The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
23d ago / 10:32 PM UTC
FEC reports bring new details about pro-Biden super PAC
DES MOINES, Iowa — Friday's campaign finance deadline helps to shed new light on the super PAC that's boosted former Vice President Joe Biden's television advertising footprint.
The end-of-year fundraising report from Unite Our Country, the group backing Biden, raised $3.7 million from 71 total donors. That report includes information from the second half of 2019.
Because super PACs can take unlimited contributions from donors (unlike candidates, that can only take a maximum of $2,800 per person per cycle), the group was able to rack up big money quickly.
One giver, longtime Democratic donor George Marcus, gave Unite Our Country $1 million. Marcus, a prominent Democratic bundler, hosted a fundraiser for Biden in Palo Alto, Calif. in October. Marcus is also listed on the Biden campaign's list of individuals who have bundled at least $25,000 for the campaign (bundlers help collect donations to the campaign from other donors).
The pro-Biden super PAC also received two checks of $250,000 each and 21 checks of at least $100,000, including from former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman and state Sen. Dick Harpootlian.
It also received a $75,000 check from Boston Red Sox Chairman Thomas Werner. And as the New York Times' Shane Goldmacher points out, despite Biden's pledge to not personally take any contributions from fossil fuel company executives, one fossil fuel executive donated $50,000 to the super PAC.
The new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission do not include money raised and spent since the start of 2020. Those transactions won't need to be filed with the FEC until July.
Unite Our Country has been an important ally for Biden, particularly on the airwaves.
Since the start of the campaign, it's spent $4.4 million on television ads, according to data from Advertising Analytics. Combined with the $4.2 million Biden's own campaign has spent on television and radio ads, the combined effort puts Biden in fifth place in overall television and radio advertising spending nationwide.
And the effort has been important in Iowa too, ahead of next week's pivotal caucus. When the campaign's Iowa spending is combined with the super PAC spending, Biden's campaign leapfrogs businessman Andrew Yang and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into fourth place in Iowa ad spending.
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23d ago / 6:37 PM UTC
Klobuchar holds first N.H. tele-town hall amidst impeachment
WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., held her first New Hampshire tele-town hall while in Washington, D.C. this morning for the impeachment trial. In the forty-minute call, Klobuchar made the case for her candidacy and discussed her experiences campaigning across ten counties of the Granite State.
After ticking through her presidential agenda, Klobuchar indirectly called out her fellow presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently announced a major ad buy set to air during the Super Bowl on Sunday.
“It's not always the richest candidate,” she said. “[A]nd no you won't be seeing my ad in the Super Bowl but you will know that I'll be out there in my green bus, getting votes the right way.”
She also said on the call that she “can’t think of a better group of people right now" than those in New Hampshire who understand that it’s not always the most famous candidate who is best to lead the ticket.
Klobuchar plugged her two newspaper endorsements from the N.H. Union Leader and Keene Sentinel, and added that voters in New Hampshire and other early voting states “have this obligation ... a history of picking people ... that maybe other people didn't think we're going to win.”
According to the Klobuchar campaign, over eight thousand people were on the call.
Voters on the call asked a range of questions about the candidate’s plans for tackling climate change and how she’ll protect Social Security.
Klobuchar was also pressed on how she’ll unify the country after Trump’s presidency and responded that she’ll be transparent and truthful.
“I also think the first day after I got elected I would start calling every governor in this nation, Democrat or Republican to get their ideas, I would work with leadership in both houses ... and then act on it,” she said.
The penultimate question of the tele-town hall was about the impeachment trial, to which Klobuchar responded that she was heading to the Senate right after the tele-town hall ahead of a potential vote on witnesses.
Klobuchar’s closing pitch was that she’s not just making an anecdotal plea for support but rather, that facts matter in New Hampshire.
While she wishes she could be in the state, she underscored that she must fulfill her constitutional duty as a senator to act as a juror in the impeachment hearing.
“My ask of you is to run for me, to help me, to make sure that I don't lose ground or lose time,” she said, “because I have been doing my important work.”
-Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
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23d ago / 5:32 PM UTC
McConnell opponent Amy McGrath endorses Joe Biden
BURLINGTON, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden often tells his audiences that the best way to beat Republicans — in the White House and in Congress — is at the polls. And he now has the endorsement of another Democratic candidate trying to do just that.
McGrath said she’s backing Biden because she believes he will bring back “honor and integrity” to the White House. Moreover, she cites Biden’s ongoing commitment to the working class in Kentucky as an example of how Biden could unite the entire country.
“While some Democrats believe the challenges we face as a nation demand revolutionary action, others — like me — believe the best path forward is to start by unifying our country and delivering results for American families,” McGrath said in a campaign release.
McGrath is facing a tough race against McConnell, who is slightly out-raising her in the race. Her endorsement echoes what many first-term House Democratic candidates are stressing when making their pitch to voters for supporting Biden: they need a candidate at the top of the ticket that appeals to Republicans, independents and Democrats alike to help them win their races.
Biden is making that same pitch for himself on the trail.
"One of the reasons why I am running is to take back the United States Senate. We are not going to get a whole lot done if we don't not only win the presidency [but] if we are not able to go out and win back the Senate," Biden said in Iowa on Sunday. "That depends a lot on the top of the ticket."
McGrath's endorsement for Biden is not surprising — Biden stumped for McGrath during the 2018 midterms when she ran for the House. While she lost her race for Congress, many other moderate candidates were able to flip GOP seats.
Biden touted her endorsement at his event in Burlington, Iowa Friday, pointing out how sharp she is as a candidate to go against McConnell.
“This woman knows how to shoot. this woman knows how to play,” he said.
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23d ago / 10:40 PM UTC
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.
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.”
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."
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.
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23d ago / 1:23 PM UTC
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.
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23d ago / 10:55 AM UTC
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.
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.
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Priscilla Thompson and Vaughn Hillyard
24d ago / 8:26 PM UTC
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.”
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24d ago / 5:50 PM UTC
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.
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24d ago / 4:09 PM UTC
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
Democratic Majority for Israel: $681,000
Club for Growth: $34,000
Florida Sen. Rick Scott: $19,000
SOURCE: Advertising Analytics
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24d ago / 4:41 PM UTC
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.
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Marianna Sotomayor and Mike Memoli
24d ago / 1:49 PM UTC
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.