The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Biden surrogates hope to take attention away from Sanders dispute in Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa — With a little over a week until the Iowa caucuses, surrogates for former Vice President Joe Biden want voters to focus on Biden's electability argument, rather than his ongoing policy debate on Social Security with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In an email exclusively obtained by NBC News, four Hawkeye state Biden endorsers reminded supporters and Iowa politicos to dismiss “falsehoods” spread about Biden’s Social Security record circulating in negative posts by Sanders' campaign. They claim that the Sanders campaign is currently “spending hundreds of thousands of dollars” against Biden, a tactic also employed by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
“There is no surer way to reelect Donald Trump than by letting Bernie Sanders get away with these false attacks and negative tactics,” Bruce Koeppl, the former director of Iowa AARP, wrote in an email. "The attacks of Bernie Sanders, his campaign, and his supporters on Joe Biden only help one person: Donald Trump.”
The letter comes as Biden and Sanders continue to face off on Social Security, a political he-said-he-said that started last Saturday when Biden demanded an apology from Sanders and his aides for spreading supposed out-of-context videos of Biden. While Sanders did apologize to Biden earlier this week, it was specifically for a Sanders supporter and staffer saying Biden has a "corruption problem."
The Biden-Sanders back-and-forth has strengthened as Sanders climbs in state and national polls. For Biden supporters like Koepple, former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council president Bill Gerhard and Liveable Communities advocate Kent Sovern, it's time for action.
“It’s time for the caucus-goers of Iowa to tell Senator Sanders that we’re not going to put up with his malarkey - or his negative attacks," the group said in a note to Biden supporters.
The Biden campaign has tried to elevate Biden's electability argument this week: They posted a Twitter video, and emphasized in a fundraising email, that Democratic infighting will only help elect Trump, and that Biden is still the most electable candidate.
The Sanders campaign responded in a similar video, continuing to highlight comments Biden made on the Senate floor about Social Security.
In an interview with NBC News affiliate WIS10, Biden said that candidates picking apart statements from "35 years" ago may be acting in "desperation."
Bernie Sanders faces heat from allies for Joe Rogan endorsement
DES MOINES, Iowa — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is under fire from some progressives for touting an endorsement from Joe Rogan, a popular but controversial podcaster and comedian.
Rogan, a former mixed martial arts announcer with unconventional political views hosts one of the most-listened-to podcasts on Stitcher, an on-demand podcast app. This week, he said on his show that he’ll probably vote for Sanders because the Vermont senator has been “insanely consistent his entire life.”
Sanders’ campaign highlighted the apparent endorsement Friday, prompting a backlash from some liberals who pointed out that Rogan has a history of making inflammatory comments about LGBTQ people, feminists, and other minority groups, along with flirting with conspiracy theories about former President Obama's birthplace.
“Bernie Sanders has run a campaign unabashedly supportive of the rights of LGBTQ people. Rogan, however, has attacked transgender people, gay men, women, people of color and countless marginalized groups at every opportunity,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the country, said in a statement.
The group added that it was “disappointing that the Sanders campaign has accepted and promoted the endorsement” and called on the Democratic presidential candidate to “reconsider” it.
The progressive group MoveOn.org, which backed Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, went even further, calling on Sanders to “apologize” for touting the endorsement.
Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared take a veiled shot at Sanders for accepting the endorsement, saying in a tweet Saturday, “There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.”
Sanders allies have defended the campaign’s decision to accept the endorsement, arguing Rogan’s is a powerful voice who reaches millions of Americans on the margins of politics who might otherwise vote for President Donald Trump or give up on the political system entirely.
"The goal of our campaign is to build a multi-racial, multi-generational movement that is large enough to defeat Donald Trump and the powerful special interests whose greed and corruption is the root cause of the outrageous inequality in America,” said the campaign's national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray. “Sharing a big tent requires including those who do not share every one of our beliefs, while always making clear that we will never compromise our values. The truth is that by standing together in solidarity, we share the values of love and respect that will move us in the direction of a more humane, more equal world."
Bernie Sanders leads new Iowa poll, but race is still a jump ball
WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took the lead in the latest New York Times/Siena College poll of likely Iowa caucus goers released Saturday. The poll shows Sanders taking 25 percent of first-choice support, which is up from the 19 percent support he garnered in the last New York Times/Siena poll released in November.
The poll found that support for former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and for former Vice President Joe Biden remained consistent from November — the two received 18 and 17 percent support respectively in both polls. However, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren slipped to fourth place with 15 percent support in the new poll. In November's New York Times/Siena survey, Warren led the field with 22 percent.
And Sen. Amy Klobuchar doubled her support in the last two months in this poll. She is 8 percent of potential caucus-goers' first-choice candidate in the newly released poll, up from 4 percent in November. The survey comes after a string of well-received debate performances, and receiving part of the New York Times' editorial board's presidential endorsement.
The race in Iowa remains highly fluid, with the poll finding that 40 percent of those polled said they could still be persuaded to caucus for a different candidate than the one they listed as their first choice.
And what these caucus-goers are looking for in a candidate is still split: 42 percent of voters said they want a candidate who "brings politics in Washington back to normal", while 51 percent want a candidate who "promises fundamental systematic change." Those are the competing messages of progressives like Sanders and Warren, and moderates like Biden. While the progressives may tilt the scale on that question, 55 percent of voters said they want a candidate who is "more moderate" than other Democrats, while only 38 percent said they want someone who is "more liberal" than most Democrats.
The Iowa caucuses are on Feb. 3, and the Des Moines Register, a top newspaper in the state, will be announcing its presidential endorsement on Saturday night.
Iowa youth engagement ticks up ahead of Iowa caucuses, survey shows
WASHINGTON — Young voter turnout in the Iowa caucuses could surge from 2016 numbers, according to a new poll of young Iowans from CIRCLE-Tisch College and Suffolk University.
The new poll, released Friday, shows that 35 percent of Iowans between 18 and 29-years old say they are "extremely likely" to caucus on Feb. 3. In 2016, it's estimated that only 11 percent of Iowans in this age range attended a caucus.
Thirty-nine percent of young Iowans who are registered as Democrats or identify as Democrats plan to caucus for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren trails in second for the youth vote with 19 percent, followed by former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 14 percent. Only 7 percent of young Iowans said they planned to caucus for former Vice President Joe Biden.
While there's always been talk about the impact of the youth vote in elections, this uptick in engagement could be from mobilization. According to this poll, 72 percent of young people in Iowa youth say they have been personally contacted and asked to support a candidate or a party. This eschews traditional thought that engagement efforts are focused on more reliable voting groups.
Carolyn DeWitt, the president and executive director of Rock the Vote — a nonpartisan, non-profit group dedicated to upping political engagement of young people — said political candidates and parties tend to focus “their investments and their outreach to those voters they deem are going to be reliable voters who will turn out, and so, the reality is that they are not doing outreach to young voters.”
DeWitt continued, “We have been seeing a huge increase in youth activism, engagement, and civic participation. In 2018, we saw a 50 percent jump from 2014 numbers in voter turnout.”
Since the 2018 election, according to DeWitt, nearly 9 million people turned 18 and became eligible to vote — which expands a voting electorate that tends to skew Democratic.
“Youth have the incredible power to decide this election, not just at the presidential level but down the ballot as well,” Dewitt said. “Between millennials and voting eligible Gen-Z, they comprise 40 percent of American voters. If they show up and who they decide to vote for will determine the outcomes.”
Warren campaign says it's now hit 1,000 staffers across 31 states
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign said Friday it now has 1,000 staffers across 31 states, gearing up for what they expect will “be a long nomination fight.”
“Our immediate goal is to secure the close to 2,000 delegates necessary to win the Democratic nomination,” Warren campaign manager, Roger Lau, wrote in a memo to supporters — the third of its kind in the last year. “For the last 13 months we have built and executed our plan to win. We expect this to be a long nomination fight and have built our campaign to sustain well past Super Tuesday and stay resilient no matter what breathless media narratives come when voting begins.”
While Lau acknowledges the four early voting states, the memo includes more detail on campaign’s plan for the delegate-rich Super Tuesday states and states with primaries between March and June — emphasizing direct voter contact, more than 100 field offices across the country, and grassroots organizers hyper focused on growing the campaign’s volunteer base.
As the campaign calendar moves closer to the convention, Lau writes, they will be organizing in all 57 states and territories, both with the goal of earning their own delegates, but also of “lift[ing] organization efforts for the ticket up and down the ballot.”
This later stretch of the campaign also means organizing with an eye towards key general election states — like Pennsylvania.
Specifically, the campaign plans to keep its staff and offices in battleground states like Iowa even after those contests end, in an effort to “keep building for the even bigger contest in November.”
And in November — their plan is to close out any possible path to an Electoral College victory for President Trump.
Warren isn’t the only campaign building out an organization for the long term against Trump. The memo, with its boasts of big staffing numbers and commitment to stay on the ground in key states, directly challenges some of her competitors, like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who scaled up his campaign quickly and across the map.
“We also know that you can't just stand up an organization overnight,” Lau writes, implicitly rebuking Bloomberg, a regular punching bag for Warren on the stump.
Pete Buttigieg gets backing from N.H. LGBT leader
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Pete Buttigieg on Friday received the backing of State Rep. Gerri Cannon, an influential figure in the state's LGBT community as one of just four openly transgender state lawmakers in the country and one of the first elected in the Granite State.
A supporter of Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., until his exit from the race earlier this month, Cannon told NBC News that she is now endorsing Buttigieg in the Democratic presidential nomination contest.
“For too long, people have been forced to live fearfully in the shadows or hide their true selves — but Pete is building a country where we can all feel safe,” Cannon said in a statement about her endorsement.
Speaking exclusively with NBC News, Cannon shared why she decided to publicly endorse again after Booker ended his presidential bid.
“I originally went with Cory because I met him well over a year ago and the two of us had established our friendship,” Cannon told NBC News. “But at the same time, I knew that Pete was also hitting many of those same points — pulling people together, wanting to do good things, but do it with all people, all of us Americans just pull together and make it happen. And so I always took that to heart.”
Cannon spoke to the “connection” she felt over overcoming obstacles associated with their identities.
“I guess the best way to explain it is the connection, especially for me as also being a trans woman,” Cannon told NBC News. “When you're looking at people running for office, if you're an older white guy, it's normal to get out and run for office, it's not all that difficult. But if you're a gay man or a black man or, in my case, a transgender woman, we’re breaking the stereotypes.”
Cannon also spoke to the influx of pressure she felt to give her support to another 2020 Dem candidate after Booker dropped out of the race.
“It was fascinating,” she said. “My phone was ringing off the hook. Even before I knew that Cory had pulled out, I had a phone call from someone asking me to endorse another campaign.”
She emphasized that between now and when voting happens in New Hampshire, a mere 18 days away, Cannon feels that Buttigieg needs to “keep doing what he’s doing.”
“He's bold, he's getting out and talking with people, he's sharing good ideas and thoughts of what he can do for the country,” she said. “Pete talks about the areas that need to be addressed.”
Earlier this week, Buttigieg picked up the support of State Senator Martha Hennessey, also a former Booker endorser. Buttigieg also received the endorsement last week from U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, the only member of the congressional delegation from New Hampshire to endorse so far this cycle.
Trump campaign announces re-election rally on eve of New Hampshire primary
MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Donald Trump is set to hold a re-election “Keep America Great” rally here the night before the New Hampshire primary, his campaign formally announced Thursday.
With a flock of Democratic candidates descending onto New Hampshire for the eight days after the Iowa caucus before voting begins in the state, Trump’s campaign has also signaled it will have a heavy presence with top surrogates canvassing the state.
The rally will be held at the SNHU Arena in downtown Manchester on Feb. 10, just hours before the polls open. The 11,000-seat arena is where Trump held a rally in August.
The president will also be holding a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 30, four days before the Iowa caucus.
"Donald Trump's visit to New Hampshire on the eve of the primary is the best thing that could have happened to New Hampshire Democrats,” the state party's spokesperson, Holly Shulman, said in a statement to NBC News.
“With Trump reminding us of his broken promises to Granite Staters — from his refusal to lower prescription drug prices to his administration stacked with lobbyists to his efforts to end a woman's right to choose — even more independent voters will be motivated to cast a vote in our primary and against Trump on February 11th," Shulman added.
The New Hampshire rally will also be two nights after the NHDP McIntyre-Shaheen dinner is also set to be held at the arena, where every 2020 Democratic candidate on the New Hampshire ballot is invited to speak.
Joe Biden gets new round of New Hampshire endorsements
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden is receiving a new round of New Hampshire endorsements Thursday, just 19 days until voting happens in the state, including notable state leaders and elected officials as well as some switches in support.
DNC Committee Member Bill Shaheen, husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is among a group a dozen new backers for Biden in the state formally announcing their support for Biden. In a statement, Shaheen said Biden is the best candidate to help Democrats win elections across the board in 2020.
“We need a President and a Senate who can bring dignity back to our country and immediately command respect on the world stage,” Shaheen said. “Winning the White House is only half of the battle. In order to change our course we must win the Senate. I'm supporting Joe Biden because he can do both."
Other endorsers include former New Hampshire state Senate President Sylvia Larsen, who has hosted a number of 2020 Democratic candidates in her home for traditional house parties, and was a backer of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
"After careful consideration of our many talented candidates, I believe Joe Biden is the best candidate to lead us forward to a moral, compassionate America which restores our faith in the American dream of equal opportunity, access to healthcare, innovation in industry, and international stability," Larsen said in a statement.
In noteworthy switches of support, Joe Keefe, the former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair, announced his support for Biden, saying, “When we choose a nominee, we need to pick the person who can unite the Democratic Party, unite the country, defeat Donald Trump, and work to heal our divided nation. Joe Biden has spent his entire career delivering Democratic wins and moving our country forward.”
Keefe previously endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) before she dropped out of the presidential race.
Jim Demers, a longtime political operative and former Obama co-chair in 2008 and 2012 is also endorsing Biden. Previously this cycle, Demers was a senior adviser to Sen. Cory Booker’s, D-N.J., campaign, helping to launch his candidacy and gain support in New Hampshire before he dropped out of the race just weeks ago.
And finally, Former Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., announced his endorsement of Biden on this list. Hodes endorsed Obama early on in 2008 and was previously Marianne Williamson’s New Hampshire state Director until she ended her presidential run.
Biden is scheduled to be in New Hampshire Friday and Saturday for his 10th trip to the state since announcing.
Marianne Williamson lends her support to Andrew Yang in Iowa
WASHINGTON — Former presidential candidate activist Marianne Williamson lent her support to businessman Andrew Yang in Iowa on Wednesday night. In a three-part post on Instagram, Williamson said she'll support Yang in Iowa to help him "get past the early primaries & remind us not to take ourselves too seriously."
While Williamson is backing Yang in Iowa, she said in her first post that this was not endorsing a person, but endorsing issues.
Williamson also said she supports Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but that they would not need her help in securing their place in the field past the four first nominating contests, and that they are "transactional politicians."
"They come from a political school of thought — dominated by a 20th Century perspective — which holds that who a candidate is, isn’t nearly as significant as what they say they’ll do," Williamson wrote. "And that’s a huge mistake, because the part of the brain that rationally analyzes an issue isn’t always the part of the brain that decides who to vote for.
Williamson ended her unconventional presidential campaign in early January, after laying off her entire campaign staff. While Williamson struggled in national polls and fundraising, she appeared on two of the Democratic debate stages where she threw her support around harnessing love to defeat President Trump and reparations for descendants of slaves.
Yang responded to the endorsement on Twitter saying that he was looking forward to seeing Williamson on the trail.
Warren picks up support from more New Hampshire switchers
MANCHESTER, N.H. — With less than three weeks left until the primary, more New Hampshire state legislators are switching their support, this time to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., her campaign tells NBC News.
After Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced a slate of local endorsements in September that featured New Hampshire State Rep. Wendy Chase, the legislator told the Associated Press that “publicizing her endorsement was premature.”
Now, Chase has decided to formally endorse Warren because she “has the record to prove she can get the job done.”
“Elizabeth is the progressive leader we need to beat Trump,” said Rep. Chase in a statement.
State Representatives Lee Oxenham and Jeff Salloway — former Sen. Cory Booker backers — are also shifting their support to the Massachusetts senator, citing her climate change policy and anti-corruption platform, respectively.
“Elizabeth’s comprehensive plans would help Granite Staters: putting power in the hands of working people and transitioning us to a clean energy economy,” said Rep. Oxenham in a statement.
“Her platform and record of fixing corruption in government is the perfect antithesis to what we see day in and day out from the Trump administration,” said Rep. Salloway, adding he believes Warren is “the strongest candidate to take on Trump and win.”
Since Booker dropped out of the presidential race, several of his former New Hampshire endorsers have spread out among the rest of the remaining field — announcing support for Warren, Buttigieg, Biden, Klobuchar, and Bennet.
“We’re building a movement in New Hampshire for big, structural change,” said Warren in a statement thanking her new endorsers.
Rep. Dave Doherty rounds out the latest endorsements for Warren, who now has the support of 55 state representatives from nine of New Hampshire’s 10 counties.
Earlier this week, Warren earned the sought-after support of DNC Committeewoman and former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Kathy Sullivan and N.H. State Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh.
“I think she's got the best plans, and I think she's a fire — she's going to do what she can to institute reforms that will that will help everyday Americans,” Sullivan told NBC News.
Last week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar picked up support from local lawmakers who had previously endorsed Booker and Warren, and a Nashua alderman “un-endorsed” Sanders to support Andrew Yang.
Sullivan, like many Granite Staters, only made up her mind days ago and understands why both coveted elected officials and average voters are still undecided.
“I think people need to take the time that they want to take, and if that means they make their decision while they're walking into the voting booth, that's okay as long as they walk into the voting booth,” she said.
“There are a lot of good people running for president; it's an important decision to make.”
Sanders campaign seeks to refocus messaging for Iowa's final stretch
DES MOINES, Iowa — After nearly a week of back-and-forth with former Vice President Joe Biden, the Bernie Sanders campaign is aiming to get back on the policy messaging track with just days to go before the Iowa caucuses.
“When you start to go up, obviously, you get a lot of fire,” senior Sanders campaign advisor said in an interview with NBC News Wednesday, noting state and national polls showing the Vermont senator surging. “The person in front has the biggest target on their back. And I think you're starting to see that now.”
Asked if voters might be concerned about the negativity on display in the recent clashes with Biden, Weaver said, “it’s not really negative and this is not personal. This is about a very different view in terms of [Sanders and Biden’s] policy positions and their record. And that’s what voters need to know in the course of the caucus.”
The sparring between the two camps over the holiday weekend continued this week. After Biden expanded it to include Sanders’ record on gun control in the Senate, Sanders told reporters in Washington Wednesday that it was “fair” for Biden to look at his record. “Joe Biden voted for the war in Iraq. I opposed it. Joe Biden voted for a terrible bankruptcy bill. I strongly opposed it. Joe Biden voted for disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA and PNTR with China. I vigorously opposed them. And Joe Biden has been on the floor of the Senate talking about the need to cut social security.”
In his interview with NBC News, Weaver echoed the same criticisms, but wouldn’t say whether the campaign sees Biden as Sanders’ biggest competitor. Instead, Weaver said he believes the focus should remain on President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump is the most threatening competitor because he's destroying America, as we watch,” Weaver said.
Weaver also touted Sanders' ability to expand the Democratic vote in the general election, saying that the senator “does very well with independent voters. He does very well with the young voters that we need to bring out. He does very well with voters of color, particularly Latino voters, so we need to engage at higher levels in this process and if we do that, we're going to defeat Donald Trump.”
But the criticism of Biden resurfaced when NBC News asked Weaver about the campaign’s involvement with “Our Revolution,” an organization that promotes the ideals of Sanders but also accepts high-dollar donations without disclosing contributors, a practice that has come under much criticism.
“We have no relationship with Our Revolution, frankly. Just like we don't have any former relationship with MoveOn or DFA or a host of other progressive groups who are out there fighting for progressive change in this country,” Weaver said. “On the other hand, Joe Biden has a sanctioned super PAC which is running hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising here in Iowa. We don’t need big donors coming in here and deciding who the Democratic nominee is going to be.”
Weaver told NBC News, “We've been very clear we don't want any outside help from any third party groups. The way the law is set up we can't direct them not to do it, we don't control them in any way.” While the law doesn’t explicitly prevent the campaign from asking them to stop, the organization is not required to adhere to the request. Weaver is the former president of Our Revolution, when it was founded by Sen. Bernie Sanders in the summer of 2016.
When Sanders was asked about Our Revolution in an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio this weekend, he called for the group to be shut down — on the condition that other candidates disavow their Super PACs as well. “I think that we should end Super PACS right now,” Sanders said. “So I will tell my opponents who have a Super PAC, why don’t you end it? And that’s applicable to the groups that are supporting me.”