The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
President Trump plays on Sanders' supporters dislike of Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has been eager to play up the divisions within the Democratic presidential race, especially when it comes to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
"It’s being rigged against — it’s sad — it’s being rigged against Crazy Bernie,” Trump said at his rally in Charlotte, N.C. on Monday after former Vice President Joe Biden picked up endorsements from former presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar ahead of the Super Tuesday contests.
And he tweeted this after Biden’s big victories on Super Tuesday: “The Democrat establishment came together and crushed Bernie Sanders, AGAIN! Even the fact that Elizabeth Warren stayed in the race was devastating to Bernie and allowed Sleepy Joe to unthinkably win Massachusetts. It was a perfect storm, with many good states remaining for Joe!”
Here's the logic — and data — behind why Trump argues that the Democratic race is “rigged” against Sanders, even though he's simply getting out-voted.
Just 38 percent of Sanders voters say they are enthusiastic or comfortable with Biden, versus 60 percent who have reservations or who are very uncomfortable with the former vice president, according to merged data from the January and February 2020 NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls.
That same level of discontent doesn't exist in Biden's supporters. In contrast, Biden voters actually have a net-positive view of Sanders.
Fifty-five percent of Biden backers say they are enthusiastic or comfortable with Sanders, while 42 percent say they have reservations or are very uncomfortable, according to the same polling.
So when Trump is decrying the raw deal he thinks Sanders is getting, he’s trying to keep many of these Sanders voters from joining up with Biden — if the former vice president ends up being the Democratic nominee.
Sanders cancelling speech in Mississippi as campaign pivots to Michigan
WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is cancelling a Friday speech in Jackson, Mississippi to campaign in Michigan, a sign the campaign is shifting focus after his poor showing in southern states so far this campaign.
Sanders had been planning to speak at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, a campus that houses the state's civil rights museum, with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who had recently endorsed Sanders.
But a Sanders aide told NBC News that he's canceling the speech and will instead head to Michigan, which also holds its primary on March 10.
After Biden outperformed expectations on Super Tuesday, Sanders is hoping he can reset the narrative with big wins next Tuesday in states like Michigan, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington, all states he won during his unsuccessful 2016 bid.
Michigan was a key state to Sanders' unsuccessful 2016 bid, one where his surprise victory gave him a shot of momentum in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
But while he won headlines with his victory, he only netted four more delegates from the state than former Sec. State Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, Clinton defeated Sanders 83 percent to 17 percent in Mississippi on the same day, netting 26 more delegates from the state than Sanders.
Biden threatens to run up the score on Sanders again in Mississippi. Sanders won just 11 percent of black voters in the state's 2016 primary (black voters made up 7-in-10 of the state's primary voters that year), and Biden cleaned up with black voters on this past Super Tuesday.
Bloomberg's massive Super Tuesday spending netted little
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's unprecedented spending threatened to shake up the Democratic presidential race, but as the dust continues to settle, he appears to have little to show for it.
Bloomberg dropped about $198 million in television and radio ads in states that held their nominating contests on Super Tuesday, according to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. And as of 10 a.m. ET, Bloomberg has netted just 18 delegates — $11 million per delegate so far with results still coming in.
That showing led to Bloomberg dropping on Wednesday morning, arguing that "after yesterday’s results, the delegate math has become virtually impossible — and a viable path to the nomination no longer exists."
Bloomberg's dollar-for-delegate tradeoff has been massive, but that investment is magnified when compared to how many delegates Biden is poised to win in states where he spent markedly less.
Despite not spending a dime on the air in Massachusetts, Biden is projected to win the state. Bloomberg, who spent almost $10 million there on those ads, is at 12 percent with 95 percent of precincts reporting.
In Texas, Bloomberg spent $52 million on TV and radio ads and appears to be poised for a distant third-place finish. Biden is the projected winner there, having spent about $463,000 on those ads.
Overall, Bloomberg spent just over $112 million on the airwaves in the Super Tuesday states that the NBC News' Decision Desk projects Biden will win. Biden spent $1.4 million on the airwaves in those states he's projected to win.
So far, Biden is projected to net 400 delegates on Super Tuesday alone.
Sanders launches three new ads targeting Biden
Bernie Sanders launched three new ads on Wednesday in nine states targeting former Vice President Joe Biden as the race rapidly narrowed following Biden's Super Tuesday victories.
One of the ads, "Feel the Bern," focuses on past comments then-President Barack Obama made about Sanders, complimenting him for being authentic and someone who has gotten bills passed for veterans. It's a new kind of ad for Sanders, as his campaign typically likes to draw on Sanders being an outsider, rather than a deal-maker.
Biden has consistently run his own TV and digital ads that show Obama complimenting him and granting him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And the Biden team is responding to Sanders' use of Obama, saying that Obama "chose" Biden, while Sanders considered a primary challenge against him.
"Barack Obama chose Vice President Biden to be his partner over 8 years in the White House, entrusting him with managing the stimulus that saved our economy from a depression, obtaining the deciding vote for the Affordable Care Act, and countless national security priorities," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said. "By contrast, Senator Sanders explored a primary challenge to President Obama, who he compared to a 'moderate Republican' and said was not a 'progressive.' As recent history has proven, no quantity of ads can rewrite history — and there's no substitute for genuinely having the back of the best president of our lifetimes."
The Biden team is also re-upping an ad they ran against Sanders in South Carolina that focused on Sanders' consideration of a primary challenge.
Sanders' two other ads, "Protect Social Security" and "Decimated," take direct aim at Biden's past votes.
The ads call out Biden for comments he made about freezing federal spending, which would have included Social Security benefits for a limited time, and for supporting trade deals, like NAFTA, that Sanders opposed.
Sanders and Biden have traded barbs on Social Security and trade deals before — Sanders is one of the only Democratic presidential candidates who voted against and spoke out against the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
The new ads will run in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Washington — all of which vote on either March 10 or 17.
'Delegate math': Inside the Biden campaign's Super Tuesday strategy
OAKLAND, Calif. — Joe Biden never expected a coronation, and his campaign prepared accordingly.
Despite his status as a former vice president and widely-admired party elder, his campaign knew the crowded field and ideological diversity of the party would pose headwinds for him and suggested a long, bruising battle for the nomination. The fact that Biden was never a prolific fundraiser also meant what resources the campaign had would need to be invested with great precision.
So the Biden campaign’s approach to Super Tuesday perhaps best illustrates what became a mantra of his top strategists: if Andrew Yang was the “math” candidate, Biden would be the delegate math candidate.
While much of the focus Tuesday will be on the statewide results in the more than dozen Super Tuesday contests, the Biden team will be looking just as closely for the results district-by-district — especially in the South. Of the more than 1,300 delegates at stake Tuesday, 875 will be awarded not based on the statewide tally but from the results in individual congressional districts (or, in the case of Texas, state senate districts).
Biden’s resounding win in South Carolina, boosted by overwhelming support of African American voters, validated the campaign’s view that by heavily targeting their limited resources into areas with the highest concentrations of black voters, they could in many cases pick off extra delegates across the map that could prove essential to limiting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ ability to gain an insurmountable lead.
Much of the strategy is based around the work of Biden’s analytics team. Since the earliest days of the campaign, they developed and maintained a ranking of — in the case of Tuesday — the 164 districts in play based on how likely Biden was to earn extra delegates by potentially keeping most if not all of his rivals under the critical 15 percent threshold.
That analysis is based on three factors: demographic and polling information that suggests strong Biden support; number of delegates at stake in a district; and the likelihood that other candidates won’t reach 15 percent support.
The number of delegates at stake in each congressional district varies depending on just how Democratic the district leans. Vermont’s at-large district awards 11 delegates Tuesday, while Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Minneapolis-based district awards 10. Four districts — two in Colorado, one in Maine and one in North Carolina — each award nine.
But not all are necessarily top targets for Biden. While the campaign quickly launched a new ad in Minneapolis on Tuesday seeking to capitalize on Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's endorsement, they have largely stayed out of Vermont and Colorado, which have far lower percentage of minority voters.
“It’s a delegate game, so we have been focused on targeting districts across the country," that "look like South Carolina, that look like the diversity of this country," Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said on MSNBC Monday.
The Biden team has, though, aggressively courted Alabama’s seventh Congressional District, North Carolina’s fourth, and multiple state senate districts clustered around urban centers in Texas. That includes not just putting money on the airwaves, but careful courtship of key lawmakers — including members of the Congressional Black Caucus and local legislators who represent what are often heavily-gerrymandered jurisdictions.
Biden needs the reinforcements, having not campaign much or at all in most Super Tuesday states. Prior to Saturday, Biden held just one public rally in California, Texas and North Carolina.
Biden’s travel has focused precisely to those types of locations his campaign thinks can provide an extra delegate edge — Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday in Selma, Ala., Monday in Houston and Dallas, and an Election Day stop in Oakland, where seven delegates are at stake.
“All along the way we’ve been valuing different geographies in terms of where we can win delegates, and planned our delegate and endorsements strategy around that,” said a senior Biden campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to expand upon the campaign’s strategy.
The official said that having the support of so many key lawmakers who represent these districts is especially useful, since they can help mobilize their own political organizations and offer insights that can supplement — or in some cases act in place of — Biden’s own campaign teams.
Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) said he has been visiting churches and attending community meetings to push the vote for Biden. And he said the endorsement of CBC members like him pays dividends beyond his district’s lines, as more and more African American voters move into suburban parts of Texas.
“The people that live in suburban areas that are not in our district that are African American, they look to us to see what we’re doing,” he said. “The influence in our districts and around our districts is very strong.”
Biden campaign adds ad buy in post-Super Tuesday states
DALLAS — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is amping up for its post-Super Tuesday ad campaign.
Biden's new buy in a trio of states that vote after Super Tuesday is part of a $1.5 million investment the campaign has devoted to spending in Missouri, Michigan and Mississippi. The ad will air in the states' largest markets including Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Lansing in Michigan; Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri; and Jackson, Meridien and Hattiesburg in Mississippi.
While the ad buy is new, the ad it's showing isn't. The ad, entitled "Service" evoke supportive words from former President Barack Obama about Biden's lifetime commitment to improving life for Americans.
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.