The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Shaquille Brewster and Josh Lederman
39d ago / 4:46 PM UTC
Sanders press secretary walks back 'heart attack' comments on Bloomberg
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Sen. Bernie Sanders' national press secretary walked back her false claim Wednesday morning that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg "suffered heart attacks in the past." She later tweeted she "misspoke."
"Rather, he underwent the same stent procedure as Bernie," Briahna Joy Gray tweeted of Bloomberg. "Bernie released 3 detailed medical reports in December — just like the other candidates."
I mispoke when I said Bloomberg had a heart attack. Rather, he underwent the same stent procedure as Bernie. Bernie released 3 detailed medical reports in December — just like the other candidates.
The back-and-forth began when during a CNN town hall on Tuesday night, Sanders said that while he's feeling good, he will not release additional medical records after suffering from a heart attack in October. Despite promising to post his medical records before the first primary contest, the Democratic front-runner in December instead released three letters from doctors stating he is in good health.
“If you think I’m not in good health come on out with me on the campaign trail and I’ll let you introduce me to the three or four rallies a day that we do," Sanders said on Tuesday.
Bloomberg's campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey quickly blasted Joy Gray's original claim saying, "It's completely false."
"Here’s what we know about Sen. Sanders: In October 2019, he had a medical incident in Las Vegas. He didn’t tell the public for days and the full details have never been released. Now his campaign staff is spreading lies about Mike Bloomberg," Sheekey said in a statement.
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” shouldn’t apply to the medical records of Presidential candidates#BernieSlanders had a heart attack in Vegas 4 mo. ago & @briebriejoy is now lying as a distraction
The increased scrutiny on Sanders' health comes after a new NBC News/WSJ poll found that 57 percent of registered voters were uncomfortable with a candidate who's had a heart attack in the past year, and 53 percent being uncomfortable with candidates older than 75.
Bloomberg, who is 78-years-old like Sanders, has not yet released his medical records, instead released a letter from his doctor saying he’s in “outstanding health.” The two other septuagenarians in the race, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, have also released letters from their doctors detailing their health statuses.
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Amanda Golden, Garrett Haake and Kailani Koenig
40d ago / 5:44 PM UTC
A new Super PAC gets behind Amy Klobuchar ahead of Super Tuesday
Richard Carlbom, a partner at United Strategies LLC in Minnesota, is spearheading the effort and confirmed to NBC News that “the goal is to introduce Amy to Nevada, South Carolina and Super Tuesday states.” Carlbom told NBC News that he has not been in contact with Klobuchar’s campaign — it is against FEC regulations for campaigns to coordinate with super PACs.
The PAC’s first ad, “Sacred,” focuses on the “sacred space” of time between a newborn and their mother, talking about Klobuchar’s experience being kicked out of the hospital after her daughter Abigail was born and how it fueled her entrance into politics — a story she shares often on the campaign trail.
According to Carlbom, the PAC has received enough commitments where they can place a seven figure investment in paid advertisements.
Back in October, the Klobuchar campaign said they didn't want help from super PACs, and a Klobuchar spokesperson told NBC News that the campaign stands by that statement. Other candidates, like former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg are also being helped by super PACs.
Carlbom said those who have joined the PAC effort are “individuals who believe in Amy’s message and believe in Amy as a president and want to make sure other votes get to know the same Amy we know.”
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40d ago / 2:19 PM UTC
Trump counter-programs Dems with West Coast swing
WASHINGTON — As Democrats debate and compete for votes in Nevada this week, President Donald Trump won’t just be looming over the caucuses metaphorically — he’ll also be staying in Las Vegas throughout a jam-packed West Coast swing.
The rare quadruple-state, four-day visit will be full of fundraisers, official White House events, and three back-to-back rallies, culminating with a large campaign event in Vegas on Friday afternoon, the day before final votes are cast there.
The strategy to effectively shadow the Democratic presidential contest started in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier this month where Trump deployed dozens of surrogates and dominated local media by headlining rallies in Des Moines and Manchester that attracted thousands of supporters.
But unlike in Iowa and New Hampshire, there is no GOP nominating contest in Nevada this year. The state party decided to cancel it in an effort to consolidate support for the president, working closely with the Republican National Committee to avoid any potential chaos at the convention in Charlotte this summer.
Senior campaign officials continue to make the case that while Democrats battle it out in search of their eventual nominee — with the rise of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg complicating party unity on that side of the aisle — the president’s campaign can capitalize nine months out from the general election, with no significant primary challenger.
The Trump campaign also has plenty of money and resources to conduct “dry runs” in these early states, enjoying $200 million in the bank heading into 2020 and raising more than $60 million in January. And the dress rehearsals in the Hawkeye and Granite States were largely successful, with turnout there exceeding recent incumbent presidents.
Trump begins his journey out West with a stop in Southern California on Tuesday, hosting a meeting on the 2028 Olympics, followed by two high-dollar fundraisers in Beverly Hills. This comes after Trump held the most expensive re-elect dinner of his presidency in Palm Beach over the weekend, with couples paying $580,600 each to attend.
On Wednesday, the president will travel to Rancho Mirage, Calif. for two additional fundraisers, and then deliver a speech on water access at an official White House event in Bakersfield.
From there, he heads to Phoenix for a “Keep America Great” rally, before again returning to Las Vegas to spend the night. As Democratic candidates spin their performances at the next debate, hosted by NBC News, the president is expected to be at his self-branded hotel just down the road from the Strip.
On Thursday morning, the president will speak at a “Hope for Prisoners” graduation ceremony at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. Later that evening, the president will stump in Colorado Springs, and again fly back to Vegas.
The consecutive campaign events in Arizona and Colorado will also feature two vulnerable senators in key battleground states, Sens. Cory Gardner and Martha McSally respectively. Both supported the president throughout the impeachment trial and voted not to convict him.
Trump’s final event of the multi-day swing will be a rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the caucuses there Saturday.
While there is no clear measure of success for Trump in Nevada this week, he lost the state by only two and half percentage points to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Senior campaign officials say it’s not the top focus for expanding the map this cycle, but the Silver State is still considered a target. And holding rallies in all three states offers fresh voter data in those key states.
The campaign also plans to offer various surrogate gatherings throughout the week ahead of the caucuses, including visits from Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. But aides acknowledge there’s nothing quite like the president’s physical presence in the region.
“When Air Force One lands, there’s no better way to bracket and get your message out,” said Trump campaign spokesman Rick Gorka.
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Benjamin Pu and Liz Brown-Kaiser
41d ago / 7:55 PM UTC
Over 26,000 vote early in Nevada caucuses
WASHINGTON — The Nevada Democratic Party announced Monday that more than 26,000 residents in the Silver State participated in the first two days of early voting ahead of the Saturday caucuses.
UPDATE: More than 26,000 Nevadans participated in the first two days of the early voting process as of 9am PT Monday morning -- 56% of voters on Saturday were first time caucus-goers!
Nevada Democrats are showing up to make their voices heard!
The party tweeted that over "26,000 Nevadans participated in the first two days of the early voting process as of 9am PT Monday morning."
According to the Nevada Democratic Party, over half of voters — 56 percent — who took part on Saturday were first time caucus-goers. Approximately 18,000 people voted on Saturday alone.
"Nevada Democrats are showing up to make their voices heard," the group tweeted.
The party released a memo to reporters last week outlining the early voting process occurring ahead of state’s caucuses on February 22.
“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, stated in the memo originally sent to Nevada campaign staff last Monday.
The Nevada Democratic Party's memo came after its sister organization in Iowa failed to release results from the caucuses on time citing technological problems and disparities in vote tallies. The chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, Troy Price, was forced to resign from his post following the debacle.
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41d ago / 4:51 PM UTC
Candidates battle in ad spending race ahead of Nevada caucuses
LAS VEGAS — Ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, Democratic candidates are in an ad spending race throughout the state until the February 22 contest.
Spending the most to hit the airwaves is billionaire and entrepreneur Tom Steyer according to Advertising Analytics. In last place among the candidates is Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., with a bill totaling less than a million dollars.
Despite the Independent Vermont senator's visibility, Bernie Sanders is being targeted in several ads. After playing in Iowa with its Bernie-had-a-heart-attack ad but sitting out in New Hampshire, the anti-Bernie Sanders group, Democratic Majority for Israel, is back on the airwaves in Nevada, with a TV ad hitting Sanders for not releasing his medical records.
The ad features several voters stressing the need to vote Donald Trump out of office, claiming that Sanders is "not the guy" to do so. Another voter asks why the senator "won't he release his medical records."
Here's where each candidate's spending on TV and radio ads stands:
Vote Vets (pro-Buttigieg PAC): $589K
Democratic Majority for Israel (anti-Sanders lobbying group): $461K
Vote Nurses Values (pro-Sanders union): $170K
Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, will not appear on the ballot in Nevada. He has until the end of the day Tuesday to qualify for the upcoming NBC News debate in Las Vegas.
-Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
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41d ago / 2:02 PM UTC
Klobuchar campaign releases first Spanish-language ad in Nevada
LAS VEGAS — Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign is airing its first Spanish language TV and radio ad in Nevada. This is the campaign’s third ad on the air in Nevada, and their only Spanish language ad to date.
The ad, titled ‘Bienestar,’ started airing on cable in the Las Vegas and Reno media markets on February 15, the first day of Nevada’s four-day early voting period, and the radio version of the ad is airing in the Las Vegas market. The ads will run through the Nevada Caucuses on February 22.
The campaign would not provide a cost for this Spanish ad buy individually, but said that it was separate from the original seven-figure ad buy for Nevada.
Klobuchar has acknowledged a need for her to build a broad coalition of support to win the nomination, especially among black and Hispanic voters and that effort includes raising her profile through ads like these.
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43d ago / 10:20 PM UTC
DNC announces debate qualification threshold for South Carolina
WASHINGTON — To qualify for the Democratic debate stage in South Carolina, candidates will need to have won at least one delegate in earlier primary contests or cross a polling threshold of 10 percent nationally in four polls or 12 percent in two polls in the Palmetto State, the Democratic National Committee announced Saturday.
The rules are barely changed from the qualification threshold the party set for next week's debate in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. Those qualifications could help former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's make his first appearance on the stage.
Candidates who won at least one delegate to the Democratic National Convention in either the New Hampshire and Iowa contests, or next Saturday's caucuses in Nevada, will automatically qualify for the Feb. 25 debate in Charleston, which is hosted by CBS News and comes just before the state's Feb. 29 primary.
According to the new thresholds, five candidates have already qualified for the debate stage: Former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Bloomberg, who skipped the first four early state contests, has not received a delegate yet and isn't expected to receive on during next week's Nevada caucuses. However, he has been polling above 10 percent in some recent surveys. He still needs one qualifying poll to make the Las Vegas debate stage.
The window to qualify next week's Feb. 19 debate closes the night before the event, while the window to qualify for the South Carolina debate runs from Feb. 4, the day after the Iowa Caucuses, to Feb. 24, the day before the debate.
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43d ago / 5:23 PM UTC
Bill de Blasio endorses Bernie Sanders in presidential bid
WASHINGTON — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president on Friday.
"I am standing with Bernie because he stands with working families, and always has," de Blasio said in a statement. "New Yorkers know all too well the damage caused by Donald Trump's xenophobia, bigotry and recklessness, and Bernie is the candidate to take him on and take him down."
de Blasio continued, "I have called for a bold, progressive agenda, and that's exactly what Senator Sanders has championed for decades. I am proud to endorse a true progressive leader who will fight for working New Yorkers and families across the country."
I'm standing with @BernieSanders because he stands w/ working families & always has. Bernie is the candidate to take Trump on & take him down. I'm proud to endorse a true progressive leader who will fight for working New Yorkers & families across the country. https://t.co/Z3j2DQklri
The endorsement comes after Sanders won the New Hampshire primary, and placed a strong second place in the Iowa caucuses. It also comes as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gains national traction in several polls, and just needs one more qualifying poll to make the debate stage in Nevada.
Bloomberg and de Blasio have had a fraught relationship since de Blasio ran for mayor. In 2014, when addressing reporters after the death of Eric Garner, de Blasio made reference to Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk policy, "Because for much of the previous 12 years, there was a growing tension and a growing disconnect between police and community all over our city. And that is not an acceptable state of affairs," de Blasio said at the time.
"This is a guy who really reinforced the status quo every chance he got in New York City," de Blasio said in a 'The Young Turks' interview. "And I have spent literally six years undoing what Michael Bloomberg did."
de Blasio ended his nearly four month presidential bid in September. He is one of a few former presidential contenders in this cycle to endorse in the primary: Former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julián Castro for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass. Rep. Seth Moulton and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan for former Vice President Joe Biden, and Joe Sestak for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
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43d ago / 4:30 PM UTC
Amy Klobuchar launches ad campaign in South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will capitalize on her campaign's momentum from New Hampshire in South Carolina as she launches her first broadcast television advertisement in the state two weeks before the “First in the South” primary.
The six-figure statewide ad buy, which will also be featured on cable and digital platforms, begins with a moment from the New Hampshire Democratic debate in which Klobuchar sharply criticized President Trump.
“There is a complete lack of empathy in the guy in the White House right now,” Klobuchar said. “And I will bring that to you.”
The ad features a montage of Klobuchar interacting with voters and American workers — and highlights her endorsement from The New York Times back in January, shared with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you and I will fight for you,” Klobuchar continues in the ad. “If you have trouble deciding if you’re going to pay for your child care or your long term care, I know you and I will fight for you. I would love your vote, and I would love the vote of America.”
The campaign’s new ad buy comes after Klobuchar’s strong performance in the New Hampshire primary, where she placed third behind Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. In the roughly 12 hours after the polls closed in the state, Klobuchar raised over $2.5 million from supporters —boosting the campaign’s resources to make targeted outreach efforts in both Nevada and South Carolina.
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.”
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.
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Vaughn Hillyard and Priscilla Thompson
44d ago / 8:56 PM UTC
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.
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.