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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Warren surrogates preach party unity

DES MOINES, IOWA — At around the same time that Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., booed Hillary Clinton at a Bernie Sanders campaign event on Friday, Elizabeth Warren’s surrogates here were pitching a different message: Party unity.

Warren “is the person who can unite our party,” said Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., who joined Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Katie Porter, D-Calif.

“We deserve a person who will listen,” Pressley added. “Elizabeth hears all of us.”

All three were stumping for Warren on Friday night with the senator stuck in Washington, D.C., as a juror in President Trump’s impeachment trial — just as Tlaib and Reps. Ilan Omar, D-Minn., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., were campaigning for Sanders. 

Warren ultimately made it into Iowa late Friday night, while Sanders called into his campaign's event in Clive, Iowa before traveling to the state for events this weekend. 

For all of the similarities of Warren’s and Sanders’ messages — attacking corporate power, decrying income inequality, eliminating college debt — the biggest difference between the two campaigns might be Sanders’ insurgency versus Warren’s unity.

Tlaib did walk back her boo comments on Saturday morning. And importantly, Sanders wasn’t present to hear them.

But judging from the polls two days before the Iowa caucuses, Sanders’ insurgency — at least on the Democratic left — appears to be a more powerful force than Team Warren’s call for unity.

Michael Bloomberg releases tax plan

DES MOINES, Iowa – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his tax plan on Saturday. The plan lays out seven key objectives to generate $5 trillion in revenue. 

The plan's main focus is the 2017 tax reform legislation signed by President Trump which cut taxes for large corporations and high-income individuals. Bloomberg, who made his billion-dollar fortune by launching his financial software company Bloomberg L.P., says in the plan that the tax cuts on companies were too big.

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event on Jan. 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C.Mark Wilson / Getty Images

"Trump’s tax reform cut business taxes too much – giving U.S. businesses a bigger tax cut than they had even asked for. While our tax code needs to ensure that our producers stay competitive with foreign companies, they can and should contribute more," the plan states. 

Furthermore, the Bloomberg campaign said that the current tax law is "deeply unfair" because it "allows accumulated wealth to pass from generation to generation with little or no tax due, and provides countless loopholes that the rich can exploit to reduce their taxes still further." 

The main objectives of Bloomberg's plan are: 

  • Raise rates for high-income taxpayers, restoring the top rate on income from 37 percent to 39.6 percent.
  • Set capital gains tax at the same rate as income for taxpayers above $1 million and implement policies to curb avoidance and deferral for the wealthiest Americans.
  • Impose a 5 percent surtax on incomes above $5 million a year to pay for improvements in the country’s infrastructure, education and health care systems.
  • Lower the estate-tax threshold and ensure protection of family-owned farms and small businesses. 
  • Close loopholes, including the “pass-through” 20% deduction, the “like-kind” provision and the carried-interest loophole.
  • Raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.
  • Provide necessary resources to the IRS.

Biden campaign releases new Iowa ad, Super Bowl ad before caucuses

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa – With just two days before the Iowa caucuses, former Vice President Joe Biden is rolling out two new ads in Iowa markets to make his final pitch to Iowans. 

The first ad, entitled "Right Here", emphasizes Biden's key campaign point that the next president won't have time for "on the job training." The ad also revisits Biden's campaign announcement video. It begins with images of the Charlottesville clash in 2017 and warns that America is at risk of losing its democratic values if President Donald Trump is re-elected.  

"We’re being reminded every day there’s nothing guaranteed about democracy, not even here in America. We have to constantly earn it, we have to protect it, we have to fight for it," Biden says in the ad. 

"Right Here" will run in the top two Iowa markets: Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. 

In addition, the campaign will also be cutting a new version of an ad that's been running in Iowa for the Super Bowl, called "Character." airing a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl, entitled "Character" in the same two markets. The ad begins with images of former President Barack Obama, before turning to President Trump. 

These ads come amid the Biden campaign ramping up its Iowa airwaves presence. Two other ads have been on the air, and will continue to run through the caucuses on Monday. 

 

Sanders surrogate Rashida Tlaib says she erred by booing Clinton

DES MOINES, Iowa — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., apologized Saturday for joining supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders Saturday night in booing when the name of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton came up at a campaign event in Clive, Iowa.  

The moment happened during a panel discussion where Tlaib and other surrogates were campaigning for Sanders while he remained in Washington, D.C. for President Trump's Senate impeachment trial.

The moderator, Sanders supporter and Des Moines, Iowa school board member Dionna Langford invoked  Clinton when discussing those who didn't support Sanders. Immediately, the crowd began to boo, and Langford pleaded with the crowd to stop. 

“Remember last week when someone by the name of Hillary Clinton said that nobody — We’re not gonna boo, we’re not gonna boo,” Langford said. “We’re classy here.”

However, Tlaib disagreed with Langford's call. 

“No, I’ll boo. Boo!” Tlaib said. She continued, “You all know I can’t be quiet. No, we’re going to boo. That’s alright. The haters, the haters, will shut up on Monday when we win.”

On Saturday morning, Tlaib apologized for her comments, saying in a tweet thread that, "I allowed my disappointment with Secretary Clinton's latest comments about Senator Sanders and his supporters get the best of me. You all, my sisters-in-service on stage, and our movement deserve better. I will continue to strive to come from a place of love and not react in the same way of those who are against what we are building in this country."

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. 

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.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar boards her campaign bus after a stop in Humboldt, Iowa, on Dec. 27, 2019.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

“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.

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. 

Amy McGrath, a Marine combat veteran and rising star in Democratic politics, is the favored Democratic candidate challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Senate in Kentucky and announced her endorsement of Biden on Friday.

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.

Joe Biden and democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath shake hands during a campaign event in Owingsville, Ky., on Oct. 12, 2018.Bryan Woolston / AP file

“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.

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

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.

Maine

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." 

North Carolina 

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." 

Arizona

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." 

Colorado

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.”  

Georgia

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.

Michael Bloomberg speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting in Washington on Jan. 22, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

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.” 

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Buena Vista University in Iowa on Jan. 25, 2020.John Locher / AP

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.”