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New grant fund looks to power gender parity in elected office
WASHINGTON — Panorama Global, a nonprofit group, is sponsoring recruitment and training programs for women running for elected office across the country.
The Ascend Fund, announced on Tuesday, is the latest venture for Panorama Global to get involved in gender parity in elected offices. The group received its seed money from Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company Pivotal Ventures.
Chief executive officer and founder Gabrielle Fitzgerald told NBC News that the fund is one of their “biggest and most prominent” grants yet, and is actively looking to work with nonpartisan and nonprofit organizations that recruit and train women to run for office.
“There are barriers that exist that make it hard for women to run for office,” Fitzgerald said. “It requires you to be away from home, and oftentimes today, women are still the primary caregivers.”
Fitzgerald continued that aside from systematic barriers that preclude women from running, the lack of female candidates creates a pipeline problem for possible recruits.
“It’s not just training that women need to declare candidacy for office, it’s also encouragement,” Fitzgerald said.
Two groups have already received three-year grants: New American Leaders and Vote Run Lead. New American Leaders focuses on recruiting and training people of color, immigrants and refugees to run for state legislatures. While they work with both men and women, they will only use money from The Ascend Fund on programming for women.
“Our programs start at the point of entry, recruitment and training," founder and president of New American Leaders Sayu Bhojwani said.
According to Bhojwani, because of New American Leaders' designation as a 501(c)(3), the group cannot provide support once someone has formally entered a race.
Bhojwani clarified that the Ascend Fund and partners at Panorama Global “will not be involved in designing the programs” at New American Leaders, the partnership “is an opportunity to identify ongoing problems” in recruiting and training women for office.
Vote Run Lead works with women across the country and also specializes in recruiting and training women to run for state legislatures.
Vote Run Lead founder and CEO Erin Vilardi said that the Ascend Fund will act as an “accelerator” for programs the group had already been planning to enact.
“We are going as fast as we can to keep up with demand for women raising their hand [to run],” Vilardi said.
Vilardi continued that this grant will help push against assumptions that ventures supporting “women in politics is fully funded,” or that it’s “a demand problem.”
“Gender equity is really possible,” Vilardi said. “Really at this point, it’s about the resources.”
Vilardi said the additional funding will allow Vote Run Lead to work more to support women who have already won office, and not just help get them there.
According to Fitzgerald, because the groups being selected, and the fund money, are coming from nonpartisan actors, it allows the focus to be going state-by-state to achieve gender parity in state legislatures.
“Obviously different parties have different priorities and quotas for how they think about their recruitment,” Fitzgerald said. “But they don’t have an overall strategy for what we’re describing.”
Liz Cheney will not run for Senate
WASHINGTON — Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney announced Thursday that she would not run for the state's open U.S. Senate seat this year, arguing that she "can have the biggest impact for the people of Wyoming by remaining in leadership in the House of Representatives."
The specter of a Cheney bid to replace retiring Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wy., loomed large over the Wyoming Senate field, even though Cheney's House Republican colleague, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, jumped in only weeks after Enzi's decision.
Cheney repeatedly refused to rule out a bid in recent months, and was seen as a top candidate because of both her stature in the House, where she's the third-ranking Republican, as well as her lineage. Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, served 10 years as Wyoming's congressman and is one of the most famous political figures in the state.
She briefly challenged Enzi's re-election in the 2014 Senate Republican primary, but withdrew from that race pointing to health issues in her family.
Now, Lummis is the odds-on favorite to replace Enzi in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator in almost a half-century.
Two New Hampshire state reps switch their support to Amy Klobuchar
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar expanded her support base in the Granite State on Thursday when she picked up endorsements from two state representatives who previously supported Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker respectively.
State Rep. Michael Pedersen had announced his support for Warren in November and State Rep. Linn Opderbecke supported Booker before the New Jersey senator ended his presidential campaign earlier this week.
In an uncommon move of switching public endorsements, especially while both candidates are still in the race, Pedersen said in an interview with NBC News that the primary reason he's switching his support to Klobuchar is due to electability.
“I like both candidates a lot, and am friends with staff on both teams, however I think that Sen. Klobuchar is more electable across the country than Sen. Warren,” Pedersen said. “She has a proven track record of winning in Trump country. And Sen. Warren has a proven track record of winning in liberal northeast.”
Pedersen said that his support had been evolving for the last couple of weeks, but solidified behind Klobuchar after Tuesday night's Democratic debate.
“After the debate, I saw everybody pairing up — Sen. Warren and Sanders competition against one another, and then everyone else. I just think those two as a team, Sanders and Warren, they don’t appeal widely across the nation as Sen. Klobuchar.”
Pedersen said that he plans to knock on doors for Klobuchar in the remaining weeks until the New Hampshire primary.
Prior to Booker ending his presidential campaign, Pedersen also thought he was a strong candidate and noted that Booker's supporters may now turn to candidates like Klobuchar — a sentiment echoed by Opderbecke.
“Amy showed on the debate stage that she’s someone who tells the truth and has people’s backs,” Opderbecke said in a statement. “That is the leadership we need to take on Donald Trump. Amy will not only beat Trump, but also will secure victories up and down the ballot. I’m proud to support her campaign for president.”
In the last week, Klobuchar also picked up endorsements from N.H. state Rep. Jim Verschueren, former state Sen. Iris Estabrook and Deputy Speaker of the N.H. House Karen Ebel.
Elizabeth Warren earns endorsements from over 100 Latino leaders
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced more than 100 endorsements from Latina, Latino and Latinx community leaders on Thursday. The list include New York Assemblywoman Rep. Catalina Cruz, who was brought to the U.S. undocumented as a child, award-winning writer and poet Elizabeth Acevedo and Rosie Castro, the mother of Julián and Joaquin Castro — both of whom recently endorsed Warren.
The endorsers come from more than a dozen states, including Iowa, as well as influential Super Tuesday states like California and Texas.
“I am grateful for the support of this list of Latina, Latino and Latinx leaders who have made incomparable gains for their communities and continue to trailblaze for the good of everyone,” Warren said in a statement provided exclusively to NBC. “I am proud to stand with them in this fight for big, structural change.”
“These leaders make up the heart of our movement, and with their support, we can make big, structural change. That’s how we win in 2020 and beat Donald Trump,” said Latinx Outreach campaign's director Jonathan Jayes Green.
The endorsements come less than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses and as the conversation around the diversity of candidates running for president intensifies. This week’s debate in Iowa included only white candidates.
After former HUD Sec. Julián Castro, the only Latino candidate in the race ended his campaign, he quickly endorsed Warren and has become an active surrogate for her campaign.
Castro has long been complimentary of Warren's outreach efforts to minority communities.
“Senator Warren certainly has done a good job, I think, of reaching out to different communities during the course of this campaign. I’ve been very impressed with the work that she's done both in the African-American community and the Latino community," Castro said in an interview on MSNBC in November.
The duo's campaigning efforts have led to speculation that Warren might consider Castro as a candidate for vice president and that his support may help turnout among Latino voters — Latinos will be the largest non-white voting bloc in this election.
Castro has been campaigning extensively for Warren in early voting states like Iowa and Nevada.
Buttigieg brings selfie style ad campaign to Iowa ahead of the caucuses
MASON CITY, Iowa — With 18 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has his sights set on flipping counties that voted for both Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and he’s turning to his supporters to help get the job done.
Buttigieg is launching a new digital ad campaign called "River to River: Iowa for Pete,” but instead of hearing from the candidate, viewers will hear directly from voters in their own communities about why they support the former mayor of South Bend Indiana.
“Our campaign is committed to organizing everywhere — in coffee shops, at people’s doorsteps, and online,” Buttigieg’s Iowa Organizing Director Kevin Groh said in a statement. “These online ads will help us reach even more people with Pete’s message.”
The selfie video style ads will hit Facebook and YouTube on Thursday, specifically targeting two-dozen counties that flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016. Each ad will play in the specific county that the featured caucus goer is from.
For example, Allison Rasmussen, will tell neighbors in Bremer County that she’s caucusing for Buttigieg because of his support for public education. Johnson County caucus goers will hear from Donte, who backs Buttigieg because of his plan to tackle systemic racism. Those in Worth County, will meet Alvin Kobernusz, a corn producer who say’s Buttigieg will “go to work for Iowa farmers.”
The Buttigieg campaign has long emphasized this “relational organizing” model on the ground in Iowa. Instead of only reaching out to likely caucus-goers already on the voter rolls, the campaign encourages their supporters to tap into their personal networks in hopes of expanding the electorate and building more meaningful connections with those they’re hoping to win over. Now, the campaign is taking that model to a place where voters spend a lot of their time – the internet and social media.
As the caucus countdown continues additional ads will be released across the state. The 30-second spots are part of an ongoing seven-figure digital ad campaign in Iowa.
Buttigieg gets first N.H. congressional endorsement from Ann Kuster
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster will formally endorse Pete Buttigieg for president at a rally in Concord Friday, both Kuster’s office and Buttigieg’s campaign confirm to NBC News.
Kuster tweeted out her endorsement Wednesday evening, saying, “with our country so consumed by division, @PeteButtigieg is the leader who can finally turn the page on the Trump presidency and bring our nation together."
Kuster will be the first member of the New Hampshire congressional delegation to make an endorsement for the New Hampshire primary, which is just under a month away.
The congresswoman has participated in many campaign events with Buttigieg in New Hampshire, as well as for various other Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, Warren, Klobuchar, Booker, O’Rourke and more.
“From working to tackle the opioid epidemic and increasing access to health care to honoring our pledge to our veterans and their families when they return home, Rep. Kuster has spent her career delivering results for New Hampshire families,” Buttigieg said in a statement Thursday night in which his campaign also announced Kuster will serve as a national co-chair.
“At a time of so much dysfunction in Washington, Rep. Kuster has brought Americans together to improve the lives of her constituents. She represents the best of our politics and I’m honored to have her serve as our co-chair.”
Michael Bloomberg questioned on NDAs, stop-and-frisk apology on 'The View'
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Wednesday that he would not lift non-disclosure agreements signed by those who have left his companies, and reaffirmed his apology for his 'Stop-and-Frisk' policy while he was mayor, during an appearance on ABC's 'The View.'
A former employee from Bloomberg LP recently asked a judge in New York to invalidate nondisclosure agreements the company used as part of settlements for discrimination complaints against the company.
“We don't have anything to hide but we made legal agreements, which both sides wanted to keep certain things from coming out," Bloomberg said in response to a question about his company's NDAs. "They have a right to do that.”
“Remember, just because you signed a nondisclosure doesn't mean you can't talk about other things. You just can't talk about what was in that agreement where perhaps you don't disparage the other party or you don't want to retell a story, whatever it is," he continued.
Co-host Abby Huntsman also asked Bloomberg about accusations that he's made "lewd and sexist comments."
“Did I ever tell a bawdy joke? Yeah, sure I did,” Bloomberg continued. “Do I regret it? Yes, it's embarrassing, but, you know, that's the way I grew up.”
Bloomberg's appearance on the show followed the latest Democratic presidential debate, which he did not qualify for. While Bloomberg had met the polling threshold to be part of the debate, he is not accepting contributions to the campaign which made him ineligible to participate. On Wednesday, Bloomberg said that not being part of the debate does limit his exposure to voters.
"It's harder to get the message out if you're not in the debates," Bloomberg said. But he said that by self-funding his campaign he can be less corruptible than other candidates.
Bloomberg was also pushed on his apology for his mayoral stop-and-frisk policy, and was asked if his only apologized for the policy to help a presidential run.
"There were 650 murders a year in New York City, most of them were young minority men. And I said we just have to stop this. That’s where my heart is, that’s what I wanted to do," Bloomberg said of his reasoning to enforce the policy. "We had gone way overboard, and we stopped it and before I left office we cut 95 percent of it out. Then I apologized when enough people said to me you were wrong, and I thought about it and I wish I’d done it earlier."
Bloomberg also appeared on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" directly after the Democratic debate on Tuesday night.
Andrew Yang not worried about lack of conventional endorsements
WASHINGTON — Businessman Andrew Yang brushed aside his lack of endorsements from lawmakers during a Wednesday interview, arguing that conventional political figures are "just waiting for the water to get a little warmer" before jumping in.
"I’m talking to a lot of people who are political figures who are very excited about my candidacy and campaign, uh, they’re just waiting for the water to get a little warmer," he said during a Wednesday interview on MSNBC.
"The thing is, if you’re in D.C. and you’re literally friends with like some of the people that are in the race, it’s kind of hard to endorse Andrew Yang, but it’s coming."
Yang has won some high-profile celebrity endorsements in recent months — including comedian Dave Chappelle, billionaire Elon Musk and actress Teri Hatcher. But he's failed to attract support from any governor, senator or member of Congress.
While there hasn't been an overwhelming rush by lawmakers to one candidate, top Democrats have been fanning out backing their chosen presidential candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden leads the pack with the most endorsements from members of Congress.
But Yang has argued his lack of conventional political experience is an asset, and he told MSNBC that he's the best person to take over the White House because he's "focused on the real problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place."
"We have to stop acting like Donald Trump caused all the problems, he’s actually the symptom of a greater disease that we need to cure together as a party and as a country," Yang said.
Elizabeth Warren wants to cancel student debt — without Congress. Can she do that?
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a policy splash ahead of Tuesday night’s debate, announcing that she would cancel hundreds of billions of dollars of student debt as president — without approval from Congress.
In this case, it’s a new wrinkle on an old plan. Warren had already put out a proposal to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for individuals with incomes up to $250,000, financed by a proposed wealth tax on fortunes over $50 million.
“I will start to use existing laws on day one of my presidency to implement my student loan debt cancellation plan that offers relief to 42 million Americans,” Warren said in a letter announcing her plan.
The vast majority of student loans are issued by the federal government, and Warren cited experts at the Legal Service Center of Harvard Law School to argue the Higher Education Act grants the Department of Education the authority to modify or cancel that debt.
The concept of using executive power to cancel large swaths of debt gained a burst of attention in left-leaning policy circles last September when The American Prospect published a series of “Day One Agenda” items that academics argued a Democratic president could tackle even if Republicans managed to block legislation. Warren and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders told the publication they were open to the idea at the time, but this is the first formal commitment from any candidate to the approach.
Gregory Cespi, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who specializes in student debt policy, told NBC News that Warren’s plan was legally plausible even as he disagreed with her overall approach.
“Given how the Trump Administration has shown how ineffective Congress has become in challenging executive action, I think that Republican congressional opposition to her plan would be ineffective, and litigation to block these actions would grind slowly through the courts, with uncertain results,” he said. “Bottom line, I think President Warren could pull it off.”
While Warren’s call for mass debt cancellation via executive action is new within the field, she’s argued for forgiving some loans based on similar legal reasoning in the past, albeit on a smaller scale.
Alexis Goldstein, a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Americans for Financial Reform, noted that Warren joined other progressive Democrats in 2014 in urging the Department of Education to issue a blanket cancellation of debt for students who had gone to a defunct for-profit college. The Obama administration instead pursued an alternate approach that let students apply individually for relief, which the Trump administration then reversed.
“Now she’s taking it further and saying to use this authority to cancel debt for everyone,” Goldstein said.
Student debt, which has surged in recent years, has been a major issue in the Democratic race so far.
Sanders has proposed canceling all $1.6 trillion in outstanding loans. The rest of the field has called for more targeted relief programs and new reforms to student debt repayments rather than mass cancellation, with some rivals criticizing Warren and Sanders for providing too much aid to relatively well-off graduates.
Never Trumper group expands to take aim at vulnerable allies of the president
WASHINGTON — A small but growing group of Republican strategists and thought leaders is escalating efforts to deny President Donald Trump a second term, and is now even going after the president's allies in Congress.
The Lincoln Project, which debuted last month, was founded by several well-known “Never Trumpers” who became his fiercest and most vocal critics in the first years of the administration. Now, the group is gearing up for an 11-month fight against an incumbent who they argue presents a “clear and present danger to the Constitution and our Republic.”
The project released its first digital ad last week, questioning the president's support from the evangelical community by highlighting some of his more controversial public statements.
This week, the group expanded to target a vulnerable GOP Senator up for re-election this fall, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., releasing a digital ad that criticizes him for siding with Trump over his home state.
The group has plans to the give the same treatment to other GOP senators like Maine's Susan Collins and Martha McSally in Arizona. The group will continue to use digital ads for the time being, with plans to expand to other mediums dependent on fundraising.
“The Republican Party has flopped over and played dead. Donald Trump did not have the ability to take over the party by himself. This happened because Republicans in the Senate handed it over,” said Jennifer Horn, a Lincoln Project adviser and former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party.
“This is just the beginning,” Horn said, touting a significant response from voters so far, who have backed up their support with donations. “We have the receipts to prove it,” she said.
While President Trump continues to enjoy very strong support from the Republican Party, the Lincoln Project is also expanding, naming several new senior advisers Tuesday who will help amplify their message, including national security expert Tom Nichols.
“Defeating Donald Trump is not a partisan campaign issue,” Nichols said in a release announcing the additions. "It is a call to all Americans to defend our Constitution. That is why I am proud to be a part of the Lincoln Project in this critical effort.”
The undertaking is twofold: help voters oust Trump in November; and also hold those Republicans who have supported him along the way accountable at the ballot box.
The founding members include outspoken Trump detractor and lawyer George Conway, national political strategists like Steve Schmidt and John Weaver and Horn. Many say have abandoned the Republican party in the age of Trump, citing a “lack of integrity” and acknowledging their mission may “cost them” the traditional conservative establishment as it exists now.
Squaring policy discrepancies with Democrats are a concern, said Horn, but “that’s a fight for another day.”
“We have to put differences aside for this one election,” she said.
For its part, the Trump campaign remains unfazed by the effort.
“This is a pathetic little club of irrelevant and faux ‘Republicans,’ who are upset that they’ve lost all of their power and influence inside the Republican Party,” communications director Tim Murtaugh told NBC News. “When President Trump got elected on a promise to drain the swamp in Washington D.C., these establishment charlatans, who for years enriched themselves off the backs of the conservative movement, were the very swamp he was referring too.”
Still, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon seemed to take notice of the anti-Trump organization and recently posited that “if these guys can peel off 3% or 4%, that’s going to be serious,” he told the Associated Press earlier this month.
The group says it will not endorse or get too involved in the Democratic primary, though the general election may be different.
Clyburn's grandson cuts radio ad backing Buttigieg
WASHINGTON — The grandson of House Democratic Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., has cut a radio ad invoking his grandfather’s legacy and calling former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg “a leader of uncommon decency.”
The elder Clyburn is a major political force in South Carolina and one of the most prominent African Americans in Congress. He's not endorsed anyone in the Democratic primary race, as the ad makes clear right at the start. But his grandson, Walter A. Clyburn Reed, is organizing for Buttigieg.
"Mayor Pete works so hard for people in need, no matter where they live or what they look like, harder than anyone I’ve ever met," Clyburn Reed says in the ad.
"Whether the issue is lifting wages or expanding healthcare, ending gun violence or battling racism, Mayor Pete is someone our community can trust. Someone we can believe in."
The Buttigieg campaign says the ad featuring Walter Clyburn Reed will air in South Carolina throughout January.
Months of efforts by Buttigieg to improve his standing among black voters have largely failed to yield any dividends. A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of black Democratic-leaning voters conducted last week found Buttigieg at 2 percent nationally. The most recent poll of South Carolina, a Fox News poll in early January, had Buttigieg at 4 percent.
—Jordan Jackson contributed.
Biden tops new Iowa poll as race remains in flux
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden tops a new Monmouth University poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers as the state's pivotal contest remains a toss-up with less than one month to go.
Biden wins support from 24 percent of likely caucusgoers in the new poll, followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' 18 percent. Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has support from 17 percent of caucusgoers and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren from 15 percent.
The margins between all four of those candidates are within the poll's plus-minus 4.9 percent margin of error.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, with 8 percent, is the only other Democrat to poll above 5 percent.
Iowa's caucus is run differently than a typical primary — Iowans assemble at a precinct where they split off into groups supporting each candidate. Only candidates who have support from 15 percent of a precinct's caucusgoers are considered "viable," and eligible for delegates. Those who are caucusing with candidates who aren't viable have to realign or declare as uncommitted.
The Monmouth poll found only Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren hitting 15 percent across the state. And in a separate question, where caucusgoers are asked who they'd support if only those four candidates were viable at their caucus site, Biden leads with 28 percent, followed by Buttigieg at 25, Sanders at 24 and Warren at 16 percent.
With just three weeks until the Iowa caucus, the poll also suggests Iowans are beginning to make up their minds. Forty-three percent of likely caucusgoers say they're "firmly decided" on their candidate, compared to 28 percent in November.
For those still wavering, Warren could be in a decent position — she's the second choice of 23 percent of caucusgoers. The next closest candidate is Buttigieg, who is the second choice of 15 percent of caucusgoers.
Monmouth polled 405 likely caucusgoers between Jan. 9 to Jan. 12.
With the caucus just weeks away, polling has underscored the unpredictable nature of the caucus. Late last week, the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll found a similar four-candidate pile-up, this time with Sanders in the lead with Biden in fourth-place. The margins between the four top candidates were all within the poll's margin of error.
Trump seeks to undo protections for pre-existing conditions, despite tweets
WASHINGTON — President Trump has misrepresented his position on pre-existing conditions protections in the past, but even by previous standards his tweet on Monday stands out by falsely taking credit for the protections existing in the first place, saying he “saved” them, while actively trying to remove them.
The current pre-existing protections were enacted under the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed in 2010 while Trump was a private citizen.
Trump's Justice Department is currently backing a lawsuit by Republican state officials to throw out the entire law — including those protections. The president has also previously urged Congress to pass a bill that would roll back some of the law’s protections for pre-existing conditions and his administration has expanded access to plans that do not cover pre-existing conditions, which critics deride as “junk insurance.”
If the courts agree with the White House’s legal arguments, the lawsuit would end the ACA’s landmark requirement that insurance companies take on all customers regardless of any pre-existing conditions and charge them the same premiums as healthy customers.
That change would not be incidental to the White House’s broader objection to the health care law. In fact, it’s central to their case: The Trump administration’s initial legal position directly targeted the law’s protection for patients with pre-existing conditions, arguing they should be removed while most of the law remained. Only later did they expand their legal argument to demand the entire law be thrown out.
There’s a real chance the lawsuit succeeds. The case is currently pending after a Texas judge ruled the entire law unconstitutional in December 2018. Last month, the conservative-leaning 5th Circuit Court issued an opinion that supported the judge’s underlying argument, but sent the case back for further review as to which parts of the law should stand.
The Supreme Court is expected to eventually weigh in, but the White House is asking them to delay a request by Democratic state officials for an expedited ruling. If the White House argument holds, the decision will likely occur after the presidential election. That means the courts could potentially throw out protections for pre-existing conditions after the president campaigned for re-election on championing them.
Democrats made the lawsuit, along with Republican efforts in Congress to undo some of the ACA’s protections, a central part of their 2018 midterm campaigns.
In response, Trump and a number of GOP candidates said they would maintain some protections for pre-existing conditions if the lawsuit succeeded, but there is no party consensus as to what would replace them and many existing proposals still contain fewer protections coverage than current law.
Key conservative lawmakers object to the current protections for pre-existing conditions on ideological and policy grounds and Republican leaders and the White House sided with their demands to loosen them in their attempt to repeal and replace the ACA.
Had the House repeal bill backed by Trump become law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that “less healthy individuals (including those with pre-existing or newly acquired medical conditions) would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all.”
There are longstanding policy debates surrounding all these issues. Critics of the law’s protections for pre-existing conditions argue that they drive up premiums too high for healthier customers and there are potentially other ways to provide sicker patients health care, though none of the Trump-backed legislative proposals have been found by the CBO and other independent analysts to cover nearly as many people.
But Trump’s statements largely ignore that debate. Instead he’s asked his supporters, many of whom have expressed concern in polls about the issue, to believe he holds a position in direct opposition to his actual policy.
Bloomberg calls for changes to presidential primary calendar, warns against focus on 'homogeneous' states
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for changes in the Democratic presidential primary calendar Monday in an op-ed representing a reversal of sentiments he expressed just five days ago on the campaign trail.
“[A]s we Democrats work to protect democracy from Republicans who seek to exclude voters, we must also look inward, because our own party's system of nominating a presidential candidate is both undemocratic and harms our ability to prepare for — and win — the general election,” Bloomberg wrote in an op-ed for CNN.
Bloomberg, who made a late November entry into the 2020 race, has chosen to skip the first four early states altogether, focusing instead on delegate-rich Super Tuesday while other contenders fight for position just 21 days out from the Iowa caucus.
In his op-ed, the former mayor warned that by focusing on the most “homogenous [states] in the nation,” the Democratic Party risks “repeating 2016.” The Iowa caucus represents the first contest on the Democratic presidential nominating calendar, with the New Hampshire primary one week later.
The need to place more emphasis and channel resources into “Blue Wall” states is an idea Bloomberg often highlights on the trail. But before Monday, Bloomberg has been hesitant to call for a reordering of the primary calendar.
Just last Wednesday, reporters pressed Bloomberg on this issue after a campaign stop in Akron, Ohio.
“I think we've got a tradition here of four states,” he said. “The system has gotten used to it, and I guess the Democratic Party probably shouldn't take it away.”
Bloomberg said then that the decision should ultimately be made by the Democratic Party.
But in the days since the Akron event, the former mayor reversed course, pointing to action he would take if elected: “As president, I will ensure the DNC works with state party leaders at every level to re-order the primary calendar in ways that better reflect our diverse electorate and channel more resources into the states we actually need to win in November.”
“Don't get me wrong: I have enormous respect for the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire. Both states are full of devoted citizens,” Bloomberg wrote. “But so are the other 48. And we need a system that both better reflects our country and puts us in a better position to defeat a candidate like Donald Trump."
Prominent New Hampshire union backing Bernie Sanders
MANCHESTER, NH -- New Hampshire’s second-largest union is set to endorse Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday, the Sanders campaign confirmed to NBC News.
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 contains over 10,000 private and public sector members, and will be making the announcement alongside Sanders’ national co-chair, former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.
“I’m honored to receive SEA/SEIU Local 1984’s support today,” said Sen. Sanders in a statement shared first with NBC News.
“The labor movement helped build the middle class in this country, and strong unions are key to reviving it today. As president, I’ll continue to stand on the side of workers and unions like SEA/SEIU 1984 in the fight for a fair and just economy that works for all of us.”
Rich Gulla, the president of SEA/SEIU Local 1984 praised Sanders in a statement, arguing that he's "represented the interests of workers all across this country" as well as workers in his union.
“Just recently, when he learned of the struggles that New Hampshire state employees who are without a contract are facing he called a press conference to tell Governor Sununu to treat workers with respect. We know American workers can count on him. We are proud to endorse Sen. Sanders for president," Gulla said.
The notable endorsement does not break with recent precedent, however. During the 2016 primary, the local New Hampshire chapter broke from the national organization’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton to endorse Sanders, and many members have remained loyal to Sanders since 2015.
Julia Barnes, who served as Sanders' state director in 2016 but is now working for a New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate, said the endorsement comes at a good time for a campaign looking to mobilize volunteers one month before the New Hampshire primary. Barnes, while no longer working for Sanders, is a Sanders supporter.
“It’s very validating in terms of the union making a choice to come out during such a crowded primary,” she told NBC. “They were a really big part of our on the ground operation in terms of sending their members, and it’s validating in the community to have that union support on their side.”
Throughout the 2020 primary, the union hosted member town halls with all the major presidential candidates except former Vice President Joe Biden.
“From a labor standpoint, we’re looking for candidates who not only talk the talk but walk the walk,” Gulla told NBC News last month. “Have they ever walked a picket line? Have they belonged to a union themselves? What did they do on sponsored legislation?”
The events were part of the endorsement process, which also included a 10-question survey sent to candidates and a recommendation by the political education committee to the chapter’s board of directors. Gulla told NBC News the union chapter is equally divided into thirds ideologically – Democratic, GOP and independent.
Bennet: Senate impeachment trial will be 'disruptive' to presidential campaign
WASHINGTON — Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, one of the five Democratic senators running for president, said Sunday that the upcoming Senate impeachment trial is going to be “disruptive” to the presidential campaign, but that it’s part of his “constitutional responsibility.”
“It is going to be disruptive and there’s nothing that I can do about it, so I choose not to worry about it. We have, all of us, a constitutional responsibility we have to fulfill here. And I take my oath seriously, and I will,” he said.
“The stakes are really high and I think the framers of the Constitution would demand of the people that are sitting in judgment that they put the Constitution in front of the president and use this as an opportunity to remind the American people why the rule of law is so important.”
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expected to transmit the articles of impeachment passed by the House late last year, the specter of a Senate trial looms over the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
During the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, the Senate regularly worked long hours and six-day weeks, a heavy workload that would limit the ability of senators like Bennet to hit the campaign trail.
Bennet acknowledged the strain impeachment will likely put on his schedule.
“I'm spending every single second I can in New Hampshire, trying to fulfill my commitment to hold an additional 50 townhalls here,” he said.
“I've already spent more time here than any other candidate. And I'm just going to continue to do that.”
And he said he doesn’t necessarily expect Republicans to join Democratic demands to get former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify as part of the trial, although he said he doesn’t “think it’s impossible.”
“I hope my Republican colleagues will be open to having witnesses. The American people want witnesses. And they want to see the records from the White House, as well,” he said.
John Kerry: Democratic primary is a "circular firing squad", and it's time to "coalesce" around one candidate
DAVENPORT, IOWA — Former Secretary of State and 2004 Democratic nominee for president, John Kerry bemoaned the nature of the “traditional circular firing squad of the Democratic party” while urging Iowa voters in Muscatine to “coalesce” around former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign on Saturday.
Kerry, who's campaigning for Biden on a week-long swing through Iowa, said that the longer it takes for the party to support one candidate, the more the eventual nominee will be hurt.
“The sooner we can coalesce around a candidate, the sooner we eliminate the traditional circular firing squad of the Democratic party, where we just pop away,” Kerry said. “That hurt Hillary last time, where Bernie went on and on and on and on, so we gotta end this thing and we have a chance to do it.”
And Kerry, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2004, said that Biden, despite trailing Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the latest Iowa poll, can still win the Iowa caucuses because he'll be less of a target.
“I like the way this is tee'd up to be honest with you,” Kerry said. “You know, when we were coming in the last weeks we didn't want to be a target.”
Kerry took the moment to compare Sanders to one of his 2004 rivals, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Dean, who was a leading progressive voice during the 2004 Democratic primary. A day before the 2004 Iowa caucuses, a Des Moines Register poll showed Kerry, Dean and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in a virtual tie with Kerry leading the pack but within the margin of error.
“You know, Howard Dean was out there, and now Bernie is out there, it's the same thing. Bernie, Howard Dean, da da da da. But Joe Biden can drive a Mack truck right through the hole.”
Kerry endorsed Biden in December and has since campaigned with Biden and alone as a surrogate.
New poll shows Joe Biden far ahead of 2020 pack in support from black Democrats
WASHINGTON — A new Washington Post/Ipsos poll found that 48 percent of black registered voters who lean Democratic support former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential run. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders came in second, but 28 points behind Biden, with 20 percent support.
The poll is further evidence that black Americans continue to favor Biden despite campaign gaffes, and other candidates attacking Biden’s record on race — like California Sen. Kamala Harris’ criticism of Biden’s stance on busing, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s attacks on Biden’s 1994 crime bill.
The new poll also shows the steep drop off in support candidates have after Biden and Sanders. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren garnered only 9 percent support, followed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Booker tied with 4 percent support. Businessman Andrew Yang had just 3 percent support, and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and philanthropist Tom Steyer garnered 2 percent support. All other candidates had less than 1 percent support of black Democrats in the poll.
Buttigieg has consistently fended off concerns that he would not be able to build a strong coalition as the Democratic nominee because of his lack of support in the black community — one of the strongest Democratic voting blocks. On Thursday, Buttigieg received her first endorsement from a member of the Congressional Black Caucus when Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown endorsed him.
Brown said that he expected black support for Buttigieg to “increase dramatically” as communities got to know him. However, this new poll shows that 15 percent of black registered voters who lean Democratic would “definitely not consider supporting” Buttigieg. The only two candidates to register higher than him were Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at 23 percent, and Bloomberg at 17 percent.
Biden’s support in the black community is not just wide, but also strong. Biden has a 69 percent favorable view among black adults and 44 percent of that favorability is “strongly” favorable. While Sanders had a net favorability of 63 percent, only 29 percent of that support was strongly favorable.
Furthermore, 61 percent of those polls said the next president should “generally continue President Obama’s policies.” Only 21 percent said the next president should have “more liberal or progressive policies” than former President Obama’s.
As Biden continues to push his more moderate agenda, that he says adds on to the successes of Obama’s years in office, this support in the black community could buoy him through Iowa and New Hampshire which have less diverse voting demographics than Nevada and South Carolina.
Tom Steyer says lack of military experience doesn't hinder judgment in national security
WASHINGTON — Presidential candidate and philanthropist Tom Steyer has pitched himself to voters as an outsider. On Friday he said that his outsider experience wouldn't hinder his ability to act in a national security crisis because his decisions would come down to "judgment", and "experience alone isn't nearly enough."
"I don't have military experience and I give people credit for that. But this is a question to me of having judgment, of having clear strategy and then consulting the experts in making your decisions," Steyer said on MSNBC. "At the experience over the last 20 years of the American government and how we've proceeded in the Middle East, in the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War that implies that experience alone isn't nearly enough."
After this week's events in the Middle East when first President Trump authorized a strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and then Iran's response which included a rocket strike at an American military base in Iraq, Democratic candidates have been positioning themselves as better suited to handle a military crisis.
Two candidates, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg are veterans and both have criticized those who voted for the war in Iraq. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has reaffirmed his vote against the war in Iraq and said on Friday that President Trump's decision to "assassinate a high-ranking official of foreign government" could "unleash anarchy."
The only candidate in the 2020 race who voted to support the Iraq war is former Vice President Joe Biden who voted for the war when he served in the Senate. During the third Democratic debate in September, Biden said he regretted his vote for the war.
"I should have never voted to give Bush the authority to go in and do what he said he was going to do," Biden said.
Democratic online donations hit $1 billion mark in 2019 as Republicans make strides to catch up
WASHINGTON — The Democratic online fundraising juggernaut hit another massive milestone in 2019, but the Republican effort to close the gap between the two parties also took big strides as well.
The Democratic-aligned online fundraising platform ActBlue raised $1 billion last year, while the new Republican-aligned WinRed raised $101 million since it launched in late June.
The new numbers, released by the groups in recent days (full reports must be filed by the end of the month), show how Democrats continue to reap the benefits of a well-organized and longstanding effort to invest in and centralize their online donor platform. But Republicans appear to be benefiting from a concerted effort of their own to replicate that.
Virtually every Democratic organization goes through ActBlue, and since the platform is about 15 years old, it has grown exponentially as the rise of high-speed internet and mobile devices have made it easier to solicit donations.
That move has paid off for the Democratic Party, making it easier for their grassroots donors to spread money around up and down the ballot and across the country (especially in the age of smartphones).
“Our record-breaking Q4 indicated what we saw in all of 2019: unprecedented grassroots engagement and growth of the small-dollar donor movement, which we only expect to increase from here,“ ActBlue Executive Director Erin Hill said in a statement.
“Our nominee will need at least half of their funds from grassroots donors if they want to beat Donald Trump. Based on what we saw last year, the eventual Democratic nominee will have an army of grassroots donors behind them.”
Data released by ActBlue shows that 6 million people donated through ActBlue in 2019, a record for the site, and that half of those were first-time donors through ActBlue. And even with the presidential race taking center stage, almost 40 percent of those donors gave to a non-presidential candidate or group.
And the majority, 57 percent, of all 2019 contributions came through mobile devices, another sign of how the robust effort has made it easier for donors to give to Democrats.
Republicans have been trying to build their own version of ActBlue for years, and after a handful of attempts, WinRed seems to be catching on (with the backing of President Trump and the Republican National Committee). Getting it right now could be particularly fruitful for Republicans as they hope to mobilize Trump's strong grassroots support into a long-term fundraising boon for their candidates.
WinRed is just six months old, but it's quickly winning over an overwhelming share of the GOP fundraising infrastructure. Every state Republican party, 80 percent of all GOP senators and 78 percent of GOP House members are fundraising through WinRed, the group says.
And WinRed says that impeachment is good for business, as donation pages discussing impeachment raised over 300 percent more than pages that didn't, and that fundraising spiked after Democrats launched their formal impeachment inquiry on Oct. 31. (That's another advantage of centralizing an online fundraising platform — it's easier to conduct large-scale analysis across a wide range of campaigns).
Tryng to compare WinRed's early fundraising to that from ActBlue's beginnings isn't very useful — massive changes in technology have created a far more fruitful terrain for online fundraising now than ActBlue had when it launched in 2004.
Since WinRed hasn't reached unified status on the right, the numbers don't tell the whole GOP online-fundraising story. And the Trump-era has been good for GOP fundraising, with Trump and the RNC building a massive warchest that will serve as a significant advantage over the eventual Democratic nominee and the Democratic National Committee.
But the bottom line is: the Democratic juggernaut is continuing to help Democrats pull in massive amounts of money that will be a major benefit for 2020, but Republicans are making their best strides in recent years at closing the gap.
Michael Bloomberg campaigns in Midwest, but emphasizes learning about the voters
NEW YORK — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a whirlwind trip through three states in the Midwest on Wednesday to learn about what voters in the region are concerned about in 2020 and to further cement his Super Tuesday strategy in the Democratic primary.
Bloomberg began Wednesday at a community college in Chicago, and ended it at a town hall in Akron, Ohio where he toured an "innovation lab" where herbs and micro-greens are grown with hydroponics.
“I want to better understand rural America,” Bloomberg said to his hosts at a family farm in Wells, Minn. “You know, I come from the city, but you're the backbone of America, and we eat and live based on what you do.”
He continued, “I think it's easy for us living in big cities to forget about the rest of the world. You know, it just doesn't come up because you don't see them every day.”
Bloomberg hoped to use the trip to quell concerns that a Bloomberg presidency wouldn't include those who are outside of big cities. But by Bloomberg spending time in states like Ohio and Minnesota, he's confirmed that he's not going to work at all to win the early states in the primary contest.
And he’s criticized his opponents for placing so much emphasis on states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, telling an audience at an office opening in North Carolina that “Trump is campaigning in swing states while every other Democratic campaign is focused on other states.”
Despite Bloomberg's late entrance into the race, and not competing in the traditional states, he has risen in several polls, and leaped ahead of other candidates who have been campaigning for months like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Bloomberg made the polling threshold for the January Democratic debate but will not be on the stage because he isn't taking individual contributions.
According to the campaign, it has employed more than 800 people, including 500 in over 30 states.
Bloomberg's campaign has employed an "if you build it, they will come" attitude. But for now, that still includes the former mayor blitzing through states and introducing himself.
“I’ve started a quest,” Bloomberg said to the Akron audience. “[H]ere I don’t know every name, but I’ll get around to it.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Klobuchar campaign raised $11.4 million in final quarter of 2019
DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., announced Friday that her presidential campaign raised $11.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, more than double than the $4.8 million she raised in the previous quarter last year.
The campaign noted that their donations came from 145,126 individual donors and the average contribution was $32.
“It's the best quarter we've ever had. And that's a good thing, including way back to when we started before so many people were in the race," Klobuchar said during an event in Iowa on Thursday.
"So we feel good about it. I never thought I would match some of the front-runners who have, you know, long list going way back who've run for president before,” Klobuchar said.
The fourth quarter ended on Dec. 31, but candidates are not required to disclose their fundraising numbers until the filing deadline on Jan. 31.
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has announced the largest fundraising number so far, pulling in $34.5 million dollars, with former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg bringing in $24.7 million. Like Klobuchar, the fourth quarter was also former Vice President Joe Biden’s largest haul. The Biden campaign announced they raised $22.7 million. Klobuchar’s totals round out the top six fundraisers so far, falling behind Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s $21.2 million and businessman Andrew Yang’s $16.5 million.
Warren reports $21 million raised in fourth quarter
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Elizabeth Warren's campaign raised just over $21 million in the final quarter of 2019, her campaign said Friday.
The haul puts the Massachusetts senator in the ballpark of her fellow Democratic presidential competitors — and frequent names in the top tier of the primary — Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden, who raised $24.7 and $22.7 million, respectively. However, they're all well behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on this metric, who topped the field again this quarter, hauling in more than $34 million.
This latest round of fundraising for the Massachusetts senator is less than the $24.6 million her campaign raised int he third quarter and comes as she's lagged in some polls, especially in the all-important early state of Iowa.
Warren's average donation was $23 from more than 443,000 donors, according to her campaign. Of the $21.2 million raised, the campaign said $1.5 million came in on the last day of 2019 alone. Several days before the close of the quarter, the campaign said it was falling short of its $20 million fundraising goal, asking for donations to help them get there. The campaign did not disclose its cash-on-hand.
In an email to supporters, campaign manager Roger Lau once again highlighted the campaign's strategy of not doing closed door fundraisers or raising money with bundlers and donors. Warren regularly talks about this strategy on the trail, and on the debate stage, using it as a cudgel against Buttigieg during the December Democratic debate — specifically attacking him for a fundraiser he held in a wine cave.
“I'm deeply grateful to every single person who contributed to my campaign. I didn't spend one single minute selling access to my time. To millionaires and billionaires. I did this grassroots all across the country and I'm proud of the grassroots army that we are building,” Warren told reporters Thursday, after a town hall in Concord, New Hampshire.
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.
Pete Buttigieg earns endorsement from VoteVets PAC
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg Wednesday received the endorsement of the progressive VoteVets PAC.
“The number one priority has to be beating Donald Trump,” said Jon Soltz, chair of VoteVets. “We need a candidate who will win. Bar none, Pete gives us the best shot at doing just that. It is time to rally around him, and stop the walking, talking national security threat that is Donald Trump.”
Soltz went on to say that a veteran like Buttigieg gives Democrats the best shot to win in 2020 because, "Veterans can win voters in the purple and red areas of the country that other Democrats cannot."
The only other veteran in the Democratic contest is Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
This endorsement means Buttigieg now has the support of a Super PAC behind him to help fund his campaign. Of the four top polling candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is the only one who does not have an outside organization in a position to spend money on her behalf.
VoteVets will immediately cut a maximum donation check to Pete 2020, according to the press release, and will utilize its social media networks and email list to support the campaign’s message.
“Further plans to energize veterans and military families across the country will be unveiled as the campaign moves ahead,” the group said in the statement.
Last month, Buttigieg told NBC News he would not take “corporate PAC money.”
“I also think it is really important that there be transparency in terms of people understanding who your supporters are which the reporting system creates but is why dark money is such a problem when you are looking at what goes on at the Super PACs,” he added.
However in October, Buttigieg said in an interview with Snapchat that he didn't endorse Warren's plan to refuse any money from high-dollar donors in a general election.
"We're not going to beat [President Trump] with pocket change.” Buttigieg said. “I think you need the full spectrum of support in order to compete, especially if we want to go against someone like Donald Trump."
Pete Buttigieg looks to win over black voters during Carolina swing
ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Presidential hopeful South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg dismissed his low polling figures among nonwhite voters as a consequence of being “new on the scene," to a room of predominantly black South Carolinians on Tuesday.
“I know that as somebody who is new on the scene I got to earn that trust. We have to have those conversations. We got to share our own city's story where we have had the good, the bad and the in-between in terms of the life of our own city," Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg is leading polls in Iowa and hovering near the top of polls in New Hampshire. But in South Carolina, he's struggling to gain traction. On Tuesday, he finished a three-day swing through the Carolinas, in an effort to expand his reach.
Buttigieg, like other contenders in the Democratic race are struggling to gain traction with African-American voters. In a Quinnipiac national poll released last week, former Vice President Joe Biden maintained a large lead with black voters with 43 percent support, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was in second with only 11 percent. Buttigieg garnered just 4 percent support among black voters.
While speaking to a a group in Allendale County, S.C., where three-quarters of the population is African-American, Buttigieg wasn't the first speaker attendees wanted to engaged with. Willa Jennings, the county party chairwoman, directed the group’s opening question to Buttigieg’s guest at the meeting: South Bend Councilwoman Sharon McBride.
“Could you tell us some of the things that Mayor Pete has done in South Bend to benefit the citizens in your city?” Jennings queried. "We go out and vote in full force, but everybody forget about us and they don't come back anymore."
McBride asserted that Buttigieg pushed to increase the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, initiated a study on disparities in the cities among women and minorities, and pressed for increased investments in city housing infrastructure.
Jennings, taking the microphone back, then turned to Buttigieg: “I hear a lot about you don't have support from African Americans. I just want to know why you don't have that support, and where did they get—where did the news media get that idea from that you don't have support?”
Buttigieg acknowledged, in part, that he was one of the candidates at “five percent or less” among black voters in the “last poll.” He followed, “But I don't think that's permanent."
Earlier in the day, Buttigieg stopped at a farm owned by Sophia Bowman in Canadys, S.C. After her meeting Buttigieg, Bowman said that she is inclined to vote for the mayor. She said it reminded her of seeing Bill Clinton in 1992. She noted they both "spoke with clarity.”
“If other South Carolinians get to hear him, I think he’s got a chance,” Bowman rationalized. “Priming the pump. Us, here in the South, [we are] regular people. It takes awhile for us to like you.”
But some younger voters say they are looking for more from Buttigieg’s efforts to build a closer relationship with communities of color.
During a visit to South Carolina State University, a historically black university, Charles Patton a 22-year-old senior pulled the mayor aside about an answer Buttigieg gave during the November debate in which he referenced his experience as a gay man when asked about the systemic oppression communities of color have endured.
“Sometimes when you speak I hear what you say when you talk about your experience as a gay man and how you got the right to marry and all those things, but it comes across as you comparing struggles,” Patton said.
Later, Patton told NBC News, "When you compare struggles, you're almost erasing the struggle or, or the experience of being black in America and you almost diminish it because, yes, you are gay, but you're still a white man in America, and he knows that."
The Buttigieg campaign launched a $2 million ad buy across South Carolina on Tuesday intended to juice up voters’ familiarity with the mayor. The latest Quinnipiac poll out of the state showed that 47 percent of South Carolina voters are still not familiar enough with Buttigieg to form an opinion.
That extends outside of South Carolina, too.
In neighboring North Carolina, where voters will weigh in on Super Tuesday, Almertia Williams, a consistent voter, told NBC News this summer that she was eyeing the candidacies of Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris. When NBC News asked about Buttigieg she said she "did not" know he was running.
“You got to show up, and you got to show up in places that maybe haven’t heard from campaigns for awhile,” Buttigieg told NBC News after a Sunday church service in North Carolina. “We take the opportunity and that obligation seriously. And you’ll continue to see that from us.”
NBC's Matt Wargo contributed.
Incoming Dem chair on the 2020 gov races: “I think we’re going to have a good year”
WASHINGTON — The upcoming elections in 2020 will bring us the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the general-election presidential contest and the battle for control of Congress.
It also will feature 11 contests for governor in states like New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana and Washington.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the incoming chair of the Democratic Governors Association, says he’s bullish about his party’s chances in next year’s gubernatorial contests, building upon Democrats’ successes in 2017 (when Murphy won his race), in 2018 (when Democrats picked up seven governorships) and in 2019 (when they won in Kentucky and Louisiana).
“I think we’re going to have a good year,” Murphy said in an interview with NBC News on Monday afternoon.
“I think it’s a combination of outstanding candidates, speaking to the kitchen-table issues that folks care about,” he added in explaining Democrats’ recent successful campaigns. “I think it’s a statement also that governors have never mattered more.”
“So with all of the craziness that’s going on in Washington, governors are not only where the progress is being made in an affirmative, positive sense. But they’re also the last line of defense.”
Asked to reconcile those kitchen-table issues with his party’s impeachment proceedings against President Trump in Washington, Murphy said that Democrats and their candidates can do both at the same time.
“I am proud of the process that [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi initiated on this impeachment track,” he stated.
“By the same token, I’m the governor of New Jersey. So let me get back to moving the needle on stuff that I know I can move the needle on.”
Asked about Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who suspended his presidential campaign on Monday and can't run for an additional gubernatorial term thanks to term limits, Murphy said he’s surprised that a Democratic governor – either current or former – hasn’t “caught fire” in the 2020 presidential race.
“On both sides of the aisle, there’s a long history of governors who have gone on to be president or vice president, and I’m a little surprised that a governor on our side hasn’t caught fire,” Murphy noted.
“But having said that, we have extraordinary candidates. We have an extraordinary field.”
Murphy has endorsed fellow Garden State politician and Sen. Cory Booker in the 2020 presidential race.
“I came out of the blocks on day one for Cory Booker … and I’m staying with Cory as long as Cory is in,” he said. “But I’m going to be for whoever the Democratic nominee is going to be, period.”
The marquee gubernatorial contests of 2020 will be in North Carolina (where Dem Gov. Roy Cooper is running for re-election), in Montana (with the race to replace Bullock), in New Hampshire (where GOP Gov. Chris Sununu is running for re-election) and in Vermont (where GOP Gov. Phil Scott is running for re-election).
While Murphy and the DGA are bullish about their prospects in 2020, officials at the Republican Governors Association counter that Republicans are defending governorships in GOP-friendly states like Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.
They also point out that New Hampshire’s Sununu and Vermont’s Scott won office in 2016 (when Hillary Clinton carried those blue states) and in 2018 (in a strong Democratic cycle).
And the RGA believes Montana is theirs for the taking, given Trump’s 20-point win the state in 2016.
“We feel very bullish about flipping Montana,” Dave Rexrode, the RGA’s executive director, told NBC News.
Klobuchar endorsed by former Bullock backer in Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa — Just one day after Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced he was dropping out of the Democratic presidential race, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., scooped up an endorsement from a prominent former Bullock backer, Iowa State Rep. Bruce Bearinger.
During his campaign, Bullock consistently touted his record of winning in a Republican-heavy, rural state and his policy views that were seen as moderate in the wide Democratic field as proof of his ability to win the general election. Klobuchar also occupies much of that same territory and is often described as a moderate with a record in dealing with rural issues. She sits on the Agriculture Committee in the Senate and reminds voters at campaign events that she’s won “every race, every place, every time.”
Bearinger, who represents the rural population of Oelwein in Northeast Iowa, pointed to Klobuchar’s bipartisan track record and her knowledge of agricultural issues in expressing his support.
“Amy understands that to win in 2020, and for the next President to govern successfully, our party has to reach out to voters who felt overlooked in 2016, particularly in rural America,” Bearinger said in a statement to NBC News.
Bearinger was previously drawn to Bullock’s commitment to rural America, highlighting such in his original endorsement of the governor: “Steve understands the unique hardships we face — in our schools, hospitals and farms. Working with a legislature more Republican than our own, he’s proven he can bring those priorities across the finish line."
Bullock suspended his campaign Monday morning, after failing to qualify for multiple national debate stages.
Klobuchar proposes expansion of national service programs
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Ahead of her 19th trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is rolling out a national service policy plan that seeks to create more service opportunities and enhance accessibility for programs across communities and the country at large.
Klobuchar’s two-page plan centers on three key areas to support existing national service programs:
- Investing in AmeriCorps, a Climate Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Peace Corps
- Establishing National Volunteer Programs
- Fixing and Expanding Public Service Loan Forgiveness
In order to further invest in existing programs and establish new ones, Klobuchar’s plan calls for investing in programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps by increasing the number of service positions and for targeting the opportunities towards high school students, 1-2 year degree college students or those with vocational training certifications.
She also is seeking to establish a Climate Civilian Conservation Corps — a climate national service program based off of an idea initially put forward by former presidential candidate and Washington Governor Jay Inslee — to recruit an additional 50,000 people “to address the impacts of climate change and create the climate resilience workforce of the future.”
Her plan also calls for establishing national volunteer programs, including a part-time volunteer service program centered on emergency response and disaster-relief training, as well as expanding the National Care Corps to support those who are working as caregivers by providing benefits and other support for costs.
Finally Klobuchar’s plan aims to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by expanding the program’s eligibility, enhance clarity from lenders on details of eligibility and forgiveness, increase flexibility for lenders and streamline the verification requirements.
Klobuchar says that to pay for her national service plan that she will pass bipartisan legislation already introduced to the Senate to reduce single-use drug waste, citing studies that highlight the manufacturing of over-sized doses and discarded reimbursement costs for some drug products.
Buttigieg unveils plan to target health care inequities
COLUMBIA, S.C. — With heath care continuing to be one of the key issues in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out with a new plan focused on addressing inequality in the system.
The plan, titled, “Health Equity and Justice in America,” comes amid a Buttigieg campaign swing through the south, where the mayor has met with several groups to discuss the issue.
The policy places a heavy emphasis on measures that can be taken to ensure equity in health before someone reaches a hospital or clinic by addressing what Buttigieg calls, “structural barriers.”
“Most of our health outcomes are determined by what happens outside a clinic or hospital: by where we can live, what we can eat, and what jobs we have access to,” the plan states.
Buttigieg plans to adopt a “Health in All Policies” approach to policy implementation, establishing Offices of Health Equity and Justice within key federal agencies including Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The candidate aims to empower local public health departments by creating a Public Health Infrastructure Fund that would funnel more resources into communities with the most need. Under his plan the federal government would contribute $500 million increasing annually until the $4 billion a year gap between current spending and existing needs is met. Individual states would be required to match these funds on a sliding scale based on the median income of a given state.
A Buttigieg administration would require federally funded health programs to collect and monitor data related to healthcare quality, cost, and outcomes for specific demographics based on, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The administration would then use that data to award financial incentives based on measured equitable outcomes.
Within his first 100 days Buttigieg says he will launch a National Health Equity Strategy Task Force. In addition, he promises to invest in finding cures to diseases that disproportionately impact minority communities, in part by mandating that federally-funded research trials include diverse samples of people and communities.
This latest healthcare addendum comes months after the release of over-arching Buttigieg’s Medicare For All Who Want It policy which was announced in September.
Leading progressive groups endorse Rep. Henry Cuellar primary challenger
WASHINGTON — A coalition of prominent progressive groups has endorsed Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration lawyer who is trying to unseat Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar in a Democratic primary, NBC News has learned.
The Democratic primary fight, in a sprawling congressional district that extends south from the San Antonio suburbs down to Loredo on the border with Mexico, is quickly becoming one of the hottest flash-points in the party’s ideological civil war.
Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley have endorsed Cisneros, the latter two veterans of their own high-profile primary victories against entrenched incumbent Democrats last year.
The latest show of support for Cisneros, who once briefly worked for Cuellar, shows major institutional players on the left are increasingly willing to buck tradition by going against a sitting lawmaker.
The new coalition of groups supporting Cisneros Tuesday includes some of the leading reproductive rights groups in the country -- Planned Parenthood Action and NARAL Pro-Choice America -- along with the political arm of the deep-pocked environmental group League of Conservation Voters, the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, and the grassroots organizing group MoveOn.
“I'm proud to stand alongside so many incredible organizations leading the fight against the Trump administration’s hatred and bigotry,” Cisneros said in a statement shared with NBC News.
Cuellar, who first won his seat in 2004 after emerging from a nasty Democratic primary, has come under fire from the left for numerous votes and positions that critics say do not represent his heavily-Democratic, majority-Hispanic district.
Cuellar, for instance, is one of just a tiny handful of House Democrats who has received an A rating from the National Rifle Association. He also voted with Republicans against so-called sanctuary cities, local jurisdictions that refuse to work with federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants.
And he's also taken votes against expanding abortion rights, including in support of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal spending on abortion services.
“As anti-choice politicians continue to wage an all-out assault on the right to access abortion, it’s crucial that Democrats stand united in their commitment to reproductive freedom,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “Henry Cuellar’s record speaks for itself-- from his support for the discriminatory Hyde Amendment to extreme bans on abortion, he has made it clear just how dangerously out-of-touch he is.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, added in a statement that Cisneros is “committed to protecting people’s rights and has pledged to defend her constituents against attacks on those rights and freedoms.”
But Cuellar spokesperson Colin Strother told NBC News his boss is focused on his local constituents, not a national advocacy group and the opinion of “people from outside the district, who don’t know the district, and who can’t vote in the district.”
“It’s unfortunate that so many of these so-called progressive groups are focused on some kind of a purification ritual that does nothing other than feed their ego and their donor base,” Strother added.
Cueller’s district has little risk of falling into Republican hands in 2020. It voted for Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by 20 percentage points in 2016. But some Democrats have warned that primary battles, even in safe districts, will distract the party from preserving its hard-won House majority next year.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of House Democrats, is anticipating more primary challenges to incumbent lawmakers in safe blue districts after Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory last year, and has vowed to stop working with any vendors who work with insurgent candidates.
For Democratic presidential hopefuls, the early bids have caught the worms
WASHINGTON — If there’s been one lesson to the 2020 Democratic presidential race, it’s been this one: The early birds have gotten the worm – at least when it comes to the attention needed to garner support in the polls and qualify for the debates.
Bullock qualified to participate in just one debate, while Sestak never got to make a single debate stage.
Indeed, excluding the newest entrants (Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick), of the 12 Democratic candidates who jumped into the 2020 race AFTER February, only three still remain – former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and billionaire Tom Steyer.
By contrast, of the 12 candidates who got into the race BEFORE March 1, all but one is still in the contest.
That one exception? Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Take a look at the list of Democratic candidates this cycle, ordered by the latest to enter, to see how few of the latest entries are still in the race:
- Michael Bloomberg (who announced on Nov. 24)
- Deval Patrick (who announced on Nov. 14)
- Tom Steyer (who announced on July 9)
- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (who announced on June 23) EXITED on Dec. 1
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (who announced on May 16) EXITED on Sept. 20
- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (who announced on May 14) EXITED on Dec. 2
- Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo (who announced on May 2)
- Former VP Joe Biden (who announced on April 25)
- Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass (who announced on April 22) EXITED on Aug. 23
- Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (who announced on April 8) EXITED on July 8
- Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio (who announced on April 4) EXITED on Oct. 24
- Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke (who announced on March 14) EXITED Nov. 1
- Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (who announced on March 4) EXITED on Aug. 15
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (who announced March 1) EXITED on Aug. 21
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (who announced on Feb. 19)
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (who announced on Feb. 10)
- Marianne Williamson (who filed her candidacy on Feb. 5)
- Sen. Cory Booker (who announced on Feb. 1)
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (who formed an exploratory committee on Jan 23, formally announced on April 14)
- Sen. Kamala Harris (who announced on Jan. 21)
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (who formed an exploratory committee on Jan. 15, formally announced on March 17) EXITED on Aug. 28
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (who announced her decision to run on Jan. 11)
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who formed an exploratory committee on Dec. 31, formally announced on Feb. 9)
- Former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro (who formed an exploratory committee on Dec. 12, formally on Jan. 12)
- Andrew Yang (who filed his candidacy on Nov. 6, 2017)
- Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney (who announced his presidential bid back on July 28, 2017!)
Gavin Newsom endorses Christy Smith for former Rep. Katie Hill's seat
WASHINGTON — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday endorsed California Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special House election to fill former Rep. Katie Hill’s seat.
"We need Christy Smith in Congress. She's proven herself as an effective leader for the people she represents," Newsom said in a statement first made available to NBC News.
"From addressing our increasing wildfire threat to investing more in our public schools, creating middle class jobs, making healthcare more accessible and affordable to combating our climate crisis and enhancing emergency response — Christy has shown that she knows how to bring people together to solve problems and get things done."
Hill, who defeated a GOP incumbent to win the 25th District seat in 2018, resigned in October amid an ethics investigation into allegations she had an affair with a staffer.
California uses a jungle-primary system, which pits all candidates against each other in a primary regardless of party. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the top two move on to a runoff.
The special election primary, which will be held on March 3, is already crowded on both sides of the aisle.
Cenk Uygur, the progressive commentator and co-founder of The Young Turks announced his bid for the seat in late November.
The Young Turks, a widely-viewed progressive media site, regularly spars with establishment Democrats and the party structure. Smith meanwhile has earned a steady stream of establishment Democratic endorsements like 12 members of California’s congressional delegation, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the California League of Conservation Voters.
While Uygur could take up the progressive lane in the race, he's come under fire for alleged misogynistic and homophobic comments he made in the early 2000s. Uygur has since apologized for the comments.
On the Republican side, former Rep. Stephen Knight, who held the seat until Hill flipped the district, is vying to win it back, and former aide to President Trump's 2016 campaign George Papadopoulos also announced. President Trump has not commented on Papadopoulos' run, and he hasn't endorsed Knight. However it's Marine Mike Garcia who has earned theendorsement former California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.
Smith’s Assembly district encompasses 58 percent of the 25th District, and Smith won her election by 5,000 votes in 2018, flipping it from GOP control for the first time since 1978 (Hill became the first Democrat to win the congressional seat since 1990).
The Cook Political Report rated this seat as a “lean Democratic” in the 2020 general election race, even though the seat is currently vacant.
If no candidate hits the 50 percent mark in the March 3 primary, the top two will advance to a general election on May 12.
The special election decides who serves out the rest of Hill's unexpired term, through next year. Voters will also choose a candidate to succeed Hill in 2021 in a separate election on the same ballot
Klobuchar on Bloomberg: It cannot be all about money
WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., took a swipe at billionaire Democratic presidential hopefuls Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer during a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” arguing that their self-funded candidacies send a bad message about money in politics.
“I'm never going to be able to compete with two billionaires. That is true. I'm not going to be able to buy this $30 million ad buy,” she said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC. “It cannot be all about money or rich people would be running and winning in every Senate race in the country. That's not what happens.”
Steyer has been in the race since July, and spent more than $46 million of his own money on his bid through the end of September. And while Bloomberg jumped in last week, he’s already booked $52 million in television advertising time alone.
While Klobuchar praised Bloomberg’s record — he’s also spent his millions championing Democratic priorities like preventing gun violence and climate change — she criticized his decision to jump into the race and the calculus that the party might need a savior as Democrats jockey for position in their primary. .
“It is more about money in politics for me. I have admiration for the work that he's done, but I don't buy this argument that you get in because you say, ‘Oh,