachment has helped the campaign fill up rallies easier and that interest is at an all-time high with some events garnering 80,000 to 100,000 signups for arenas that won’t accommodate more than 20,000 (at most). That level of interest, especially from potentially new voters, also helps the campaign suck up first-party data that will be critical to reaching additional voters for potential re-election.
Officials argued they are also seeing a trend in recent months from certain independent voters in battleground states who view impeachment unfavorably and see the House Democrats’ latest actions as overreach. The Trump campaign hopes to capitalize on this in at least 17 states they have identified over the next year.
“We’re really proud of where we are but we’re going to run every day like we’re behind in this race and we’re going to work very hard to try to take advantage of everything possible to get the president a chance to win re-election,” a senior aide said.
Booker campaign plans way forward without appearing at December debate
MANCHESTER, N.H. — On a campaign call with reporters Thursday morning, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign manager Addisu Demissie confirmed that while Booker will not appear on the December debate stage, the campaign still sees a path forward.
“We are not expecting to meet the four-poll threshold or being on the debate stage at this point,” said Demissie.
Demissie critically noted that there have only been four qualifying polls in the few weeks since the November debate, none of which were from one of the first four early states where the Booker campaign says it has focused its investment.
“We still see a path to victory in the Democratic nomination that does not include the December debate stage as a requirement,” he said.
In order to qualify for the December debate, candidates had to reach a polling threshold with 4 percent support in at least four national or early state polls, or 6 percent support in at least two early state polls. Booker did not meet either of those thresholds. The campaign did, however, says it did meet the donor threshold which requires candidates to raise money from at least 200,000 unique donors. Candidates have until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday to qualify.
The campaign had previously stated that not making the December debate stage would prompt reevaluation of the campaign's paths and resources. But Demissie cited the following as reasons for a way forward: a financial upswing in past couple of weeks, changes to the 2020 field, increased voter attention and strong ground organization. This is the first debate Booker will not appear at in the cycle.
Demissie took a dig at the two billionaires in the race for buying "name recognition and polling bumps." Philanthropist Tom Steyer qualified for the debate, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not. Bloomberg is not raising money from individual donors but registered at 5 percent in two national polls.
Instead of heading to California for the sixth Democratic debate on Dec. 19, Booker will campaign in Nevada next Wednesday before kicking off a bus tour in Iowa on debate day. The multi-day tour will be open to the press and on the record like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg's, former Vice President Joe Biden's and businessman Andrew Yang's bus tours.
The campaign announced it will also "soon be making a down payment” on a TV and digital ad buy in Iowa starting at half a million dollars to double down on its efforts in the Hawkeye state.
Booker's campaign said it has raised more than $3 million since the Nov. 20 debate, with Demissie indicating this is likely to be the candidate’s best fundraising quarter yet.
Asked if Booker would open fundraisers to the press and disclose bundlers, Demissie told a reporter, “Sure, yeah, wanna come this weekend?” adding the campaign has been working on disclosing its bundlers.
While the December debate will likely be the last Democratic debate before the impeachment trial in the Senate begins, the Booker campaign confirmed that Booker still plans to be in Washington D.C. for the trial and “will do his job no matter the consequences.”
Progressive climate group Sunrise Movement looks to topple three Democratic congressmen
WASHINGTON — The progressive climate group Sunrise Movement is endorsing a slate of insurgent candidates in Democratic primaries Wednesday, the group told NBC News.
The youth-led group, which has made a name for itself since launching in 2017 with confrontational tactics and vocal support for the Green New Deal, is backing three insurgents hoping to defeat entrenched Democratic congressmen, as well as supporting a congressional candidate in a battleground Texas district currently held by a Republican.
The group is throwing its support behind 26-year-old Robert Emmons Jr., who is challenging longtime Chicago Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush. A young former President Barack Obama, in his first political campaign, unsuccessfully challenged Rush in a primary in 2000.
And it's endorsing Morgan Harper, a former lawyer for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who is challenging Ohio Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty.
Meanwhile, the group is also hoping for success in a swing district that is expected to be targeted by both parties next year: Texas’ 10th Congressional District, currently held by GOP Rep. Michael McCaul. Sunrise is backing Mike Siegel, who ran an under-funded campaign in last year’s midterms and came within 5 percentage points of McCaul. Next year, though, Siegel is likely to face competition for his party’s nomination.
The group previously endorsed Jessica Cisneros, who is running against moderate Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas.
Sunrise, which has focused its activism on pushing Democrats to be more aggressive in confronting climate change, says its candidates will take action that it says establishment-backed ones won't.
“The scientists are telling us that 2020 is our last opportunity to elect climate leaders that will immediately enact bold, transformational action over the course of the next decade to save our planet. Meanwhile, establishment politicians of both parties are complacent,” said Evan Weber, Political Director of Sunrise Movement. “These insurgent campaigns are a clear indicator of the appetite for an entire new way of doing things.”
Andrew Yang criss-crosses Iowa in bus tour
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — Businessman Andrew Yang embarked on a five-day bus tour across Iowa on Tuesday. The tour, billed "A New Way Forward" started in Des Moines and will travel through Grinnell, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Ames, Waverly, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dubuque and Iowa City.
While on the bus tour, Yang will visit some of his new field offices in Grinnell and Dubuque, and attend events like “Bowling with Andrew Yang” in Davenport and playing basketball against IA-4 congressional candidate J.D. Scholten.
Yang is following the footsteps of other Democratic presidential contenders who went on bus tours to strengthen their foothold in Iowa like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden. California Sen. Kamala Harris also completed a bus tour of Iowa before suspending her presidential campaign.
Yang told reporters that he hopes this bus tour will allow him to not only meet Iowans but to have Iowans meet him and get to know him better.
“What I hope they learn from me is that I'm not a career politician so much as I am a citizen,” Yang said. “I'm a parent and a patriot who decided that we need to have a different approach to solving these problems and that the feedback mechanism between the people of Iowa and Washington, D.C. is broken.”
Yang kicked off the tour in Des Moines in front of the state capitol building in sub-freezing temperatures. Yang campaign staffers set up gas-powered heat lamps and handed out hand warmers to keep Yang supporters warm.
“This is the sort of passion and humanity that no amount of money can buy and there will be a couple other candidates who tried,” Yang said to the crowd. “But if you have money on one side and people on the other, I think people win every day of the week.”
On Tuesday, Yang appeared to qualify for the next Democratic primary debate on Dec. 19. As of now, Yang is the only person of color to qualify for the stage. Yang said he was proud, but not stressed, of being the only racial minority on stage.
“I don't feel undue discomfort, because I've been the lone person of color in any number of settings throughout my life and career, as is probably the case for many people of color who’ve been in certain environments,” Yang said. “So I'm proud, but I certainly don't feel any undue pressure.”
“And I think people will understand that I'm speaking from my own perspective,” Yang added. “I can't speak for every community of color. In a way, acknowledging that might be like one of the bigger responsibilities I might have.”
Yang's wife, Evelyn, will join him throughout the bus tour and his family will be hosting an event billed “An Honest Conversation About Autism” in Iowa city on Saturday. One of Yang’s sons is autistic.
Over the course of five days, Yang is hosting 14 events. When asked if campaigning has been taking a toll on him, Yang said that campaigning can be very difficult on both him and his family.
“It's been very hard on the family, and it's been hard on me personally,” Yang said. “My son, even for this trip he said to me, how long are you going away? And when I told him he was very sad and I hugged him.”
“And I told him a little while ago, daddy has a very big deadline," Yang added. “I told him the deadline is February 3rd, when voting starts here in Iowa.”
Joe Biden releases two immigration-focused plans
LAS VEGAS — Former Vice President Joe Biden released two new immigration-focused policy plans on Wednesday — the first highlighting and building upon the work he did in former President Barack Obama's administration to help curb migration from Central America, and the second proposing immediate ways to undo President Donald Trump’s policies.
Biden’s two plans come after the campaign has tried to increase its outreach to Hispanic communities in recent weeks, like launching "Todos Con Biden." However, the campaign has had to overcome activists protesting his role in standing alongside Obama-era policy to deport 3 million undocumented immigrants and pitching more moderate immigration policies than some of his opponents.
The two plans include a first 100 days component in which Biden will undo what senior campaign advisers describe as “horrific” and “cruel and senseless” policies enacted by President Trump like the separation of parents and children at the border. He would also end for-profit detention centers.
The immigration plan promises to reform the asylum system, surge humanitarian resources to the border, end Trump’s Muslim ban and review Temporary Protected Status for those who have fled a violent country. It would also end the Trump-declared “national emergency” being used to redirect federal dollars to build the border wall.
Biden also pledges to reinstate the DACA program, which would immediately protect and expand opportunities for DREAMers — or adults who migrated to the U.S. as young children. He will also search for “all legal options” to protect their parents, a move activists have previously blamed him and Obama for initially causing family separation. Last week on the campaign trail, Biden said he would look to revive the DAPA program even though it was struck down by the court.
However, it would require legislation to pave a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.
After the first 100 days, a Biden administration would spend his first year in office trying to tackle “four pillars”: legislative immigration reform, strengthen communities, steps to secure the border in a sensible manner and focus on the causes of migration in Central America.
Notably, Biden's plan breaks with some of his Democratic opponents who have called for restructuring if not abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Biden instead calls for increased training and oversight of ICE and Customs and Border Protection.
Biden often touts his ability to curb the swell of immigration from Central America after striking a deal between El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, also known as the Northern Triangle, by providing economic resources to strengthen their judicial systems and combat violence.
His new plan would redirect spending from the Department of Human Services budget, currently used on detaining asylum seekers, and commit $4 billion over four years on a Central American regional strategy.
Andrew Yang meets polling threshold for December debate in new poll
WASHINGTON – Businessman Andrew Yang appears to have qualified to participate in the December Democratic debate after reaching 4 percent support in a newly-released Quinnipiac University national poll.
His campaign says it has already met the threshold for fundraising for unique donors also necessary for the DNC's criteria for participation in the debate. The final slate of participants won't be official until the Democratic National Committee certifies who has qualified.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is still waiting for one more poll to put her on the debate stage, but only garnered 2 percent in the Quinnipiac poll.
Gabbard tweeted on Monday that she wouldn’t participate in the December debate regardless of whether she qualifies.
To participate in the Dec. 19 debate, candidates need to raise money from at least 200,000 unique donors and either hit 4 percent in four national sanctioned polls, or 6 percent in two early-state sanctioned polls. Candidates have until Dec. 12 to reach these thresholds.
As of now six candidates have met the donation and polling thresholds in addition to Yang: former Vice President Joe Biden, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and California businessman and philanthropist Tom Steyer.
In the new Quinnipiac poll, Biden and Sanders both increased their support since Quinnipiac’s last national poll in November. Biden sits at 29 percent support at the front of the pack, with Sanders in second place at 17 percent. Warren stayed within a similar range, polling at 15 percent – she was at 14 percent in November’s poll. Buttigieg, however, suffered a steep drop. In November the mayor polled at 16 percent, while now he is at 9 percent support.
In Pennsylvania, Trump supporters fired up ahead of campaign rally
HERSHEY, Penn. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's rally Tuesday night, supporters weigh in on the latest impeachment news:
Top 2020 candidates release housing affordability plans
WASHINGTON — Health care, income inequality and defeating President Donald Trump have dominated the 2020 Democratic primary. But affordable housing has also become a top issue for the campaigns and the top-polling candidates have all addressed the issue on the campaign trail and the debate stage.
Here’s what some of the major Democratic candidates have proposed on affordable housing — including increasing home ownership in African-American and Latino communities.
The centerpiece of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., plan is her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which she initially introduced last year. It proposes building more than 3 million new housing units for low- to middle-income families, providing assistance to “people hurt by federal housing policy failures through two targeted new programs,” and strengthening existing anti-discrimination laws. The plan also incorporates a strategy to combat rising rent prices.
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan is arguably the most ambitious. It calls for creating a protection bureau for housing — the National Fair Housing Agency — as well as investing $32 billion over the next five years to help end homelessness. A majority of that money will go to increasing homelessness assistance grants and providing funding to states and localities for homeless management and social services.
“He sees housing as a human right,” Josh Orton, Sanders’ national policy director and senior adviser, said.
South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg hasn't released his housing plan yet, but his strategy centers on the Community Homestead Act, which is meant to revitalize abandoned properties and convert them into homes for eligible candidates.
Buttigieg’s national press secretary, Chris Meagher, told NBC News that Buttigieg’s plan will focus on “making housing more affordable in general” and that this issue is definitely a “kitchen table topic.”
This past June at an event for Black Economic Alliance Forum, Buttigieg said, “Let's face the fact that segregation of our neighborhoods didn't just happen. As a matter of fact there are neighborhoods that were integrated 100 years ago that became segregated in the middle of the last century because of federal government policy.”
Current Democratic frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden has yet to issue a comprehensive affordable housing plan. But his campaign says one will be released in the coming weeks.
Statistics back the need for this issue to be a focus of the 2020 race. Homeownership has decline and there's a wide homeownership disparity among racial groups. And benefits often exclude low-income households and renters.
But experts aren’t optimistic that a change in administration will improve the affordable housing crisis.
“For a candidate to pretend they’re going to [change] is disingenuous,” says Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.
Rothstein told NBC News that affordable housing solutions have long been touted around Capitol Hill but none have been implemented. He doubts a new president will take actionable steps.
December Democratic debate stage remains static with new poll
WASHINGTON — Businessman Andrew Yang and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have still not qualified for the December Democratic presidential debate after a new poll released just days before the qualifying deadline found them short of the debate's polling threshold.
Yang polled at 3 percent with Democratic voters and leaners in Monmouth University's new national poll, while Gabbard finished with less than 1 percent. Both candidates need one more poll of at least 4 percent in order to qualify for next week's contest.
To qualify for the Dec. 19 debate in California, candidates need to have raised money from at least 200,000 unique donors (and meet state-by-state requirements) as well as hit a polling threshold of either 4 percent in four sanctioned polls or 6 percent in two sanctioned, early-state polls.
Yang and Gabbard both say they've hit that donor threshold — which will be independently verified by the Democratic National Committee before they officially set the field. But both candidates are short one poll, and they have until Dec. 12 at 11:59 p.m. to qualify.
Gabbard has already signaled she won't participate in the debate whether she ends up qualifying or not.
The new Monmouth poll keeps the roster of likely debate participants static, and while billionaire Michael Bloomberg hit the threshold with 5 percent, he's not soliciting individual donations. That makes it impossible for him to participate in any debate unless the Democratic National Committee removes the unique-donor threshold for a future debate.
In that poll, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field with 26 percent, followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders at 21 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 17 percent and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8 percent.
Buttigieg campaign opens fundraisers to reporters, will release names of McKinsey clients
DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg’s campaign announced Monday that it will now open its fundraisers to the press and release a list of his campaign bundlers. A short while later, McKinsey and Company said in a statement to NBC News that it will allow the South Bend, Indiana, mayor to release the names of his clients from his time working at the worldwide consulting firm.
The announcements came after days of heightened scrutiny over Buttigieg’s closed door fundraisers and a nondisclosure agreement that has prevented him from naming which clients he worked for while at McKinsey from 2007-2010.
In a statement, campaign manager Mike Schmuhl wrote, “In a continued commitment to transparency, we are announcing today that our campaign will open fundraisers to reporters, and will release the names of people raising money for our campaign.”
Shortly after that, McKinsey and Co. responded to an NBC News request stating that the firm would allow Buttigieg to disclose who his clients were during his time at the firm. Buttigieg has been publicly calling on the company to release him from the NDA over the last several days.
A spokesman for the firm wrote in a statement, “After receiving permission from the relevant clients, we have informed Mayor Buttigieg that he may disclose the identity of the clients he served while at McKinsey from 2007 to 2010.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Buttigieg have spent the past few days jostling over the transparency of each other’s campaigns. Buttigieg has called on Warren to release tax returns from her time in the private sector and Warren challenged Buttigieg to open his fundraisers and disclose his McKinsey clients.
Sunday night, the Warren campaign released a case-by-case breakdown of how the senator was paid for her past legal work.
Schmuhl says Buttigieg’s fundraiser will be open to the press starting Wednesday and a list of the people who fundraise on his behalf will be released within the week. As for the list of his McKinsey clients, Buttigieg’s senior communications adviser Lis Smith tweeted that the campaign will “be releasing the list soon.”
Bloomberg is spending big on Facebook ads too
WASHINGTON — There's been a whole lot of coverage of billionaire Michael Bloomberg's massive television spending (almost $59 million so far) for his presidential campaign.
But he's also outpacing the field on Facebook too.
From Nov. 24 through Dec. 5, Bloomberg's campaign has spent $1.97 million on Facebook, according to the platform's ad tracking website.
That's more than fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, who's spent $1.3 million over that same period; Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's spent about $400,000; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who's spent $382,000; and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who's spent $176,000.
President Trump's campaign has spent $667,000 over that period.
Recent Bloomberg ads include a big push promoting open field organizer jobs, pushing short biographical spots, touting his commitment to climate change, and re-upping clips of his initial campaign ads.
Elizabeth Warren releases detailed breakdown of income from legal work
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a case-by-case breakdown of how much she was paid for her past legal work Sunday night, totaling just under $2 million over more than 30 years and capping off a days-long back-and-forth over transparency with 2020 rival, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The Warren campaign broke down the fifty-plus cases by Warren’s role on them, with her ranging from acting as counsel, to working as a mediator. Many of the cases for which she wrote amicus briefs, for instance, were done pro bono.
While the Buttigieg team has been calling on Warren to release her tax returns for this period of time but Warren’s campaign countered Sunday that tax returns wouldn’t get to the income question that Buttigieg’s camp is seeking — those returns don’t itemize the sources of income, for instance. Warren’s team adds that about half of this information was available in public records, but they worked to include more beyond that. Most cases are accounted for in here.
“Any candidate who refuses to provide basic details about his or her own record and refuses to allow voters or the press to understand who is buying access to their time and what they are getting in return will be seen by voters as part of the same business-as-usual politics that voters have consistently rejected,” Warren Communications Director Kristen Orthman said in a statement.
Biden's campaign touts success of 'No Malarkey' Iowa bus tour
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Joe Biden's campaign is touting its successes from the former vice president's “No Malarkey” bus tour through Iowa, saying it helped to solidify support in this key early state where he has seen his poll numbers slip in recent months.
In a congratulatory email obtained by NBC News, Deputy Campaign Manager Pete Kavanaugh told staff that Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden met with more than 3,300 caucus-goers over 19 stops throughout the state. Biden held several meet and greets with voters on the week-long trip, a recently new campaign strategy they believe leverages his strength in one-on-one interactions with voters.
“In a state that prizes — and rewards — the personal interactions that come with retail politics, there’s simply no one better at it than Joe Biden and this week we saw why,” Kavanaugh writes.
Looking beyond the campaign trail, the campaign also noted that their digital video showing world leaders laughing at President Donald Trump during the NATO meeting became the campaign’s most watched social media video with 12 million views across platforms.
Citing growing enthusiasm, Kavanaugh adds that the campaign is confident that Biden is “uniquely positioned to compete — and meet the delegate thresholds — in all 1,678 precincts across the state."
Iowans NBC News spoke with over the past week were genuinely pleased to see Biden visit mid-sized and rural towns throughout the state that he had not previously visited. However, it’s remains unclear if Biden’s visit will help convince Iowans to support him over the current frontrunner in the Hawkeye State, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Kathleen Delate, an agriculture professor at Iowa State University thanked Biden for making the trip to Ames, Iowa, but suggested that his arrival could be a little too late now that Buttigieg is the “shiny new thing” drawing attention because he has stumped in Iowa more often than Biden.
Biden denied her premise that he has not spent much time in Iowa, saying that he has already traveled over 10,000 miles throughout his 15trips in the state. He said he’ll make up for lost time for jumping into the race later than most candidates, emphasizing his deep belief that winning the state is a recognition of “democracy beginning in Iowa.”
Kavanaugh told staff that there’s still a lot of ground to cover in Iowa, predicting that the race will come down to the final days leading to the February 3rd caucuses.
“There are 58 short days until February 3rd, and a lot of work to do. Let’s go win this thing."
Bennet doubles down on pitch for moderates in New Hampshire
CONCORD, N.H. — A new strategy memo from Sen. Michael Bennet’s, D-Colo., presidential campaign to supporters and donors spells out how his campaign will place a greater emphasis on New Hampshire leading up to the primary in February where the race remains fluid and independent or unaffiliated voters make up the biggest part of the electorate.
The memo, exclusively obtained by NBC News, highlights Bennet’s push for a moderate message in a field crowded with progressive proposals.
“The ideological candidates will likely wash out — as they historically tend to do — when voters truly consider which candidate can realistically win in a general election,” the memo says.
“Voters continue to struggle to find a standard-bearer who inspires confidence in their ability to win against Trump and lead the country forward,” the memo adds. “Will the always-sensible voters of Iowa and New Hampshire, with electability front of mind, nominate an electorally untested small town mayor; a senator from a coastal blue state who puts ideology over progress; or a past generation of leadership?”
“I don't think the democrats are going to beat Donald Trump with a bunch of empty promises of free stuff,” Bennet told NBC News after an event in Concord, NH earlier today, singling out Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. as fitting into that criticism.
Despite currently polling in low single digits in the state, Bennet insists that his positions and what he presents as a candidate will ultimately impress New Hampshire voters. Earlier today, Bennet launched a digital ad to announce that he would be holding 50 New Hampshire town halls in the 10 weeks leading up to the primary as he kicked off a five-day swing in the state — an ambitious schedule that could be modified if Bennet has to attend impeachment hearings in January, his campaign said.
Multiple noteworthy New Hampshire political figures told NBC News that they like Bennet, and his more moderate positions compared to some of the other Democratic candidates, but aren’t quite willing or able to throw their support behind him due to skepticism of his ability to beat out the current four-way split of frontrunners in the state.
“We, of course, recognize our current standing in the race,” the memo adds, “though we are within the margin of error of many candidates who are better known — and, in recent weeks, polls have shown us tied or ahead of half the candidates who were on the recent debate stage. “
“I think there's a lot of skepticism among people in New Hampshire about whether or not the four front runners could actually beat Donald Trump,” Bennet said. “And that's good for me because I think I can beat Donald Trump."
Bennet is not the only candidate looking at New Hampshire as an opportunity to break through. In recent weeks, businessman Andrew Yang has expanded his New Hampshire operation to 30 staffers and eight offices in the state, a 9th opening later this month. Similarly, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is in the midst of a two-week swing through the Granite State, even renting houses to accommodate her and her team during the trip.
“Iowa remains important to our effort,” the memo said. “We believe our support in Iowa will shift significantly only after Bennet’s position is elevated nationally, so we are focusing our resources accordingly.”
The memo details tangibly how Bennet plans to woo Granite States leading up to voting day, by undertaking aggressive digital and mail programs that target “soft Democrats and undeclared voters” who participate in Democratic primaries to invite them to town halls and further introduce them to Bennet as a candidate.
“My objective is to make sure that I've stayed here until people in New Hampshire started making up their minds and I think that's only beginning right now in New Hampshire,” Bennet said. “I'm just going to keep pounding the truth into this campaign. That's what we have to do.”
Independent Alaska Senate candidate looks to beat the odds
WASHINGTON — Al Gross is a political neophyte. By trade, he’s a fisherman and orthopedic surgeon who says he once killed a grizzly bear that was sneaking up on him.
Now, he’s trying to take down even bigger game, looking to oust Alaska incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2020, and doing so as an independent. If Gross succeeds, he'll be the fourth senator to be first elected as an independent.
Since 1913, only 17 senators served while not a member of one of the two major parties. Of those, only 8 were technically "independents." The others have served as members of minor parties — Progressive, Farmer-Labor and Conservative — or have loosely aligned with a major party, styling themselves "Independent Democrats". For example, Washington's Miles Poindexter and Wisconsin’s Robert La Follette, Jr. they both left the both left the Republican Party to joined the more liberal splinter group, the progressives. Eventually both men rejoined the Republican Party.
Most U.S. senators who have been elected and served as independents were first elected within the two-party structure, but later left their parties over ideological disagreements.
Take Nebraska’s George Norrisand Oregon’s Wayne Morse. They were both elected as Republicans but were far more left-leaning than their colleagues. Norris served five terms as a Republican in the House and then another four terms as a Republican in the Senate. But he supported President Franklin Delano Rooselvelt's New Deal and won his final term in 1936 as an independent.
Morse, elected in 1944, often clashed with his party on labor issues and disaffiliated in 1952. For two years he served as an independent but was left without a side in the Senate to sit on, so he once put a folding chair in the chamber's center aisle. In 1955 he became a Democrat and served for another two terms.
Perhaps the most notable recent example of a consequential Senate independent was Vermont Republican Jim Jeffords. After two terms in the Senate, he broke with Republicans in 2001 over the party's lack of support for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. When he chose to be an independent who caucused with Democrats, he gave the Democrats a 51-49 majority in the chamber.
If Gross succeeds in his independent bid, he'll join the ranks of South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Maine Sen. Angus King who all won their first senate election as independents. However, Thurmond, a well-known segregationist who had previously ran for president as an independent, won his first senate campaign by waging a write-in campaign in protest of Democratic state officials who didn't hold a primary in a special election. He promised to caucus with Democrats if elected. He later served as both a Democrat and then a Republican.
Gross' trajectory could mirror Sanders' in his first Senate win in 2006. Sanders won but declined the Democratic nomination, so he only had to run against the Republican candidate. Gross has already won the endorsement of the Alaska Democratic Party and the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
While Gross out-raised Sullivan in the last quarter, he faces an uphill climb in the conservative state. But, if another independent senator can join the Senate's ranks, Alaska may be the place to do it. The state has an unusually high tolerance for unorthodox political arrangements. Alaskans elected an independent governor in 2014, and the state’s lower house is currently controlled by a bipartisan coalition and an independent speaker.
In 2010 the state was the site of only the third successful write-in Senate campaign in history, when Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski eked out a victory in the three-person general election with less than 40 percent of the vote. Six years later, she won another term with under 45 percent in an election that saw four candidates with double-digit vote counts.
If there’s anywhere Al Gross can make history, it might just be there.
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.
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.
"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.
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:
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.
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.
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.