Meet the Press Blog: Latest news, analysis and data driving the political discussion

Smart political reporting and analysis, including data points, interesting national trends, short updates and more from the NBC News political unit.
Image: The Meet The Press Live Blog Illustration
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE

The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Jill Biden: Joe has 'a plan,' unlike President Trump

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Second Lady Jill Biden, one of the many surrogates hitting the trail this week for Joe Biden's presidential campaign, drew a sharp comparison between her husband's leadership style and that exhibited by President Donald Trump in an exclusive interview with NBC News on Thursday.   

“I have to say his leadership style is so much different than Donald Trump's,” Jill Biden said, touting her husband as “thoughtful."

"He has a strategy. He has a plan. He thinks things through," she said. "That's the one thing that this president does not do. He makes these snap decisions and then he tweets them out. And that's what people are concerned about.”

Jill Biden recounted a recent encounter she had with the the wife of a military service member stationed in Iraq.  

“She was telling me how her husband was on the base that the missiles went into, and she said how frightening it was and how much damage there was, and she did not talk to her husband for hours and she didn't know whether he was dead or alive.”

Biden said that her own experience of having family members serving in a war zone allows her to connect more personally with others who share similar backgrounds or have concerns.

“We have to remember the stress that our military families are under, and we have to commit to an act of kindness and reach out to our military families because you know they don't know where their loved ones or when they'll next see them or talk to them,” she said. “And as a military family ourselves, I know what it feels like to have a son who's deployed, and how frightening that is.

The interview took place at a phone bank where Jill Biden was reaching out to New Hampshire voters and she spoke to being out on the trail as a surrogate for her husband and her thoughts of its effectiveness for campaigning in his absence.

“I hope it helps because this is hard work,” Biden said. “I've been traveling all over New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, you know the first four states and I try to make the case for why Joe would be the best president. And, you know, what a strong leader he is and I talked to them about his experience and his resilience. And then if voters want to ask me questions if there's something that's close to their heart that they care about, I answer their question. So I'm hoping it makes a difference and so I've been out there every day and hoping that Joe becomes our next president."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Joe Biden

WASHINGTON – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, giving Biden a boost in the key Super Tuesday state of California. 

Garcetti, who had considered running for president in 2020 but decided against joining against the crowded field, said in a statement that Biden will “bring our nation and world together during these most divided and dangerous times.”

Biden and Garcetti have forged a close relationship since the mayor first took office in 2013. Biden wrote in his 2017 book that Garcetti was among those who encouraged him to run for president in 2016. While in this cycle Garcetti stayed on the sidelines as other California hopefuls as well as friends, like former Oxford classmate New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, joined the fray, he has hosted several of the candidates in Los Angeles.  

Biden joined Garcetti for tacos in California during the first weeks of his campaign, and he praised Garcetti as “one of the best mayors in the country” and “one of the most qualified people” to serve in any office.

“When he decided not to run I called him. And I said I really have mixed emotions about this,” Biden said. “He is qualified to be mayor, to be president, to be a senator, or anything that he decides. He’s total qualified.”

Garcetti told NBC News in 2018 that Biden had encouraged him to consider a 2020 run even as he was doing the same. 

Biden and Garcetti will appear together at an event in Los Angeles on Friday. Biden has been touting a growing list of endorsements as he pitches himself to Democrats as the most electable candidate to win a general election against President Trump. 

Pete Buttigieg picks up first Congressional Black Caucus endorsement

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg landed his first endorsement of his presidential campaign from a member of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday when Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown, announced his support for Buttigieg. 

Buttigieg has faced mounting concerns about his ability to build a diverse coalition of support, but Brown pointed to Buttigieg's experience in South Bend as proof that he can reach voters from all communities and backgrounds.

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

“He knows the ins and outs of South Bend,” Brown told NBC News. “That only happens when you immerse yourself in your city, when you understand the people, the neighborhoods, the communities, the aspirations the challenges of your of your city.”

Brown joined Buttigieg on the campaign trail in Iowa last month where Buttigieg was confronted by a young black man about his record among African American’s in South Bend. Brown told NBC News he was impressed by the candor Buttigieg offered in his response to the young man.

“He didn't necessarily get it right, but yet it's an ongoing effort, working with a coalition of people in the community to get it right," Brown said.

And on Thursday morning, Brown appeared on MSNBC and said that he expects Buttigieg's support in the black community to "increase dramatically." 

"As Pete becomes more familiar in the African American community, just as he has had and he has done in other communities, I believe that listening to his message about empowering people, investments in education, very purposeful, targeted investments in health care particularly considering the racial disparities in health care in our country you’re going to see support increase dramatically for Pete Buttigieg," Brown said. 

Brown, a veteran of the Iraq war, also pointed to Buttigieg's foreign policy positions and military experience as critical to his decision to endorse as tensions escalated in the Middle East this week

“As we fight for the future of the soul of our country here at home, we also remain entangled in endless wars abroad and the threats to American lives and interests around the world have increased,” Brown said in a statement. “After serving three decades in the Army and Army Reserve and now as Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m acutely aware that the top priority for the President should be the security and safety of our nation, which is why my choice for president is Mayor Pete Buttigieg.”

Brown will serve as a national co-chair for the Buttigieg campaign, hitting the trail over the next few weeks as the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary get underway. 

“I don't just put my name on a list,” Brown told NBC News. “I will be a surrogate for the campaign and I will travel to those communities where the campaign believes and I believe I can add the greatest value.”

This is Buttigieg’s fourth congressional endorsement following Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y. 

New Monmouth poll leaves Yang, Steyer and Booker on outside looking in for January debate

WASHINGTON — None of the Democratic presidential hopefuls currently on the bubble for next week's debate made any strides towards qualifying for the event with the new results of Monmouth University's New Hampshire primary poll, as the top four candidates remain in a logjam at the top. 

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden topped the poll with 20 percent and 19 percent respectively of likely New Hampshire primary voters. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., were closed behind with 18 percent and 15 percent respectively. 

Democratic presidential hopefuls participate of the sixth Democratic primary debate co-hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images

Then there's a significant gap between the top four and the rest of the field. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., finished with 6 percent; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and philanthropist Tom Steyer finished with 4 percent each; businessman Andrew Yang finished with 3 percent; Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet finished with 2 percent; and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker finished with 1 percent. 

The poll shows Buttigieg and Sanders both gaining steam in overall support —Buttigieg's share went up 10 points from Monmouth's last New Hampshire poll in September, while Sanders' rose 6 points. By contrast, Warren's share dropped 12 points from that September poll. 

The new results found Sanders with the highest favorable rating at 69 percent, followed by Warren's 64 percent, as well as Biden and Buttigieg both tied at 62 percent.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's 32 percent unfavorable score was higher than all other Democrats tested, followed by Biden's 29 percent, Warren's 27 percent and Steyer's 26 percent. 

The top five candidates in the poll — Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren — have all qualified for next week's Democratic presidential debate in Iowa. But the rest of the field fell short of the mark needed to move closer to securing a spot on the stage. 

Candidates need to raise money from at least 225,000 unique donors and hit a poll threshold of either 4 polls of 5 percent or two early-state polls of 7 percent in order to qualify. 

Steyer still needs two polls of at least 5 percent to qualify; Yang needs either three of at least five percent or two early-state polls at 7 percent; while Booker hasn't hit the mark in any poll.

All three have hit the donation requirement, according to their campaigns. 

While Steyer and Yang both appeared on last month's debate stage, Booker didn't qualify. 

Monmouth polled 404 likely voters between Jan. 3 and Jan. 7, and the poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed by youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement

WASHINGTON — Sunrise Movement, a political action organization of youth climate change activists, has endorsed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. 

Announcing the endorsement in a video on Twitter, the group pointed to a series of natural disasters to argue that Sanders is the best candidate to immediately address a climate crisis. 

"We are seeing that the climate crisis isn't 30 or 40 or 50 years in the future, it is right now. We need a president in office who understands the immediate threat of that crisis, and Bernie Sanders is that guy," Varshini Prakash, a co-founder and the executive director of the group, said in the video. 

"We're endorsing Bernie Sanders for president because he has proven again and again and again that he understands this issue. He understands its scope, he understands the severity, he understands that it's a social-justice issue, that it's about racial and economic justice, that it's about the fight of our lives." 

The organization, which boasts 10,000 members and more than 300 chapters, voted for Sanders overwhelmingly over Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Climate change is one of the pillars of Sanders’ campaign. The senator spends time discussing what he calls “an existential crisis” during nearly every campaign stop, asking crowds to think about images they’ve seen of Australia wildfires, and recent flooding in Venice, Italy.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Chicago on March 3, 2019.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

While the nod isn't necessarily surprising, it's a boost to Sanders' already-energized young base of support. 

Sunrise Movement activists often attend Sanders campaign events, and the senator has repeatedly singled them out when he saw their t-shirts, to commend them for their work.

In December, Sunrise Movement released a scorecard ranking the top presidential candidate’s plans to tackle climate change, in which Sanders received top marks with 183 out of 200 possible points.

The organization will be at an event with Sanders and surrogates Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif., on Jan. 12 in Iowa City, Iowa to formally announce the endorsement.

Here's where the top Democratic candidates are spending on the early-state airwaves

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, we showed you how former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Tom Steyer have spent more than $200 million combined on television and radio advertising. 

But that's far from the whole story.

Bloomberg isn't even competing in the early states, and while Steyer has spent more than $50 million in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina alone, he's not polling in the upper echelon of candidates in any of those states. 

Taking stock of the ad spending in the early states tells an interesting story: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are spending virtually all of their ad budget in Iowa; former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders are turning their deep pockets into huge ad budgets; and none of the top candidates are really spending on ads in Nevada yet. 

Here's a look at what the candidates expected to be on next week's debate stage are spending on television and radio ads in early states (Data through Jan. 8, 2020 courtesy of Advertising Analytics). 

Former Vice President Joe Biden 

  • Iowa: $2.7 million
  • New Hampshire: $5,429
  • Nevada: $1,329 
  • South Carolina: $15,000

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg

  • Iowa: $7.6 million
  • New Hampshire: $1.4 million
  • Nevada: $71,000
  • South Carolina: $941,000

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar 

  • Iowa: $1.9 million
  • New Hampshire: $665,000
  • Nevada: $0
  • South Carolina: $0

Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders

  • Iowa: $6.7 million
  • New Hampshire: $3.5 million
  • Nevada: $145,000
  • South Carolina: $1,640

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

  • Iowa: $3.4 million
  • New Hampshire: $0
  • Nevada: $0
  • South Carolina: $0

Tom Perez: January Democratic debate could be moved for impeachment trial

WASHINGTON — Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said that next week's Democratic debate could be postponed if the Senate is in the midst its impeachment trial of President Trump that day. 

In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, Perez said that "Democrats and our senators can walk and chew gum. Obviously, if there’s a trial on the 14th, then we’ll move the debate. If there’s not, then we’re gonna have the debate, and at the moment, all systems are go, and so we’re gonna move forward."

The Democratic debate is set to be held on Tuesday, Jan. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa ahead of the state's caucus. Only five candidates have qualified for the debate so far, and three of those candidates will be participating in the Senate's impeachment trial: Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg have also qualified to appear at Tuesday's debate. 

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.

Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg addresses a crowd of community members and elected officials at the Metropolitan Room on Jan. 3, 2020 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.Melissa Gerrits / Getty Images

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.

Democratic presidential candidate, philanthropist Tom Steyer speaks at the Liberty and Justice Celebration at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa on Nov. 1, 2019.Scott Olson / Getty Images

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.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar boards her campaign bus after a stop in Humboldt, Iowa, on Dec. 27, 2019.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

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.