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Vulnerable Republican senators deal with challengers at home on impeachment
WASHINGTON — On Friday, the Senate will vote on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial of President Trump. This has left a handful of vulnerable Republican senators stuck between toeing the party line in the trial and dealing with attacks on the campaign trail in their home states.
Some Republicans like Maine's Susan Collins and Utah's Mitt Romney, have said they'll vote for witnesses. But at least three vulnerable members, like Colorado's Cory Gardner, Arizona's Martha McSally and North Carolina's Thom Tillis reportedly feel that allowing witnesses could hurt them in their primaries.
Here’s how the challengers to some of 2020's most vulnerable Republicans are talking about impeachment:
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst caused headlines when she rhetorically pondered if the impeachment trial would affect former Vice President Joe Biden's chances at the Iowa caucuses.
Her likely opponent, Theresa Greenfield, has remained quiet on the issue of impeachment since November, when her campaign noted that “It’s wrong, plain and simple, for any president to pressure a foreign government to investigate a political opponent.”
But this week on Twitter Greenfield chided the senator for her comments on Biden, and is now fundraising off them.
In order to flip the Senate, Democrats probably need to win in Maine against Collins. Her challenger, Sara Gideon, seized on Collins’ seeming indecision regarding witnesses — Collins voted against witnesses at the outset of the trial, but by the end of opening arguments said she would vote for witnesses. Gideon responded on Twitter saying, "You can't say you are for witnesses, and yet vote time and time again with Mitch McConnell."
While some Republicans have tried to find a middle ground during the hearings, Tillis has made clear that he intends to vote to acquit President Trump. His Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee-endorsed challenger, Cal Cunningham, has said that that a fair trial "includes witnesses."
McSally caused a media stir by calling a reporter a "liberal hack" for asking her about witnesses, and later tweeted that she did not want to hear from witnesses. Her chief opponent, astronaut Mark Kelly, has stayed away from the impeachment issue as well.
However, Kelly did take a veiled swipe at the president and McSally by releasing a statement that said his “campaign won’t ask for or accept any assistance from a foreign government. That’s an easy decision because it’s against the law."
While Gardner is an official "no" on witnesses, his likely opponent in Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, supported the president's impeachment and has repeatedly stressed the need for witness testimony, saying that without it, the trial would be “a sham.”
Sen. David Perdue will likely face either former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff or former Columbus, Ga. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. Tomlinson is a supporter of the president's removal and called out Perdue for not “even pretending to be” a fair juror.
While Ossoff tweeted in September that “If Trump pressured a foreign power to smear his political opponent, dangling security assistance as leverage, he should be impeached,” he has not weighed in on the president's impeachment since.
Andrew Yang chokes up as Iowa campaign winds down
WATERLOO, Iowa — Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang became visibly emotional while talking about his time in Iowa when campaigning in Dubuque, Iowa Thursday.
“I've been coming to Iowa for almost two years,” Yang said. “I started coming in Spring of 2018, I have to say I loved campaigning here, you all have been beautiful to me and my family.”
“I'm really glad that you all are going to determine the future of our country,” Yang added, his voice cracking.
Yang then placed his head in one of his hands and cried while the audience applauded, with some shouting out “Thank you, Andrew!”
It’s rare to see presidential candidates getting emotional as they campaign across the country. Yang most recently became deeply emotional at a gun control forum in Des Moines, Iowa last summer, after being asked how he would address unintentional shootings by children as president.
“I have a six and three-year-old boy, and I was imagining ...” Yang said at the forum, putting his head in one hand as he cried. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw it.”
Yang is currently on a 17-day bus tour through Iowa. With the Iowa caucuses looming right around the corner, Yang has been in a full-on sprint to speak to as many voters as he can before February 3rd.
“My kids love it here,” Yang said in Dubuque. “They came in the summer, they've been here this past week. One, they love daddy's bus, ‘cause now daddy's got a huge bus.”
“My boys don't really understand what I'm doing,” Yang added. “Just told them daddy has a really big deadline on Monday.”
Yang has had 78 events in January alone, according to the Des Moines Register’s candidate tracker, dramatically outpacing candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who have spent most of the past two weeks in Washington, D.C. during the impeachment trial.
But even former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigeg and former Vice President Joe Biden couldn’t keep pace with Yang this month. Buttigieg had 48 and Biden had 31 events.
In the latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll, Yang was polling at 5 percent among likely 2020 Democratic caucus goers.
Bloomberg nabs endorsement from Utah's lone Democratic congressman
DAVENPORT, Iowa — Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah's lone Democratic member of Congress, is throwing his support behind Mike Bloomberg’s presidential bid the campaign announced Friday morning, arguing that the former New York City mayor is the candidate best positioned to heal a divided country and move beyond partisan politics.
McAdams marks Bloomberg’s sixth congressional endorsement in a span of six weeks and might help the former mayor bolster his appeal as a consensus candidate who can win over independents and disaffected Trump voters.
McAdams, a former Salt Lake City mayor, defeated Republican incumbent Mia Love in a tight race during the 2018 midterms and represents one of reddest districts held by a Democrat.
President Trump carried Utah’s fourth congressional district by nearly seven percentage points in 2016.
During his House campaign, McAdams touted himself as a moderate Democrat — someone who would work across the aisle and focus on the issues.
In Bloomberg, the congressman said he sees a leader with familiar values and a similar aim. “Washington is full of people who talk.”
“Our country is desperately in need of a doer like Mike who puts people ahead of politics,” he said in a Bloomberg campaign release.
"I'm honored to have the support of Congressman McAdams, a former mayor who understands the importance of getting things done," Bloomberg said. "In Utah and in Congress, he's led on the issues critical to this election, taking action to create jobs, improve education, and expand access to affordable health care for every American. I'm looking forward to working with him to bring people together and rebuild America."
Casting aside the early-state strategy of his fellow 2020 contenders, Bloomberg has made a play — and also significant investments — in swing areas across the Midwest and in states like Texas, Florida and North Carolina.
Despite Bloomberg's late entrance into the race, and not competing in the traditional early states, he’s made gains in national polls and has spent more than $230 million on television and radio ads so far.
Bloomberg, with help from leaders like McAdams, hopes this “Blue Wall” strategy pays off on Super Tuesday, when a large number of delegates are up for grabs in 14 states, including Utah.
Buttigieg seeks contrast with Biden and Sanders ahead of Iowa caucuses
DECORAH, Iowa — With four days until the Iowa Caucus and closing arguments setting in, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is directly contrasting himself with other top Democratic contenders. He went after Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., by name Thursday arguing that it’s time for both men to make way for a new approach to governing, presenting himself as a clear alternative to potential caucus goers in the room.
Biden has suggested in the past that now is not the time for voters to take a risk on someone new. And Buttigieg took aim at those remarks. “The biggest risk we could take with a very important election coming up is to look to the same Washington playbook and recycle the same arguments and expect that to work against a president like Donald Trump who is new in kind,” he said calling on the crowd to help him “turn the page.”
The candidate hit Sanders for his, “go all the way here and nothing else counts” approach to politics as ineffective for getting things done and cautioned against focusing on disputes of the past without an eye toward the future.
“This is no time to get caught up in reliving arguments from before,” he said. “The less 2020 resembles 2016 in our party, the better.”
In recent weeks, Sanders and Biden have sparred over Iraq war votes and Social Security. Buttigieg characterized the arguments between the two veteran lawmakers as backwards facing relics of the past.
“This is 2020 and we've got, not only to learn the lessons of the war in Iraq, but to make sure we don't get sucked into a war with Iran,” he said.
Buttigieg himself has previously criticized Biden’s “judgment” because of the former Vice President’s vote in favor of the Iraq war. He said that the conversation taking place around the issue now is different.
“My point is that we can't get bogged down or caught in those arguments without a view toward the future,” the former mayor explained. “The next president’s going to face questions and challenges that are different in kind from what ... has been litigated and argued about in the 1990s.”
On disagreements over Social Security, he noted that "Donald Trump is threatening Social Security, and announcing cuts to Medicaid today."
Buttigieg said he felt the need to call his competitors out because he sought to guarantee a “clear understanding of the different paths that we offer" ahead of the last days before the caucus.
“This is a moment in particular where I think the stakes of the election are coming into focus and the differences in how each of us believe we can win and govern are also coming into focus,” he said.
As for alienating voters by going after fellow contenders days before the caucus, Buttigieg isn’t worried. “We’re competing,” he said expressing his desire to “make sure that that choice is as clear as possible, going into these final days.”
Trump campaign previews Super Bowl ads
DES MOINES, Iowa — President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign previewed the first of two Super Bowl ads on Thursday, making the argument that the country is “stronger, safer and more prosperous” under the current administration.
“America demanded change and change is what we got,” the spot opens, with a dramatic narrator and images of the president campaigning nationwide. The commercial touts wage growth, low unemployment and promises that “the best is yet to come.”
The ad, "Stronger, Safer, More Prosperous," doesn’t mention other candidates in the race and features news clips on the strong economy. The other 30-second ad won’t be seen until it actually airs during the highly-viewed game on Sunday.
“Just as the Super Bowl crowns the greatest football team, nothing says ‘winning’ like President Donald Trump and his stellar record of accomplishment for all Americans,” said Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale.
Trump will be in Iowa for his own re-election rally Thursday night ahead of a significant push from his campaign which will include surrogates on the ground in the Hawkeye State through next week's caucuses.
Earlier in the day, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s campaign released a 60-second spot focused on gun control that, like the president's ad, will hit the airwaves during the Super Bowl.
The dueling advertisements will mark the first time presidential campaigns have bought airtime during a Super Bowl, though the Trump campaign is quick to point out that they were first to reach out to the broadcaster, FOX, last fall and reserved the slot in December. Weeks after that, the Bloomberg team followed suit.
Iowa ad spending ticks up in the last week before caucuses
DES MOINES, Iowa — Ad spending in Iowa is ramping up just five days out from the caucuses. Democratic Majority for Israel, a group that campaigns against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, is spending $681,000 against Sanders in Iowa in the final week of the race (Jan. 28 to Feb. 3), according to data from Advertising Analytics.
The ad the group is airing in heavy rotation — it was on air twice within 15 minutes on local TV in Iowa — features a woman speaking to the camera saying, "I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’ health considering he just had a heart attack." After recovering from his heart attack, Sanders released a letter from his doctors declaring him "in good health" and "more than fit" enough to be president.
Just a few days out from the Iowa caucuses, here is all of the ad spending in the final week of the race: Here is (Jan. 28 to Feb. 3):
From Jan. 28 to Feb. 3
- Steyer: $1.4 million
- Sanders: $1.2 million
- Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $992,000
- Warren: $947,000
- Buttigieg: $854,000
- Klobuchar: $767,000
- Democratic Majority for Israel: $681,000
- Yang: $613,000
- Biden: $530,000
- Bloomberg: $51,000
- Club for Growth: $34,000
- Florida Sen. Rick Scott: $19,000
- Delaney: $19,000
SOURCE: Advertising Analytics
Bloomberg unveils Super Bowl ad on gun violence
DES MOINES, Iowa — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ad touts his record on preventing gun violence, evoking the story of a mother whose son was shot and killed at just 20 years old.
The ad, set to air during Sunday's Super Bowl, cost $11 million to run, according to data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. President Trump's campaign is also slated to run a Super Bowl ad as well.
In Bloomberg's ad, Calandrian Simpson Kemp tells the emotional story of the 2013 death of her son, George Kemp Jr. She then praises Bloomberg for his role in starting Moms Demand Action, a grassroots gun violence prevention group under Bloomberg's umbrella organization Everytown for Gun Safety.
"I heard Mike Bloomberg speak, he's been in this fight for so long," Simpson Kemp says in the ad.
"When I heard Mike was stepping into the ring, I thought, 'Now we have a dog in the fight.'"
Bloomberg's work on gun violence is one of his main selling points to a Democratic primary electorate, and it's something that the campaign says it will focus on in the coming days.
Along with the release of the ad, the Bloomberg campaign says it's going to keep highlighting the stories of gun violence survivors and will launch a multistate bus tour ahead of February's National Gun Violence Survivors Week.
“I chose to devote the entire 60-second ad to gun safety because it matters to communities across the country and it will be a top priority for me as president,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
“Calandrian’s story is a powerful reminder of the urgency of this issue and the failure of Washington to address it."
The eye-popping cost of the ad emphasizes how Bloomberg's significant personal wealth is a game changer for his presidential bid — he's already spent hundreds of millions more on ads than his Democratic presidential rivals.
Bloomberg has also leveraged his relationships with mayors throughout the country during his presidential bid — his campaign announced an endorsement Thursday from Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who mentioned Bloomberg's record on gun violence prevention in announcing her endorsement in a statement provided to The Washington Post.
—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
Biden to pre-empt Trump rally with speech and ad on ‘character’
DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden is set to take on President Donald Trump ahead of the president's rally in Iowa Thursday, pointing out key differences between their leadership styles as he attempts to look ahead to a possible general election match-up.
During a morning speech in Waukee, Biden is expected to expand on remarks he has already debuted in his final trip through Iowa ahead of the caucuses, stressing to Iowans the urgent need to caucus for a candidate capable of defeating Trump because the country’s “character is on the ballot.”
Biden will repeat how he “doesn’t believe” America is the “dark, angry nation” Trump has made it seem with decisions like family separation, building walls or “embraces White supremacist and hate groups.”
In a week where impeachment is dominating headlines, the speech is an effort by Biden to rise above the developments in Washington including efforts by Republicans to ensure him in ongoing proceedings. The campaign is signaling that his remarks will be “inspirational and hopeful” in hopes to showing Democrats a broader and more comprehensive critique of Trump.
“Trump desperately wants to impact the outcome of the Democratic primary, dropping into Iowa a few days before the caucus to spread a message of division, discord, and hate,” the Biden campaign said in a statement previewing Thursday’s speech. “Trump has been trying to prevent Biden from getting the nomination since the moment the VP got into the race, getting himself impeached by the House and tried in the Senate in the process.”
Thus far the Biden campaign and the candidate have largely stayed away from responding directly to minute-by-minute developments in the Senate impeachment trial in an attempt to avoid tit-for-tat spats. But in his closing argument, just four days before the start of the primary voting season, the campaign is signaling they are ready to make this about Biden versus Trump.
In conjunction with his Waukee speech, the Biden campaign will amplify its message about restoring America’s character in a one minute TV ad that will air across all five top media markets throughout the day.
The ad stresses how precious a decision it is to choose the right president because the White House and the Oval Office is where a leader’s “character is revealed.”
“But it’s in life where your character is formed,” the narrator says as it flashes pictures of Biden’s hometown, his family and events that have shaped his life.
Surrogates cover New Hampshire while candidates are elsewhere
MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Senate impeachment trial and looming Iowa caucuses might be dominating the political discussion right now but New Hampshire voters will cast the first 2020 primary ballots in less than two weeks.
The balancing act for the campaigns has resulted in a surge of campaign surrogates in the Granite State to make the case for their candidates. Aside from former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, no other top-tier candidates have held more than five public events in the state since the start of 2020.
Biden surrogates: Former Secretary of State John Kerry and former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch have been heavy hitters for former Vice President Joe Biden as he makes his final case across Iowa.
Kerry fielded questions about Biden's name being mentioned during the impeachment trial while holding a meet and greet in Biden's Manchester, N.H. field office.
“The reason they're trying to use this Ukraine thing is purely to do a Benghazi, to do an email kind of thing,” Kerry said. “Just hammer and hammer and hammer and throw the mud, and you wait and see what happens tomorrow on the floor of the Senate with their defense.”
Lynch emphasized the importance of candidates and their supporters showing up and connecting with voters in New Hampshire.
“Voters expect the candidates to come up and look them in the eye, answer the tough questions, meet them in the living rooms,” Lynch told NBC News . “It doesn't happen in big states that's one of the big advantages of New Hampshire and why we've been so important for the whole nominating process.”
Warren surrogates: Actress and activist Ashley Judd, as well as Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III have come in for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Judd connected with the neighboring senator’s humble Midwest roots and stressed that those parts of Warren are essential.
“We are going to tell them about her past, we are going to tell them about her family,” she told a small group of students at Dartmouth College. “We are going to tell them about her record in the Senate. You know, she can't do that right now because she's sitting there trying to impeach this crook.”
She continued, "“But we can be her legs, we can be her feet and we can be her surrogates in convincing folks who are still undecided as to why she should be our nominee for our party.”
Kennedy told NBC News that he’s been taking the time to share anecdotes about his former law professor.
“I think the stakes are pretty high for surrogates because they’re high for our country, regardless,” he said of representing Warren. “This election is going to probably be the most consequential one of my lifetime.”
Surrogates for Sanders: New Hampshire served as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' first win in 2016, and ice cream duo Ben & Jerry have been in New Hampshire to keep making the case that Sanders is voters' best bet.
Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry’s, had an interesting suggestion for students at New England College who might have “better things to do” on Feb. 11.
“Take your date to the polls. Take your date to the polls and do it in the booth. Do it in the booth for Bernie! Do it in the booth for Bernie! Do it in the booth for Bernie! Have a good time,” he said after scooping ice cream.
His counterpart, Jerry Greenfield, told NBC News he hopes to “get folks out to vote who don’t always vote.”
“Not me, us,” he said. “And in particular with him being in Washington it's an opportunity for all of Bernie supporters to be out doing more for him.”
Surrogates for Buttigieg: Newly-announced campaign co-chair for the Buttigieg campaign, N.H. Rep. Annie Kuster has been looking to excite undecideds to come out for Buttigieg in two weeks.
Kuster said she’s been involved in presidential campaigns in NH since she was 16 years old, and this is the highest level of undecided voters she has ever seen.
“We’ve never had anything like this. Usually, we’re in the home stretch, 16 days to go we know exactly who our voters are," Kuster said. "This is very different, you’re still in persuasion mode and then trying to make sure our voters get to the polls.”
Surrogates for Klobuchar: A slew of state elected officials have been holding "office hours" on behalf of the Minnesota senator as she splits time between the impeachment trial and campaigning in Iowa.
Doug Collins enters Georgia Senate race, setting off Republican battle
WASHINGTON — Georgia Rep. Doug Collins on Tuesday announced his bid to challenge Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in November, a move that drew immediate condemnation from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party-run organization dedicated to maintaining the Senate majority.
Loeffler was appointed by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp in December to fill the remaining term of Johnny Isakson, who had resigned because of health reasons. At the time of the appointment, Collins had drawn support from allies of President Donald Trump to be Kemp's choice.
Collins became a major defender of the president during the House impeachment hearings and said in announcing his Senate bid on Fox News that he still had "a lot of work left to do to help this president finish this impeachment out."
The NRSC's executive director, Kevin McLaughlin, said that he and the organization will fully support Loeffler's re-election effort.
“The shortsightedness in this decision is stunning. Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come," McLaughlin said in a statement (Perdue, also a Republican, is Georgia's other senator). "All he has done is put two Senate seats, multiple House seats and Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in play."
In a tweet on Wednesday, Collins called McLaughlin's statement "fake news" from "the head of a Washington-based group whose bylaws require him to support all incumbents, even unelected ones."
But it wasn't only national Republican groups that argued against Collins' choice. The Senate Leadership Fund, aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the move "selfish."
"It’s so selfish of Doug Collins to be promoting himself when President Trump needs a unified team and Senator Loeffler is such a warrior for the president," fund president Steven Law said. "As we've said before, Senator Loeffler is an outsider like Trump, not just another D.C. politician. We’ll have her back if she needs us."
Since joining the Senate, Loeffler has defended the president during the impeachment hearings and attacked those she felt were not. On Monday, Loeffler called out Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on Twitter after he re-established his openness to hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial.
Three Democrats have announced that they are running to fill the last two years of Isakson's term: Tamara Johnson-Shealey, Matt Lieberman and Richard Dien Winfield.
The primary is May 19, and potential candidates have until March 6 to file. The winner on Nov. 3 will have to run for re-election in 2022.
Klobuchar might not be viable at many Iowa caucus sites. Where will her supporters go?
URBANDALE, Iowa — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is depending on success in the Iowa caucus next week.
Her Democratic presidential campaign has seen a surge in the state in recent weeks (her campaign calls it “Klomentum”), with even some polls showing her at or near double-digit support in Iowa. In the latest Monmouth University poll in the Hawkeye State, released on Wednesday, Klobuchar registered at 10 percent support.
While that shows a growth in her support, it could still mean that she may not hit the crucial 15 percent viability threshold in many caucuses, and possibly statewide.
Whether or not she can surpass that mark will be crucial both to her success and to the fortunes of other candidates.
The Iowa caucus doles out its delegates proportionally both by congressional district and based on the statewide results. In order to be considered "viable" at a precinct and win delegates, a candidate must reach 15 percent support at each individual precinct caucus site (there are 1,679 total in Iowa this cycle).
If a candidate doesn’t reach viability after the caucusgoers make their initial picks (in what's called first alignment), supporters have the option to move to one of the viable groups (that's called realignment).
So if Klobuchar fails to hit viability in a number of precinct caucuses, her supporters' second choices could be instrumental in another candidate’s success.
The only thing is, her supporters aren’t necessarily rallying around the same second choice.
NBC News spoke with various Klobuchar supporters across Iowa in recent days to get an idea of where her support might shift if she does fall short of viability on caucus night.
Nancy Davis of Urbandale, a registered Republican until a couple of weeks ago who plans to caucus for Klobuchar, doesn't have a clear second choice.
“That’s my problem. I like Elizabeth Warren but I think she’s a little harsh. She’s got these edges to her. But when you have Biden and Bernie, they’re too old. I like Pete but I don’t know that he could sustain a national campaign either. If I’m going to do a second choice, I’m gonna have to really sit and think about it," she said.
Sue Amosson of West Des Moines is leaning towards Klobuchar, but Elizabeth Warren is her back-up. “I do know strong women sometimes are not liked. White men are always regarded as more intelligent, I think that if a woman if strong and goes after what she believes in, she’s not liked. It’s crazy," Amosson said.
Bill and Mary Turner of Muscatine are planning to caucus for Klobuchar but their back-up is Tom Steyer. “We love Klobuchar’s Midwest sensibility. In my mind, both Klobuchar and Steyer are non-traditional politicians," Bill Turner said.
"Amy knows how to work across the aisle and if there’s undecided voters who don’t want an insider then Tom’s the guy. But Amy knows how to get things done."
Neither of them have a plan if neither candidate is viable.
Cherie Post Dargan of Waterloo told NBC that Klobuchar is a good choice because having a woman in the White House would ensure progress on “education, pragmatic childcare, education, job training, how we turn this country around rebuilding infrastructure.”
On her second choice: “I am not opposed to Elizabeth Warren. I really admire Pete Buttigieg. And I really hope whoever is the candidate that they think long and hard about who their running mate will be; I really liked Kamala Harris. This field was an embarrassment of riches.”
Dargan caucused for Joe Biden in 2008.
Andrew Turner in Des Moines is a former Booker supporter who’s now committed to caucus for Klobuchar, citing her ability to win in conservative districts. His second choice: Biden. Why? “Because he’s not a small-town mayor from a town of maybe 20,000 people.”
New Iowa poll shows Biden in the lead, but half of voters open to changing their minds
WASHINGTON — With only five days to go until the Iowa caucuses, a new Monmouth University poll shows a tight caucus race among five candidates with former Vice President Joe Biden slightly ahead.
The poll, released Wednesday, shows Biden leading among likely Democratic caucus-goers with 23 percent support. But Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg's support falls within in the margin of error with 21 and 16 percent respectively. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with 15 percent support, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, at 10 percent, round out the top five.
However, only 47 percent of voters said they were "firmly" decided on their candidate while 53 percent of likely caucus-goers saying they are at least somewhat open to changing their allegiance on Feb. 3. And that could benefit Warren, who was the top second choice candidate, with 19 percent of voters saying they'd pick her after their first choice.
While second choices may not mean much in primary states, in a caucus state like Iowa that could help Warren if any of those supporters' first choices don't meet the viability requirements on the first alignment of a caucus.
For Biden, this poll shows some more strength than other recent Iowa polls. A New York Times/Siena College poll last week showed him in third place in Iowa — behind Sanders and Buttigieg. And the last Des Moines Register/CNN poll in the state, from earlier this month, showed him in fourth place with Sanders leading the pack and followed by Warren and Buttigieg.
This poll also documents Klobuchar's climbing strength in the state. While she has just 10 percent in this poll, her jump to double-digit support could matter on caucus night where most viability requirements to make it pass the first round are 15 percent. If Klobuchar makes the viability threshold in early rounds, that could hurt other moderate candidates like Biden who may have hoped to pick up Klobuchar supporters in later rounds.
The Iowa caucuses take place on Monday, Feb. 3.
New Iowa ad questions Bernie Sanders' electability, references his heart attack
DES MOINES, Iowa — A Democratic pro-Israel group will start running a television ad here Wednesday hitting Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders that references his heart attack and argues the Vermont independent senator is unelectable against President Donald Trump.
The almost $700,000 advertising campaign, from the PAC associated with the group Democratic Majority for Israel, comes as Sanders has surged in Iowa days before Monday's first-in-the-nation caucuses. Sanders' strong standing in the polls has concerned some more moderate Democrats.
The ad features testimonials from Iowans saying they’re worried about Sanders’ ability to beat Trump, including one woman who references his heart attack.
“I like Bernie, I think he has great ideas, but Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa — they’re just not going to vote for a socialist,” says one man in the ad. "I just don't think Bernie can beat Trump."
“I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’ health, considering he did have a heart attack,” says a woman.
Democratic Majority for Israel’s president and CEO, longtime Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, told NBC News that the group is concerned both with Sanders’ ability to beat Trump and his views on Israel. Mellman is a longtime Democratic Party pollster who has worked for a variety of lawmakers, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
“We looked at the data and saw that he did have a possibility of getting the nomination and we thought that would be a big mistake,” Mellman said of Sanders. “It’s vitally important to defeat Donald Trump and we think Bernie Sanders is not equipped to do that.”
Mellman said the group had been working on the ad for a “couple of weeks” and insisted it’s not part of any new coordinated effort to stop Sanders.
“We have not spoken with, coordinated, discussed this with anybody,” he said. “There may be some effort out there, but I don’t know anything about it if there is.”
The ad is one of the first direct negative TV spots of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, which has been marked by unusual hesitancy among Democrats to go after each other.
Sanders addressed the "political establishment" that is "running attack ads against us in Iowa" in a new video posted to Twitter Tuesday night.
"The big money interests can run all the negative ads they want, but it's not going to work,” Sanders said in the direct-to-camera message. “Our opponents, they have endless amounts of money. But we have the people and our grassroots movement will prevail.”
—Gary Grumbach contributed.
Candidates have already begun spending on TV in Super Tuesday states
WASHINGTON — The early-state sprint is less than a week away, but while candidates have to survive (or thrive in) Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, those states dole out just a handful of delegates candidates need to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.
Those four states combined dole out under 4 percent of the race's total pledged delegates, while just one week later, 34 percent of the race's pledged delegates are at stake in contests across 14 states (plus American Samoa and Democrats Abroad).
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is unsurprisingly already blanketing those states with television ads — he's spent more than $88 million so far on TV and radio ads in those Super Tuesday states, according to data from Advertising Analytics as of the morning of Jan. 28.
A handful of other Democratic candidates have already spent significant dollars on TV and radio ads in those states as well.
Fellow billionaire and philanthropist Tom Steyer has spent $9.3 million in ads in California and $35,000 in Maine.
Businessman Andrew Yang has spent $82,000 in Maine and $142,000 in Vermont.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has spent $73,000 in California, $42,000 in Maine and $46,000 in Texas.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has spent $5,000 in Maine.
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has spent $389,000 in Vermont.
And former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg spent $112,000 in Vermont.
A lot can change during the early-state shuffle, where historically candidacies are made or broken. And candidates have plenty of time to iron out their Super Tuesday media strategies (especially when they're currently putting a premium on success in the early states).
But so far, Bloomberg has another $3.2 million booked in Super Tuesday states and Steyer has another $2 million booked in California, while Gabbard, Warren, Sanders and Yang each have a small chunk of advertising dollars booked in Super Tuesday states.
Klobuchar: Voters should 'evaluate' Bloomberg on debate stage
WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Tuesday that she's open to seeing former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg join the Democratic Party's presidential debate stage so that voters will have a way to see how he stacks up against the rest of the field.
Bloomberg has spent more than $200 million of his personal wealth on campaign ads blanketing the country, but his decision not to take individual donations means he can't meet the Democratic Party's debate thresholds, which include raising money from a certain number of unique donors.
There are increasing concerns from Democrats that dynamic has allowed Bloomberg to get a sort of free pass where he doesn't have to confront his Democratic rivals on the debate stage.
"I’d be fine with him being on the debate stage, because I think that instead of just putting your money out there, he’s actually gotta be on the stage and be able to go back and forth so that voters can evaluate him in that way," she said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"Certainly, being on the debate stage for me and making every single benchmark put in front of me has been helpful, because then people get to know me, they can see that I’m tough enough to take on Donald Trump, and they can see how I respond with other people on a stage, and I think that would be really important."
Bidens ask voters to 'imagine' a world without Trump in ads before Iowa
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Just days ahead of the Iowa caucuses, former Vice President Joe Biden is asking voters here to imagine the progress they can make together if President Donald Trump is removed from office in his latest television ad.
In the 30-second ad titled “Imagine,” Biden tells viewers to think about all of the reforms within reach if Trump is not re-elected, listing Democratic priorities like improving health care, tackling climate change and passing gun reform laws.
“What we imagine today you can make reality, but first we need to beat Donald Trump. Then there will be no limit to what we can do,” Biden says.
His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, echoes a similar sentiment in her own 15-second YouTube ad, “Future,” where she asks voters to picture a world where they don’t wake up to a “late night tweet storm” from the president.
“Imagine waking up and the news isn’t about a late night tweet storm and when they show the president, they don’t turn the channel because it’s someone who can bring this country together,” she says.
She goes on to point out that this reality is possible under her husband's leadership.
The Biden campaign has launched more than 10 ads in the Hawkeye State that have largely focused on Biden’s electability and readiness argument — that he is the candidate who has the domestic and foreign policy experience to assume the presidency on day one and can carry key battleground states to beat Trump.
The campaign has also reminded voters of the backing Biden has from the Democratic Party’s sole uniter, former President Barack Obama, in an ad quoting Obama giving Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The ads are a final culmination of the $4 million the campaign devoted to paid media in the state. The former Vice President’s latest ad will play alongside “Threat,” another ad the campaign debuted last week, airing in the top five Iowa markets through caucus day.
They will also play statewide on Hulu, according to the campaign.
Unite the Country, the Super PAC supporting Biden’s candidacy, has also launched numerous ads across the Iowa airwaves in the last several months.
Warren releases plan to combat epidemics like coronavirus
WASHINGTON — As focus on the coronavirus intensifies, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is releasing a new plan on how to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases and better prepare for global outbreaks.
Her in-depth agenda focuses on fully funding global health agencies, investing in the development of vaccines and ensuring that health departments and hospitals are prepared to handle potential outbreaks.
“The best way to beat a pandemic is to prevent it from starting in the first place,” Warren’s plan says, “As president, I will work to build the foundations that help us catch infectious diseases before they spread.”
Though Warren does not specify where the funding would come from, a large portion of her plan revolves around funding organizations that would strengthen global health infrastructure. She specifically mentions fully funding the Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the Global Health Security Agenda, which involves 50 countries.
Warren’s plan addresses fighting epidemics on a global level, but she also ties in a commitment to stop infectious diseases, like Hep C and HIV, in the United States. Earlier in her campaign, Warren released a plan to make PrEP, an HIV prevention drug more affordable and accessible. The plan drew attention from a now high profile endorser, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, who recently introduced Warren in Iowa.
In Washington, Warren plans to restore a position in White House leadership on health security, one that was originally part of the Obama administration that Trump then removed. She also will create a “swear jar” policy for when drug companies break the law — and the funding from that will go to the NIH to expand development of vaccines and treatments and study of infectious diseases.
Of note, Warren makes a point to mention the importance of spreading factual information and countering misinformation in the process of combating global outbreaks. She says she will work with the private sector on this issue.
“Science will once again be in charge at the CDC,” the plan says.
The focus on science also ties into Warren’s portion of the plan that tackles the crossover between climate change and disease outbreak. Her plan folds in portions of her previously released plans on climate and adds in a focus on preventing spread of disease after natural disasters.
Warren ends her plan by specifically mentioning the coronavirus, as a reminder of the importance of investing in public health institutions.
“Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment's notice,” Warren says in her plan, “When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.”
The death toll from the disease has now risen to 106 people.
Amy Klobuchar drops final Iowa ads, six days until caucus
DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is in Washington, D.C. for the Senate impeachment trial, but her face will be on Iowa airwaves by way of two final TV ads launching Tuesday — just six days before Iowans go to their caucus sites.
“Iowa, it’s time to choose,” one of the ads, “99,” opens before pivoting to highlight Klobuchar’s endorsement from the Quad City Times along with the co-New York Times endorsement that commends her “Midwestern charisma and grit.” “99” seeks to convince viewers that she can unite the party, and “perhaps,” the country — proven by her commitment to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
The second ad, “It’s About You,” features Klobuchar hitting Trump off the bat. “We have a president who thinks everything is about him," she says. "His tweets, his golf course, his ego.”
“But I think the job is about you,” Klobuchar adds as she ticks through common issues that come up on the campaign trail like healthcare, education, and security. “I’ll be a President who restores decency to the White House and gets things done for you.”
Klobuchar’s ability to physically campaign in the state has hit a speed-bump due to the impeachment trial, so these ads combined with tele-town halls are possibly the only access caucus goers will get to the senator until the impeachment trial is wrapped.
At her final campaign event of six over the past weekend, Klobuchar took photos with various Iowa staffers, joking that she might not be able to come back before caucus — a nod to newly surfaced revelations from former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book that may give Democrats more substance behind their push for witnesses at the trial. If witnesses were to be called, the trial schedule could directly interfere with the caucuses.
Most recent Iowa-specific polls have placed Klobuchar in fifth place, but an Emerson poll released Sunday evening shows Klobuchar in third place with 13 percent, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with 30 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden with 21 percent.
Biden leverages Trump's attacks to win over Iowa voters
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — With the Iowa Caucus one week out, Joe Biden reminded voters in the state that they should support him because he’s taken on the most heat from President Trump.
“There's a reason why this man is on trial. The reason he's on trial is because he does not want to run against me,” Biden said. “I hope I've demonstrated I can take a punch. And if I'm the nominee, he's going to understand what punches mean.”
The former Vice President focused primarily on health care, gun reform, and climate change while speaking to the 200-person crowd at the University of Northern Iowa.
On the issue of health care, Biden reignited attacks against his progressive opponents along with Medicare for All, which he called a “catchy idea” that takes too long to implement.
“Well there's an old expression in the long run we'll all be dead,” he added.
Biden said that some of his rivals have failed to tell the truth about how much their plans cost because the prospect of higher taxes “scares the living devil out of people."
“I show how I pay for everything in my campaign,” he said.
Addressing the issues he vows to reform, Biden pointed out that first “we’ve got to beat Donald Trump” to get any of that done.
Biden also touted his electability against President Trump, selling himself as the candidate most likely to beat him because of his support among minorities and across partisan lines.
Having that support, Biden argues, is key to unseating Trump and helping down-ballot Democratic candidates.
He even suggested that if a candidate cannot garner significant support from minority groups, they should not become the nominee.
“I don't believe you can win a nomination in this party and more importantly, I don't believe you should win the nomination in this party unless you can demonstrate … substantial support from each and every one of those communities," he said. "That's what is needed."
Bloomberg takes on Sanders in his home state of Vermont
BURLINGTON, Vt. – Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg drew a contrast between himself and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential campaign rival, during his Tuesday swing through Sanders’ home state.
“I can’t speak for the senator, I can only speak for myself,” Bloomberg told reporters when asked to address voters in the Super Tuesday state who are considering voting for their home state senator in the Democratic primary.
“I'm the kind of person that pulls teams together, I can attract the great, the best people, I can get them to work together. I've shown that again and again and again, that's what this country needs. It doesn't need one idea person, it's a job where you have to have a manager and management is something that you develop over a long period of time. And it's not something you just walk in and say I got a good idea I'm gonna manage, that's just not the way the real world works.”
When pressed if he was saying that Sanders is a “one idea” person, Bloomberg pushed back, saying, “You'd have to ask Bernie what his ideas are. I'm not an expert on him any more than he is an expert on me.”
The Sanders campaign has not yet returned a request for comment about Bloomberg's remarks.
Back when Bloomberg announced his candidacy in November, Sanders accused Bloomberg of attempting to buy the election by sinking his own personal wealth into his bid.
“We say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: Sorry, you ain’t going to buy this election,” Sanders said in Iowa at the time.
Bloomberg has spent over $218 million so far on television and radio ads, according to data from Advertising Analytics, and millions more on digital ads. While Bloomberg has until the end of the month to file his first spending report with the Federal Election Commission, he's said he will not accept individual donations and will bankroll his campaign with his own deep pockets.
On Monday, Bloomberg said he thinks he is the only candidate capable of beating President Trump in the election.
“I do think I'm the only candidate that can beat Trump because I think the country is, wants evolution rather than revolution,” Bloomberg said. “The country likes an awful lot of what we have, they just don't like the style. And so they're not looking for big change I don't think in anything other than management, and how we conduct ourselves.”
Bloomberg, who is skipping early state contests and instead focusing on the rest of the Democratic nominating calendar states, has officially visited all of the states that hold their nominating contests on Super Tuesday. His campaign ticked off the last state with a stop in Portland, Maine Monday afternoon.
He said he was not following the news coming out of the early states, where he is not on the ballot, because his campaign strategy isn't focusing on those states.
He added that he decided to run because “I didn't like what the candidates were doing in terms of their policies. I didn't think they made any sense, that you couldn't fund them, you'd never get them through Congress, and I didn't think they could beat Donald Trump. So I decided, okay, I'm going to run."
—Gary Grumbach contributed
Trump-aligned non-profit brings anti-impeachment message to Michigan, Pennsylvania
WASHINGTON — America First Policies, a non-profit advocacy group aligned with President Trump, is expanding its anti-impeachment advertising to the key general election swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, NBC has learned.
AFP has booked more than $350,000 in television spending across the two states, data from Advertising Analytics shows. A spokeswoman with the group told NBC that in total, each state will see more than $200,000 in television spending, and when combined with a corresponding digital effort, the group plans to spend $500,000 across the two states.
The new ads blast impeachment as a partisan and political act, calling on Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, as well as Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, to oppose removing the president.
"For the radical left, this is really about one thing: winning the White House," a narrator says in one ad.
"The left's impeachment scam, exposed. Instead of standing up for America and securing our borders, Bob Casey is standing with radicals."
Out of the three senators targeted by the new ads, Peters is the only one up for re-election this year (Casey and Stabenow both won a new term in 2018). The ads serve as a way to get the anti-impeachment message out into the bloodstream in states that will be pivotal to Trump's re-election effort (both are states Trump narrowly won in 2016).
The new ads will air starting on Tuesday, and come after the group dropped almost $400,000 on television ads targeting Sen. Doug Jones, R-Ala., on impeachment. Jones is considered one of the most vulnerable senators in 2020, having to defend his seat in a deep-red state.
Elizabeth Warren picks up a slew of new progressive endorsements
WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gained endorsements from progressive thinkers and influencers on Monday even as she falls behind in polls to Bernie Sanders, underscoring an enduring divide within the movement in the final week before the Iowa caucuses.
The endorsements — rolled out by the pro-Warren groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Working Families Party, and Black Womxn — include well-known policy minds within liberal circles such as Heather McGhee of Demos, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute.
The groups touted more than 75 new endorsements for Warren from current or former state and local officials, including Mayors Meghan Sahli-Wells of Culver City, California and Chris Taylor of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The list also included former congressmen Sander Levin of Michigan and Brad Miller of North Carolina.
Another notable name was Susheela Jayapal, who is the Multnomah County Commissioner in Oregon. Her sister, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal, has endorsed Sanders for president.
“My choice has been between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I voted for Bernie in 2016, and continue to admire and appreciate his fierce advocacy,” Susheela Jayapal said in a statement. “But 2020 is not 2016. In 2020, I’m with Warren. In 2020, more than ever, we need bold policy and advocacy — and we also need a president who can actually govern.”
Those endorsements, part of about 3,000 announced by the groups Monday, come at a critical moment for Warren who has lost ground in surveys and now trails Joe Biden and Sanders in national and early-state polls. Sanders has consolidated large swaths of the progressive community and jumped into the lead in recent polling in Iowa by the New York Times/Siena and New Hampshire by CNN and the University of New Hampshire.
One bright spot for Warren? She’s the top second-choice preference for voters in both surveys.
Moulton endorses Biden's presidential bid
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa —Former Democratic presidential candidate and current Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid Monday morning, arguing he's the right person to lead the country.
Moulton announced his endorsement in a statement on Twitter that said he's backing Biden given his decades of experience “serving the country, especially his eight years as vice president.” He went on to list several achievements of Biden's career, including passing the Violence Against Women Act and the Affordable Care Act.
The Afghanistan veteran's statement also argued that Biden "will beat Donald Trump and unify our country after four years of the most reckless commander-in-chief in American history."
The endorsement is not too surprising given the personal relationship both men have. In the statement, Moulton points out that Biden “was the first person to hold a rally for me” when he launched his long-shot congressional bid in 2014. They have since become friends and Moulton considers him a mentor.
During an interview with NBC News last year, before Moulton launched his own presidential bid, Moulton said he's "a huge fan of the vice president" and that he's gone to Biden "multiple times" to ask for advice.
Pete Buttigieg releases 'closing' Iowa ad
In the ad, Buttigieg says that “It's time to turn the page from a Washington experience paralyzed by the same old thinking, polarized by the same old fights, to a bold vision for the next generation.”
He addresses issues like corporate greed, “inaction” on climate change, and endless wars with photos of him campaigning across the state on screen. The former South Bend Mayor finishes off his closing ad saying that “We need to break from the old politics and unify this nation.”
The 30-second ad, “It’s Time,” is one of four ads the campaign is airing in Iowa ahead of the February 3 Caucus.
In a statement released by his campaign, Buttigieg is advertised as the “president who can rally this country around bold ideas for the next generation and achieve things that have never been done before.”
Democratic group targets vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment
WASHINGTON — Majority Forward, the not-for-profit group associated with the Democratic Senate Majority PAC, is launching a six-figure ad campaign on Monday targeting vulnerable Republican senators on impeachment.
The two 30-second ads, which will run on digital and associated platforms like Hulu, will run in Arizona to target Sen. Martha McSally, Colorado to target Sen. Cory Gardner, Iowa to target Sen. Joni Ernst, Maine to target Sen. Susan Collins and North Carolina to target Sen. Thom Tillis.
The ads, entitled "Oath" and "Rigged", focus on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's comments on coordinating with the White House during the impeachment trial, and the oath of impartiality that all senators took before the trial began.
The ad campaign marks the first full-throated effort by a Democratic group to run ads in support of impeachment and the trial. Prior to this, mostly only presidential candidates like philanthropist Tom Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg focused on the topic in ads.
"Senate Republicans have broken their oath of impartiality and their promise to the American people by playing along with Mitch McConnell’s cover-up,” Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch said in a statement. “By refusing to get the facts and demand a fair trial from the onset, Senate Republicans are putting party politics over principle. Our new ad campaign urges these vulnerable incumbents to do their jobs and demand a fair trial now."
All five of the senators targeted are facing difficult reelection campaigns in 2020. While some of the senators, like Gardner and Collins, have chosen to take a more neutral approach when asked about calling witnesses to the trial or if the president's conduct was appropriate, Tillis and Ernst have publicly sided with the president.
"I think it's so ironic that [House impeachment managers] really hammered in their brief, 'overwhelming', I think they said that word 11 times in their brief, and yet we haven't seen overwhelming evidence of an impeachable offense," Ernst told NBC News on Friday.
And Tillis shared a Twitter video last week where he called the trial a "sham".
"They don’t have the information, it’s a sham impeachment," Tillis said. "It’s a waste of America’s time, and people in North Carolina are getting tired of it.”
McSally, who lost her Senate bid in 2018 and was then appointed to her seat, wouldn't say in an interview on Fox News if she would vote for witnesses or not. Instead she said she wanted a "fair trial."
In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 66 percent of Americans said they wanted witnesses called in the Senate trial.
Buttigieg goes on the offensive as Sanders pulls ahead in the polls
DES MOINES, Iowa — With Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pulling ahead in the latest early state and national polls, fellow Democratic hopeful and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is sending a message to his supporters that Sanders must be stopped.
The Buttigieg campaign sent an email to their followers on Saturday asking them to donate to the campaign in order to stop Sanders' surge.
“Right now, Bernie’s campaign is out-raising and out-spending us,” the email states. “If this continues, there’s a good chance he wins the Iowa Caucuses.”
Hours later Buttigieg’s Deputy Campaign Manager, Hari Sevugan, followed up with an email saying that if Sanders wins the nomination, Democrats will lose in 2020.
“Bernie performs the worst against Trump amongst all major candidates,” Sevugan writes citing the latest New York Times/Siena College poll. Sevugan continues, “In short, we risk nominating a candidate who cannot beat Donald Trump in November. And that's a risk we can't take.”
In sharp contrast to the emails sent to supporters, Buttigieg was reluctant to address Sanders by name when asked if the senator’s candidacy was too risky to defeat Trump.
“I believe that we should be very mindful that one of the worst risks we can take at a time like this is to recycle the same Washington style political warfare that brought us to this point,” Buttigieg said. “If we believe it's important to win, and I sure do, then the best thing we could do is put forward a candidate who offers something new, something different.”
Shortly after Buttigieg made those comments, supporters received another message from the campaign this time via text. Echoing earlier emails suggesting that Sanders won’t beat Trump, the message included a graphic showing Sanders losing to Trump by 6 percentage points.
This comes as support for Sanders has ticked up and recent polling and Buttigieg aims to bolster his pitch as the candidate best positioned to beat Trump. Both Sanders and Buttigieg are campaign in Iowa this weekend, with only days until the first-in-the-nation caucus on Feb. 3.
Klobuchar on Democratic primary: 'I should be leading the ticket'
WASHINGTON — Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar appealed to Democratic primary voters on Sunday's "Meet the Press," arguing that her mix of pragmatism and legislative success is what the party needs to defeat President Trump in November.
While Klobuchar said she's "ready to support the winner" of the Democratic Party's nominating fight, she pointed to recent Democratic victories in purple and red states to argue that she fits the profile of a successful nominee.
Just eight days before the pivotal Iowa caucus, she also took a swipe at Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has seen his stock improve in a handful of recent polls and has taken more incoming in recent days from his Democratic rivals.
"I think Senator Sanders' idea of kicking 149 million Americans off their current health insurance is wrong. That's why I don't think he should be leading the ticket," she said, referring to Sanders' push for Medicare for All, which would ultimately replace private insurance with a government-run system.
"I think I should be leading the ticket because my ideas are much more in sync with bold ways of getting things done, taking on the pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit public option, having an education plan that actually matches our economy, and the experience of getting things done. I'm the only one in the Senate running left on that stage that has passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat. That matters to people right now."
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.”
Joe Biden says he won't cut Social Security
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would not cut social security funding if elected president during an interview on "Morning Joe" on Wednesday. Biden's answer comes amid attacks he's faced from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign that Biden has called for cutting Social Security benefits.
"I have 100 percent rating from the groups that rate social security, those who support Social Security. I think at a minimum [my comment] was taken out of context," Biden said. "The plan I have to deal with Social Security not only makes it solvent for the next, for my grandchildren, it also increases payments for the very elderly."
On Tuesday night, Biden and Sanders' camps released videos about Social Security funding. In the video, tweeted out by Biden, the narrator says "Bernie's negative attacks won't change the truth, Joe Biden is still the strongest Democrat to beat Donald Trump."
Sanders' new ad featured old floor footage from Biden where he discussed freezing government spending including social security. Sanders tweeted out, "Let's be honest, Joe. One of us fought for decades to cut Social Security, and one of us didn't."
When asked about Sanders' new ad, and if he would consider cutting Social Security given his past comments on freezing it, Biden said "No, no, no."
Biden continued, "We go back and look at statements, many of them, most of them taken out of context of 10, 20, 30, 35 years ago. It's like my going back and pointing out how Bernie voted against the Brady bill five times while I was trying to get it passed."
Biden campaign releases video hitting debunked GOP claims on his Ukraine involvement
FORT DODGE, Iowa — Joe Biden’s campaign largely stayed on the sidelines while the House held hearings to consider impeaching President Trump, as Democrats who controlled key committees and testimony from current and former administration officials were able to defuse and rebut GOP efforts to raise debunked conspiracy theories about the former vice president and his role in firing a corrupt prosecutor.
But as the Republican-led Senate has opened the impeachment trial, his campaign has released its most aggressive and comprehensive — and even at times R-rated — effort to address and challenge the GOP claims.
In a more than four-minute video, Biden campaign rapid response director Andrew Bates lays out Biden’s work as vice president to support anti-corruption efforts for the fledgling democracy in Ukraine, which included the firing of prosecutor general Viktor Shokin.
"It was a monumental, international, bipartisan anti-corruption victory,” Bates says in the video. GOP efforts to suggest Biden sought Shokin’s ouster because of a dormant investigation of the energy company his son Hunter served on is "horse-****.”
"Why is Donald Trump doing this? He knows he can't beat Joe Biden,” Bates says. "He tried to make our national security policy an extension of his struggling reelection campaign.”
Pro-Biden super PAC gives former vice president significant air cover in Iowa
WASHINGTON — A super PAC supporting former Vice President Joe Biden is coming to the candidate's defense in Iowa, dropping more than $1.8 million in television advertising dollars there this month and reserving another almost $800,000 for the final days before the Iowa caucuses.
Unite the County, the pro-Biden group, alone has spent more in Iowa in January ($1.8 million) than every individual Democratic presidential candidate except Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders ($2.2 million). Combined with Biden's $1 million spent on the airwaves so far this month, the pro-Biden effort is the highest spender in Iowa so far this January.
And while candidates are still deciding how to spend their ad dollars in the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Unite the Country's $800,000 in reserved airtime from Wednesday through caucus day is about even with what the Biden campaign has reserved so far over the same period.
So that combined effort of $1.6 million between Wednesday and caucus day puts the pro-Biden spending within spitting distance of that of Sanders' campaign, who has booked about $2 million in future Iowa spending.
By rule, candidates receive preferred television rates when compared to other outside groups, so the super PAC spending won't have the same bang for the buck of the spending by individual campaigns.
But Unite the Country's spending is giving Biden a significant spending boost ahead of the pivotal caucuses. And it sends a signal to the Biden campaign that help is on the way, help that could allow the Biden campaign to invest dollars elsewhere, knowing that the super PAC is providing air cover.
Below, take a look at the current ad spending in Iowa from the start of the race through today, as well as the future spending candidates have already booked.
All of the advertising data is courtesy of Advertising Analytics, a media-tracking firm.
Total TV and radio ad spending in Iowa as of today
- Tom Steyer: $13.5 million
- Pete Buttigieg: $8.8 million
- Bernie Sanders: $8.3 million
- Andrew Yang: $5.6 million
- Elizabeth Warren: $4.6 million
- Joe Biden: $3.4 million
- Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $3.0 million
- Amy Klobuchar: $2.8 million
- Michael Bennet: $1.1 million
Total Iowa TV and radio ad spending in January
- Sanders: $2.2 million
- Unite the County: $1.8 million
- Buttigieg: $1.8 million
- Warren: $1.8 million
- Steyer: $1.4 million
- Yang: 1.4 million
- Klobuchar: $1.3 million
- Biden: $1 million
Future Iowa TV and radio ad spending already booked
- Sanders: $1.9 million
- Warren: $1.4 million
- Steyer: $700,000
- Unite the Country: $780,000
- Biden: $730,000
- Buttigieg: $610,000
- Yang: $155,000
- Klobuchar: $115,000
Dems say they're pressuring GOP senators on impeachment in other ways
WASHINGTON — In First Read Tuesday morning, we observed how Democrats aren’t trying to pressure vulnerable GOP senators over the TV airwaves on impeachment.
Of the 11 impeachment-themed television ads airing across the country right now, according to the ad trackers at Advertising Analytics, all are from Republicans and GOP groups.
But Democrats at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tell us that they’ve been pressuring GOP senators — like Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine — in other ways.
For Maine’s Senate contest, for instance, the DSCC has created a website – WhatChangedSusan.Com – highlighting how Collins called for more evidence and witnesses in Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, but hasn’t made the same explicit demands for President Trump’s impeachment trial.
And in Colorado, the DSCC has blasted out press releases noting that he’s “refuse[d] to answer basic questions on [the] president’s conduct” or on the demand for “a fair trial.”
Michael Bloomberg launches new ad focused on impeachment trial
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a new campaign ad in the presidential race on Tuesday focused on the impeachment trial. While Bloomberg has spent millions of his own dollars on his campaign ads, this ad is the first to focus on removing President Trump from office through the impeachment trial.
The ad, entitled "Impeachment", declares that it's "time for the Senate to act and remove Trump from office. And if they won't do their jobs, this November you and I will."
According to the Bloomberg campaign, the ad is running in 27 states including four states with vulnerable Republican senators: Arizona, North Carolina, Maine and Colorado.
Warren pledges to 'cleanse' the 'corruption' from Trump administration beginning with transition if elected
WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren promised “no ordinary transition” between her administration and the current, Trump administration Tuesday, outlining a plan that would “cleanse the corruption from our government” and establish early rules for how she’d run — and staff — her administration, if elected come November.
Pointing out the what she says is "unprecedented corruption from the current administration," Warren says that even with Trump gone “it would be foolish to assume" that "the government will start moving in the right direction all on its own.”
The new plan prescribes, among other things, asking all government political appointees, including U.S. Attorneys, to resign and establishing a new task force to investigate corruption by Trump administration officials — part of a push to “root out the corruption and incompetence of the Trump administration” that she would pursue, if elected.
The 8-page plan makes exceptions for the resignations for positions needed to preserve continuity or protect national security during a transition period, while also advocating for that a new DOJ task force investigate violations (bribery, insider trading, anti-corruption, immigration-related) with authority to pursue “any substantiated criminal and civil violations.”
Below are some of the plan's highlights.
- Warren would speed up her transition by:
- Announcing all cabinet choices by December 1, 2020.
- Announcing other top nominations by December 15, 2020.
- Fully staff senior and mid-level White House jobs by Inauguration Day.
- Warren’s administration will not hire any lobbyists or employees of for-profit contractors unless she personally reviews it and decides it’s in the national interest. Also, she will not hire anyone who has received a “golden parachute.”
- Former corporate lobbyists will need a 6 year “cooling off period” (no waivers or exceptions).
- Non-corporate lobbyists will need a 2-year “cooling” and any waivers would be made public.
- Employees of contractors will need to wait 4 years from their last contract or license award.
- Similar restrictions will come into play after serving in government: senior officials can never accept a lobbying gig, all other administration officials will pledge not to lobby their former office or agency for 2 years after leaving — and 6 if they become corporate lobbyists.
- Officials will be required to divest from “any individual stock, bond, or other investment” that ethics officials say might be directly influenced by the employee’s agency.
- Parameters on who she’ll put in her Cabinet will include:
- Her Education Secretary will be a former school teacher (this is a frequent promise on the trail).
- Her Labor Secretary will have been a labor leader.
- Her Secretary of Agriculture will have to show a commitment to advocating for black farmers.
- Her FEC Chair will be committed to restore 2015 Net Neutrality rules, block media-telecom merger.
- Warren also commits to making at least 50 percent of her cabinet and senior staff women.
Klobuchar on NYT endorsement: 'I am a progressive that gets results'
WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. expressed surprise Monday about her partial win of the New York Times' Democratic presidential endorsement.
After speaking at an event marking Martin Luther King Day at South Carolina’s state capitol, Klobuchar told NBC News "very excited about it" and that she didn't expect the endorsement, which she shares with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Klobuchar also referenced her endorsement from the Quad-Cities Times in Iowa.
"I think one of the things that they noted is that you need a candidate for president and someone leading our country that's gonna actually represent everyone, not just half of America," she said.
"That's not gonna wake up every day trying to draw a divide like this president does, so I was honored that they saw that, and I was also honored to get the endorsement of the Quad-City Times."
She went on to call herself a "proven progressive" that "gets results," underscoring the contrast between she and Warren that the Times editorial reflected.
“If you wanna be a progressive you actually have to make progress,” she said. “The difference between a plan and a pipeline is a pan is something you can actually get done and I'm very honored that they recognized that.”
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.