The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Biden puts gun control front and center in new ads
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden will put his career accomplishments on gun safety issues front and center as he kicks off a make-or-break stretch for his candidacy in Nevada, sharpening a contrast with one rival and heading off a similar push from another.
The Biden campaign is launching a pair of new ads on broadcast television in Nevada that amplify Biden’s argument that he is the only Democrat running or president who has taken on the gun lobby and won.
The first ad begins with the names Newtown, Parkland and Las Vegas — communities that saw some of the most horrific mass shootings in the past decade to note that gun violence “is tearing at the soul of this nation.” The ad details Biden’s work on the Brady Bill and assault weapons ban, and vows that Biden “will beat the NRA again” as president.
The second ad features a montage of Biden interacting with children on the campaign trail, saying that while they may not know his record on the issue in detail, “They just need to know protecting them from gun violence is what Joe Biden cares about most.”
The push comes on the second anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla. that took 17 lives. The shooting in Parkland followed just months after the murder of 59 concert-goers on the Las Vegas strip by a lone gunman.
In a statement marking the Parkland anniversary, Biden blamed the lack of any meaningful national gun reforms since then on “cowardice — political cowardice from the very people who should be fighting the hardest to protect us but instead are picking the side of gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association.”
The statement is an implicit swipe at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. At the Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Biden called Sanders’ vote to shield gun manufacturers from liability “the biggest mistake” of his career. Sanders noted in the debate that he now has a D- rating from the NRA, and that “the world has changed and my views have changed” on the issue.
While the issue was not one that moved New Hampshire voters, the Biden campaign sees gun safety reform as a significant one for Nevada voters, who recently supported a ballot initiative to strengthen background checks. In addition to the new seven-figure TV buy, Biden is expected to discuss gun issues in his first public event since Tuesday in Henderson, Nev. Friday night.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who helped bankroll a major gun safety push in the 2018 midterms, has also showcased his record on guns in his national advertising blitz. Bloomberg, though, is not competing in the Nevada caucuses.
Buttigieg is relying on grassroots movement in California
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With just 18 days until the California primary on Super Tuesday, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is heavily relying on momentum and a “badass grassroots organizing program,” as one aide called it, to build support in the state.
But Buttigieg has yet to spend any dollars on TV ads in the state, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have blanketed the airwaves, despite having raised more than $80 million over the last year. Instead, the campaign contends it has fortified a volunteer network throughout each of the state’s congressional districts and is now actively moving more organizing staff into the state to help mobilize those volunteer operations.
He does not have a single endorsement from any one of California’s 45 Democratic members of Congress. Sen. Dianne Feinstein backed former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris has yet to weigh in since her own exit from the presidential race. The state’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis announced her endorsement of Buttigieg on Thursday ahead of his Sacramento town hall on Friday.
Prior to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, campaign officials dismissed the need to have invested in a robust staff in California or other Super Tuesday states, suggesting, instead, that they would utilize campaign resources on ad buys and rely on the momentum that they’d garner from strong showings in the early states.
Last September, the Buttigieg campaign secured 2016 Democratic nominee Sec. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 California state director to play the same role for its own Golden State effort. Because California awards its delegates on a proportional basis, the strategic targeting of the millions of Californians will be key, but more difficult, with the vastness of the state — more than 10 media markets and 53 congressional districts.
On Super Tuesday, the state will proportionally award its 416 delegates, with 273 of its delegates determined by results in each congressional district — dividing delegates proportionally among each candidate based on the outcome in that district. The other 144 delegates will be apportioned proportionally based on candidates' statewide performance.
California will then send 54 additional delegates — also known as automatic delegates — to the convention. These delegates, mostly party leaders and elected officials, are not required to vote for any one particular candidate, and they will only be able to vote at the convention should the nominating process head to a contested convention and a second ballot vote is required.
In California, voters can register and change party affiliation on Election Day at their polling place, which prompts a potential increase in more moderate and conservative voters to take part in the Democratic primary process. There are more than 9 million registered Democrats in California, and an additional 5.2 million Independent voters. While Buttigieg focused heavily on rural counties in Iowa, he will also likely need to rely on burgeoning support from the more affluent, college-educated voters of California, including from parts of Orange County and San Diego.
But the Buttigieg campaign hopes that their good showings in Iowa and N.H. will impact the early vote in California — California counties began mailing voters their mail-in ballots on the day of the Iowa contest.
California will also, however, require that he expand his support among voters of color.
The Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan public policy research center in the state, reported last year that its survey of the state’s electorate showed that about half of likely Democratic voters are white, while Latinos form 24 percent of the party’s electorate, Asian-Americans account for 12 percent and African-American voters make up 10 percent. Buttigieg has suffered to build support outside of his mostly white coalition.
Buttigieg has made few stops in California open to the public — instead heavily fundraising in the state. He has raised more than 20 percent of his money from donors in California, per The Center for Responsive Politics.
And it doesn't seem Buttigieg is changing that plan. With limited time left ahead of March 3, Buttigieg will make two more California private fundraising stops on Friday in the greater Bay Area.
Bloomberg catches up to Warren in congressional endorsements
WASHINGTON — Less than three months since he declared his 2020 candidacy, Michael Bloomberg is tied in major endorsements with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who officially joined the presidential race over a year ago.
In an NBC News tally of endorsements from members of Congress and governors, both Bloomberg and Warren have a total of 14 endorsements. The two are tied for second place behind Joe Biden with 47 and ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with just eight.
Bloomberg, who has yet to participate in a Democratic debate or be on the ballot in Iowa or New Hampshire, has seen a recent surge in endorsements allowing him to tie with the Massachusetts senator.
Warren had a weaker than anticipated performance in the two early states, placing third in the Iowa Caucus and failing to earn any delegates in New Hampshire.
Since the first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday, Bloomberg has racked up four endorsements, totaling eight this month. Notably, two Congressional Black Caucus members — Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath of Georgia and Gregory Meeks of New York — voiced their support for Bloomberg this week.
Warren on the other hand, hasn’t received an endorsement from a member of Congress since Rep. Joaquin Castro, TX-20, formally backed her on January 14. Before that, the last time Warren was endorsed was July, 2019.
Warren’s endorsements stem from her home state and some of the most progressive members of Congress. While she has no gubernatorial endorsements, her fellow Massachusetts Senate Democrat, Ed Markey, supports her candidacy.
Bloomberg has yet to receive the formal backing of any senator but is endorsed by Rhode Island’s Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo. He has also garnered the support of moderate Democratic House members serving in former Trump districts like Rep. Max Rose in New York and Rep. Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey.
Tom Steyer's wife moves to South Carolina ahead of primary
WASHINGTON — The wife of presidential candidate and entrepreneur, Tom Steyer, moved to South Carolina this weekend to campaign for her husband ahead of the upcoming primary in the state on February 29.
Kat Taylor resigned from her position as the CEO of a California-based bank and relocated to South Carolina where she’s renting a house for the remainder of Steyer’s 2020 campaign. Taylor will also hit the trail in Super Tuesday states.
“I’ve always been in support of my husband, because of that I came to Columbia to show my full support,” Taylor said in a statement to the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Taylor said that when the two took their wedding vows, they “made a commitment to leave everything on the table in a fight for a better world.”
Tiffiany Vaughn Jones, Steyer's South Carolina Communications Director, told NBC News Wednesday that Taylor wants to take on a more active role in the campaign. The two plan to focus on improving both air and water quality, increasing access to affordable health care and housing, generating jobs, and creating a better future for young voters while on the trail.
Vaughn Jones said that the 2020 race is clearly "wide open and the primary is now shifting to states that dramatically favor our campaign."
"Our continued surge in South Carolina and Nevada demonstrates that Tom is the only candidate who is building the diverse coalition that will beat Donald Trump in November," she said.
South Carolina is widely considered the first diverse state of the primary cycle and a place where Democrats are competing to win over the black vote. The demographic makes up about two-thirds of the party's electorate in the state.
Steyer has repeatedly emphasized throughout his time on the trail the importance of the minority vote, stating at Friday’s debate hosted by ABC News that, “We have not said one word tonight about race. Not one word.”
Taylor will also address racial issues while campaigning for her husband. She kicked off her time in South Carolina by hosting college students to discuss Steyer’s plans for increasing funding for historically black colleges and universities Tuesday afternoon.
Up to this point in his candidacy, Steyer surpasses the Democratic field in total spending, coming in second after Michael Bloomberg. In just the last seven months, he has spent $14 million on ads and recruited about 100 new staffers and additional volunteers in South Carolina alone.
Other candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have argued that the billionaire is buying his way through the race.
Bloomberg gets endorsed by two CBC members
DES MOINES, Iowa — Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic representative to Congress from the U.S. Virgin Islands and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., are endorsing former Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign.
Plaskett, who had backed Sen. Kamala Harris until the California senator ended her White House bid, says she is backing Bloomberg in order to “bring the fight to Donald Trump.”
Plaskett worked with Bloomberg after Superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2012, and said in a statement that the former New York City mayor “not only has the policies to bring equality and wealth creation to communities of color and economic development to keep us competitive in the world, he’s not afraid to fight.”
McBath cited Bloomberg's "unmatched record in gun violence prevention" as a primary reason for her decision. "Nobody running for president has done more for the gun violence prevention movement than Mike," she said in a statement. "I am proud to stand with him in this race, and work with him when he is in the White House to keep our communities safe.”
This comes after a new national Quinnipiac poll showed Bloomberg with the support of 22 percent of black Democratic primary voters, eating away at former Vice President Joe Biden’s support among the demographic. Shortly after that poll was released, video and audio clips resurfaced online in which Bloomberg defends his controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy during his time as mayor, clips re-circulated by a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. A Bloomberg official says the campaign was aware of at least one of the recordings and was braced for them to surface as a major issue at some point in the campaign.
One of the recordings, verified by NBC News, is audio from a 2015 Aspen Institute appearance, in which Bloomberg said, “you can just Xerox [copy]” the description of male minorities aged 16-25 and hand it to police. He also said, “We put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do you do it? Because that’s where all the crime is.”
As the Trump campaign widely circulated the videos as well on Monday, Bloomberg spent the morning meeting with over 20 African American faith leaders in New York City. The leaders released a statement following the meeting, reading, “[Bloomberg] expressed regret over his past insensitivity regarding policies like stop and frisk and showed a continued interest in restorative justice. To be clear: None of us believe that Mike Bloomberg is a racist. Actions speak louder than words, and Mike has a long record of fighting for equality, civil rights, and criminal justice reform.”
Chants of '46' raise prospect of Donald Jr. as a dynasty builder
MANCHESTER, N.H. — While introducing the man who hopes to be Donald Trump’s successor in 2024 here Monday night, the president’s eldest son experienced something that had never happened before.
In-between touting his father’s accomplishments and slamming Democratic candidates, Donald Trump Jr. paused briefly to let a chant ricochet around the SNHU Arena: “46! 46! 46!”
It started out, seemingly organically and from just a few sections of the 11,000-person venue before it caught like wildfire. Moments later, Vice President Mike Pence took the stage and received huge applause from the crowd, but none as forward-looking as the acclaim Trump Jr. had just received.
And it didn’t just happen once. Later in the rally, as the president called members of his family up to the podium to the stage, thanking them for what they’ve “gone through” in recent years,” the audience again broke into the “46!” cheers.
“It was incredible,” Trump Jr. told NBC News outside a polling station in Derry on Tuesday. “I have not heard that one either. I had heard 2024 a couple times, but then it wasn’t like one guy in the front. It went pretty viral. And I’m sitting there like, 'hey, let’s worry about 2020 first!'”
Trump Jr. also told Fox News Tuesday that he found the crowd reaction “an incredible honor and very humbling” but maintained his “only focus” is this year’s race.
But while Trump supporters in New Hampshire were eager to cast their ballots for the incumbent on Tuesday, some also admitted they were already thinking about four years from now.
“He’s done a great job being his dad’s right-hand and he would definitely do a good job in his footsteps,” said Alexa Firman, owner of “Simply Delicious” bakery in Bedford, where Trump Jr. and his girlfriend — also a senior adviser to the campaign — Kimberly Guilfoyle stopped by unannounced on primary day.
The couple also did retail stops in Iowa, in and around the caucuses there last week, and they said they plan to continue the kind of local politicking Trump himself rarely engages in.
The president’s other children are also quite involved in the re-elect effort. Eric and Lara Trump are part of the campaign, and son-in-law Jared Kushner is the main conduit between the White House and 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale. Ivanka Trump has focused more on her administration role but she has vowed to stump for her father as the general election nears and even appeared with Pence at a few stops in the Granite State this week.
The prospects for a potential Trump dynasty got another boost in New Hampshire Tuesday, where early exit polls showed that those voting in the GOP primary there were overwhelmingly supportive of the president and said they had more allegiance to Donald Trump (54 percent) than the Republican Party (34 percent).
Nevada Democratic Party prepares for caucus after Iowa chaos
“From the beginning, NV Dems’ priority has been to execute the most accessible, expansive, and transparent caucus yet,'' Alana Mounce, Nevada State Democratic Party Executive Director, states in the memo originally sent to Nevada campaign staff Monday.
“That’s why we expanded upon Caucus Day to include four days of in-person early voting, multilingual training and caucus materials, and a robust training program for our nearly 3,000 volunteers,” she continues.
Early voting will take place from February 15 through February 18 at over 80 locations throughout Nevada. Democrats can vote wherever they’d like in their respective counties as they are not assigned to specific precinct sites.
If a voter is not a registered Democrat or must update their registration, they are able to do so at their early voting location.
Among the memo’s highlights are bullet points explaining that early voting will be conducted on paper ballots, which will then be transported to a secure location and scanned at the end of each early voting day. Voter check-in will be done on iPads available on-site.
The votes however, will not be tabulated until Caucus Day. While campaigns will receive early vote data showing who has voted early, official presidential preferences will not go public until precinct caucuses have begun.
It is not yet clear how the Nevada Democratic Party will safely store voting information to avoid any sort of tampering though the memo states that the ballot transportation process to hubs will be tracked.
“A clear chain of custody outlined on the ballot box — from the time the ballot box leaves NV Dems HQ to the time it is dropped off at their designated hub — will be documented,” the memo reads.
Mounce adds that Nevada Democrats have tested and “simplified the voting process” in order to “streamline information and to ensure we minimize errors.”
The announcement comes after the Iowa Democratic Party was controversially forced to delay releasing caucus results due to both technological errors and necessary corrections to the tallies. The Buttigieg and Sanders campaigns have both requested a partial recanvass in some of the Iowa Caucus precincts, arguing that their campaigns undeservedly suffered from discrepancies in the party's official results.
Most voters think President Trump will win reelection, new poll finds
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Two-thirds of voters believe that President Trump will be re-elected in November, according to a new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday. Of those, 27 percent said they think Trump will "definitely" be re-elected, while 39 percent said they feel he will "probably" win again.
The poll also finds that just 11 percent of registered Democrats say their party's eventual nominee will "definitely" beat Trump, while 38 percent said "it is more likely than not" that President Trump will win.
In the Democratic primary race, the poll shows a new front-runner, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leading the field at 26 percent support among Democratic and lean-Democratic voters — up from 23 percent in the last national Monmouth University poll, taken before the Iowa caucuses. Former Vice President Joe Biden fell to 16 percent support in this poll — in January he was at 30 percent.
And former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg saw the biggest bump post-Iowa. In the new poll, Buttigieg rose to 13 percent, tied with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In the previous Monmouth poll, Buttigieg's support was at just 6 percent.
The poll also finds former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with 11 percent support nationally, making this his third qualifying poll, out of the four he needs, to make the Democratic debate stage in Nevada. Because Bloomberg will likely not receive a delegate from the New Hampshire race, where he is not on the ballot, Bloomberg's only way to qualify will be through the polling thresholds.
Democratic voters also raised concerns about the party's nominating schedule. Twenty-six percent of Democratic voters said they felt that having Iowa and New Hampshire go first in the contest "makes it less likely" that the party will "nominate the best candidate for president." And that's the argument that some candidates, like Biden, are making on the morning of the New Hampshire primary contest.
Klobuchar declines to set expectations for New Hampshire
EXETER, N.H. — Amy Klobuchar declined to set expectations for Tuesday’s primary here, saying in an interview that it would be for “many others” to decide what constitutes success, adding that she has “kept meeting every single standard” set before her thus far.
Klobuchar has avoided being pinned down on whether a third place finish is her goal, but has pledged to go on to Nevada regardless, where she is scheduled to speak at a League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) conference Thursday.
The candidate acknowledged that her road ahead will be challenging. She has spent far less time in diverse Nevada and South Carolina than she did in Iowa or New Hampshire, and in a Quinnipiac national poll released Monday, she failed to register any support among African American voters.
“I have had significant African American support in all my races that I have run, and that is in Minnesota. A number of the leaders from my state have been out campaigning for me including the mayor of St. Paul — went out to L.A., went out to Iowa for me. And so that'll be part of my strategy,” Klobuchar told NBC News. “And the other piece will just simply just be getting people to know me, they don't know me.”
Poll roundup: Sanders and Buttigieg on top in New Hampshire, Bloomberg rising in national poll
WASHINGTON — With one day to go before the New Hampshire primary, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg sit at the top of the newest polls of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters.
Sanders secures 29 percent in the newest results from CNN and the University of New Hampshire's three-day tracking poll, with Buttigieg trailing at 22 percent, a margin within the poll's plus-or-minus 5.1 percent margin of error.
Then, there's a pile-up significantly behind those two candidates, with former Vice President Joe Biden at 11 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 10 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 7 percent, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at 5 percent and businessman Andrew Yang at 4 percent.
Then there's the WBZ/Boston Globe/Suffolk University tracking poll, which has the same top two candidates with Sanders at 27 percent and Buttigieg at 19 percent, within the plus-or-minus 5.6 percent margin of error
But that poll shows Klobuchar in third place with 14 percent, ahead of Biden and Warren's 12 percent each.
While part of the CNN poll was conducted before Friday night's debate, all of the WBZ poll was conducted after that debate, which could help to explain some of the differences between the two.
Both polls show that a significant portion of the electorate is open to changing their mind before Tuesday's vote — almost half of the CNN/UNH respondents say they're only leaning toward a candidate or still trying to decide, while 38 percent of WBZ poll respondents say they're open to changing their mind.
Looking beyond New Hampshire, Quinnipiac University dropped another national poll that found Sanders holding firm and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rising.
Sanders leads with 25 percent, followed by Biden at 17, Bloomberg at 15, Warren at 14, Buttigieg at 10 and the rest of the pack very far behind. That sample has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
Those results represent a modest increase for Sanders and a modest decrease for Biden when compared to Quinnipiac's last national poll from two weeks ago. But Bloomberg's share of the vote shot up significantly from 8 points in late January to 15 points now.
And while the margin of error for smaller groups is larger, Biden's numbers with black voters dropped 22 points between the two polls, while Bloomberg's rose by 15 points.
In head-to-head matchups against President Trump, Bloomberg performed the best, ahead by 9 points. Sanders led Trump by 8 points, Biden by 7 points, Klobuchar by 6 points, and Warren and Buttigieg by 4 points each.
Sanders and Buttigieg campaigns request partial recanvass of some Iowa caucus precincts
DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are officially calling for a partial recanvassing of the results of last week's Iowa caucuses, claiming they found discrepancies in the party's official results that hurt their campaigns.
The state party announced Sunday that Buttigieg had won 14 national convention delegates from what it said was a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses. Sanders received 12 delegates; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren won eight delegates; former Vice President Joe Biden secured six delegates; and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar won one delegate.
But while those results were based on the party's revised results, the NBC News Decision Desk has not called the race for any candidate or issued its own delegate allocation after a series of delays and inconsistencies surfaced in the days following the caucuses.
The Sanders campaign says it wants the Iowa Democratic Party to recanvass 25 precincts and three satellite caucuses, arguing that there are errors in the data that could flip a national delegate to Sanders.
"Our volunteers and supporters worked too hard, and too many people participated for the first time to have the results depend on calculations that even the party admits are incorrect," Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement.
"Once the recanvass and a subsequent recount are completed in these precincts, we feel confident we will be awarded the extra national delegate our volunteers and grassroots donors earned.”
The Buttigieg campaign requested a recanvass in 66 precincts and the in-state satellite caucuses in what a campaign aide told NBC News was in direct response to Sanders' request.
In a letter sent to Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price, the Buttigieg campaign contends this recanvass would result in a net gain of 14 State Delegate Equivalents for Buttigieg. A campaign aide notes that the Sanders’ campaign recanvass request would at most result in a net gain of fewer than six SDEs.