The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Republican Main Street Partnership backs Steve King's primary opponent
WASHINGTON — The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that supports moderate Republicans, is backing the Republican primary challenger to Iowa Rep. Steve King, who was stripped of his committee assignments last year after making racist comments during an interview.
The group announced on Monday that it would back Randy Feenstra, the state senator looking to unseat King.
Sarah Chamberlain, RMSP's president and CEO, told NBC News that her group has never taken on an incumbent Republican before and that she hopes King will decide to retire before the June primary.
But if King remains an active candidate, Chamberlain said her group will make the argument that the district deserves a congressman who hasn't been marginalized by his colleagues and can still be an effective voice for his constituents.
"We add our voices to Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell and hope that he will actually retire. But it’s time to move on. He had his committee assignments stripped from him in January 2019—they’ve literally gone a year without any representation in committees," Chamberlain said, referencing the criticism of King from top Republican leaders.
"Pretty much everyone in D.C. has come out and been critical, Republican or Democrat. How can you work with your colleagues when they’ve all come out to criticize you? People in Iowa-4 deserve a member who can get things done for them, and it does not appear any longer [King] can."
Chamberlain told NBC that the RMSP has already given Feenstra the maximum $5,000 check it can, under campaign finance laws. The group is also asking its donors to support him as well, and it introduced Feenstra to donors and members at an event last week for its political action committee.
The group also has an affiliated super PAC, which legally cannot coordinate any spending with Main Street, but has made ad-buys supporting candidates endorsed by the PAC during previous cycles.
House Republicans voted last year to remove King from his spots on the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business Committees in response to his comments in the New York Times about white nationalism.
"White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" King asked.
"Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
In response to criticism from across the political spectrum, King told NBC News last year: "I reject white nationalism. I reject white supremacy. It's not part of any of my ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology."
Feenstra, the state Senate Majority Leader, is the top Republican running to replace King.
He’s argued during the impeachment trial that King’s removal from committees has left him ‘unable to defend President Trump” during impeachment. He’s also won a key endorsement in Iowa from Bob Vander Plaats, the leader of the conservative group The Family Leader.
Andrew Yang talks women's issues, calls U.S. “deeply misogynist”
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Businessman and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang kicked off a pre-caucus 17-day bus tour through Iowa on Saturday with a town hall focusing on women’s issues, a departure from his typical stump speech about automation and the economy, in light of his wife’s decision to share her story of sexual assault at the hands of her gynecologist while she was pregnant.
“Our country is deeply misogynist,” Yang told a crowd of nearly 250 Iowans just off the University of Iowa’s campus. “I feel like I could get away with saying that ‘cause I’m a man. I think if a woman said that, it might somehow seem accusatory or inflammatory. But for me it’s just a statement of fact.”
Yang answered questions from women about the gender pay gap and paid maternity leave, but it was clear that solving issues around sexual assault was top of mind. He encouraged women to be role models in the way his wife, Evelyn, has but acknowledged that in terms of policy, “we have to do much, much more to help women at every level,” calling the number of untested rape kits in the U.S. “unconscionable.”
The federal government estimates that police department warehouses house more than 200,000 untested sexual-assault kits across the country. Yang emphasized the need to allocate resources for authorities to be able to be more responsive to women’s complaints.
“Terrible things happen to women every day in many, many contexts. Many of them wouldn’t rise to what you’d consider criminal behavior,” Yang told NBC News. “You have to try and make it so that women don't have to dedicate their lives to getting some form of justice in order to feel like anything is going to happen.”
Yang discussed investing in government programs that would pay for the testing of rape kits, as well as make it mandatory for the testing to be done in a certain timeframe.
He also discussed issues surrounding the development of young men, asking, “why do we have trouble with our boys becoming strong young men? A lot of this is around trying to help our boys develop into strong, healthy men who will not assault women.”
Yang, a parent of two young boys, expressed concern over “rampant access to pornography” that could be “influencing the formation of many of our young peoples’ attitudes towards women in particular.” He suggested that, in order to help children develop positive attitudes towards women, access to technology that could influence children’s attitudes should be reigned in.
“We have to help men get better and stronger,” Yang said, floating the idea of developing resources for young men who feel their behavior impulses “are trending in a direction that they’re going to end up being destructive to someone, particularly women.”
Four presidential candidates pitch themselves to Iowa educators
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Four Democratic presidential hopefuls pitched themselves to a room full of Iowa educators on Saturday.
Around 200 members of the Iowa State Education Association, the largest union in the Hawkeye state, gathered to hear remarks from former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
During his prepared remarks, Biden was the only candidate to acknowledge the teacher strikes that have taken place across the country.
“These walk outs are vital not just to make sure that you get paid fairly, or you get healthcare or your school safety although they're essential, many times, you're walking out and make sure students get greater resources,” Biden said.
Biden also emphasized the need to treat teachers with the “dignity,” they deserve. He promised them that if elected, “you’re never going to have a better partner in the white house than Jill and Joe Biden and that's the God's truth,” he said. “I give you my word on that.”
Warren hit a similar note when it came to respecting teachers.
"This is about respect,” Warren said. “And this is about reminding ourselves and our entire nation that the way we build a future is that we invest in every single one of our children.”
This wasn't the only moment of agreement between the candidates. Warren and Buttigieg also shared similar comments about for-profit charter schools.
“Public school dollars should stay in public schools, period,” Warren said denouncing the use of tax dollars to fund for-profit charter schools.
And Buttigieg continued that he didn't see a place in the U.S. for for-profit charter schools.
"We all believe in innovation we all believe in keeping up and getting ready for the next steps. But that has to be done with educators, not to educators and that's one of many reasons why for profit charter schools have no place in the future," Buttigieg said.
Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar spent a majority of their time on stage introducing themselves to the educators. Each candidate highlighted the multitude of additional responsibilities placed on teachers beyond their role as educators.
Klobuchar recalled a teacher she met while campaigning in Iowa who described dealing with students contemplating suicide.
“Not everyone in this room is qualified to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist,” Klobuchar said. “Yet, so many of you are on the front lines having to do that work.”
Buttigieg echoed this sentiment saying that teachers are “expected to be counselors, mental health professionals, test administrators, and according to some are supposed to snap into action and become highly trained armed guards." He continued, "As if you don't have enough on your plate, practicing the craft of being professional educators,” he said.
The ISEA has not endorsed in the primary, while all four candidates have received endorsements from individual members. The union did not endorse in the 2016 primaries either.
Bernie Sanders nabs endorsement from central Iowa Postal Workers union
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders received the endorsement of the American Postal Workers Union Local 44 in Central Iowa, the campaign announced Saturday.
Mike Bates, president of APWU Local 44, called Sanders a “champion for postal workers.”
“He will fight for postal banking that would bring in revenue to the Postal Service and stop the legalized loan sharking of check into cash and payday loans that feed on the working poor,” Bates said in a statement. “He has our backs and we will have his back in this election. The DMI Area Local 44 of the American Postal Workers Union will do everything we can to elect Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America."
The endorsement, voted upon by the more than 700 members of the union this week, is one of more than 130 individual Iowa union worker endorsements already announced in support of Sanders this cycle.
In thanking the union for their support, Sanders pivoted to Pres. Donald Trump. “Donald Trump wants to privatize the Postal Service and threaten over 630,000 jobs. That absolutely cannot happen,” said Sen. Sanders. “I’m proud to stand together with the postal workers of Local 44 as we fight to strengthen USPS, protect jobs and allow post offices to provide basic banking services.”
Sanders has a plan for postal workers that would allow the Postal Service to provide basic financial services and other consumer products and services.
“Post offices would offer basic checking and savings accounts, debit cards, direct deposit, online banking services, and low-interest, small dollar loans,” Sanders’ plan states. “It would end the racial disparities in access to banking and access to credit, while also stopping financial institutions from reaping massive fees off the poor and underserved.”
“The post office guarantees to deliver your mail in snow and rain, in heat and in gloom of night. It delivers your mail whether you live in a city skyscraper or down a long country road. It can do the same for banking,” he writes.
In 2018, Sanders wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin outlining his plans. In the letter, he detailed that he would allow the Postal Service to recover $50 billion in overpayments it made to its retirement program, end the price cap on stamps which is, according to Sanders, costing the system two billion dollars a year and reinstate overnight delivery and speed up service standards.
Democratic National Committee releases New Hampshire debate qualifications
WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee released the latest polling, donor and pledged delegate thresholds for the Feb. 7 Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire on Friday.
The DNC will offer to pathways for candidates to make the debate stage in February — one mirrors the qualifications for the January debate in Iowa: Candidates must reach 5 percent in four qualifying polls or 7 percent in two qualifying polls conducted in state polls conducted in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, plus have fundraising from 225,000 unique donors and a minimum of 1,000 unique donors per state.
Polls must be released between Dec. 13 and Feb. 6 to count, and all the candidates who participated in the January debate have met the new polling threshold: former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and philanthropist Tom Steyer.
Candidates can also qualify through the pledged delegate pathway. If a candidate finishes the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 with one pledged delegate they will automatically make the debate stage.
County to County: Milwaukee Democrats talk about the importance of 2020
WASHINGTON — If a Democratic presidential candidate is going to win back Wisconsin in 2020, he or she is going to need to turn out the vote in Milwaukee, home to the state’s largest African-American population. That’s something the Democrats failed badly at in 2016.
President Donald Trump wound up winning Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes in 2016 and Milwaukee produced 51,000 fewer votes in that election than it did in 2012.
What are those voters thinking as the calendar flips to 2020? NBC News' "Meet the Press" convened a roundtable of five African-American voters in Milwaukee as part of its year-long "County to County" project following five key counties in five swing states that we believe will decide the 2020 election.
The voters here have a common set of answers about what happened four years ago. Some say that they feel the Democratic Party was taking them for granted. Some say their community has suffered for years economically under Republican and Democratic administrations and they wonder what difference their votes make. And others say they weren’t particularly excited about Democrat Hillary Clinton and they didn’t believe Trump would win.
Regardless, they all say the last election showed how crucial their vote is and the power they’ll hold in their hands this fall.
More important, the story of these voters in 2020 is about more than Milwaukee or Wisconsin. Across the upper Midwest, the states that won Trump the election are full of similar communities where African-American turnout will be crucial. Places like Wayne (Detroit) and Genesee counties (Flint) in Michigan, and Cuyahoga (Cleveland) and Hamilton (Cincinnati) counties in Ohio.
In each of those counties, the same Milwaukee pattern was visible. They are counties with large African-American populations that produced fewer votes in 2016 than they did in 2012. They will be key to Democratic hopes in 2020.
Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer spend nearly $300 million combined in TV and radio ads
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Tom Steyer have now spent nearly $300 million combined on TV and radio ads of Friday, according to ad-spending data from Advertising Analytics. And the two Democratic billionaires and presidential candidates plan to spend millions more in future ad buys through Super Tuesday.
However, the two candidates aren't quite fighting for TV time. Steyer has largely concentrated his spending in the four earlier nominating states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, while Bloomberg's campaign has focused on states that don't vote until closer to or on Super Tuesday.
Bloomberg's campaign has previously said their strategy is to focus on Super Tuesday contests, and not compete in any of the four early states.
Here are the numbers through Friday, Jan. 17:
National ad-spending numbers
- Bloomberg: $190.2 million (with future ad spending at $220.6 million through Super Tuesday)
- Steyer: $106.4 million
- Sanders: $12.2 million
- Buttigieg: $11.8 million
- Yang: $7.9 million
- Trump: $5.7 million
- Warren: $4.5 million
- Klobuchar: $3.2 million
- Biden: $3.2 million
Iowa ad spending
- Steyer: $13.2 million
- Buttigieg: $8.4 million
- Sanders: $7.8 million
- Yang: $5.4 million
- Warren: $4.2 million
- Biden: $3.2 million
- Klobuchar: $2.5 million
New Hampshire ad spending
- Steyer: $15.6 million
- Sanders: $3.8 million
- Bloomberg: $3.3 million
- Yang: $2.4 million
- Buttigieg: $2.0 million
Nevada ad spending
- Steyer: $10.8 million
- Trump: $859,000
- Sanders: $165,000
- Buttigieg: $94,000
South Carolina ad spending
- Steyer: $14.8 million
- Buttigieg: $1.1 million
- Bloomberg: $966,000
- Trump: $549,000
Pete Buttigieg's endorsement town hall interrupted by climate protesters
CONCORD, N.H. — Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg was interrupted by protesters during a town hall in New Hampshire on Friday where he received an endorsement from New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster. The protesters were a group of climate activists against the former South Bend, Indiana mayor's ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Roughly two dozen protesters interrupted Buttigieg during his remarks in Concord, N.H., holding signs with the Buttigieg campaign’s colors of yellow and blue and writing with a matching font, that read “Pete takes money from fossil fuel billionaires.”
They sang and chanted causing a significant interruption of Buttigieg's event. The protesters, according to their distribution materials, aim to hold presidential candidates accountable on their connections to the fossil fuel industry.
Buttigieg at first tried to listen to the group's protests, and interjected to say, “I see some inaccurate information going up here so let's dispatch with that real quick. I've taken the fossil fuel pledge and I am determined to bring about solutions on climate change.”
“I can't make out your song, but we definitely want the same things,” Buttigieg continued as the protesters continued to shout. He then tried to get back to his rehearsed remarks.
“Now, are we ready to do what it's actually going to take to come together and solve these problems?” Buttigieg said to the audience with cheers in response. “Will we turn on one another or will we unite to tackle the issues we face as a country?”
The group has interrupted other candidates at New Hampshire events, including former Vice President Joe Biden in October in Manchester.
“Remember, if you care about solving these problems, if you care about fixing the economy, if you care about fixing our climate, we know what we are up against and it is not each other,” Buttigieg added. “Who's with me on making sure that tackling climate is not another partisan political battlefield? But something that we all rally around as a national project? We got a lot of work to do. We better be ready to do it together.”
The protesters escorted themselves out of the venue after their disruption.
One of the protesters told NBC News that the group protested Buttigieg because he accepted campaign donations from Craig Hall, who owns an oil company and was at Buttigieg's "wine cave" fundraiser in California last month.
“My reaction is that I have a climate policy that's going to get us carbon neutral by the middle of the century and starts on day one with aggressive action,” Buttigieg told reporters after the event. "As the youngest candidate running for president, I will be personally impacted by America's success or failure in dealing with the climate issue. So I respect the issues that they're raising. I share the goal of making sure that we deal with this and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure we can.”
Fight for $15 campaign and the SEIU launch joint campaign effort in Michigan, Wisconsin
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Fight for $15 campaign and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), will launch a major door-knocking operation this weekend targeting minority voters in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin that saw drops in voter turnout in the 2016 election.
The partnership intends to put “tens of millions of dollars" behind the effort through Election Day, targeting 690,000 specific doors in Michigans’s Detroit, Oakland County, Saginaw and Flint areas, and another 750,000 doors in Wisconsin’s Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha neighborhoods. It will also run digital ads and build out a text-message program and is expected to continue through November.
“We know Midwestern states like Wisconsin and my home state of Michigan are key to winning in 2020. Working people will be critical to reaching that goal, particularly black and brown communities that have too often been left behind by national politics,” said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the SEIU. “They’re going to swing the election by getting out, hitting the streets, knocking on doors and lifting up issues like wages, inequality, health care and the right for all workers to join together in a union.”
Just this week — ten months out from the general election — Milwaukee was the focus of both the national Democratic and Republican parties' attention. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and local Democrats engaged in a round table with local leaders in a predominately-black neighborhood of Milwaukee on Thursday. And on Tuesday night, President Trump held a campaign rally just two blocks from where the Democratic Party will hold its national convention this summer.
The partnership between Fight for $15 and SEIU produced a similar program ahead of the midterm elections. Both states elected Democratic governors in 2018.
Michigan and Wisconsin have received heightened attention from political operatives and activists on the left after the 2016 race. While counties like Macomb in Michigan, made up of predominately-white voters, flipped in Trump’s favor in 2016 and saw a significant increase in voter turnout, the states’ more diverse counties, like Wayne County, saw a drop-off in voters from 2012 to 2016.
The SEIU's national organization has not endorsed in the 2020 Democratic primary, but the New Hampshire chapter endorsed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders last week. The Fight for $15 campaign has said it will not endorse in the primary election.
Bennet campaign says it's hit fundraising goal to stay competitive in N.H.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Senator Michael Bennet’s presidential campaign announced Friday that the Colorado senator has hit a self-imposed fundraising goal of $700,000 over the last month, giving the campaign enough resources to compete in first-in-the-nation primary here in just 25 days.
The campaign said that Thursday, the final day of this push, was the best fundraising day for the campaign since September 2019.
“Surpassing our fundraising goal last night is another confirmation of our campaign’s momentum — from key endorsements to growing support in New Hampshire,” said Bennet spokesperson Shannon Beckham. “We’re building the ground game we need to carry Michael to a top three finish on primary night.”
The campaign says that they will be expanding its “Opposite of Trump” ad buy today, adding that hitting this goal followed a few days of critical momentum, especially with endorsements.
Bennet announced last month that he was going all in on New Hampshire for his candidacy and even launched his first TV ad in the state. The campaign says that hitting the fundraising goal means they they will now invest more resources into further expanding their TV and digital ad program.
“Voters watched the debate this week and felt less sure than ever that the front-runners could beat Trump or unite the country to make progress for middle-class families,” Beckham added. “The surge we saw in donations on the final day of the push is further proof that Americans are looking for a president like Michael Bennet, who has the experience and agenda to take on Trump and start governing the country again.”
New Biden ads highlight Obama's praise from Medal of Freedom award
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — As two of his chief rivals spar over each other’s credibility, Joe Biden’s campaign is reminding voters of the ultimate tribute he earned from President Obama, as a “a resilient and loyal and humble servant.”
As it did in the earliest days of his candidacy, the Biden campaign is promoting the glowing tribute Obama offered as he awarded his vice president the Presidential Medal of Freedom, two years ago this week. The 30-second video will target Iowans visiting YouTube starting Friday.
The campaign says it is pushing this message onto the digital streaming platform at a time when they expect traffic to be higher as the NFL’s conference championship games approach. Visitors to the YouTube homepage will see the video prominently on the masthead; a 60-second version will also be launched as an auto-play video before other videos.
The video highlights Obama’s praise for Biden’s character, as a parent and Gold Star parent. It closes with Obama saying, “the best part is he’s nowhere close to finished” — a comment made long before either he or Biden could have anticipated how the 2020 field would take shape.
Biden has shown little hesitation to invoke Obama’s name on the campaign trail. But his campaign has been careful not to use the president’s image and voice as freely. Advisers have kept an open line of communication with president's team to ensure that any messaging that invokes their time in the White House together does not go beyond what Obama would consider fair use, or suggest an endorsement that Obama has not offered.