The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Biden: Trump is bringing America "dangerously close" to war
Speaking at times directly to the president himself, former Vice President Joe Biden said President Donald Trump has a constitutional obligation to work with Congress and communicate to the American people his strategy for confronting Iran, while faulting him for putting the U.S. on the brink of war.
Biden, in a foreign policy address that was hastily added to his schedule on a trip to New York, explicitly sought to demonstrate the kind of presidential leadership that he said Trump was failing to offer at a moment of significant peril for the nation.
"A president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one,” he said. “A president who says he wants out of the region sends more than 18,000 additional troops to deal with a crisis of his own making. And an administration that claims its actions have made Americans safer in the same breath urges them to leave Iraq because of increased danger.”
Biden said he had no illusions about the threat Iran posed to the region and to the world. But he said there was “a smart way to counter them and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.”
Biden focused his remarks squarely on Trump as his campaign has sought to use the escalating confrontation with Iran to underscore the former vice president’s decades of experience in foreign policy. There was no acknowledgment of or response to renewed criticism from some of his Democratic rivals of his own record, particularly his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq.
"Donald Trump's short-sighted America-first dogmatism has come home to roost,” he said, as the prospect of the U.S. being bogged down by another war would only further enable China and Russia to expand their “spheres of influence.”
Beyond Trump’s specific actions, Biden was strongly critical of what he characterized as an anti-democratic approach to the presidency. At one point he referred directly to him about what he said were the obligations of his job, “Mr. President — not ‘Dear Leader’ or ‘Supreme Leader,'" Biden said.
"The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience," he added.
Sanders' dig at Biden over Iraq, trade evokes his 2016 criticism of Clinton
WASHINGTON — Engaged in a familiar dogfight atop the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday lobbed attacks at former Vice President Joe Biden almost identical to ones he used against his chief 2016 rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Joe Biden voted and helped lead the effort for the war in Iraq, the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said Monday night on CNN.
“Joe Biden voted for the disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China, which cost us millions of jobs," he added, before asking whether those votes would play well in Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, three states Clinton lost in 2016.
The jabs on the Iraq war vote and NAFTA echo lines he used against Clinton in the heat of the 2016 primary.
“Senator Clinton heard the same evidence I did. She voted for that disastrous war, the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of America,” Sanders said at a rally in Brooklyn in April 2016.
“Secretary Clinton and I disagree on trade policy. She supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement from NAFTA to permanent normal trade relations to China, trade agreements that has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs.”
In his recent CNN interview, Sanders also cast doubt that Biden’s record would be able to energize Democrats to defeat President Donald Trump in November.
“If we're going to beat Trump, we need turnout,” Sanders said. “And to get turnout, you need energy and excitement. And I don't think that that kind of record is going to bring forth the energy we need to defeat Trump.”
Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer have spent over $200 million combined on TV, radio advertising
WASHINGTON — If you think you’ve seen hundreds of TV ads by presidential candidates former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Tom Steyer this presidential cycle, you probably have.
The two Democrats have spent more than $200 million combined over the television and radio airwaves, according to ad-spending data from Advertising Analytics. Bloomberg's dished out $142 million on ads as of Jan. 7, and Steyer kicked in an additional $67 million.
Steyer’s ad spending has been concentrated in early nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire, while Bloomberg has focused on the states and media markets that come after those February contests.
The gap between those two candidates and the rest of the field is enormous, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a total of $10 million nationally as of Tuesday — followed by businessman Andrew Yang at $6.6 million, President Trump at $5.7 million, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at $3.3 million and former Vice President Joe Biden at $2.6 million.
Total TV and radio ad spending (as of Jan. 7)
- Bloomberg: $142 million
- Steyer: $67 million
- Sanders: $10 million
- Buttigieg: $10 million
- Yang: $6.6 million
- Trump: $5.7 million
- Warren: $3.3 million
- Biden: $2.6 million
Iowa TV and radio ad spending (as of Jan. 7)
- Steyer: $11.7 million
- Buttigieg: $7.5 million
- Sanders: $6.5 million
- Yang: $4.6 million
- Warren: $3.2 million
- Biden: $2.6 million
- Klobuchar: $1.8 million
New Hampshire TV and radio ad spending (as of Jan. 7)
- Steyer: $13.9 million
- Sanders: $3.4 million
- Bloomberg: $2.6 million
- Yang: $1.9 million
- Buttigieg: $1.3 million
SOURCE: Advertising Analytics
Ahead of impeachment trial, Klobuchar campaign ramps up Iowa organizing events
DES MOINES, Iowa — With just 27 days to go until the caucuses here — and an impending impeachment trial that could keep the Democratic senators running for president in Washington for large chunks of time — the clock is ticking for campaign organizations in the Hawkeye State.
For her part, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is ramping up her team of field organizers who will join her Iowa and Minnesota surrogate campaigners this coming weekend at events spanning across all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
The campaign recently surpassed 100 paid staffers on the ground in Iowa — with more field organizers to come — putting Klobuchar on par with the likes of former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., when it comes to their ground games.
Klobuchar, who will not participate in the organizing push, has been able to ramp up her staffing of the heels of well-received performances in the last two debates and a bump in donations. As recently as October, her Iowa staff consisted of 40 people.
The list of endorsers joining Saturday's organizing events could offer a preview of surrogates Iowans will see on the trail while Klobuchar is tied up with the impeachment trial.
Klobuchar’s husband, John Bessler will attend events on her behalf, along with former U.S. Attorney and Iowa Democratic Party Chair Roxanne Conlin, Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha, in addition to various state senators and representatives from both Iowa and Minnesota.
The day will consist of a variety of phone banks, house parties, and canvas launches. Klobuchar’s team is calling the statewide organizing event, “The Full Klobuchar Day of Action,” a play on the term, the “Full Grassley” — the 99 county tour that Republican Senator Chuck Grassley completes every year (which Klobuchar also completed in December).
Other campaigns have made similar intense organizing efforts, as in-person contact remains the most successful way to recruit supporters and precinct captains. Biden just campaigned with Rep. Abby Finkenauer to draw new support and Buttigieg’s caucus director is currently on a two week trip across the state to coach soon to be precinct captains. Meanwhile, Sanders’ campaign plans to knock half a million doors in the month of January and Elizabeth Warren routinely has held “weekends of action” to reach caucus-goers.
Former N.H. GOP senator endorses Joe Biden
CONCORD, N.H. — Former New Hampshire GOP Sen. Gordon Humphrey announced his endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday as a part of a group of 100 New Hampshire independents who announced their support for Biden.
Humphrey spoke with NBC News about his decision to endorse, as well as how he believes the independent vote in New Hampshire is crucial to winning the state.
“I served in the U.S. Senate for 12 years with Joe Biden,” Humphrey told NBC News. “I know him well, I respect him. I trust him to restore calm and rationality to the White House in place of temper-tantrums and tweets.”
Speaking on his decision to endorse Biden over other candidates in the race, Humphrey pointed to his former colleague's experience and ability to work with people on either side of the political spectrum.
“There is no candidate in either party who can come close to Joe Biden's experience,” Humphrey said. "He knows the legislative process, he knows that it takes both Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation to implement policy, he knows that it's vital to build consensus, and you do that by showing respect towards your adversaries and bringing everyone together. Not this kind of baiting in which Trump engages fostering hate and distrust.”
Humphrey, who told NBC News he was a Republican all of his life “until the advent of Donald Trump,” fought against Trump during 2016 in the Republican primary process and even voted against him, endorsing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, which he says was a first for him.
“I just didn't want to have any part of a party that that is headed by Donald Trump,” Humphrey said. “So the day after the election, the next morning, I re-registered as an independent.”
When asked how he feels that Biden’s endorsement from independents in New Hampshire could help him appeal to more progressive voters, Humphrey said opposition to the president could unify voters.
“I think all of us who are opposed to Trump want to replace him,” Humphrey said. “And certainly we want to pick the strongest candidate, the candidate most likely to defeat Trump. That's not going to be easy. And far and away, in my opinion, far and away Joe Biden is the strongest candidate, and the polls I think reflect that across all the spectrum of ideologies.”
On what Biden needs to do between now and the New Hampshire primary to win the state, Humphrey says “spend as much time as he possibly can here, talk to as many people as he can.”
“Most of the Democratic candidates are appealing much too far to the left of center,” Humphrey added, “and I think Biden is hitting it just right.”
Deval Patrick and his wife discuss her cancer diagnosis in first television ad
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is launching his first television ad buy of his presidential campaign, arguing that despite his recent entry into the Democratic primary, it's "not too late."
In the 30-second ad, shot in Boston and Patrick's hometown Chicago, he and his wife, Diane, reflect how his plan to jump into the presidential race "a year ago" was put on hold because of Diane's cancer diagnosis.
"We fought through it, and I'm well. But now we're fighting for the future of our democracy, and I encouraged Deval to get back in it," Diane Patrick says in the ad.
Deval Patrick follows his wife by arguing he's faced long odds before.
“Some people say it’s too late for me to run for president. But growing up on the South Side of Chicago, people told me then what I could and couldn’t do. I’ve been an underdog my whole life, and I’ve never let that stop me," he says.
The campaign says the six-figure television and digital buy will run across all four early nominating states, with “significant investments” in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“No other candidate has the life or leadership experience that Deval does,” Campaign Manager Abe Rakov said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to share far and wide why Governor Patrick is the candidate with the record and message to defeat Trump and renew the American Dream.”
Patrick, who got into the race just before the New Hampshire filing deadline in November, spoke with reporters on Friday in Exeter, N.H. about his campaign's fundraising but did not release any specifics. He has until the end of the month to file a disclosure with the Federal Election Commission that covers his fundraising from October through December.
“We are raising to be competitive,” Patrick said. “We are never going to compete with you know, Mayor Bloomberg, but we don't need to. I don't think this is about buying elections. It's about earning votes. And the best investment we can make is my time which is why I am spending the time I have here in New Hampshire.”
What we know so far about the presidential candidates' Q4 numbers
WASHINGTON — With the books closed on 2019, there's still a lot we don't know about the presidential candidates' financials.
That's because candidates have until the end of the month to file their official reports with the Federal Election Commission.
But most of the candidates have already released some top-line numbers, giving us the ability to sketch out how much money each campaign raised in 2019 (combining the estimated fourth-quarter numbers released by each campaign with how much it raised over the first three quarters of the year).
- President Trump: Quarters 1-3 $97.8 million + estimated quarter 4 $46 million = $143.8 million (with at least $66.3 million in transfers from affiliated committees)
- Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders: Q1-3 $74.4m + estimated Q4 $34.5m = $108.9m (at least $12.7 million in transfers)
- Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Q1-3 $60.3m + estimated Q4 $21.2m = $81.5m (at least $10.4 million in transfers)
- Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Q1-3 $51.5m + estimated Q4 $24.7m = $76.2m
- Former Vice President Joe Biden: Q1-3 $37.8m + estimated Q4 $22.7m = $60.5m
- Businessman Andrew Yang: Q1-3 $14.5m + estimated Q4 16.5m = $31m
- Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Q1-3 $17.5m + estimated Q4 $11.4m = $28.9m (at least $3.6m in transfers)
- New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker: Q1-3 $18.5m + estimated Q4 $6.6m = $25.1m (at least $2.8m in transfers)
Julián Castro endorses Elizabeth Warren's presidential bid
Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro, who ended his own presidential campaign last week, has endorsed Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Castro announced the endorsement on Twitter with a video of the two candidates talking about their candidacies.
"I started my campaign off and we lived true to the idea that we want an America where everyone counts. It's the same vision that I see in you, in your campaign, in the America that you would help bring about," he says in the video as he sits across a kitchen island from Warren.
"Nobody is working harder than you are, not only in meeting people but listening to people."
Warren also thanked Castro in a tweet where she called him a "powerful voice for bold, progressive change."
Warren's campaign said Castro will campaign with the senator at a Tuesday evening rally in New York City.
Biden gets backing from trio of swing-district Democrats
DAVENPORT, Iowa — A trio of swing-district Democrats and military veterans are endorsing Joe Biden, arguing that his presence at the top of the ticket gives the party its best chance for victory.
Two of the three — Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Elaine Luria of Virginia — were first elected in the 2018 blue wave, taking back Republican-held seats. The third, Rep. Conor Lamb won a hard-fought special election victory in his Western Pennsylvania district in early 2018 and then unseated a GOP incumbent in the fall after court-ordered redistricting.
Their backing comes as Biden has increasingly pressed his case to voters that he presents the best chance of leading the party to victory up and down the ticket in November. Biden spent the weekend in Iowa campaigning with another freshman Democrat, Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who carried a Trump district in 2018.
“There are candidates that worry me in terms their ability to win Pennsylvania and their ability to win the support of working and middle class voters. I think Vice President Biden can,” Lamb said in an interview. “People know him and know he has a record of achievement. That doesn’t get swept aside easily.”
The Democrats’ all cited Biden’s foreign policy experience as another key factor in their endorsement, especially amid escalating tensions with Iran after the U.S. strike targeting Iranian Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Luria served in the Navy, Houlihan the Air Force and Lamb in the Marines before running for office.
Luria said foreign policy is always a major concern in her district, home to the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, a major point of departure for U.S. aircraft carriers, and NATO’s Joint Force Command.
“People here really pay close attention to that because that’s their husband, their wife, their neighbor, their child that’s in harm’s way,” Luria told NBC News. “We need someone like Joe Biden who can reset our position on the world stage, regain respect with our allies and step in on day one with the experience he has as vice president and go to work.”
"Congressional candidates in seats that allow Democrats to retain our majority in the House will not have to spend precious resources running away from the top of the ticket’s unpopular and unworkable Medicare for All plan," Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz wrote in a memo about the endorsements Sunday. "Local candidates who rely on Independent and some Republican votes to win will have a top of the ticket that represents strong, steady, stable leadership at home and abroad, strengthening the Democratic brand in the non-metropolitan regions of the country. That is why we are seeing vulnerable, frontline members increasingly supporting Joe Biden’s candidacy.”
Bernie Sanders dings Congress on abdicating war authority, pushes for legislation on military funding
DUBUQUE, IA — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., dinged Congress for abdicating its war power authority during a town hall in Iowa on Saturday.
"For too many years, Congress under Republican administrations and under Democratic administrations has abdicated its constitutional responsibility, it is time for Congress to take that responsibility back," Sanders said. "If Congress wants to go to war, and I will vote against that, but if Congress wants to go to war, let Congress have the guts to vote for war."
Sanders comments come on the heels of President Donald Trump authorizing an airstrike in Iraq that killed a top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on Wednesday. On Saturday, Sanders called Trump's actions a "dangerous escalation" that could lead to another war in the Middle East.
While in Iowa, the Democratic presidential candidate also pushed for Congress to vote on new legislation he plans to introduce with California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, which would block any funding for military action with Iran without Congressional approval.
"When I return to Washington next week," Sanders said, "I believe the first course of action is for the Congress to take immediate steps to restrain president Trump from plunging our nation into yet another endless war."
Biden says Trump administration unprepared for "risk" of Middle East escalation
DUBUQUE, Iowa — Joe Biden Friday accused President Trump of “an enormous escalation” of the threat of war in the Persian Gulf after he launched a surprise strike targeting a top Iranian commander, while pressing the case to Democrats that the next president must be someone who doesn’t need “on the job training.”
The former vice president, speaking in Iowa one month before the state’s leadoff caucuses, seized on a fresh foreign policy crisis to reinforce some of his principal critiques of Trump’s leadership and play up his decades of foreign policy experience.
“The threat to American lives and interests in the region and around the world are enormous. The risk of nuclear proliferation is real and the possibility that ISIS will regenerate in the region has increased, and the prospects of direct conflict with Iran is greater than it has ever been,” he said. “The question is do Donald Trump and his administration have a strategy for what comes next?”
Biden said no American mourns the loss of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Quds force, and that it was right to bring him to justice. But he contrasted the assassination of an official within a sovereign government with strikes against other top terrorist targets, saying Trump’s provocative action puts the U.S. potentially “on the brink of greater conflict with the Middle East.”
“Unfortunately, nothing we have seen from this administration over the past three years suggests that they are prepared to deal with the very real risk we now confront. And there's no doubt the risks are greater today because of the actions Donald Trump has taken, walking away from diplomacy, walking away from international agreements, relying on force,” he said.
Biden said Thursday’s strike was the latest in a string of “dubious” actions that have unnecessarily ratcheted up tensions in the region, including decision to unilaterally withdraw from the nuclear agreement struck by the Obama administration along with top Western allies.
The Trump administration “said the goal of maximum pressure was to deter regional aggression, negotiate a better nuclear deal. Thus far, they have badly failed on both accounts,” he said. “Now the administration has said the goal of killing Soleimani was to deter future attacks by Iran. But the action almost certainly will have the opposite impact.”
Biden was to have spent Friday touting the new endorsement of Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who joined him in person for the first time and will campaign with him through the weekend. But the situation in Iraq gave him a chance to underscore a key element of his closing pitch to voters — the gravity of the job for whomever replaces Trump.
The next president is going to inherit “a nation that is divided and a world in disarray. This is not a time for on the job training,” he said.