The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Biden rakes in endorsements after definitive South Carolina win
WASHINGTON — Following Joe Biden’s resounding victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday, the former Vice President has racked up about 20 influential endorsements spanning from activists to current and former members of Congress. More support continues to trickle in Monday.
Biden leads the pack by dozens of congressional and gubernatorial endorsements with Mike Bloomberg in a far-away second place. The former Vice President has 59 endorsements from members and governors while Bloomberg has just 17.
Many of the latest endorsements come from Super Tuesday states and beyond, including seven backers from the House of Representatives, three politicians who held high state or local offices, plus others.
Among the members of Congress now supporting Biden, three are from Virginia, a battleground state where voting takes place tomorrow. Democratic Reps. Bobby Scott, Jennifer Wexton, and Don Beyer — who previously endorsed Pete Buttigieg — are all on the list.
Reps. Greg Stanton of Arizona, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Gil Cisneros of California — who flipped the seat in 2018 — and Veronica Escobar of Texas are backing Biden as well.
Current Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois announced her formal support for the candidate Monday afternoon. Previous Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, plus former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe also endorsed Biden after his win.
Among other influential endorsements are gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg, and late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s wife, Vicki Kennedy.
Kennedy tweeted Monday morning that she is “proud” to vote for Biden in Massachusetts because he is the candidate “who solves problems by bringing people together.”
She mentioned that she trusts Biden on expanding health care, a passion of her husband’s throughout his life.
The former Vice President’s campaign released a statement Monday morning listing nearly ten other endorsers who announced their support for Biden after the latest primary.
Biden won South Carolina with about a 30 percentage point lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who only garnered 20 percent of the vote. Biden won every county in the Palmetto State and was the favorite of two-thirds of African-American voters there.
The campaign told NBC News that Biden hauled in more than $5 million on Saturday night plus another $5 million Sunday.
Buttigieg: Campaign pressing onto Super Tuesday despite South Carolina result
WASHINGTON — Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg told "Meet the Press" Sunday his campaign is pressing on after a fourth-place finish in South Carolina's Democratic primary, arguing that his message has "resonated across the country."
Buttigieg said that his campaign has been able to "beat the odds and defy all the expectations" before, but he added that he's keeping an eye on how he can best help the party defeat President Trump in November.
"Every day I'm getting up, looking at how we can do what's best for the party. It's why we got into this race in the first place, the belief that a different kind of message and a different kind of messenger could rally people together, could forge new alliances, could help us reach out in the very places where we have the best messaging, yet found ourselves defeated by President Trump in 2016 and we cannot let that happen again," he said.
"And every day we're in this campaign is a day that we've reached the conclusion that pushing forward is the best thing that we can do for the country and for the party."
Warren campaign memo: 'We're in this race for the long haul'
HOUSTON — Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is making clear that they’re not going anywhere — and that, when the primary’s said and done, they believe no one will hit the delegate majority needed to claim the nomination outright.
“We’re in this race for the long haul,” campaign manager Roger Lau wrote in a new memo out to supporters Sunday morning, in which he touted the campaign's biggest fundraising totals ever, increased ad buys in key upcoming states, and — citing “internal projections” — an expected “sizable” delegate haul on Super Tuesday from “nearly every state.”
The memo comes a day after the Massachusetts senator finished a distant fifth in South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary and does not name one state that they expect to outright win come Tuesday.
After placing third in Iowa in early February, Warren has not won any new delegates since — leaving her fourth overall in the field for delegate totals.
But the campaign points to the $29 million they say they raised in February means she has the ability to stay in the race. The campaign says their movement is now 1.25 million grassroots donors strong, with an average donation of $31.
Warren’s team, like the other campaigns in a similar position, argues that “Super Tuesday will greatly winnow this field." And, they say that all of their Super Tuesday staffers and organizers will be re-deployed after Tuesday to states voting later in the calendar.
The memo says that “as the dust settles after March 3rd, the reality of this race will be clear: no candidate will likely have a path to the majority of delegates needed to win an outright claim to the Democratic nomination.”
The campaign also says it has increased Super Tuesday ad spending and that they’re also spending for states down the road. According to Lau, they’ve made more than $4.1 million in paid media investments in Wisconsin, as well as later March states — with a special, six-figure focus on black-owned radio stations across the March states.
“After Wisconsin nearly one-third of the pledged delegates will still be waiting to be elected, and there will be a three-week gap between electing delegates for the first time since voting began,” Lau writes. “In the road to the nomination, the Wisconsin primary is halftime, and the convention in Milwaukee is the final play.”
'It's all hands on deck:' Pence on U.S. response to coronavirus threat
Vice President Mike Pence says that when it comes to stopping the spread of coronavirus in the United States, "it's all hands on deck."
In an interview airing Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Pence said federal agencies were "leaning into" President Donald Trump's directives to "mitigate" the virus' impact on U.S. soil, which includes expanding travel restrictions outside the country.
Watch "Meet the Press with Chuck Todd" Sunday at 9 a.m. ET or check local listings.
On Saturday, Trump and Pence announced additional travel restrictions involving Iran and increased warnings about travel to areas of Italy and South Korea hit by coronavirus. Travel from China to the U.S. has already been restricted.
"The president’s concern is the health and safety of the American people," Pence said on "Meet the Press."
When asked whether the White House is worried about potential economic fallout from coronavirus, Pence said the economy "will come back." He also said the president will respect any local or state decisions to close schools if they find it necessary.
"We’re going to focus on the health of the American people," he said.
2020 is a referendum on socialism, CPAC speakers say
OXON HILL, Md. — As the first few days of CPAC wrap up, high-profile conservative figures have emphasized that the 2020 election is a referendum on socialism rather than the Democrat who will ultimately become the nominee. In fact, the theme of this year's conference is "America vs. Socialism."
Though Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the current Democratic front-runner, has been name-checked on occasion, the event has primarily emphasized the dangers of the Democratic party itself, which the participants at the Conservative Political Action Conference say has morphed into an entirely socialist entity.
National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow stated that he wouldn't mind having a socialist at the top of the Democratic ticket.
"I am perfectly happy to have a Socialist candidate so we can have it out," he said Friday afternoon on a panel with Ivanka Trump and American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp. "President Trump is more than prepared to show the world why what he called in Davos, Switzerland 'the American model of free enterprise' will whip socialism every time hands down."
Kudlow added that voters should look to the past to see "time and again that socialism is the loser." He also explained that a socialist economy is a great fear of his because it could tank the U.S. economy.
Ivanka made similar arguments, though calling out socialism less directly than Kudlow. Instead, she stressed the importance of the private sector to economic success.
"Our economy is the envy of the world," the first daughter said, highlighting the benefits of President Trump's pro-growth policies.
Schlapp echoed both panelists but made a point to swipe Sanders specifically.
"You don't feel the Bern! We know that," the ACU chairman said. "There's no Bern-ing going on here!"
Earlier Friday, senior advisor for President Trump's reelection campaign, Kimberly Guilfoyle, previewed tomorrow's Democratic primary in South Carolina and warned the crowd of what's at stake in 2020.
"Democrats will be one step closer to nominating a socialist to lead their party," she said.
She noted that she often reflects on the possible alternative to President Trump this election cycle.
"America will never be a socialist country," Guilfoyle stated, calling Democrats children running around a playground suffering from "Trump derangement syndrome."
She reassured the crowd however, that no one can prevent Trump's reelection bid.
"The squad, the socialists. Let them run, let them run baby because nothing can stop the Trump train," Guilfoyle said to cheers.
Among the audience at CPAC are many conservative student groups like Turning Point USA and university chapters of College Republicans. Several speakers at the 2020 conference urged this next generation of voters to disavow socialism despite the left's argument that — in Guilfoyle's words — socialism is "cool" or "woke."
CPAC continues through Sunday and will feature an appearance from President Trump Saturday afternoon.
Virginia Rep. Wexton looks to hold onto suburban women in November
WASHINGTON — With the presidential race in full swing through Super Tuesday, congressional incumbents seeking re-election are also gearing up their campaigns with suburban women in mind to replicate their midterm victories. A record number of winning female candidates helped Democrats flip 43 Republican seats and reclaim the House majority in 2018, many supported by overwhelming margins from a voting bloc that has recently swung hard away from the GOP.
There are encouraging signs for Democrats. A November NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that President Donald Trump faces erosion in his support among women. Sixty-seven percent of college-educated women said they are certain they will vote against Trump while just 22 percent of women with a degree said they will definitely back the president.
One congresswoman running for re-election in a battleground state is Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton, who defeated two-term Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock handily in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District in 2018.
Wexton’s district spans the growing suburbs of Washington, D.C. Her state is a major focus of presidential candidates seeking to garner Virginia’s 99 pledged delegates at stake on Super Tuesday.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump statewide by five points and the president also lost Loudoun County, a critical part of Wexton's district, by nearly 17 points.
Wexton’s campaign says that suburban women will once again be key to her re-election, at least as long as Donald Trump is president.
Wexton herself says those voters are moving even more towards the Democratic column.
“I do think that suburban women focus on issues that help kids and families, and kitchen table issues,” she told NBC News in Sterling, Va. last month. “The Republican party has been moving away from those issues.”
For Wexton, the GOP is morphing into the party of Trump and the president’s divisiveness isn’t a “good way to govern.”
While the congresswoman focused on health care and gun reform in 2018, she tied her challenger to the president’s more controversial policies to win over moderates.
Wexton was a target of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s fundraising body, leading up to the midterms.
Former NRCC communications director, Matt Gorman, said that “Comstock was really one of our best candidates” but “obviously the atmospherics were too much.”
Gorman added that unlike in 2018, Wexton now has a record to defend.
Wexton does not have a primary challenger but there are five Republicans running for the right to challenge her in November, two of whom are women. One candidate has launched a “Wexit” movement to get “the heck out of the ‘People’s Republic of Northern Virginia.’”
Aliscia Andrews would be the first female Marine in Congress if elected and is fighting to win over the “politically homeless” to beat Wexton, who she labelled a “lame duck” in a discussion with NBC News last month.
Andrews, who bills herself as a proud suburban mother, said that the bloc is critical to her campaign and that the GOP has "been changing” its approach to women voters.
It’s not clear how effective a reset can be for the GOP after Democrats nationwide hammered them over the issue of health care two years ago.
Health care advocate Tasha Nelson, whose son, Jack, has cystic fibrosis, is the Virginia Chapter Lead of Little Lobbyists, a non-partisan volunteer group representing children with complex medical conditions and disabilities.
In an interview with NBC News, Nelson said she considers herself a single-issue health care voter. While she does not identify with one party and says she used to lean right, she says she is no longer a swing voter.
Nelson feels herself moving further toward the Democrats, saying that her child would have died without the Affordable Care Act.
The Little Lobbyists work closely with Wexton and many lawmakers from both parties in both chambers.
When Comstock voted for President Trump’s tax bill, which targeted the individual mandate central to Obamacare, Nelson decided to support Wexton in the midterms.
As a voter rather than a representative of Little Lobbyists, Nelson believes Wexton has not let her down and plans to support her in 2020 as long as she continues to fight for health care protections for kids like Jack.
While all eyes will be on Virginia for the presidential primary on March 3, the state’s tenth district will move into the national spotlight as November approaches.
Tim Kaine endorses Joe Biden
SUMTER, S.C. — With just days until his state’s Super Tuesday primary, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine announced Friday that he's backing Joe Biden for president.
The former Virginia governor and 2016 vice presidential nominee applauded the “admirable” field of candidates running for president, but said Biden's record and "character" led him to support the former vice president.
“Barack Obama wisely chose Joe as his partner in the White House, and for eight years,” Kaine said in a statement. “It is sad to have a President who no one holds up as a role model for America’s kids. By contrast, Joe Biden has exemplary heart, character, and experience.”
Kaine’s endorsement comes as Biden continues to amass the most support from congressional members in Super Tuesday states and as his campaign is seeking momentum to jump start his hopes throughout the numerous March primaries. The campaign has telegraphed that while Biden has not spent much time or money in Super Tuesday states, they feel confident they will do well there because of the influence and organizational support endorsers pour into the race.
Kaine is the sixth senator to endorse Biden, and Biden has 50 endorsements from members of Congress. He also has the backing of Super Tuesday state Sens. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
While Biden and Kaine never served together in the Senate, they both served on the Foreign Relations Committee, Kaine as a member and Biden as a former chair.
When Kaine campaigned as the vice presidential nominee, he and Biden held a joint rally on the eve of the 2016 election in what was billed at the time as something of a pass-the-torch moment. Biden also campaigned for Kaine on the eve of the 2012 election when Kaine was about to be elected senator.
On the South Carolina airwaves: Negative ads and appeals to black voters
WASHINGTON — With just one day to go until South Carolina's pivotal Democratic presidential primary, the Palmetto State's ad wars are heating up.
Philanthropist and billionaire Tom Steyer has blanketed the state to the tune of $20 million in television and radio ads in South Carolina this cycle, according to Advertising Analytics. That's more than the rest of the Democratic field combined.
Far behind him, but ahead of the rest of the pack, is former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has spent $2.4 million. (While former Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn't on the ballot in South Carolina, he's running $2 million in ads in adjacent states that bleed onto the airwaves in South Carolina.)
Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign has spent $700,000; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has spent $690,000; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has spent $580,000; Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has spent $500,000; and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has spent $470,000.
And Super PACs supporting Klobuchar, Warren and Biden have spent $980,000, $590,000 and $110,000 respectively.
What are South Carolinians seeing as Saturday's primary creeps closer?
Let's start with Steyer, who is far-and-away the biggest spender.
In the past week, Steyer's spent the most on a biographical spot, one that tells the story about how he started a community bank that, in his words, "invest[ed] in the community, in businesses owned by women and people of color."
He also has spots up taking swipes at Biden and Buttigeg as an "insider" and an "untested newcomer" respectively; another hits Biden by arguing "nothing will change when he's elected" and that Sanders' "socialist plans won't beat Trump."
Buttigieg's top ad is a positive, hopeful spot that nods at his plan for black Americans. But the ad he's spent the second most on takes a direct shot at Sanders, arguing that Sanders' plan involves "forcing 150 million Americans off" their current health-care plans and framing Sanders as polarizing.
Biden's ads echo a common theme for candidates on the South Carolina airwaves — two of the three ads he launched in the race's final days center on former President Barack Obama (along with a swipe at the Medicare for All crowd).
Looking for a strong showing in South Carolina to keep his momentum going, Sanders' ads primarily talk about how he wants to fight for civil rights and for criminal justice reform.
Klobuchar primary is running positive spots playing up her call for unity and pragmatism.
While Warren isn't currently on the air, she had previously run two bio spots in the state, one that evokes Obama's praise of her. Gabbard isn't on the air anymore either, but she had previously run a spot criticizing government spending on "wasteful wars" instead of domestic issues.
A warm welcome for Buttigieg from diverse caucus groups on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON — Former South Bend, Ind Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has struggled cinching a diverse electorate in critical states, met with the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses on Thursday in an effort to receive their endorsements.
And overall, members left the meetings feeling impressed, and perhaps surprised, with some of their worries appeased — despite Buttigieg not seeing higher poll numbers among those voting blocks. Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., called it “a very good meeting” as she walked out.
Multiple members of Congress told NBC News that to appeal to diverse voters, Buttigieg needs to “reach out more” like he did on Thursday and continue meeting with these voter constituencies.
Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., the lone CBC endorser and national co-chair for the Buttigieg campaign, told NBC there was “a lot of vertical head-nodding” when asked how he was received in the room. But members also pressed Buttigieg on his controversial record in South Bend.
“That was the great deal of the focus in that particular meeting,” said Brown.
Rep. André Carson walked out of the meeting telling reporters it was “excellente”. However, the meeting came on the heels of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's key endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden, and just two days before the South Carolina Democratic primary where a majority of the Democratic electorate is people of color.
Despite winning the highest share of delegates in the Iowa caucuses, and coming in second in the New Hampshire primary, Buttigieg is registering at just 6 percent in South Carolina, according to the latest poll. While Buttigieg was hoping this meeting could up his amount of congressional endorsements from members of the CHC and CBC, it's unlikely one meeting will do that.
CHC Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., told NBC News “I do not, I'm still considering it and I'm certainly talking to the Mayor as well,” adding “I was just impressed with what I saw.”
DNC holds briefing with House Dems amid concerns of contested convention
WASHINGTON — As questions swirl around the possibility of a contested convention, the Democratic National Committee held a briefing for House Democrats on the convention rules and insisted that a candidate must have a majority of delegates to win the party's nomination.
The briefing comes as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the delegate leader after the first three nominating contests, indicated at the NBC News debate in Las Vegas and on Twitter that the winner of a plurality of delegates, not a majority as written in DNC rules, should be the nominee.
Sanders’ statements have concerned some Democrats who are already nervous about Sanders winning the nomination and the impact he could have on candidates down-ballot.
“What we’re concerned about is we all follow the rules,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and a member of the DNC said after the briefing. “I think the rules are important, they were passed, and whatever the candidates are saying, the rules are the most important thing to comply with.”
The rules say that the nominee must win a majority — 1,991 of the 3,979 — of the delegates available heading into the convention in Milwaukee in July. If no candidate wins after the first round at the convention, then a second round of voting takes place and considers the votes of what used to be known as superdelegates. This group consists of current and former elected members of Congress, governors and presidents.
Sanders, who pressured the DNC to rewrite the rules after 2016 and diminish the role of superdelegates, fears that the superdelegates will overturn the will of the voters supporting him in a second round of voting at the convention.
Some Democrats running for re-election in red and purple districts worry that having a Democratic Socialist on the top of the ticket will turn off suburban voters key to winning House and Senate seats.
Sanders backer, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said that Sanders isn’t trying to circumvent the process.
“If you have someone who has 45 percent of the vote and the next person has 20 percent, then I think it’s important for that second round of people to consider the will of the voters and to consider the will of the voters in the states,” Jayapal said.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., also a Sanders supporter, said that the party should get behind the person who wins a plurality of delegates.
“I do think the party should get around the plurality winner. I'm hopeful that President Obama may do that. You know, I'm hopeful President Obama will play that role,” Khanna said.
Perhaps an indication of the unease about the Democratic primary, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said that someone in the party stood up to nominate House Speaker Pelosi for president at the briefing.
“Somebody nominated Pelosi for president," Himes said. "She said, ‘I like my job. You're not getting rid of me that easy.'"
South Carolina Democratic Party ready for its say in 2020
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Two days before the Democratic presidential primary here, South Carolina Democratic Party executive director says voters are making up their own minds on who to support — not looking at who did well in other states.
"Our voters have really looked at these candidates through their own unique lens without worrying about what people everywhere else are saying," Jay Parmley said.
He added, "When people say, 'Oh, you have someone to bounce out of [a state]', that just doesn't seem to translate on the ground."
Parmley noted that that's why South Carolinians aren't shocked at some polls that show philanthropist Tom Steyer in second or third place, or why former Vice President Joe Biden has been able to maintain a lead.
However, the SCDP does feel that whoever wins in South Carolina still has the best chance to carry the nomination. Parmley said, "Our diverse electorate gives people an opportunity to do well and also I think it mirrors a ton of the rest of the country."
That's the strategy that Biden hopes carry him into Super Tuesday, and the mindset of some who say the primary calendar should change to reflect the demographics of the Democratic Party and not start the nominating contests in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire.
"If we win in November, then the four early states don't matter in 2024, so they may push the decision off a while," Parmley said. "But I do think, though, this will be revisited."
While the presidential primary may be over for South Carolinians on Saturday night, the SCDP is actively looking toward their down-ballot races which, Parmley said, has an unofficial start date of Monday. But those races have lost a lot of oxygen from the presidential race, leaving some down-ballot candidates like Rep. Joe Cunningham, and the Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Jaime Harrison, in a hard position.
Parmley said that while it's easier when down-ballot candidates can wholeheartedly endorse the party's nominee, it won't be a necessity in 2020.
"It's a needle we may have to thread," Parmley said. "We're going to go out and fight for our down ballot races, no matter who the nominee is. And sure some people may make it easier and some people may make it harder, but I would argue that's the case of any of them anywhere."