The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Steyer to skip primary night in New Hampshire
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Billionaire Tom Steyer will be skipping New Hampshire primary night to campaign in the more diverse early states of Nevada and South Carolina, his campaign confirms to NBC News.
In lieu of spending election day in the Granite State, he will kick off a bus tour in Reno, NV.
"Like he said on the debate stage, Democrats have to build a national, diverse coalition in order to defeat Donald Trump in November,” his spokesman Jake Lewis said in a statement. “So Tom stopped in Nevada the day after the Iowa caucuses and will be traveling to South Carolina today then on to Reno on the 11th for his bus tour across Nevada because these states are critically important to his strategy to build that broad coalition Democrats need to beat Donald Trump."
His South Carolina trip had been previously announced but the campaign had not made his plans for Tuesday public until today.
Steyer spent the last five days in New Hampshire, but has only held 32 public events across seven trips to the first-in-the-nation primary state.
Sanders on his medical records: I 'released as much' as 'any other candidate'
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had a heart attack last year, said Sunday that his campaign has released "as much" medical information as other candidates.
Sanders argued on "Meet the Press" that his rigorous campaign schedule stands out among his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls as proof of his good health, but that once you start releasing medical records, "it never ends."
"We have released as much documentation, I think, as any other candidate," Sanders said.
"You can start releasing medical records, it never ends. We have released a substantive part."
He added that his doctors have confirmed "that I am in good health. I am in good health."
Sanders had previously told reporters last September that releasing medical records is "the right thing to do."
"The American people have the right to know whether the person they're going to be voting for president is healthy, and we will certainly release our medical records before the primaries, certainly before the first votes are cast," he said at the time.
The Vermont senator released three letters from doctors at the end of last year, which concluded he was "more than fit enough" to be president. The letters included some test results as well as more explanation of Sanders' heart attack and his recovery.
Klobuchar campaign announces it's raised $2 million after debate performance
DURHAM, N.H. — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is capitalizing on a strong performance in Friday night's Democratic debate. According to the campaign on Saturday, Klobuchar has raised $2 million since the debate ended. The campaign said that this is the best fundraising haul for the team after any of the debates.
“With proven grassroots support, Amy continues to outperform expectations and punch above her weight,” Klobuchar's campaign manager Justin Buoen said in a statement. “Following her debate performance, we’ve raised $2 million and have seen an outpouring of donations from all 50 states which will allow us to compete in New Hampshire and beyond.”
At an event in Durham, N.H. on Saturday, Klobuchar leaned into her debate performance telling rally-goers that it's important to her to get to know the voters in each state.
"I had an opportunity last night to address the people of New Hampshire. I think that I was the one that mentioned New Hampshire the most," Klobuchar said. "Maybe that is because I realize there's a primary coming up, and I also think it is part of being a good president and being a good elected official. That you represent the people that you see and you get to know the issues and what matters to them. That is what driven me so much in my work in public service."
Klobuchar has received praise for her debate performances in the past, as well, but those performances haven't always helped her in polls. In the latest poll out of the Granite State, Klobuchar registered at just 5 percent support.
Biden hits Buttigieg on experience in new video
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign released an aggressive new video against former Pete Buttigieg on Saturday, contrasting his record on major national issues with the smaller-scale accomplishments of the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.
The video follows Biden's remarks at the Democratic debate on Friday and on the campaign trail where he has said it’s a risk for the Democratic Party to nominate someone who’s only elected experience is mayor of a small city. On Saturday, he noted that South Bend’s population is smaller than Manchester — New Hampshire’s largest city.
The campaign's new attack video says that while Biden helped pass the Affordable Care Act and the 2009 stimulus bill, Buttigieg "installed decorative lights under bridges giving citizens of South Bend colorfully illuminated rivers,” and "revitalized the sidewalks of downtown South Bend by laying out decorative brick.”
The video also more seriously targets Buttigieg for firing the city’s first African American police chief.
Following the video’s online debut, Biden hit Buttigieg directly at a rallying event in Manchester. He told the crowd that for as much as Buttigieg touts how Democrats tend to pick new, underdog candidates as their nominee, he fails to mention that every nominee has won based on support from the African American community in which Buttigieg lacks support.
Buttigieg campaign spokesperson Chris Meagher responded to the ad, saying, “while Washington politics trivializes what goes on in communities like South Bend, South Bend residents who now have better jobs, rising income, and new life in their city don't think their lives are a Washington politician's punchline.“
“The vice president’s decision to run this ad speaks more to where he currently stands in this race than it does about Pete’s perspective as a mayor and veteran,” Meaher said.
New Hampshire officials anticipate high turnout, clean reporting for election
MANCHESTER, NH — New Hampshire's chief election's officer, Secretary of State Bill Gardner, says he is anticipating a record turnout on Tuesday's primary, predicting there will be 420,000 ballots cast, including 292,000 cast specifically in the Democratic primary.
“This would be the most votes cast in a presidential primary when an incumbent is running for re-election,” a statement from Gardner's office said.
Not only could this be the highest turnout election that Gardner has seen, it will also be the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary, and state officials are working to ensure that it goes off without a hitch.
Gardner, Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald were among state officials who tried to assuage concerns that Tuesday's primary will have any of the chaos that consumed the Iowa caucuses. Sununu pointed to the integrity of the paper ballots during the press conference.
“When our citizens cast their ballot, they know their vote will be counted correctly with integrity, and on time,” Sununu said.
N.H. officials are also putting into place several security mechanisms to assure the public of that integrity: there will be an Election Day hotline staffed with a team of attorneys ready to respond to issues, and every town will be visited by a polling place inspector from the Department of Justice, including midnight voting towns which is a new addition this year.
“This is not a 100 year tradition as much as I think we see it as 100 year responsibility of getting it right,” Sununu said, applauding state officials for ensuring transparency and reliability in the process for years and even decades. “Not just the state, but the nation and even the eyes of the world do look upon New Hampshire and trust New Hampshire to lead the nation to get it right every single time.”
The primary's results are expected to be known around 9:30 p.m. on election night, according to Gardner. At each location, moderators will read the ballot results out loud, the county’s clerk will write down the results and return envelopes to one of 36 counting locations statewide. At 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, officers will pick up the envelopes and deliver them directly to the Secretary of State’s office by 7 a.m.
Given inconsistencies in the Iowa caucuses surrounding an app that was used, officials assured that optical scanner devices used to count ballots are not connected to the internet, and instead rely on manually secured memory cards, an issue that Gardner says distinguishes New Hampshire from Iowa.
“We don’t have apps that deal with voting or tallying the votes," Gardner said.
And as to why teams of attorneys may be needed, MacDonald said it is so issues can be resolved "collaboratively."
“To the extent that any issues do arise on election day — it has been our experience that they can be resolved cooperatively, collaboratively working with local election officials,” MacDonald said.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said he is fully confident that Tuesday's primary will be done and counted cleanly.
“We’ve had 100 years without an issue,” Buckley said. “We have 100 percent confidence our local election officials along with our state officials will make sure everything runs perfectly.”
Sanders hits Buttigieg for billionaire support ahead of New Hampshire primary
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., went after Pete Buttigieg Friday for the former South Bend mayor's support from big-money donors at the final New Hampshire Institute of Politics' “Politics & Eggs” event of the cycle.
Sanders singled out Buttigieg and billionaire candidates Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg in the same breath while speaking to the crowd at Saint Anselm College, reading a series of newspaper headlines like Forbes’ “Pete Buttigieg has most exclusive billionaire donors than any Democrat” and The Hill’s “Pete Buttigieg tops billionaire donor list,” among others.
“I like Pete Buttigieg, nice guy,” Sanders said to awkward laughs in the room. “But we are in a moment where billionaires control not only our economy but our political life.”
Sanders also mused about a general election against President Trump, saying that he has read that “some of his advisors tell him that I will be the toughest candidate for him to run against.”
The senator faced the reality that turnout in Iowa — where he and Buttigieg remain essentially tied amid questions about the accuracy of the vote count — was not what his campaign had hoped for but pointed out some positives.
“The Iowa caucus is behind us and while the voter turnout is not as high as I would have liked, you know what did happen? We saw a 30 percent increase in young people under 29 voting," Sanders said. "If we're gonna defeat Trump, we need a huge increase in young people's participation in the political process."
He added that his campaign needs to reach out to “some of Trump's working class supporters and make it clear that they understand the fraud that he is.”
Sanders was asked about criticism that his candidacy is similar to that of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing candidate who lost badly in last month's elections there, and whether he was concerned that could foreshadow what happens in the United States in 2020.
Sanders responded that while Trump will be a difficult opponent to run against, he believes that having the largest voter turnout in history will be key for Democrats.
“I think we are the candidate,” Sanders added. “We are a multi-generational, multi-racial campaign that has the capability of reaching out to communities all across this country, bringing them into the political process to defeat Trump.”
The New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “Politics & Eggs” is sponsored by companies such as Comcast, Bank of America and Eversource Energy — in other words, the entities Sanders consistently attacks.
The room's walls were plastered with the groups' signage and many audience members present work for the companies. This was not a typical crowd for a Sanders event. Instead of the usual chants of “Bernie, Bernie!,” Sanders was met with polite applause.
Sanders and Buttigieg will both attend ABC News' presidential debate tonight.
-Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
Democratic group says congressional fundraising dominance isn't trickling down-ballot
WASHINGTON — Forward Majority, a Democratic super PAC focused on helping the party win control of state legislatures, is warning that Democrats’ congressional fundraising dominance isn’t trickling down to key state legislative races.
In a memo outlining a recent analysis of 2019 fourth quarter fundraising numbers circulated by the group last week, Forward Majority notes that “Democrats are being significantly out-raised by Republicans in the most competitive" state legislative campaigns.
Although congressional Democrats “have been clobbering their Republican opponents,” candidates further down the ballot are struggling.
Data from other groups support these claims.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which aims to reclaim the chamber majority, brought in $60 million in 2019 and reported record-breaking numbers surpassing the GOP in the fourth quarter of 2019.
On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $125 million in 2019 — $40 million more than its GOP rival organization. About three quarters of that cash came from moderate Democrats’ campaigns in Trump districts.
That's not the case in state legislative races even in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, which are in the national spotlight as 2020 congressional and presidential candidates focus on the states.
In Florida, Republicans outpaced Democrats in the fourth quarter by a whopping six-to-one margin in areas Democrats hope to pick up. In 2019, Republicans raised over $3.5 million across Florida House targets while Democrats gained only half a million.
The GOP more than doubled Democrats’ earnings in key State House races in Texas, raking in over $2 million last year.
In Arizona, where both the State House and State Senate are up for grabs, Democrats only raised 38 percent of the GOP’s haul in target races — about $650 thousand compared to $1.7 million in 2019.
Forward Majority says that the discrepancy between Democratic fundraising at the national level versus the state level has led to different election outcomes, pointing to 2018 results as proof.
The PAC launched a $10 million initiative, “Roadmap 2020,” in January to transfer power from Republicans to Democrats in the three competitive sunbelt states plus North Carolina.
2020 pick-ups are particularly important for state Democrats because the congressional redistricting process, a responsibility of state legislatures, begins in 2021 following the release of this year’s census.
Forward Majority’s communications director, Ben Wexler-Waite told NBC News Wednesday that the PAC will spend “where we believe establishing legislative majorities will upend Republicans' ability to rig the national electoral playing field."
States like Texas and Florida, Wexler-Waite said, matter for redistricting because they’re gerrymandered and set to gain new congressional seats after the census. The next redistricting process begins in about a decade.
“At this critical moment in history, it's never been more important for Democrats to fight back,” the spokesman noted.
Pieter Brower, a regional press secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) — the official organization dedicated to electing Democrats to state legislatures — told NBC News Thursday that it’s not surprising that Republicans are ahead in fundraising though his group is making strides for Democrats.
“It’s no secret that Republicans have deep-pocketed donors at their disposal,” Brower said. “Looking at a tough district and deciding that there’s no way we can win becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
"We’re going on complete offense this year," he added.
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.