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Former presidential candidate Joe Sestak endorses Klobuchar
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Pennsylvania Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate, Admiral Joe Sestak, is endorsing Senator Amy Klobuchar for president, her presidential campaign tells NBC News.
"We need a nominee with a depth and breadth of experience to govern effectively, a proven track record of winning in red and blue districts and states so we can unite this country again, and an understanding of the need to rebuild our global leadership so we can convene the world to tackle the defining challenges of our time,” Sestak said in a statement.
"Having seen her on the campaign trail and observed her work in the Senate, it's why I know Amy Klobuchar is uniquely qualified to be President. I'm proud to endorse her," he added.
Sestak will campaign for Klobuchar in New Hampshire throughout the weekend ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary, hosting events at veteran’s organizations throughout the state alongside fellow Klobuchar endorsers, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Jim Smith and retired Brigadier General Kevin Ryan.
Klobuchar often leans into her ability to unite voters of varying political ideologies on the campaign trail.
“I bring the receipts to this primary, and that is that I have been able to win big in the rural of rural areas in the reddest of red congressional districts, never losing once in every congressional district in my state,” Klobuchar said Thursday in Manchester.
“I think if we are going to have the kind of coalition that we need to bring patriotism and decency, back in the White House, we have to bring people with us," she said.
The endorsement from Sestak comes as Klobuchar holds a steady fifth place in recent polling, on top of earning the endorsements of all three New Hampshire newspapers that have endorsed so far.
Andrew Yang campaign sheds staff after Iowa results
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Businessman Andrew Yang's campaign confirmed on Thursday that they have fired dozens of staffers across Iowa as well as some national staff, including its policy and political directors.
“As part of our original plans following the Iowa caucuses, we are winding down our Iowa operations and restructuring to compete as the New Hampshire primary approaches,” Yang's campaign manager Zach Graumann said in a statement. “These actions are a natural evolution of the campaign post-Iowa, same as other campaigns have undertaken, and Andrew Yang is going to keep fighting for the voices of the more than 400,000 supporters who have donated to the campaign and placed a stake in the future of our country.”
The firings were first reported by POLITICO.
Several laid-off staffers told NBC News that the layoffs occurred en-masse and unexpectedly. Emails announcing the changes were sent to staff members shortly before midnight on Wednesday, two days after Yang appeared to place sixth in the Iowa caucuses after receiving just 1 percent of the state delegate equivalents — a disappointing finish for the candidate who had been touting for days a possible surge.
In the email sent to fired staff obtained by NBC News, the Yang campaign wrote that they have experienced “unprecedented success” and credited much of the success to the soon-to-be-fired staffers.
“However, the campaign has had to make tough decision [sic] to remain viable in the race for the presidency,” the email said. “We have explored many options, including the restructuring of the campaign and various use case scenarios.”
The announcement continued, “After reviewing our options, we have concluded that we must eliminate several positions within the campaign. It is with deepest regret that I inform you that your position is one that will be eliminated effective Feb. 5. This decision is final and will not be modified.”
The Yang campaign confirmed in a statement that there was a dispute with unionized workers in Iowa and that its legal team “was not provided sufficient time” to review a memorandum of understanding provided by some unionized staffers the weekend before the Iowa caucuses.
“Despite our repeated attempts to negotiate with these select individuals, we were rebuffed with no reason given,” the statement read. “After months of hard work on the ground organizing volunteers, knocking on doors, and making phone calls, our organizers deserve better. They should not be exploited for personal gain and attention by a select group of individuals with suspect motivations within their ranks.”
Several former staffers turned to social media to announce their surprise that their campaign emails were locked and their gas cards turned off.
“I just got a notification that my gas card was shut off and my campaign email was disabled,” one former Iowa field organizer wrote on Twitter. “Is this how we tell folks they’re fired in the campaign?”
The former staffer later followed up with another tweet: “No worries guys, got it all straightened out — this IS how they tell you.”
However, the staffer told NBC News that she was not harboring a grudge against the campaign and said “I believe in Andrew wholeheartedly, and I know he cares about and respects me, just miscommunication that hurt my feelings, but I know it's not intentional” and says she plans to volunteer in New Hampshire for the Yang campaign.
A former headquarter staffer told NBC News, “Overall it came as sort of a surprise, that it was just in an email and then other stuff got deactivated.”
This staffer didn't know how many staff members were fired but said that others from ballot access, email response, youth organizing teams and volunteer organizing staff received the same email.
“It’s definitely understandable as our organization continues to have to reallocate resources to N.H. at this time. Despite the layoff of my colleagues, we still do wholeheartedly support the Yang campaign,” the staffer said, confirming the campaign's statement that this restructuring was considered "before the Iowa results."
Another headquarters staffer said, “I've loved working with this team and it's been an awesome experience to work with them" but this may have come down to money concerns.
Joe Walsh ends long shot presidential campaign
WASHINGTON — Former Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, one of President Donald Trump’s long shot primary challengers, announced Friday he’s suspending his campaign due to “cult-like” support for the incumbent in the party.
Walsh came in at only 1 percent in the Iowa caucuses, despite spending considerable time in the state in recent months. Walsh told CNN that “any Democrat” would be better than Trump and vowed to help support the eventual nominee, but declined to say which candidate in the opposing party would receive his backing.
With Walsh's exit, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is the president’s lone challenger in the race ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Walsh and Weld both filed to be on the ballot last November.
Michael Bloomberg releases plan for military families
DES MOINES, Iowa – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a policy plan for military families on Friday. The plan focuses on the economic and health concerns of military families and specifically addresses increasing access to mental health services through public-private partnerships and to fully fund the Housing and Urban Development-Veteran Affairs' supportive housing program.
The six main highlights of the plan include:
- Increased access to mental health services, and provide annual mental health exams for active duty service members
- Eliminate co-pays for preventative health care services and expand telehealth services to veterans in rural areas
- Provide resources to cover in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for service-women and female veterans, and expand availability for childcare for military families at on-base childcare centers
- Require people across the Department of Defense and in Veterans Affairs to be trained to handle reported sexual assaults
- Reverse the ban on transgender Americans, and grant honorable discharge to those forced out of the service due to this plan
- Fully fund HUD-VA's supportive housing program
Bloomberg's campaign highlighted some of Bloomberg's work with veterans while he was mayor, like launching the Veterans Employment Initiative and mandating that every city agency appointed a liaison to coordinate with the mayoral office veterans affairs.
Buttigieg gets endorsement from swing-district N.J. Rep. Kim
NASHUA, N.H. — Fresh off a strong performance in Iowa, Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is getting the endorsement of Freshman New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim, a former national security officer in the Obama and Bush administrations.
“I represent a district that Trump won by six points,” Kim told NBC News. “The approach that he’s taking is one that will excite people in places like my district and other parts of this country that are frankly frustrated with how things have been operating and really looking for somebody that's going to do things differently.”
“I used to work at the White House," Kim told NBC News. “I spent a lot of time in the Situation Room, a lot of time in the oval office on tough issues.”
Kim says he has seen first-hand the challenges a President Buttigieg might face, but that the candidate has been “tested in hard times,” and has a strong moral compass that would serve him well in the White House.
Like Buttigieg, Kim knows what it’s like to run as the underdog candidate. In 2018, Kim defeated GOP incumbent Tom MacArthur and acknowledges that Buttigieg still faces a long road to the nomination.
“The challenge is really one of being able to tell your own story,” Kim said. “I've experienced it just in my own congressional district, and to be able to have to do that, across this entire country is just such an enormous task.”
However, with a wave of momentum coming out of Iowa, Kim says Buttigieg has the organization required to go the distance.
“I definitely think he has the capacity, and the organization, and the team that can put him in those types of positions to really get in front of people.“
Buttigieg and Kim have known each other for more than 15 years, the two first met before heading off to Oxford together as Rhodes Scholars. Buttigieg was even there when Kim met his future wife during graduate school orientation and both men attended one another’s weddings.
“He is a really honorable person and he's somebody that's just been extraordinary to watch over the years and developing in his leadership,” Kim said of the former mayor.
Kim first endorsed Senator Cory Booker for president before the New Jersey lawmaker suspended his campaign.
He is the seventh member of Congress to endorse Buttigieg.
New Hampshire poll shows Sanders leading, Buttigieg and Biden fighting for second
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has a slim lead in New Hampshire according to a poll from Monmouth University released on Thursday, receiving 24 percent support from likely Democratic voters in the Granite State.
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden trail with 20 and 17 percent support respectively.
The poll finds Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 13 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 9 percent support, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang both with 4 percent. Philanthropist Tom Steyer trailed the field with 3 percent support and all other candidates earned 1 percent or less.
Just five days away from the first-in-the-nation primary here, voters minds aren't made up. Just 49 percent of likely voters say they are "firmly set" in their choice. And with the New Hampshire primary just five days away, candidates and their surrogates have descended on the state to make their final pitches to voters.
Even though the difficulties in reporting the winner from the Iowa caucuses stunted one candidate from being able to claim an outright victory, the fallout has changed the thinking of some candidates' supporters. Twenty percent of Biden's supporters said they were less confident in him after the Iowa caucuses, where it appears he came in fourth. On the contrary, 56 percent of Buttigieg's supporters said Iowa made them feel more confident about their choice — Buttigieg is still in a race for first against Sanders in the Hawkeye State.
Perhaps the best news for Biden and Warren though, who is looking at a third place finish in Iowa, is that for 78 percent of New Hampshire voters, the caucuses didn't make them rethink their candidate choice.
Bernie Sanders raises $25 million in January, announces new ad campaign
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign announced a $25 million fundraising haul in the month of January on Thursday. According to the campaign, more than 649,000 people made 1.3 million donations, and over 219,000 of the donors in January had never donation to the Sanders campaign before.
The campaign said the average donation was $18.
“Bernie’s multiracial, multigenerational, people-driven movement for change is fueling 2020’s most aggressive campaign for president,” Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement. “Working class Americans giving $18 at a time are putting our campaign in a strong position to compete in states all over the map.”
Sanders also announced a $5.5 million TV and digital ad buy to build up their footprint in Super Tuesday states as well as expand their airwaves time in early states like South Carolina. The ad campaign funding will be split between 10 total states: Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, California, Texas.
The fundraising announcement comes after Sanders' 2019 fourth quarter filing showed him to have raised the most money of all the Democratic candidates for president. Sanders also ended 2019 with the most money in the bank going into the primary season.
Sanders' fundraising figures were released while he remains in a tight race for first place in in the Iowa caucuses and days before the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11.
Republicans rest on Trump legal team’s arguments for acquittal votes
WASHINGTON — Despite its rejection by more than 500 of the nation’s leading legal scholars and the star constitutional scholar who testified on behalf of House Republicans, several Republican senators said they are leaning heavily on arguments made by celebrity defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz for their votes to acquit President Trump on Wednesday.
During the Senate trial, Dershowitz argued that “abuse of power,” one of the impeachment articles against Trump, is not impeachable unless it falls into certain categories, including treason, and that a modern day statutory crime or criminal like offenses need to have been committed.
When asked which constitutional experts the GOP conference consulted in deliberating their votes, at least three senators referred NBC News only to the president’s own defense team, on which Dershowitz served.
Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Braun of Indiana and Tim Scott of South Carolina cited no opinions other than Trump’s defense team in deliberations over Trump’s guilt or innocence.
Among the team, Dershowitz made the “constitutional case” for the president. Former special prosecutor Ken Starr also participated in the president’s defense presentation.
The arguments forwarded by Dershowitz have drawn the most criticism.
“Alan is completely alone,” said Prof. Frank Bowman, whose area of expertise at the University of Missouri includes impeachment. “There’s no disagreement on the stuff Alan’s peddling. Zero, zip, nadda,” he said. “You can’t find anybody who’s actually an impeachment expert saying what he’s saying.”
More recently, the Harvard assistant professor whose work Dershowitz pointed to in his presentation, Nikolas Bowie, said Dershowitz was incorrectly citing his work.
Dershowitz insisted Bowie’s work product still supports his underlying argument; yet in an email to NBC, he could not reference any other living constitutional scholars who agree with him.
“Several prominent 19th century scholars led by Dean Dwight of Columbia law school agreed that a crime was required. Contemporary professors deserve no more credibility for their views than academics and judges who were closer in time to the adoption of the constitution,” he said.
Even self-identified conservative scholars dispute the legal case Dershowitz made on the Senate floor. Larry Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law expert, called it a “crackpot theory.”
But impeachment is an inherently political process and Republicans like Rob Portman of Ohio, who concede the president acted inappropriately, are voting to acquit based, at least partly, on Dershowitz’s argument.
“In this case, no crime is alleged,” Portman said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
“I think Ken Starr’s a pretty good constitutional scholar and former solicitor of the United States,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told NBC News. “But that’s not the point. The point is what Speaker Pelosi made early and often, which was that impeachment should never be a partisan exercise.”
The Senate heard no additional witnesses, relying solely on arguments made by attorneys for both sides. By contrast, during the 1999 impeachment of Bill Clinton, the Senate heard from 19 constitutional scholars in person and many others submitted written opinions, said Bowman.
Interviews with GOP senators underscore the exceedingly narrow universe of constitutional expertise that informed the Senate’s expected verdict that Trump did not engage in impeachable conduct.
Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., did not name any scholars GOP senators consulted in deliberations other than Dershowitz for his reasoning.
“I can tell you it gave a framework for many to think about it,” he said. “For many of us … it struggled to rise to where you can have a slam dunk case,” he said, because “it was how it originated.”
When pressed for additional scholars who were consulted, he said: “I don’t know that. All I can tell you the discussion of [Dershowitz’s argument] was a plausible one in terms of how you can look at what rises to the level of impeachment.”
“The partisan nature of it was as compelling as anything,” Braun said.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said the retired Harvard professor gave the party a single opinion and that was enough.
“They sort of dressed it up in someone they can point to as a constitutional scholar ... So there you have it,” she told reporters. “At the end of the day, they’re saying ‘he did it, so what?’”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in his floor speech that there are other experts who agree with Dershowitz, before citing only Dershowitz.
“It came from others who were well respected attorneys on each side,” said Inhofe. “The president didn’t commit a crime,” he stated, saying that distinguishes Trump from former presidents Bill Clinton, who committed perjury under oath, and Richard Nixon.
Inhofe’s press office did not return calls and an email seeking names of the attorneys who support Dershowitz.
Scott, the South Carolina senator, declined a request for a reporter to accompany him on a Senate subway to discuss the constitutional case.
“You cannot come with me,” he said.
When asked if he considered opinions other than Dershowitz, Scott said: “You’ll have to ask the president’s team.”
Warren highlights Obama praise in new ad
MANCHESTER — In a new digital campaign ad coming out this morning, Elizabeth Warren is highlighting her relationship with former President Barack Obama and his support of her work building the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The new ad, which the campaign says will also soon air on TV, comes after former Vice President Joe Biden's apparent fourth-place finish in Iowa and on the same day that Michael Bloomberg debuted an ad featuring his work with Obama, as well.
The ad, first shared with NBC News, is titled ‘Elizabeth understands” and begins with a 2010 Rose Garden address, where Obama lauds Warren for her work fighting for the middle class.
“She’s a janitor’s daughter who has become one of the country’s fiercest advocates for the middle class,” Obama says at the top, “She came up with an idea for a new, independent agency standing up for consumers and middle class families.”
On the campaign trail, Warren often ends her town halls telling audiences about her time fighting to build the CPFB, a message that ties into an overall theme in her campaign: she’s a fighter.
The ad also touches on that message, too with a line from Obama, referring to the uphill battle Warren faced while trying to start the CPFB, calling Warren tough.
“She’s done it while facing some very tough opposition. Fortunately, she’s very tough,” he said.
The ad will be released in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Candidates shuffle ad dollars ahead of New Hampshire primary
DES MOINES, Iowa — With the New Hampshire primary less than a week away, the Democratic presidential candidates shuffling their ad spending in the hopes of trying to gain an edge in the next contest and get the kind of bounce that never came from Iowa.
Here's a look at the ad-buy shuffle, with data courtesy of media-monitoring firm Advertising Analytics.
- Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who sits in third place in Iowa as the results continue to be counted, cut $375,00 in television ad dollars from Nevada and South Carolina on Tuesday.
- Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's currently in fourth place in Iowa, added $433,000 in TV spending to markets that cover New Hampshire.
- Businessman Andrew Yang placed $280,000 in New Hampshire-area markets.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden cut $58,000 in Nevada TV ads and placed $90,000 in New Hampshire-area TV ads.
- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg added almost $400,000 in TV ads as his campaign foreshadowed a large increase in TV spending by the billionaire that's already launched a historic ad blitzkrieg.
- Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg placed $137,000 in New Hampshire-area television ads.
- Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer dropped $212,400 onto the airwaves in the New Hampshire area.
- Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard booked $53,000 on the New Hampshire airwaves
- Vote Vets, a progressive veterans group backing Buttigieg, is spending another $191,000 on TV ads in New Hampshire.
- And Unite the Country, a super PAC supporting Biden, announced it's investing $900,000 in television and digital ads backing Biden in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Democrats say they're ready for their turn in the spotlight
MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Democratic candidates descend upon New Hampshire, the state is ready for its closeup less than a week before its first-in-the-nation primary, according to two New Hampshire Democratic Party officials.
Amy Kennedy, the executive director of the NHDP, said on Tuesday that she expects voter turnout to be at an all-time high, and voter enthusiasm to be strengthening head of next Tuesday's contest.
"There's just such an appetite to remove Donald Trump from office that we're going to see something larger than what we had in 2018 and 2019 with both our midterms and our municipal elections," Kennedy said.
Those expectations come in spite of several of the candidates missing key opportunities to campaign in the Granite State because of the Senate's impeachment trial.
Kennedy pointed out that many of the candidates have been coming to New Hampshire for months and sometimes visiting "before they even start having conversations about running for president."
“I think the energy and excitement is still up. And again, they’ve got six more days now to hear from all the candidates directly," Kennedy said.
And as campaigning heats up in the state, the NHDP feels confident about their turn in the spotlight in the wake of Iowa's struggles.
“This is our hundredth anniversary of the New Hampshire primary, and so we have had a process in place for years with our voting systems that we have absolute confidence in,” said Amy Kennedy, executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “There’s no reason to doubt their ability to do this properly. And we also have measures like paper ballots and additional counts, recounts that have to happen if there’s any question.”
And after a chaotic end to the Iowa caucuses, some in the Granite State would like everyone to remember the popular saying, "Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks presidents."
"New Hampshire voters do pick presidents and we think that with the time and the focus that New Hampshire gets for the primary, it's a good place for a candidate to really shine and then decide how they want to run their campaign," Kennedy said.
The Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests have faced criticism for going first in the primary season because both states are majority white and and aren’t representative of the Democratic Party. After Monday’s reporting issues after the Iowa caucuses, those criticisms renewed.
But Kennedy, and NHDP communications director Holly Shulman said that their state’s contest is evened out by Nevada and South Carolina going third and fourth.
“We’re really excited by the inclusion of South Carolina, and about it into the early state combination here. We’re proud to have them as our sister early states, and with them we believe that this is representative of our Democratic Party as a whole,” Kennedy said.
Shulman added, “The polling of all the candidates here has been really closely tracking what’s happening in South Carolina and Nevada,” so the results aren’t “that different.”
While energy is up in New Hampshire, voters' minds aren't made up. And according to Shulman, candidates would do well to remember that to voters “everyone is someone else’s second choice.”
“[Voters] have lots of choices and they love all of them, and that’s why they’re waiting so long to make their decisions,” Shulman said. “The candidates know that, and they understand that the only way to win over voters is to make sure that they’re focused on the general election, and on their message and on on their policies.”
RGA hits Michigan governor ahead of SOTU rebuttal
WASHINGTON — The Republican Governors Association launched a digital ad campaign Tuesday targeting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who will deliver the Democratic Party’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address tonight.
According to a statement from the RGA released Tuesday, the initiative will call attention to Whitmer’s “broken promises and tanking approval rating.”
The ads are set to air on Facebook and Instagram around the Michigan State Capitol and in the Lansing area — where Whitmer will rebut Trump from a local high school.
One of the ads, titled “Broken Roads, Broken Promises,” includes media coverage accusing Whitmer of failing to fulfill her primary campaign promise best captured by the slogan: “Fix the damn roads.”
About one-minute long, the ad highlights the Michigan Governor’s decision to veto infrastructure funding for Michigan totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. It also features unflattering polling depicting her approval rating on the decline.
Whitmer has said she vetoed that funding because it was only a short-term fix and that she’s focused on achieving a “a real, long-term funding solution that will actually fix the damn roads. “
President Trump even makes an appearance, criticizing Whitmer at a rally in her home state in December.
“I understand she’s not fixing those potholes,” the president says on screen.
When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, announced the Democrats’ selection of Whitmer to represent the party following the State of the Union, he boasted about her action on issues that the RGA scrutinizes in its ads.
"Governor Whitmer's dedication to Michiganders is a model for public servants everywhere," he said. "Whether it's pledging to 'Fix the Damn Roads' or investing in climate solutions, Governor Whitmer's vision for the future is exactly what this country needs, and I'm thrilled she is giving the Democratic response."
In its statement, the RGA also singled out “Whitmer’s attempt to get back on track in her recent State of the State address,” which faced blow back after experts determined that her new transportation plan would “saddle future generations with debt and fail to fix the majority of roads in the state.”
Communications Director of the RGA, Amelia Chassé Alcivar, said Tuesday that Whitmer’s failure to make substantive progress on her campaign pledge is “no joke” for Michigan residents “still driving on the crumbling roads she promised to fix.”
The spokeswoman also stressed that Michiganders need their governor “to do her damn job.”
The ad campaign announcement came around the same time that Whitmer held a press conference outlining her plan to rebut President Trump.
"When I stay tethered to the dinner table issues I know it resonates with people all across our country," the governor said.
Bloomberg: 'No question' that Trump is 'worried about me'
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there’s “no question” that President Donald Trump fears running against him in a general election, after a feud between the two New Yorkers escalated over the weekend.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News in California, Bloomberg looked past his Democratic rivals who are competing in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, insisting his own future in the race won’t be affected by results of the caucuses. Instead, Bloomberg said he’s “running against Donald Trump.”
“I think there’s no question that he’s worried about me, because otherwise he wouldn’t respond,” Bloomberg says. “Donald doesn’t want to run against me because he knows I’ve taken him on, and every time, I’ve beaten him. I’m trying to tell the public what I did and what I will do and not get into a silly contest. He can’t run on his record.”
Bloomberg’s comments come as the gloves have come off in Bloomberg’s growing rivalry with Trump, who took to Twitter over the weekend to insult Bloomberg over his height — claiming, without evidence, that Bloomberg was arranging to stand on a box during an upcoming debate. That led Bloomberg’s campaign to push back, calling Trump “pathological liar” and asserting that the campaign is now on a “wartime footing” with the Republican president. Trump and Bloomberg also aired dueling ads during the Super Bowl on Sunday at a cost of some $11 million.
With his numbers starting to climb in national polls, Bloomberg has sought to portray himself as above the fray of the Democratic primary and primed to defeat the president, which Democratic primary voters have widely said is the top quality they’re seeking in their nominee. That argument has gained fresh attention amid signs of a surge by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who more moderate Democrats have said they fear may be too liberal to win over centrist voters needed to defeat the president.
In the interview, Bloomberg said he plans to stay in the race even if a candidate like former Vice President Joe Biden emerges as a clear front-runner out of Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first and second primary contests.
“I'm not running against Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, I'm running against Donald Trump and whether they win in one of these states or both of these states or not, it just doesn't influence what I'm going to do,” Bloomberg said.
After entering the race too late to compete in the earliest states, Bloomberg has mounted an unconventional campaign focused on the delegate-rich states that vote later in the calendar, as well as on general-election battlegrounds that will be key to deciding the next president.
So as the other Democrats converge on Iowa on Monday for the caucuses, Bloomberg is in California, which kicks off its early and mail-in voting periods this week.
The stakes are high: California has 10 times the number of delegates as Iowa in the Democratic primary nominating contest. More Democrats are expected to vote early in California than in the Iowa caucuses in total.
In the interview, Bloomberg also lamented the all-but-certain acquittal of Trump in the impeachment trial, where closing arguments are taking place in Washington on Monday ahead of an expected final vote on Wednesday.
“It’s a disgrace, no question about that,” he said, adding that the whole Republican Party was contributing to it. “I don’t like impeachment, but there’s so much evidence we had to do it. I’m not a senator, but I’d vote to convict.”
He added: “It’s obvious they’re going to let him off the hook and the public will have its chance on November 3.”
Iowa will test whether Steyer's spending strategy works
DES MOINES, Iowa — With voting set to start in the 2020 Democratic presidential contests, billionaire Tom Steyer is about to face a critical test: whether the prodigious spending that has thus far buoyed his candidacy will win over enough voters to propel it into the next phase of the contest.
The 62-year old former hedge fund manager is also sharpening his message, casting himself as an uncompromising progressive in hopes of capitalizing on the distaste and discomfort a distinct coalition of voters feel toward the political establishment. But Steyer, well behind in most polls both nationally and in early voting states, needs to turn out more than just a handful of voters tired of the political system.
By portraying himself as a leader with experience outside the Beltway, Steyer, in the final to sprint through Iowa and other early states, aims to turn out voters who don’t always participate in elections — highlighting his investment in commonly overlooked communities.
He’s also contrasting himself with other 2020 contenders like former Vice President Joe Biden who are leaning into their willingness to work across the aisle if elected — touting their relationships with Republicans. Steyer argues that the other side isn’t interested in compromise.
“There’s no point in talking to someone who refuses to talk,” Steyer recently told a group of voters in Clinton, Iowa, referencing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Have you seen any give? Did he ever compromise with Barack Obama?”
It’s a message that seems to be resonating voters who say they are fed up with the political system in Washington. One voter at a recent town hall in Burlington, Iowa said he’d never caucused before but liked Steyer because he wasn’t a political insider.
On his last bus tour through Iowa, Steyer drew in larger crowds. More than 120 voters showed up to the Clinton town hall — double the number the campaign expected — and a few of his audiences have topped Biden’s in size.
In Iowa, where Steyer has spent nearly $16 million on TV and radio ads, the campaign has focused on barnstorming corners of the state not traditionally considered Democratic strongholds — like Storm Lake, where Steyer is one of only four candidates with an operating field office.
And it’s not just where or who the campaign is targeting but about the message to these voters, too.
Steyer regularly highlights the need for congressional term limits on the trail. He also touts his investments in rural communities and his long history of fighting climate change.
“There’s something about Tom and his message — being that outsider on traditional messaging — that appeals to rural Iowans,” Ben Gerdes, Steyer’s senior press secretary, told NBC News.
Looking past Iowa, Steyer has rapidly staffed up in South Carolina. With 92 paid staffers, his presence is the largest in the state —and roughly double that of Biden’s. Formerly incarcerated men make up a large portion of that number and have been tasked with campaigning for Steyer in their neighborhoods.
In New Hampshire, where he’s made a total of only six trips, Steyer also highlights his outsider status and regularly brings up climate change on the stump. He’s made targeted outreach efforts to areas like the Seacoast, where the risks and impacts of rising tides hit closest to home.
Steyer maintains his status in the race doesn’t necessarily depend on the results Monday night in Iowa.
When asked for a best-case scenario, Gerdes was optimistic, but also realistic: “Our belief is, even just beating expectations, showing some momentum here where no one expects us to do anything ... then the whole dynamic of the races changes.”
Bernie Sanders raised more online from Iowans than rest of Dem field
DES MOINES, Iowa — As the clock ticks closer to Monday night's Iowa caucuses, new federal election filings from the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue provide the latest glimpse as to each candidates' financial strength in the Hawkeye State.
That new data shows that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders raised more money online from Iowans, $703,000, than his Democratic presidential rivals in all of 2019.
Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised the second most with $519,000, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's $418,000, former Vice President Joe Biden's $251,000, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's $185,000 and businessman Andrew Yang's $142,000.
No other active presidential candidate raised more than $100,000 in Iowa online donations, according to ActBlue data.
ActBlue processes all virtually every online donation to Democratic candidates and is required to itemize every single donation in its report to the Federal Election Commission, unlike campaigns that aren't required to disclose information for donations under $200.
So its semi-annual filing journalists, campaigns and data-nerds the ability to comb through those online donations for analysis.
Click here for more coverage from the latest federal election filings.
For Warren, 'unity' is more than a talking point
IOWA CITY, Iowa — As she makes her closing pitch to Iowa voters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has increasingly stressed the need for party unity.
“I've been building a campaign from the beginning that's not a campaign that's narrow or not a campaign that says us and nobody else," Warren said at a rally in Cedar Rapids Saturday. "It's a campaign that says, 'come on in because we are in this fight together. This fight is our fight.'”
Her comments come after a surrogate for Bernie Sanders pointedly joined in with a group of the Vermont Senator's supporters to boo Hillary Clinton Friday night.
But Warren's push is more than just a reactionary move, there's some data behind it as well.
A Warren aide tells NBC News that among people they’ve identified as planning to caucus for Warren who also caucused in 2016, there’s a 50-50 split between those who supported Sanders and Clinton.
That means unity isn’t just a messaging point, it’s borne out in who the campaign sees its attracting at this point. It’s why they weren’t (and aren’t) directly attacking Sanders and why she doesn't directly engage on questions about Clinton.
In fact, speaking to reporters on Saturday, Warren skirted questions on both of those issues — re-emphasizing that message of needing to come together.
What we learned from the Q4 candidate filings
DES MOINES, Iowa — Friday’s new batch of campaign finance reports gave us one more look under the campaigns’ hoods before Monday’s Iowa caucuses.
Some candidates already pushed out their top-line numbers from the fourth fundraising quarter, but the full reports give a comprehensive look at the financial health of these campaigns.
Here are some takeaways from the NBC Political Unit:
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is running an unprecedented campaign as the richest presidential candidate in modern history. And the FEC reports show it.
Despite refusing to take individual donations, Bloomberg spent $188 million in the six weeks his campaign was active in the fourth fundraising quarter — more than every other active Democratic presidential candidate combined (except for fellow billionaire Tom Steyer).
He spent $132 million on television advertising; $757,000 in airfare; $3.3 million on polling; and $8.2 million on digital advertising, for example.
And while he closed the quarter with about 145 people on the payroll, a campaign aide said he’s expanded to more than 1,000 since.
One of the wealthiest people in the world, Bloomberg can afford it. But it’s still a risky bet, as Bloomberg isn’t on the ballot in any of the first four states.
Fellow billionaire Tom Steyer is taking a similar path — he spent $154 million of largely his own money last quarter. But while his wealth isn’t as large, he’s competing in the early states.
Money in the bank
Sanders ended 2019 with the most cash on hand in the field, with more than $18 million in the bank. That’s more than his rivals at the top of the polls — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren finished with $13 million, and former Vice President Joe Biden trailed behind them both with only $8.9 million in cash.
It’s no surprise to see candidates spending big right before the start of voting. That’s part of the bet — spend big and hope to see it reflected in the polls and when voters cast their ballots.
Sanders’ big spending came as he rebounded in the polls. And his massive $34.6 million fundraising haul to close 2019 shows he’s not likely to struggle for cash.
But others are hoping that a big spend can help turn around a slide at the polls and put them in good shape once votes are cast.
That’s the case with former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg spent almost $9 million more last quarter than he took in, amid a fall at the polls. So his campaign is looking for that investment to pay dividends in the early states.
Battle of the Progressives
Sanders and Warren have been fighting for the progressive vote the entire presidential cycle. But when it comes to the money fight, Sanders is winning.
Take their total individual contributions: Sanders brought in over $34 million dollars in the last quarter of 2019, while Warren brought in just over $21 million. That’s a turn around from the third quarter when Warren’s fundraising skyrocketed. In the third quarter, Sanders just barely outraised Warren that quarter, $25.2 million to $24.5 million.
Sanders’ deep pockets have allowed him to outspend Warren when (and where) it matters: The lead up to Iowa and the other early state contests.
Since the start of the fourth fundraising quarter (Oct. 1, 2019), Sanders has spent more than $16 million on television and radio ads, compared to $7.4 million for Warren, data from Advertising Analytics shows.
Even so, they’re spending at similar rates to each other and the rest of the field.
Sanders’ burn rate (which means the amount of money he spent divided by the amount of money he brought in) was over 144 percent, while Warren’s burn rate was just a bit higher at 155 percent.
So while Warren continues to have the resources to mount a strong campaign, it’s Sanders who has the fundraising edge among the progressive candidates.
Boots on the ground
Of the three top-polling candidates, Warren almost doubled her staff in the fourth quarter – ending 2019 with over 1,100 staff members on her payroll.
Sanders ended the quarter with about 850 people on his staff payroll – about 300 more than the last quarter, and Biden’s staff on payroll stayed nearly stagnant even despite an uptick in fundraising: In this quarter he had about 488 people on payroll, in quarter three he had about 446.
While the candidate makes the headlines, it’s the staff on the ground across the country who helps convert support into ballots cast, particularly once the calendar opens up on Super Tuesday and campaigns require a larger footprint across the country.
Campaigns that ended in Q4
FEC reports aren’t just useful for active candidates, those reports can help shed some important light on campaigns who have closed up shop.
Take California Sen. Kamala Harris, who dropped out in early December. When she suspended her campaign, she said her “campaign for president simply does not have the financial resources to continue.”
And now we know what she meant.
Harris raised just $3.9 million in the fourth quarter, but spent $13.1 million.
It was a similar story for former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who raised $966,000 and spent $3.9 million.
Both ended with little left in their bank accounts — O’Rourke had just $361,000 cash on hand to close the year, while Harris had $1.4 million left in the bank but with $1.1 million in debt.
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.
"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.
“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.
“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 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.
County to County: Milwaukee Democrats talk about the importance of 2020
WASHINGTON — If a Democratic presidential candidate is going to win back Wisconsin in 2020, he or she is going to need to turn out the vote in Milwaukee, home to the state’s largest African-American population. That’s something the Democrats failed badly at in 2016.
President Donald Trump wound up winning Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes in 2016 and Milwaukee produced 51,000 fewer votes in that election than it did in 2012.
What are those voters thinking as the calendar flips to 2020? NBC News' "Meet the Press" convened a roundtable of five African-American voters in Milwaukee as part of its year-long "County to County" project following five key counties in five swing states that we believe will decide the 2020 election.
The voters here have a common set of answers about what happened four years ago. Some say that they feel the Democratic Party was taking them for granted. Some say their community has suffered for years economically under Republican and Democratic administrations and they wonder what difference their votes make. And others say they weren’t particularly excited about Democrat Hillary Clinton and they didn’t believe Trump would win.
Regardless, they all say the last election showed how crucial their vote is and the power they’ll hold in their hands this fall.
More important, the story of these voters in 2020 is about more than Milwaukee or Wisconsin. Across the upper Midwest, the states that won Trump the election are full of similar communities where African-American turnout will be crucial. Places like Wayne (Detroit) and Genesee counties (Flint) in Michigan, and Cuyahoga (Cleveland) and Hamilton (Cincinnati) counties in Ohio.
In each of those counties, the same Milwaukee pattern was visible. They are counties with large African-American populations that produced fewer votes in 2016 than they did in 2012. They will be key to Democratic hopes in 2020.
Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer spend nearly $300 million combined in TV and radio ads
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Tom Steyer have now spent nearly $300 million combined on TV and radio ads of Friday, according to ad-spending data from Advertising Analytics. And the two Democratic billionaires and presidential candidates plan to spend millions more in future ad buys through Super Tuesday.
However, the two candidates aren't quite fighting for TV time. Steyer has largely concentrated his spending in the four earlier nominating states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, while Bloomberg's campaign has focused on states that don't vote until closer to or on Super Tuesday.
Bloomberg's campaign has previously said their strategy is to focus on Super Tuesday contests, and not compete in any of the four early states.
Here are the numbers through Friday, Jan. 17:
National ad-spending numbers
- Bloomberg: $190.2 million (with future ad spending at $220.6 million through Super Tuesday)
- Steyer: $106.4 million
- Sanders: $12.2 million
- Buttigieg: $11.8 million
- Yang: $7.9 million
- Trump: $5.7 million
- Warren: $4.5 million
- Klobuchar: $3.2 million
- Biden: $3.2 million
Iowa ad spending
- Steyer: $13.2 million
- Buttigieg: $8.4 million
- Sanders: $7.8 million
- Yang: $5.4 million
- Warren: $4.2 million
- Biden: $3.2 million
- Klobuchar: $2.5 million
New Hampshire ad spending
- Steyer: $15.6 million
- Sanders: $3.8 million
- Bloomberg: $3.3 million
- Yang: $2.4 million
- Buttigieg: $2.0 million
Nevada ad spending
- Steyer: $10.8 million
- Trump: $859,000
- Sanders: $165,000
- Buttigieg: $94,000
South Carolina ad spending
- Steyer: $14.8 million
- Buttigieg: $1.1 million
- Bloomberg: $966,000
- Trump: $549,000
Pete Buttigieg's endorsement town hall interrupted by climate protesters
CONCORD, N.H. — Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg was interrupted by protesters during a town hall in New Hampshire on Friday where he received an endorsement from New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster. The protesters were a group of climate activists against the former South Bend, Indiana mayor's ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Roughly two dozen protesters interrupted Buttigieg during his remarks in Concord, N.H., holding signs with the Buttigieg campaign’s colors of yellow and blue and writing with a matching font, that read “Pete takes money from fossil fuel billionaires.”
They sang and chanted causing a significant interruption of Buttigieg's event. The protesters, according to their distribution materials, aim to hold presidential candidates accountable on their connections to the fossil fuel industry.
Buttigieg at first tried to listen to the group's protests, and interjected to say, “I see some inaccurate information going up here so let's dispatch with that real quick. I've taken the fossil fuel pledge and I am determined to bring about solutions on climate change.”
“I can't make out your song, but we definitely want the same things,” Buttigieg continued as the protesters continued to shout. He then tried to get back to his rehearsed remarks.
“Now, are we ready to do what it's actually going to take to come together and solve these problems?” Buttigieg said to the audience with cheers in response. “Will we turn on one another or will we unite to tackle the issues we face as a country?”
The group has interrupted other candidates at New Hampshire events, including former Vice President Joe Biden in October in Manchester.
“Remember, if you care about solving these problems, if you care about fixing the economy, if you care about fixing our climate, we know what we are up against and it is not each other,” Buttigieg added. “Who's with me on making sure that tackling climate is not another partisan political battlefield? But something that we all rally around as a national project? We got a lot of work to do. We better be ready to do it together.”
The protesters escorted themselves out of the venue after their disruption.
One of the protesters told NBC News that the group protested Buttigieg because he accepted campaign donations from Craig Hall, who owns an oil company and was at Buttigieg's "wine cave" fundraiser in California last month.
“My reaction is that I have a climate policy that's going to get us carbon neutral by the middle of the century and starts on day one with aggressive action,” Buttigieg told reporters after the event. "As the youngest candidate running for president, I will be personally impacted by America's success or failure in dealing with the climate issue. So I respect the issues that they're raising. I share the goal of making sure that we deal with this and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure we can.”
Fight for $15 campaign and the SEIU launch joint campaign effort in Michigan, Wisconsin
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Fight for $15 campaign and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), will launch a major door-knocking operation this weekend targeting minority voters in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin that saw drops in voter turnout in the 2016 election.
The partnership intends to put “tens of millions of dollars" behind the effort through Election Day, targeting 690,000 specific doors in Michigans’s Detroit, Oakland County, Saginaw and Flint areas, and another 750,000 doors in Wisconsin’s Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha neighborhoods. It will also run digital ads and build out a text-message program and is expected to continue through November.
“We know Midwestern states like Wisconsin and my home state of Michigan are key to winning in 2020. Working people will be critical to reaching that goal, particularly black and brown communities that have too often been left behind by national politics,” said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the SEIU. “They’re going to swing the election by getting out, hitting the streets, knocking on doors and lifting up issues like wages, inequality, health care and the right for all workers to join together in a union.”
Just this week — ten months out from the general election — Milwaukee was the focus of both the national Democratic and Republican parties' attention. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and local Democrats engaged in a round table with local leaders in a predominately-black neighborhood of Milwaukee on Thursday. And on Tuesday night, President Trump held a campaign rally just two blocks from where the Democratic Party will hold its national convention this summer.
The partnership between Fight for $15 and SEIU produced a similar program ahead of the midterm elections. Both states elected Democratic governors in 2018.
Michigan and Wisconsin have received heightened attention from political operatives and activists on the left after the 2016 race. While counties like Macomb in Michigan, made up of predominately-white voters, flipped in Trump’s favor in 2016 and saw a significant increase in voter turnout, the states’ more diverse counties, like Wayne County, saw a drop-off in voters from 2012 to 2016.
The SEIU's national organization has not endorsed in the 2020 Democratic primary, but the New Hampshire chapter endorsed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders last week. The Fight for $15 campaign has said it will not endorse in the primary election.
Bennet campaign says it's hit fundraising goal to stay competitive in N.H.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Senator Michael Bennet’s presidential campaign announced Friday that the Colorado senator has hit a self-imposed fundraising goal of $700,000 over the last month, giving the campaign enough resources to compete in first-in-the-nation primary here in just 25 days.
The campaign said that Thursday, the final day of this push, was the best fundraising day for the campaign since September 2019.
“Surpassing our fundraising goal last night is another confirmation of our campaign’s momentum — from key endorsements to growing support in New Hampshire,” said Bennet spokesperson Shannon Beckham. “We’re building the ground game we need to carry Michael to a top three finish on primary night.”
The campaign says that they will be expanding its “Opposite of Trump” ad buy today, adding that hitting this goal followed a few days of critical momentum, especially with endorsements.
Bennet announced last month that he was going all in on New Hampshire for his candidacy and even launched his first TV ad in the state. The campaign says that hitting the fundraising goal means they they will now invest more resources into further expanding their TV and digital ad program.
“Voters watched the debate this week and felt less sure than ever that the front-runners could beat Trump or unite the country to make progress for middle-class families,” Beckham added. “The surge we saw in donations on the final day of the push is further proof that Americans are looking for a president like Michael Bennet, who has the experience and agenda to take on Trump and start governing the country again.”
New Biden ads highlight Obama's praise from Medal of Freedom award
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — As two of his chief rivals spar over each other’s credibility, Joe Biden’s campaign is reminding voters of the ultimate tribute he earned from President Obama, as a “a resilient and loyal and humble servant.”
As it did in the earliest days of his candidacy, the Biden campaign is promoting the glowing tribute Obama offered as he awarded his vice president the Presidential Medal of Freedom, two years ago this week. The 30-second video will target Iowans visiting YouTube starting Friday.
The campaign says it is pushing this message onto the digital streaming platform at a time when they expect traffic to be higher as the NFL’s conference championship games approach. Visitors to the YouTube homepage will see the video prominently on the masthead; a 60-second version will also be launched as an auto-play video before other videos.
The video highlights Obama’s praise for Biden’s character, as a parent and Gold Star parent. It closes with Obama saying, “the best part is he’s nowhere close to finished” — a comment made long before either he or Biden could have anticipated how the 2020 field would take shape.
Biden has shown little hesitation to invoke Obama’s name on the campaign trail. But his campaign has been careful not to use the president’s image and voice as freely. Advisers have kept an open line of communication with president's team to ensure that any messaging that invokes their time in the White House together does not go beyond what Obama would consider fair use, or suggest an endorsement that Obama has not offered.
Democratic group pledges millions for state legislative wins
WASHINGTON — The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), the official organization dedicated to electing Democrats to state legislatures around the country, committed Thursday to spending $50 million to help the party get an edge ahead of key redistricting battles of 2021.
That spending will be part of its “Flip Everything” campaign, which the DLCC announced Thursday during a press briefing in Washington D.C.
While the group has a vast range of targeted states, its map also includes presidential battleground states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, and Arizona.
According to DLCC President, Jessica Post, “there’s so much power on the line” when it comes to statewide elections.
“The states are our first line of defense against Donald Trump,” Post said. “The states serve as a firewall against the administration’s policies.”
The stakes are high for this year’s elections specifically because in many states, the legislatures play a key role in drawing the district maps for the next decade of elections. Republicans gained 675 state legislative seats in the 2010 midterm elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which put Republicans in strong shape when maps were drawn in 2011.
The DLCC has helped Democrats win majorities in 10 state legislative chambers since President Trump was elected — flipping a total of 436 seats from Republicans, including wins in 425 districts that the president won in 2016. The organization hopes to bring another 10 state chambers under Democratic control in 2020.
Post credits Democrats’ previous successes in part to the DLCC’s improved infrastructure, candidate recruitment, and voter outreach. She also noted that financial investments have soared with the DLCC on track to spend an unprecedented $50 million this cycle.
Looking forward to 2020, Post said the DLCC will continue to invest time, money, and staff into these targeted states and pointed to state Democrats’ 2019 victory in Virginia where the General Assembly began its latest session under total Democratic control for the first time in 25 years.
Virginia — Post’s “favorite new Democratic trifecta” — received an early $1 million investment from the DLCC and had its own embedded political staffer. The DLCC plans to embed more staff in battleground states in 2020.
Post said that the DLCC is also using “high profile allies” to its advantage on the campaign trail.
In a Texas State House special election on January 28 — a race receiving national attention — former presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro are campaigning for Democrat Eliz Markowitz.
Post said it would be “earth shattering” if Markowitz wins this seat.
On the 2020 presidential election, Post said the DLCC continues to work with several presidential candidates including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg.
“We obviously will beat Donald Trump in 2020,” Post said. “We have to do that but there’s been huge progress in states.”
New grant fund looks to power gender parity in elected office
WASHINGTON — Panorama Global, a nonprofit group, is sponsoring recruitment and training programs for women running for elected office across the country.
The Ascend Fund, announced on Tuesday, is the latest venture for Panorama Global to get involved in gender parity in elected offices. The group received its seed money from Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company Pivotal Ventures.
Chief executive officer and founder Gabrielle Fitzgerald told NBC News that the fund is one of their “biggest and most prominent” grants yet, and is actively looking to work with nonpartisan and nonprofit organizations that recruit and train women to run for office.
“There are barriers that exist that make it hard for women to run for office,” Fitzgerald said. “It requires you to be away from home, and oftentimes today, women are still the primary caregivers.”
Fitzgerald continued that aside from systematic barriers that preclude women from running, the lack of female candidates creates a pipeline problem for possible recruits.
“It’s not just training that women need to declare candidacy for office, it’s also encouragement,” Fitzgerald said.
Two groups have already received three-year grants: New American Leaders and Vote Run Lead. New American Leaders focuses on recruiting and training people of color, immigrants and refugees to run for state legislatures. While they work with both men and women, they will only use money from The Ascend Fund on programming for women.
“Our programs start at the point of entry, recruitment and training," founder and president of New American Leaders Sayu Bhojwani said.
According to Bhojwani, because of New American Leaders' designation as a 501(c)(3), the group cannot provide support once someone has formally entered a race.
Bhojwani clarified that the Ascend Fund and partners at Panorama Global “will not be involved in designing the programs” at New American Leaders, the partnership “is an opportunity to identify ongoing problems” in recruiting and training women for office.
Vote Run Lead works with women across the country and also specializes in recruiting and training women to run for state legislatures.
Vote Run Lead founder and CEO Erin Vilardi said that the Ascend Fund will act as an “accelerator” for programs the group had already been planning to enact.
“We are going as fast as we can to keep up with demand for women raising their hand [to run],” Vilardi said.
Vilardi continued that this grant will help push against assumptions that ventures supporting “women in politics is fully funded,” or that it’s “a demand problem.”
“Gender equity is really possible,” Vilardi said. “Really at this point, it’s about the resources.”
Vilardi said the additional funding will allow Vote Run Lead to work more to support women who have already won office, and not just help get them there.
According to Fitzgerald, because the groups being selected, and the fund money, are coming from nonpartisan actors, it allows the focus to be going state-by-state to achieve gender parity in state legislatures.
“Obviously different parties have different priorities and quotas for how they think about their recruitment,” Fitzgerald said. “But they don’t have an overall strategy for what we’re describing.”
Liz Cheney will not run for Senate
WASHINGTON — Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney announced Thursday that she would not run for the state's open U.S. Senate seat this year, arguing that she "can have the biggest impact for the people of Wyoming by remaining in leadership in the House of Representatives."
The specter of a Cheney bid to replace retiring Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wy., loomed large over the Wyoming Senate field, even though Cheney's House Republican colleague, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, jumped in only weeks after Enzi's decision.
Cheney repeatedly refused to rule out a bid in recent months, and was seen as a top candidate because of both her stature in the House, where she's the third-ranking Republican, as well as her lineage. Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, served 10 years as Wyoming's congressman and is one of the most famous political figures in the state.
She briefly challenged Enzi's re-election in the 2014 Senate Republican primary, but withdrew from that race pointing to health issues in her family.
Now, Lummis is the odds-on favorite to replace Enzi in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator in almost a half-century.
Two New Hampshire state reps switch their support to Amy Klobuchar
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar expanded her support base in the Granite State on Thursday when she picked up endorsements from two state representatives who previously supported Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker respectively.
State Rep. Michael Pedersen had announced his support for Warren in November and State Rep. Linn Opderbecke supported Booker before the New Jersey senator ended his presidential campaign earlier this week.
In an uncommon move of switching public endorsements, especially while both candidates are still in the race, Pedersen said in an interview with NBC News that the primary reason he's switching his support to Klobuchar is due to electability.
“I like both candidates a lot, and am friends with staff on both teams, however I think that Sen. Klobuchar is more electable across the country than Sen. Warren,” Pedersen said. “She has a proven track record of winning in Trump country. And Sen. Warren has a proven track record of winning in liberal northeast.”
Pedersen said that his support had been evolving for the last couple of weeks, but solidified behind Klobuchar after Tuesday night's Democratic debate.
“After the debate, I saw everybody pairing up — Sen. Warren and Sanders competition against one another, and then everyone else. I just think those two as a team, Sanders and Warren, they don’t appeal widely across the nation as Sen. Klobuchar.”
Pedersen said that he plans to knock on doors for Klobuchar in the remaining weeks until the New Hampshire primary.
Prior to Booker ending his presidential campaign, Pedersen also thought he was a strong candidate and noted that Booker's supporters may now turn to candidates like Klobuchar — a sentiment echoed by Opderbecke.
“Amy showed on the debate stage that she’s someone who tells the truth and has people’s backs,” Opderbecke said in a statement. “That is the leadership we need to take on Donald Trump. Amy will not only beat Trump, but also will secure victories up and down the ballot. I’m proud to support her campaign for president.”
In the last week, Klobuchar also picked up endorsements from N.H. state Rep. Jim Verschueren, former state Sen. Iris Estabrook and Deputy Speaker of the N.H. House Karen Ebel.
Elizabeth Warren earns endorsements from over 100 Latino leaders
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced more than 100 endorsements from Latina, Latino and Latinx community leaders on Thursday. The list include New York Assemblywoman Rep. Catalina Cruz, who was brought to the U.S. undocumented as a child, award-winning writer and poet Elizabeth Acevedo and Rosie Castro, the mother of Julián and Joaquin Castro — both of whom recently endorsed Warren.
The endorsers come from more than a dozen states, including Iowa, as well as influential Super Tuesday states like California and Texas.
“I am grateful for the support of this list of Latina, Latino and Latinx leaders who have made incomparable gains for their communities and continue to trailblaze for the good of everyone,” Warren said in a statement provided exclusively to NBC. “I am proud to stand with them in this fight for big, structural change.”
“These leaders make up the heart of our movement, and with their support, we can make big, structural change. That’s how we win in 2020 and beat Donald Trump,” said Latinx Outreach campaign's director Jonathan Jayes Green.
The endorsements come less than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses and as the conversation around the diversity of candidates running for president intensifies. This week’s debate in Iowa included only white candidates.
After former HUD Sec. Julián Castro, the only Latino candidate in the race ended his campaign, he quickly endorsed Warren and has become an active surrogate for her campaign.
Castro has long been complimentary of Warren's outreach efforts to minority communities.
“Senator Warren certainly has done a good job, I think, of reaching out to different communities during the course of this campaign. I’ve been very impressed with the work that she's done both in the African-American community and the Latino community," Castro said in an interview on MSNBC in November.
The duo's campaigning efforts have led to speculation that Warren might consider Castro as a candidate for vice president and that his support may help turnout among Latino voters — Latinos will be the largest non-white voting bloc in this election.
Castro has been campaigning extensively for Warren in early voting states like Iowa and Nevada.
Buttigieg brings selfie style ad campaign to Iowa ahead of the caucuses
MASON CITY, Iowa — With 18 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has his sights set on flipping counties that voted for both Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and he’s turning to his supporters to help get the job done.
Buttigieg is launching a new digital ad campaign called "River to River: Iowa for Pete,” but instead of hearing from the candidate, viewers will hear directly from voters in their own communities about why they support the former mayor of South Bend Indiana.
“Our campaign is committed to organizing everywhere — in coffee shops, at people’s doorsteps, and online,” Buttigieg’s Iowa Organizing Director Kevin Groh said in a statement. “These online ads will help us reach even more people with Pete’s message.”
The selfie video style ads will hit Facebook and YouTube on Thursday, specifically targeting two-dozen counties that flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016. Each ad will play in the specific county that the featured caucus goer is from.
For example, Allison Rasmussen, will tell neighbors in Bremer County that she’s caucusing for Buttigieg because of his support for public education. Johnson County caucus goers will hear from Donte, who backs Buttigieg because of his plan to tackle systemic racism. Those in Worth County, will meet Alvin Kobernusz, a corn producer who say’s Buttigieg will “go to work for Iowa farmers.”
The Buttigieg campaign has long emphasized this “relational organizing” model on the ground in Iowa. Instead of only reaching out to likely caucus-goers already on the voter rolls, the campaign encourages their supporters to tap into their personal networks in hopes of expanding the electorate and building more meaningful connections with those they’re hoping to win over. Now, the campaign is taking that model to a place where voters spend a lot of their time – the internet and social media.
As the caucus countdown continues additional ads will be released across the state. The 30-second spots are part of an ongoing seven-figure digital ad campaign in Iowa.
Buttigieg gets first N.H. congressional endorsement from Ann Kuster
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster will formally endorse Pete Buttigieg for president at a rally in Concord Friday, both Kuster’s office and Buttigieg’s campaign confirm to NBC News.
Kuster tweeted out her endorsement Wednesday evening, saying, “with our country so consumed by division, @PeteButtigieg is the leader who can finally turn the page on the Trump presidency and bring our nation together."
Kuster will be the first member of the New Hampshire congressional delegation to make an endorsement for the New Hampshire primary, which is just under a month away.
The congresswoman has participated in many campaign events with Buttigieg in New Hampshire, as well as for various other Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, Warren, Klobuchar, Booker, O’Rourke and more.
“From working to tackle the opioid epidemic and increasing access to health care to honoring our pledge to our veterans and their families when they return home, Rep. Kuster has spent her career delivering results for New Hampshire families,” Buttigieg said in a statement Thursday night in which his campaign also announced Kuster will serve as a national co-chair.
“At a time of so much dysfunction in Washington, Rep. Kuster has brought Americans together to improve the lives of her constituents. She represents the best of our politics and I’m honored to have her serve as our co-chair.”
Michael Bloomberg questioned on NDAs, stop-and-frisk apology on 'The View'
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Wednesday that he would not lift non-disclosure agreements signed by those who have left his companies, and reaffirmed his apology for his 'Stop-and-Frisk' policy while he was mayor, during an appearance on ABC's 'The View.'
A former employee from Bloomberg LP recently asked a judge in New York to invalidate nondisclosure agreements the company used as part of settlements for discrimination complaints against the company.
“We don't have anything to hide but we made legal agreements, which both sides wanted to keep certain things from coming out," Bloomberg said in response to a question about his company's NDAs. "They have a right to do that.”
“Remember, just because you signed a nondisclosure doesn't mean you can't talk about other things. You just can't talk about what was in that agreement where perhaps you don't disparage the other party or you don't want to retell a story, whatever it is," he continued.
Co-host Abby Huntsman also asked Bloomberg about accusations that he's made "lewd and sexist comments."
“Did I ever tell a bawdy joke? Yeah, sure I did,” Bloomberg continued. “Do I regret it? Yes, it's embarrassing, but, you know, that's the way I grew up.”
Bloomberg's appearance on the show followed the latest Democratic presidential debate, which he did not qualify for. While Bloomberg had met the polling threshold to be part of the debate, he is not accepting contributions to the campaign which made him ineligible to participate. On Wednesday, Bloomberg said that not being part of the debate does limit his exposure to voters.
"It's harder to get the message out if you're not in the debates," Bloomberg said. But he said that by self-funding his campaign he can be less corruptible than other candidates.
Bloomberg was also pushed on his apology for his mayoral stop-and-frisk policy, and was asked if his only apologized for the policy to help a presidential run.
"There were 650 murders a year in New York City, most of them were young minority men. And I said we just have to stop this. That’s where my heart is, that’s what I wanted to do," Bloomberg said of his reasoning to enforce the policy. "We had gone way overboard, and we stopped it and before I left office we cut 95 percent of it out. Then I apologized when enough people said to me you were wrong, and I thought about it and I wish I’d done it earlier."
Bloomberg also appeared on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" directly after the Democratic debate on Tuesday night.
Andrew Yang not worried about lack of conventional endorsements
WASHINGTON — Businessman Andrew Yang brushed aside his lack of endorsements from lawmakers during a Wednesday interview, arguing that conventional political figures are "just waiting for the water to get a little warmer" before jumping in.
"I’m talking to a lot of people who are political figures who are very excited about my candidacy and campaign, uh, they’re just waiting for the water to get a little warmer," he said during a Wednesday interview on MSNBC.
"The thing is, if you’re in D.C. and you’re literally friends with like some of the people that are in the race, it’s kind of hard to endorse Andrew Yang, but it’s coming."
Yang has won some high-profile celebrity endorsements in recent months — including comedian Dave Chappelle, billionaire Elon Musk and actress Teri Hatcher. But he's failed to attract support from any governor, senator or member of Congress.
While there hasn't been an overwhelming rush by lawmakers to one candidate, top Democrats have been fanning out backing their chosen presidential candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden leads the pack with the most endorsements from members of Congress.
But Yang has argued his lack of conventional political experience is an asset, and he told MSNBC that he's the best person to take over the White House because he's "focused on the real problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place."
"We have to stop acting like Donald Trump caused all the problems, he’s actually the symptom of a greater disease that we need to cure together as a party and as a country," Yang said.
Elizabeth Warren wants to cancel student debt — without Congress. Can she do that?
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a policy splash ahead of Tuesday night’s debate, announcing that she would cancel hundreds of billions of dollars of student debt as president — without approval from Congress.
In this case, it’s a new wrinkle on an old plan. Warren had already put out a proposal to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for individuals with incomes up to $250,000, financed by a proposed wealth tax on fortunes over $50 million.
“I will start to use existing laws on day one of my presidency to implement my student loan debt cancellation plan that offers relief to 42 million Americans,” Warren said in a letter announcing her plan.
The vast majority of student loans are issued by the federal government, and Warren cited experts at the Legal Service Center of Harvard Law School to argue the Higher Education Act grants the Department of Education the authority to modify or cancel that debt.
The concept of using executive power to cancel large swaths of debt gained a burst of attention in left-leaning policy circles last September when The American Prospect published a series of “Day One Agenda” items that academics argued a Democratic president could tackle even if Republicans managed to block legislation. Warren and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders told the publication they were open to the idea at the time, but this is the first formal commitment from any candidate to the approach.
Gregory Cespi, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who specializes in student debt policy, told NBC News that Warren’s plan was legally plausible even as he disagreed with her overall approach.
“Given how the Trump Administration has shown how ineffective Congress has become in challenging executive action, I think that Republican congressional opposition to her plan would be ineffective, and litigation to block these actions would grind slowly through the courts, with uncertain results,” he said. “Bottom line, I think President Warren could pull it off.”
While Warren’s call for mass debt cancellation via executive action is new within the field, she’s argued for forgiving some loans based on similar legal reasoning in the past, albeit on a smaller scale.
Alexis Goldstein, a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Americans for Financial Reform, noted that Warren joined other progressive Democrats in 2014 in urging the Department of Education to issue a blanket cancellation of debt for students who had gone to a defunct for-profit college. The Obama administration instead pursued an alternate approach that let students apply individually for relief, which the Trump administration then reversed.
“Now she’s taking it further and saying to use this authority to cancel debt for everyone,” Goldstein said.
Student debt, which has surged in recent years, has been a major issue in the Democratic race so far.
Sanders has proposed canceling all $1.6 trillion in outstanding loans. The rest of the field has called for more targeted relief programs and new reforms to student debt repayments rather than mass cancellation, with some rivals criticizing Warren and Sanders for providing too much aid to relatively well-off graduates.
Never Trumper group expands to take aim at vulnerable allies of the president
WASHINGTON — A small but growing group of Republican strategists and thought leaders is escalating efforts to deny President Donald Trump a second term, and is now even going after the president's allies in Congress.
The Lincoln Project, which debuted last month, was founded by several well-known “Never Trumpers” who became his fiercest and most vocal critics in the first years of the administration. Now, the group is gearing up for an 11-month fight against an incumbent who they argue presents a “clear and present danger to the Constitution and our Republic.”
The project released its first digital ad last week, questioning the president's support from the evangelical community by highlighting some of his more controversial public statements.
This week, the group expanded to target a vulnerable GOP Senator up for re-election this fall, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., releasing a digital ad that criticizes him for siding with Trump over his home state.
The group has plans to the give the same treatment to other GOP senators like Maine's Susan Collins and Martha McSally in Arizona. The group will continue to use digital ads for the time being, with plans to expand to other mediums dependent on fundraising.
“The Republican Party has flopped over and played dead. Donald Trump did not have the ability to take over the party by himself. This happened because Republicans in the Senate handed it over,” said Jennifer Horn, a Lincoln Project adviser and former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party.
“This is just the beginning,” Horn said, touting a significant response from voters so far, who have backed up their support with donations. “We have the receipts to prove it,” she said.
While President Trump continues to enjoy very strong support from the Republican Party, the Lincoln Project is also expanding, naming several new senior advisers Tuesday who will help amplify their message, including national security expert Tom Nichols.
“Defeating Donald Trump is not a partisan campaign issue,” Nichols said in a release announcing the additions. "It is a call to all Americans to defend our Constitution. That is why I am proud to be a part of the Lincoln Project in this critical effort.”
The undertaking is twofold: help voters oust Trump in November; and also hold those Republicans who have supported him along the way accountable at the ballot box.
The founding members include outspoken Trump detractor and lawyer George Conway, national political strategists like Steve Schmidt and John Weaver and Horn. Many say have abandoned the Republican party in the age of Trump, citing a “lack of integrity” and acknowledging their mission may “cost them” the traditional conservative establishment as it exists now.
Squaring policy discrepancies with Democrats are a concern, said Horn, but “that’s a fight for another day.”
“We have to put differences aside for this one election,” she said.
For its part, the Trump campaign remains unfazed by the effort.
“This is a pathetic little club of irrelevant and faux ‘Republicans,’ who are upset that they’ve lost all of their power and influence inside the Republican Party,” communications director Tim Murtaugh told NBC News. “When President Trump got elected on a promise to drain the swamp in Washington D.C., these establishment charlatans, who for years enriched themselves off the backs of the conservative movement, were the very swamp he was referring too.”
Still, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon seemed to take notice of the anti-Trump organization and recently posited that “if these guys can peel off 3% or 4%, that’s going to be serious,” he told the Associated Press earlier this month.
The group says it will not endorse or get too involved in the Democratic primary, though the general election may be different.
Clyburn's grandson cuts radio ad backing Buttigieg
WASHINGTON — The grandson of House Democratic Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., has cut a radio ad invoking his grandfather’s legacy and calling former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg “a leader of uncommon decency.”
The elder Clyburn is a major political force in South Carolina and one of the most prominent African Americans in Congress. He's not endorsed anyone in the Democratic primary race, as the ad makes clear right at the start. But his grandson, Walter A. Clyburn Reed, is organizing for Buttigieg.
"Mayor Pete works so hard for people in need, no matter where they live or what they look like, harder than anyone I’ve ever met," Clyburn Reed says in the ad.
"Whether the issue is lifting wages or expanding healthcare, ending gun violence or battling racism, Mayor Pete is someone our community can trust. Someone we can believe in."
The Buttigieg campaign says the ad featuring Walter Clyburn Reed will air in South Carolina throughout January.
Months of efforts by Buttigieg to improve his standing among black voters have largely failed to yield any dividends. A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of black Democratic-leaning voters conducted last week found Buttigieg at 2 percent nationally. The most recent poll of South Carolina, a Fox News poll in early January, had Buttigieg at 4 percent.
—Jordan Jackson contributed.
Biden tops new Iowa poll as race remains in flux
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden tops a new Monmouth University poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers as the state's pivotal contest remains a toss-up with less than one month to go.
Biden wins support from 24 percent of likely caucusgoers in the new poll, followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' 18 percent. Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has support from 17 percent of caucusgoers and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren from 15 percent.
The margins between all four of those candidates are within the poll's plus-minus 4.9 percent margin of error.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, with 8 percent, is the only other Democrat to poll above 5 percent.
Iowa's caucus is run differently than a typical primary — Iowans assemble at a precinct where they split off into groups supporting each candidate. Only candidates who have support from 15 percent of a precinct's caucusgoers are considered "viable," and eligible for delegates. Those who are caucusing with candidates who aren't viable have to realign or declare as uncommitted.
The Monmouth poll found only Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren hitting 15 percent across the state. And in a separate question, where caucusgoers are asked who they'd support if only those four candidates were viable at their caucus site, Biden leads with 28 percent, followed by Buttigieg at 25, Sanders at 24 and Warren at 16 percent.
With just three weeks until the Iowa caucus, the poll also suggests Iowans are beginning to make up their minds. Forty-three percent of likely caucusgoers say they're "firmly decided" on their candidate, compared to 28 percent in November.
For those still wavering, Warren could be in a decent position — she's the second choice of 23 percent of caucusgoers. The next closest candidate is Buttigieg, who is the second choice of 15 percent of caucusgoers.
Monmouth polled 405 likely caucusgoers between Jan. 9 to Jan. 12.
With the caucus just weeks away, polling has underscored the unpredictable nature of the caucus. Late last week, the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll found a similar four-candidate pile-up, this time with Sanders in the lead with Biden in fourth-place. The margins between the four top candidates were all within the poll's margin of error.
Trump seeks to undo protections for pre-existing conditions, despite tweets
WASHINGTON — President Trump has misrepresented his position on pre-existing conditions protections in the past, but even by previous standards his tweet on Monday stands out by falsely taking credit for the protections existing in the first place, saying he “saved” them, while actively trying to remove them.
The current pre-existing protections were enacted under the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed in 2010 while Trump was a private citizen.
Trump's Justice Department is currently backing a lawsuit by Republican state officials to throw out the entire law — including those protections. The president has also previously urged Congress to pass a bill that would roll back some of the law’s protections for pre-existing conditions and his administration has expanded access to plans that do not cover pre-existing conditions, which critics deride as “junk insurance.”
If the courts agree with the White House’s legal arguments, the lawsuit would end the ACA’s landmark requirement that insurance companies take on all customers regardless of any pre-existing conditions and charge them the same premiums as healthy customers.
That change would not be incidental to the White House’s broader objection to the health care law. In fact, it’s central to their case: The Trump administration’s initial legal position directly targeted the law’s protection for patients with pre-existing conditions, arguing they should be removed while most of the law remained. Only later did they expand their legal argument to demand the entire law be thrown out.
There’s a real chance the lawsuit succeeds. The case is currently pending after a Texas judge ruled the entire law unconstitutional in December 2018. Last month, the conservative-leaning 5th Circuit Court issued an opinion that supported the judge’s underlying argument, but sent the case back for further review as to which parts of the law should stand.
The Supreme Court is expected to eventually weigh in, but the White House is asking them to delay a request by Democratic state officials for an expedited ruling. If the White House argument holds, the decision will likely occur after the presidential election. That means the courts could potentially throw out protections for pre-existing conditions after the president campaigned for re-election on championing them.
Democrats made the lawsuit, along with Republican efforts in Congress to undo some of the ACA’s protections, a central part of their 2018 midterm campaigns.
In response, Trump and a number of GOP candidates said they would maintain some protections for pre-existing conditions if the lawsuit succeeded, but there is no party consensus as to what would replace them and many existing proposals still contain fewer protections coverage than current law.
Key conservative lawmakers object to the current protections for pre-existing conditions on ideological and policy grounds and Republican leaders and the White House sided with their demands to loosen them in their attempt to repeal and replace the ACA.
Had the House repeal bill backed by Trump become law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that “less healthy individuals (including those with pre-existing or newly acquired medical conditions) would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all.”
There are longstanding policy debates surrounding all these issues. Critics of the law’s protections for pre-existing conditions argue that they drive up premiums too high for healthier customers and there are potentially other ways to provide sicker patients health care, though none of the Trump-backed legislative proposals have been found by the CBO and other independent analysts to cover nearly as many people.
But Trump’s statements largely ignore that debate. Instead he’s asked his supporters, many of whom have expressed concern in polls about the issue, to believe he holds a position in direct opposition to his actual policy.
Bloomberg calls for changes to presidential primary calendar, warns against focus on 'homogeneous' states
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for changes in the Democratic presidential primary calendar Monday in an op-ed representing a reversal of sentiments he expressed just five days ago on the campaign trail.
“[A]s we Democrats work to protect democracy from Republicans who seek to exclude voters, we must also look inward, because our own party's system of nominating a presidential candidate is both undemocratic and harms our ability to prepare for — and win — the general election,” Bloomberg wrote in an op-ed for CNN.
Bloomberg, who made a late November entry into the 2020 race, has chosen to skip the first four early states altogether, focusing instead on delegate-rich Super Tuesday while other contenders fight for position just 21 days out from the Iowa caucus.
In his op-ed, the former mayor warned that by focusing on the most “homogenous [states] in the nation,” the Democratic Party risks “repeating 2016.” The Iowa caucus represents the first contest on the Democratic presidential nominating calendar, with the New Hampshire primary one week later.
The need to place more emphasis and channel resources into “Blue Wall” states is an idea Bloomberg often highlights on the trail. But before Monday, Bloomberg has been hesitant to call for a reordering of the primary calendar.
Just last Wednesday, reporters pressed Bloomberg on this issue after a campaign stop in Akron, Ohio.
“I think we've got a tradition here of four states,” he said. “The system has gotten used to it, and I guess the Democratic Party probably shouldn't take it away.”
Bloomberg said then that the decision should ultimately be made by the Democratic Party.
But in the days since the Akron event, the former mayor reversed course, pointing to action he would take if elected: “As president, I will ensure the DNC works with state party leaders at every level to re-order the primary calendar in ways that better reflect our diverse electorate and channel more resources into the states we actually need to win in November.”
“Don't get me wrong: I have enormous respect for the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire. Both states are full of devoted citizens,” Bloomberg wrote. “But so are the other 48. And we need a system that both better reflects our country and puts us in a better position to defeat a candidate like Donald Trump."
Prominent New Hampshire union backing Bernie Sanders
MANCHESTER, NH -- New Hampshire’s second-largest union is set to endorse Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday, the Sanders campaign confirmed to NBC News.
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 contains over 10,000 private and public sector members, and will be making the announcement alongside Sanders’ national co-chair, former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.
“I’m honored to receive SEA/SEIU Local 1984’s support today,” said Sen. Sanders in a statement shared first with NBC News.
“The labor movement helped build the middle class in this country, and strong unions are key to reviving it today. As president, I’ll continue to stand on the side of workers and unions like SEA/SEIU 1984 in the fight for a fair and just economy that works for all of us.”
Rich Gulla, the president of SEA/SEIU Local 1984 praised Sanders in a statement, arguing that he's "represented the interests of workers all across this country" as well as workers in his union.
“Just recently, when he learned of the struggles that New Hampshire state employees who are without a contract are facing he called a press conference to tell Governor Sununu to treat workers with respect. We know American workers can count on him. We are proud to endorse Sen. Sanders for president," Gulla said.
The notable endorsement does not break with recent precedent, however. During the 2016 primary, the local New Hampshire chapter broke from the national organization’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton to endorse Sanders, and many members have remained loyal to Sanders since 2015.
Julia Barnes, who served as Sanders' state director in 2016 but is now working for a New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate, said the endorsement comes at a good time for a campaign looking to mobilize volunteers one month before the New Hampshire primary. Barnes, while no longer working for Sanders, is a Sanders supporter.
“It’s very validating in terms of the union making a choice to come out during such a crowded primary,” she told NBC. “They were a really big part of our on the ground operation in terms of sending their members, and it’s validating in the community to have that union support on their side.”
Throughout the 2020 primary, the union hosted member town halls with all the major presidential candidates except former Vice President Joe Biden.
“From a labor standpoint, we’re looking for candidates who not only talk the talk but walk the walk,” Gulla told NBC News last month. “Have they ever walked a picket line? Have they belonged to a union themselves? What did they do on sponsored legislation?”
The events were part of the endorsement process, which also included a 10-question survey sent to candidates and a recommendation by the political education committee to the chapter’s board of directors. Gulla told NBC News the union chapter is equally divided into thirds ideologically – Democratic, GOP and independent.
Bennet: Senate impeachment trial will be 'disruptive' to presidential campaign
WASHINGTON — Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, one of the five Democratic senators running for president, said Sunday that the upcoming Senate impeachment trial is going to be “disruptive” to the presidential campaign, but that it’s part of his “constitutional responsibility.”
“It is going to be disruptive and there’s nothing that I can do about it, so I choose not to worry about it. We have, all of us, a constitutional responsibility we have to fulfill here. And I take my oath seriously, and I will,” he said.
“The stakes are really high and I think the framers of the Constitution would demand of the people that are sitting in judgment that they put the Constitution in front of the president and use this as an opportunity to remind the American people why the rule of law is so important.”
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expected to transmit the articles of impeachment passed by the House late last year, the specter of a Senate trial looms over the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
During the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, the Senate regularly worked long hours and six-day weeks, a heavy workload that would limit the ability of senators like Bennet to hit the campaign trail.
Bennet acknowledged the strain impeachment will likely put on his schedule.
“I'm spending every single second I can in New Hampshire, trying to fulfill my commitment to hold an additional 50 townhalls here,” he said.
“I've already spent more time here than any other candidate. And I'm just going to continue to do that.”
And he said he doesn’t necessarily expect Republicans to join Democratic demands to get former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify as part of the trial, although he said he doesn’t “think it’s impossible.”
“I hope my Republican colleagues will be open to having witnesses. The American people want witnesses. And they want to see the records from the White House, as well,” he said.
John Kerry: Democratic primary is a "circular firing squad", and it's time to "coalesce" around one candidate
DAVENPORT, IOWA — Former Secretary of State and 2004 Democratic nominee for president, John Kerry bemoaned the nature of the “traditional circular firing squad of the Democratic party” while urging Iowa voters in Muscatine to “coalesce” around former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign on Saturday.
Kerry, who's campaigning for Biden on a week-long swing through Iowa, said that the longer it takes for the party to support one candidate, the more the eventual nominee will be hurt.
“The sooner we can coalesce around a candidate, the sooner we eliminate the traditional circular firing squad of the Democratic party, where we just pop away,” Kerry said. “That hurt Hillary last time, where Bernie went on and on and on and on, so we gotta end this thing and we have a chance to do it.”
And Kerry, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2004, said that Biden, despite trailing Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the latest Iowa poll, can still win the Iowa caucuses because he'll be less of a target.
“I like the way this is tee'd up to be honest with you,” Kerry said. “You know, when we were coming in the last weeks we didn't want to be a target.”
Kerry took the moment to compare Sanders to one of his 2004 rivals, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Dean, who was a leading progressive voice during the 2004 Democratic primary. A day before the 2004 Iowa caucuses, a Des Moines Register poll showed Kerry, Dean and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in a virtual tie with Kerry leading the pack but within the margin of error.
“You know, Howard Dean was out there, and now Bernie is out there, it's the same thing. Bernie, Howard Dean, da da da da. But Joe Biden can drive a Mack truck right through the hole.”
Kerry endorsed Biden in December and has since campaigned with Biden and alone as a surrogate.
New poll shows Joe Biden far ahead of 2020 pack in support from black Democrats
WASHINGTON — A new Washington Post/Ipsos poll found that 48 percent of black registered voters who lean Democratic support former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential run. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders came in second, but 28 points behind Biden, with 20 percent support.
The poll is further evidence that black Americans continue to favor Biden despite campaign gaffes, and other candidates attacking Biden’s record on race — like California Sen. Kamala Harris’ criticism of Biden’s stance on busing, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s attacks on Biden’s 1994 crime bill.
The new poll also shows the steep drop off in support candidates have after Biden and Sanders. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren garnered only 9 percent support, followed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Booker tied with 4 percent support. Businessman Andrew Yang had just 3 percent support, and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and philanthropist Tom Steyer garnered 2 percent support. All other candidates had less than 1 percent support of black Democrats in the poll.
Buttigieg has consistently fended off concerns that he would not be able to build a strong coalition as the Democratic nominee because of his lack of support in the black community — one of the strongest Democratic voting blocks. On Thursday, Buttigieg received her first endorsement from a member of the Congressional Black Caucus when Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown endorsed him.
Brown said that he expected black support for Buttigieg to “increase dramatically” as communities got to know him. However, this new poll shows that 15 percent of black registered voters who lean Democratic would “definitely not consider supporting” Buttigieg. The only two candidates to register higher than him were Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at 23 percent, and Bloomberg at 17 percent.
Biden’s support in the black community is not just wide, but also strong. Biden has a 69 percent favorable view among black adults and 44 percent of that favorability is “strongly” favorable. While Sanders had a net favorability of 63 percent, only 29 percent of that support was strongly favorable.
Furthermore, 61 percent of those polls said the next president should “generally continue President Obama’s policies.” Only 21 percent said the next president should have “more liberal or progressive policies” than former President Obama’s.
As Biden continues to push his more moderate agenda, that he says adds on to the successes of Obama’s years in office, this support in the black community could buoy him through Iowa and New Hampshire which have less diverse voting demographics than Nevada and South Carolina.
Tom Steyer says lack of military experience doesn't hinder judgment in national security
WASHINGTON — Presidential candidate and philanthropist Tom Steyer has pitched himself to voters as an outsider. On Friday he said that his outsider experience wouldn't hinder his ability to act in a national security crisis because his decisions would come down to "judgment", and "experience alone isn't nearly enough."
"I don't have military experience and I give people credit for that. But this is a question to me of having judgment, of having clear strategy and then consulting the experts in making your decisions," Steyer said on MSNBC. "At the experience over the last 20 years of the American government and how we've proceeded in the Middle East, in the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War that implies that experience alone isn't nearly enough."
After this week's events in the Middle East when first President Trump authorized a strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and then Iran's response which included a rocket strike at an American military base in Iraq, Democratic candidates have been positioning themselves as better suited to handle a military crisis.
Two candidates, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg are veterans and both have criticized those who voted for the war in Iraq. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has reaffirmed his vote against the war in Iraq and said on Friday that President Trump's decision to "assassinate a high-ranking official of foreign government" could "unleash anarchy."
The only candidate in the 2020 race who voted to support the Iraq war is former Vice President Joe Biden who voted for the war when he served in the Senate. During the third Democratic debate in September, Biden said he regretted his vote for the war.
"I should have never voted to give Bush the authority to go in and do what he said he was going to do," Biden said.
Democratic online donations hit $1 billion mark in 2019 as Republicans make strides to catch up
WASHINGTON — The Democratic online fundraising juggernaut hit another massive milestone in 2019, but the Republican effort to close the gap between the two parties also took big strides as well.
The Democratic-aligned online fundraising platform ActBlue raised $1 billion last year, while the new Republican-aligned WinRed raised $101 million since it launched in late June.
The new numbers, released by the groups in recent days (full reports must be filed by the end of the month), show how Democrats continue to reap the benefits of a well-organized and longstanding effort to invest in and centralize their online donor platform. But Republicans appear to be benefiting from a concerted effort of their own to replicate that.
Virtually every Democratic organization goes through ActBlue, and since the platform is about 15 years old, it has grown exponentially as the rise of high-speed internet and mobile devices have made it easier to solicit donations.
That move has paid off for the Democratic Party, making it easier for their grassroots donors to spread money around up and down the ballot and across the country (especially in the age of smartphones).
“Our record-breaking Q4 indicated what we saw in all of 2019: unprecedented grassroots engagement and growth of the small-dollar donor movement, which we only expect to increase from here,“ ActBlue Executive Director Erin Hill said in a statement.
“Our nominee will need at least half of their funds from grassroots donors if they want to beat Donald Trump. Based on what we saw last year, the eventual Democratic nominee will have an army of grassroots donors behind them.”
Data released by ActBlue shows that 6 million people donated through ActBlue in 2019, a record for the site, and that half of those were first-time donors through ActBlue. And even with the presidential race taking center stage, almost 40 percent of those donors gave to a non-presidential candidate or group.
And the majority, 57 percent, of all 2019 contributions came through mobile devices, another sign of how the robust effort has made it easier for donors to give to Democrats.
Republicans have been trying to build their own version of ActBlue for years, and after a handful of attempts, WinRed seems to be catching on (with the backing of President Trump and the Republican National Committee). Getting it right now could be particularly fruitful for Republicans as they hope to mobilize Trump's strong grassroots support into a long-term fundraising boon for their candidates.
WinRed is just six months old, but it's quickly winning over an overwhelming share of the GOP fundraising infrastructure. Every state Republican party, 80 percent of all GOP senators and 78 percent of GOP House members are fundraising through WinRed, the group says.
And WinRed says that impeachment is good for business, as donation pages discussing impeachment raised over 300 percent more than pages that didn't, and that fundraising spiked after Democrats launched their formal impeachment inquiry on Oct. 31. (That's another advantage of centralizing an online fundraising platform — it's easier to conduct large-scale analysis across a wide range of campaigns).
Tryng to compare WinRed's early fundraising to that from ActBlue's beginnings isn't very useful — massive changes in technology have created a far more fruitful terrain for online fundraising now than ActBlue had when it launched in 2004.
Since WinRed hasn't reached unified status on the right, the numbers don't tell the whole GOP online-fundraising story. And the Trump-era has been good for GOP fundraising, with Trump and the RNC building a massive warchest that will serve as a significant advantage over the eventual Democratic nominee and the Democratic National Committee.
But the bottom line is: the Democratic juggernaut is continuing to help Democrats pull in massive amounts of money that will be a major benefit for 2020, but Republicans are making their best strides in recent years at closing the gap.
Michael Bloomberg campaigns in Midwest, but emphasizes learning about the voters
NEW YORK — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a whirlwind trip through three states in the Midwest on Wednesday to learn about what voters in the region are concerned about in 2020 and to further cement his Super Tuesday strategy in the Democratic primary.
Bloomberg began Wednesday at a community college in Chicago, and ended it at a town hall in Akron, Ohio where he toured an "innovation lab" where herbs and micro-greens are grown with hydroponics.
“I want to better understand rural America,” Bloomberg said to his hosts at a family farm in Wells, Minn. “You know, I come from the city, but you're the backbone of America, and we eat and live based on what you do.”
He continued, “I think it's easy for us living in big cities to forget about the rest of the world. You know, it just doesn't come up because you don't see them every day.”
Bloomberg hoped to use the trip to quell concerns that a Bloomberg presidency wouldn't include those who are outside of big cities. But by Bloomberg spending time in states like Ohio and Minnesota, he's confirmed that he's not going to work at all to win the early states in the primary contest.
And he’s criticized his opponents for placing so much emphasis on states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, telling an audience at an office opening in North Carolina that “Trump is campaigning in swing states while every other Democratic campaign is focused on other states.”
Despite Bloomberg's late entrance into the race, and not competing in the traditional states, he has risen in several polls, and leaped ahead of other candidates who have been campaigning for months like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Bloomberg made the polling threshold for the January Democratic debate but will not be on the stage because he isn't taking individual contributions.
According to the campaign, it has employed more than 800 people, including 500 in over 30 states.
Bloomberg's campaign has employed an "if you build it, they will come" attitude. But for now, that still includes the former mayor blitzing through states and introducing himself.
“I’ve started a quest,” Bloomberg said to the Akron audience. “[H]ere I don’t know every name, but I’ll get around to it.”
Jill Biden: Joe has 'a plan,' unlike President Trump
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Second Lady Jill Biden, one of the many surrogates hitting the trail this week for Joe Biden's presidential campaign, drew a sharp comparison between her husband's leadership style and that exhibited by President Donald Trump in an exclusive interview with NBC News on Thursday.
“I have to say his leadership style is so much different than Donald Trump's,” Jill Biden said, touting her husband as “thoughtful."
"He has a strategy. He has a plan. He thinks things through," she said. "That's the one thing that this president does not do. He makes these snap decisions and then he tweets them out. And that's what people are concerned about.”
Jill Biden recounted a recent encounter she had with the the wife of a military service member stationed in Iraq.
“She was telling me how her husband was on the base that the missiles went into, and she said how frightening it was and how much damage there was, and she did not talk to her husband for hours and she didn't know whether he was dead or alive.”
Biden said that her own experience of having family members serving in a war zone allows her to connect more personally with others who share similar backgrounds or have concerns.
“We have to remember the stress that our military families are under, and we have to commit to an act of kindness and reach out to our military families because you know they don't know where their loved ones or when they'll next see them or talk to them,” she said. “And as a military family ourselves, I know what it feels like to have a son who's deployed, and how frightening that is.
The interview took place at a phone bank where Jill Biden was reaching out to New Hampshire voters and she spoke to being out on the trail as a surrogate for her husband and her thoughts of its effectiveness for campaigning in his absence.
“I hope it helps because this is hard work,” Biden said. “I've been traveling all over New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, you know the first four states and I try to make the case for why Joe would be the best president. And, you know, what a strong leader he is and I talked to them about his experience and his resilience. And then if voters want to ask me questions if there's something that's close to their heart that they care about, I answer their question. So I'm hoping it makes a difference and so I've been out there every day and hoping that Joe becomes our next president."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Joe Biden
WASHINGTON – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, giving Biden a boost in the key Super Tuesday state of California.
Garcetti, who had considered running for president in 2020 but decided against joining against the crowded field, said in a statement that Biden will “bring our nation and world together during these most divided and dangerous times.”
Biden and Garcetti have forged a close relationship since the mayor first took office in 2013. Biden wrote in his 2017 book that Garcetti was among those who encouraged him to run for president in 2016. While in this cycle Garcetti stayed on the sidelines as other California hopefuls as well as friends, like former Oxford classmate New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, joined the fray, he has hosted several of the candidates in Los Angeles.
Biden joined Garcetti for tacos in California during the first weeks of his campaign, and he praised Garcetti as “one of the best mayors in the country” and “one of the most qualified people” to serve in any office.
“When he decided not to run I called him. And I said I really have mixed emotions about this,” Biden said. “He is qualified to be mayor, to be president, to be a senator, or anything that he decides. He’s total qualified.”
Garcetti told NBC News in 2018 that Biden had encouraged him to consider a 2020 run even as he was doing the same.
Biden and Garcetti will appear together at an event in Los Angeles on Friday. Biden has been touting a growing list of endorsements as he pitches himself to Democrats as the most electable candidate to win a general election against President Trump.
Pete Buttigieg picks up first Congressional Black Caucus endorsement
DES MOINES, Iowa — Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg landed his first endorsement of his presidential campaign from a member of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday when Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown, announced his support for Buttigieg.
Buttigieg has faced mounting concerns about his ability to build a diverse coalition of support, but Brown pointed to Buttigieg's experience in South Bend as proof that he can reach voters from all communities and backgrounds.
“He knows the ins and outs of South Bend,” Brown told NBC News. “That only happens when you immerse yourself in your city, when you understand the people, the neighborhoods, the communities, the aspirations the challenges of your of your city.”
Brown joined Buttigieg on the campaign trail in Iowa last month where Buttigieg was confronted by a young black man about his record among African American’s in South Bend. Brown told NBC News he was impressed by the candor Buttigieg offered in his response to the young man.
“He didn't necessarily get it right, but yet it's an ongoing effort, working with a coalition of people in the community to get it right," Brown said.
And on Thursday morning, Brown appeared on MSNBC and said that he expects Buttigieg's support in the black community to "increase dramatically."
"As Pete becomes more familiar in the African American community, just as he has had and he has done in other communities, I believe that listening to his message about empowering people, investments in education, very purposeful, targeted investments in health care particularly considering the racial disparities in health care in our country you’re going to see support increase dramatically for Pete Buttigieg," Brown said.
Brown, a veteran of the Iraq war, also pointed to Buttigieg's foreign policy positions and military experience as critical to his decision to endorse as tensions escalated in the Middle East this week.
“As we fight for the future of the soul of our country here at home, we also remain entangled in endless wars abroad and the threats to American lives and interests around the world have increased,” Brown said in a statement. “After serving three decades in the Army and Army Reserve and now as Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m acutely aware that the top priority for the President should be the security and safety of our nation, which is why my choice for president is Mayor Pete Buttigieg.”
Brown will serve as a national co-chair for the Buttigieg campaign, hitting the trail over the next few weeks as the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary get underway.
“I don't just put my name on a list,” Brown told NBC News. “I will be a surrogate for the campaign and I will travel to those communities where the campaign believes and I believe I can add the greatest value.”
New Monmouth poll leaves Yang, Steyer and Booker on outside looking in for January debate
WASHINGTON — None of the Democratic presidential hopefuls currently on the bubble for next week's debate made any strides towards qualifying for the event with the new results of Monmouth University's New Hampshire primary poll, as the top four candidates remain in a logjam at the top.
Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden topped the poll with 20 percent and 19 percent respectively of likely New Hampshire primary voters. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., were closed behind with 18 percent and 15 percent respectively.
Then there's a significant gap between the top four and the rest of the field.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., finished with 6 percent; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and philanthropist Tom Steyer finished with 4 percent each; businessman Andrew Yang finished with 3 percent; Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet finished with 2 percent; and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker finished with 1 percent.
The poll shows Buttigieg and Sanders both gaining steam in overall support —Buttigieg's share went up 10 points from Monmouth's last New Hampshire poll in September, while Sanders' rose 6 points. By contrast, Warren's share dropped 12 points from that September poll.
The new results found Sanders with the highest favorable rating at 69 percent, followed by Warren's 64 percent, as well as Biden and Buttigieg both tied at 62 percent.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's 32 percent unfavorable score was higher than all other Democrats tested, followed by Biden's 29 percent, Warren's 27 percent and Steyer's 26 percent.
The top five candidates in the poll — Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren — have all qualified for next week's Democratic presidential debate in Iowa. But the rest of the field fell short of the mark needed to move closer to securing a spot on the stage.
Candidates need to raise money from at least 225,000 unique donors and hit a poll threshold of either 4 polls of 5 percent or two early-state polls of 7 percent in order to qualify.
Steyer still needs two polls of at least 5 percent to qualify; Yang needs either three of at least five percent or two early-state polls at 7 percent; while Booker hasn't hit the mark in any poll.
All three have hit the donation requirement, according to their campaigns.
While Steyer and Yang both appeared on last month's debate stage, Booker didn't qualify.
Monmouth polled 404 likely voters between Jan. 3 and Jan. 7, and the poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.
Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed by youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement
WASHINGTON — Sunrise Movement, a political action organization of youth climate change activists, has endorsed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.
Announcing the endorsement in a video on Twitter, the group pointed to a series of natural disasters to argue that Sanders is the best candidate to immediately address a climate crisis.
"We are seeing that the climate crisis isn't 30 or 40 or 50 years in the future, it is right now. We need a president in office who understands the immediate threat of that crisis, and Bernie Sanders is that guy," Varshini Prakash, a co-founder and the executive director of the group, said in the video.
"We're endorsing Bernie Sanders for president because he has proven again and again and again that he understands this issue. He understands its scope, he understands the severity, he understands that it's a social-justice issue, that it's about racial and economic justice, that it's about the fight of our lives."
The organization, which boasts 10,000 members and more than 300 chapters, voted for Sanders overwhelmingly over Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Climate change is one of the pillars of Sanders’ campaign. The senator spends time discussing what he calls “an existential crisis” during nearly every campaign stop, asking crowds to think about images they’ve seen of Australia wildfires, and recent flooding in Venice, Italy.
While the nod isn't necessarily surprising, it's a boost to Sanders' already-energized young base of support.
Sunrise Movement activists often attend Sanders campaign events, and the senator has repeatedly singled them out when he saw their t-shirts, to commend them for their work.
In December, Sunrise Movement released a scorecard ranking the top presidential candidate’s plans to tackle climate change, in which Sanders received top marks with 183 out of 200 possible points.
The organization will be at an event with Sanders and surrogates Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif., on Jan. 12 in Iowa City, Iowa to formally announce the endorsement.
Here's where the top Democratic candidates are spending on the early-state airwaves
WASHINGTON — Yesterday, we showed you how former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Tom Steyer have spent more than $200 million combined on television and radio advertising.
But that's far from the whole story.
Bloomberg isn't even competing in the early states, and while Steyer has spent more than $50 million in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina alone, he's not polling in the upper echelon of candidates in any of those states.
Taking stock of the ad spending in the early states tells an interesting story: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are spending virtually all of their ad budget in Iowa; former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders are turning their deep pockets into huge ad budgets; and none of the top candidates are really spending on ads in Nevada yet.
Here's a look at what the candidates expected to be on next week's debate stage are spending on television and radio ads in early states (Data through Jan. 8, 2020 courtesy of Advertising Analytics).
Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Iowa: $2.7 million
- New Hampshire: $5,429
- Nevada: $1,329
- South Carolina: $15,000
Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Iowa: $7.6 million
- New Hampshire: $1.4 million
- Nevada: $71,000
- South Carolina: $941,000
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
- Iowa: $1.9 million
- New Hampshire: $665,000
- Nevada: $0
- South Carolina: $0
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders
- Iowa: $6.7 million
- New Hampshire: $3.5 million
- Nevada: $145,000
- South Carolina: $1,640
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
- Iowa: $3.4 million
- New Hampshire: $0
- Nevada: $0
- South Carolina: $0
Tom Perez: January Democratic debate could be moved for impeachment trial
WASHINGTON — Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said that next week's Democratic debate could be postponed if the Senate is in the midst its impeachment trial of President Trump that day.
In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, Perez said that "Democrats and our senators can walk and chew gum. Obviously, if there’s a trial on the 14th, then we’ll move the debate. If there’s not, then we’re gonna have the debate, and at the moment, all systems are go, and so we’re gonna move forward."
The Democratic debate is set to be held on Tuesday, Jan. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa ahead of the state's caucus. Only five candidates have qualified for the debate so far, and three of those candidates will be participating in the Senate's impeachment trial: Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg have also qualified to appear at Tuesday's debate.
Biden: Trump is bringing America "dangerously close" to war
Speaking at times directly to the president himself, former Vice President Joe Biden said President Donald Trump has a constitutional obligation to work with Congress and communicate to the American people his strategy for confronting Iran, while faulting him for putting the U.S. on the brink of war.
Biden, in a foreign policy address that was hastily added to his schedule on a trip to New York, explicitly sought to demonstrate the kind of presidential leadership that he said Trump was failing to offer at a moment of significant peril for the nation.
"A president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one,” he said. “A president who says he wants out of the region sends more than 18,000 additional troops to deal with a crisis of his own making. And an administration that claims its actions have made Americans safer in the same breath urges them to leave Iraq because of increased danger.”
Biden said he had no illusions about the threat Iran posed to the region and to the world. But he said there was “a smart way to counter them and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.”
Biden focused his remarks squarely on Trump as his campaign has sought to use the escalating confrontation with Iran to underscore the former vice president’s decades of experience in foreign policy. There was no acknowledgment of or response to renewed criticism from some of his Democratic rivals of his own record, particularly his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq.
"Donald Trump's short-sighted America-first dogmatism has come home to roost,” he said, as the prospect of the U.S. being bogged down by another war would only further enable China and Russia to expand their “spheres of influence.”
Beyond Trump’s specific actions, Biden was strongly critical of what he characterized as an anti-democratic approach to the presidency. At one point he referred directly to him about what he said were the obligations of his job, “Mr. President — not ‘Dear Leader’ or ‘Supreme Leader,'" Biden said.
"The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience," he added.
Sanders' dig at Biden over Iraq, trade evokes his 2016 criticism of Clinton
WASHINGTON — Engaged in a familiar dogfight atop the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday lobbed attacks at former Vice President Joe Biden almost identical to ones he used against his chief 2016 rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Joe Biden voted and helped lead the effort for the war in Iraq, the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said Monday night on CNN.
“Joe Biden voted for the disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China, which cost us millions of jobs," he added, before asking whether those votes would play well in Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, three states Clinton lost in 2016.
The jabs on the Iraq war vote and NAFTA echo lines he used against Clinton in the heat of the 2016 primary.