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Meet the Press Blog Archive

Catch up with Meet the Press blog posts from past years leading up to May 17, 2022
Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.

For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.

Biden's first virtual event encounters technological glitches

WASHINGTON — The virtual campaign is proving a bit complicated, after a Friday event for former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign encountered some technological glitches. 

Biden is the first Democratic candidate to hold a virtual town hall due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and public events. The attempt to broadcast the first of two scheduled “virtual events” in the next several days involved a garbled-voiced Biden and ended roughly four minutes after the Facebook Live video began streaming in Illinois.

The former vice president acknowledged the issues while ending the livestream.

“Well, I’m sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections, but there is a lot more to say and I’ve probably already said too much,” Biden said. 

But the appetite for these events appears to be there — the short event garnered more than 5,000 viewers. 

On Saturday morning, the campaign released a link to a full, updated video without the technical glitches.

Much of the event focused on Biden explaining how he'd work to respond and recover the country from pandemics. He also tried to downplay the need for panic and outlined ways in which everyone can take precautions to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, while still connecting to people.

“Campaign events are no exception that’s why we’re connecting virtually today. We’re going to have to get better at the technical side of this,” Biden said.

Biden, Sanders increase ad spending amid virtual campaign

WASHINGTON — While the traditional campaigning in the 2020 race has come to a halt due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the Democratic presidential candidates have increased their TV and radio ad spending for the upcoming March 17 primaries, with millions of dollars on the airwaves in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

Here’s a look at the ad spending in these four states through March 17, according to data from Advertising Analytics:

Arizona

  • Sanders: $1.4 million
  • Biden: $564,000
  • Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $522,000

FYI: Michael Bloomberg had spent $8.9 million in the state before dropping out

Florida

  • Sanders: $6.0 million
  • Biden: $5.1 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $44.6 million

Illinois

  • Sanders: $2.2 million
  • Biden: $1.9 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $18.6 million

Ohio

  • Sanders: $2.3 million
  • Biden: $1.3 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $15.4 million

Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman formally backs Biden

WASHINGTON — The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), California Rep. Karen Bass, announced Friday that she is endorsing Joe Biden for president, making her the 37th member of the CBC to back the former vice president.

In a statement released by Bass, the congresswoman said that Biden is the person who can provide a “steady hand that can bring an end to the past three and a half years of daily trauma inflicted” on Americans by the Trump presidency.

Congressional Black Caucus Prebuttal to the State of the Union Address in Washington, US
Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus prebuttal to the State of the Union address in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020.Michael Brochstein / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Bass added that during his time as vice president, she has come to know Biden as a true leader domestically and internationally — someone who “works tirelessly on behalf of all Americans, especially those purposely forgotten and antagonized by the current administration.”

In an interview with PBS, the chairwoman elaborated on her decision to back Biden and revealed that his rival, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, “called one time” to invite her to meet “last minute,” but when she couldn’t make it, he never called back. Her and Biden in contrast, have spoken “a number of times” during the campaign.

Bass also told PBS that Biden’s vice presidency reveals a “historic connection with African Americans,” and that Sanders “does not have a historic connection like that.” She continued to criticize Sanders, saying that if she were to run for president, she would work “years in advance on building ties and building relationships — not just with African Americans — with all communities.”  

Sanders will 'wholeheartedly' support Biden if he's the nominee, adviser says

WASHINGTON — Senior adviser to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign Jeff Weaver said Thursday that Sanders will support former Vice President Joe Biden "wholeheartedly" if Biden is the Democratic nominee. 

In an interview on MSNBC, Weaver said that the Sanders campaign is looking at the rest of the Democratic primary on a "week by week" basis, but that if he does not win the nomination, he would campaign for the former vice president. However, Weaver wouldn't say if that decision would come before or after the Democratic convention in July. 

"I don't have a crystal ball," Weaver said. Adding, "Right now we are working hard and working hard to win." 

The campaign is looking to shore up wins in this Tuesday's upcoming nominating contests — focusing specifically on Illinois and Arizona where Sanders performed well in 2016. However, states like Florida and Ohio will also be voting on Tuesday where Biden has a substantial likelihood of winning a larger share of delegates. 

What might Michigan's primary turnout say about the general election?

WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders had hoped a strong showing in Michigan's Democratic presidential primary would help supercharge his fledgling campaign, but his campaign appears poised for a double-digit loss there. 

NBC News contributor Dante Chinni, the director of the American Communities Project at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, pulled out three important takeaways from Michigan's primary: 

  • There are cracks in Sanders' coalition of young, college-age voters as well as the older working-class voters. 
  • Sanders' success in areas that support President Trump "seems to have fizzled."
  • And turnout suggests Biden "might be the candidate to bring blue-collar voters back to the Democrats in 2020."  

Click here to read his full analysis. 

Gabby Giffords backs Biden ahead of Arizona primary

DETROIT — Joe Biden is picking up a key endorsement ahead of next Tuesday’s Arizona primary: Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, a high profile figure in the state and a leading voice on gun control

Joe Biden, right, hugs former Rep. Gabby Giffords during a gun safety forum on Oct. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas.
Joe Biden, right, hugs former Rep. Gabby Giffords during a gun safety forum on Oct. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP file

Giffords, who represented a Tucson-area district from 2005-2012, became a nationally recognized gun control activist after she was shot and critically wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011.  Her endorsement comes ahead of next week's Arizona primary between Biden and Bernie Sanders, whose strength among Latino voters could prove significant in the state. Sanders won 53 percent of Latino voters in Nevada’s caucuses on February 22 and 41 percent in Texas on Super Tuesday

Arizona votes on March 17, along with Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

“Joe Biden leads with his heart. He has the compassion and toughness to lead on gun safety. I’ve witnessed him comfort the survivors of gun violence, and I’ve seen him fight for solutions to gun violence — and win. This is the leadership we need in the White House. Joe Biden is the choice for a true gun safety president,” Giffords said in a statement provided to NBC News.

"Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is an American hero who embodies the courage and tenacity we need to take on and defeat the gun lobby," Biden said in a statement to NBC News. "I have been proud to work alongside Gabby in the fight to end gun violence and am honored to have her support today."

The endorsement could undergird Biden’s momentum coming off his strong showings in the March 10 primaries.  

Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, is expected to be the Democratic challenger to Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the highest-profile Senate contests this year.

Sanders has come under criticism from Biden and gun control activists for some of his past votes on gun measures, particularly a law that shields gun manufacturers from liability.  

As a presidential candidate, Sanders has emphasized his support for universal background checks and his D- minus rating from the NRA.  

Giffords and Biden have worked together in the past on gun safety measures, including in the aftermath of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 first graders and six educators were killed. Two years later, they sat together off the Senate floor watching as a bill Giffords had fought for to expand background checks failed by five votes.

Biden leads Sanders by dozens of endorsements after big wins

WASHINGTON — Since his big win in the South Carolina primary less than two weeks ago, Joe Biden has earned more than 50 endorsements from Democratic governors and members of Congress.

That’s compared with just one endorsement for Bernie Sanders since the Vermont senator’s win in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22.

Overall, Biden has a total of more than 100 endorsements from major Democratic politicians, while Sanders has about ten.

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden speak before a Democratic presidential primary debate in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 25, 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden speak before a Democratic presidential primary debate in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 25, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP file

The gap in their support has continued to widen as the former vice president racks up primary victories. Following Biden's near-30 percentage point margin win in South Carolina on Feb. 29, most of his former primary opponents have endorsed him.

In the last week and a half alone, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey have all rallied for Biden. Mike Bloomberg and John Delaney have also put their support behind him.

Other influential politicians who have jumped on board include Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton ally who previously served as Chair of the Democratic National Committee and the governor of Virginia. 

The only former competitor backing Sanders after his definitive victory in the Nevada caucuses is author Marianne Williamson. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., dropped out of the race last week but she has yet to endorse Biden or Sanders.

Those backing Biden and Sanders also vary drastically in their ideologies and policy positions.

Since the South Carolina primary, Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Elissa Slotkin, and Andy Kim — moderates who all flipped their seats from red to blue in the 2018 midterms — have endorsed Biden. Kim is one of several House members who previously endorsed Buttigieg and then transferred his support to Biden after the former South Bend mayor suspended his campaign.

While just one member of Congress — Rep. Mark Takano of California — has decided to throw his support behind Sanders since his strong performance in Nevada lifted him into temporary front-runner status, those who backed the Independent Vermont senator prior to the caucuses come from the bluest of districts. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for example, are ardent Sanders campaigners.

From the start of his candidacy, Sanders has failed to win over any governors. Five governors in contrast, have issued formal endorsements for Biden, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer whose state is voting today. 

Sanders and Biden scrap on the airwaves in Tuesday's states

WASHINGTON — It may not be super, but as the Democratic race hits the latest round of contests today, Joe Biden is looking to replicate his strong showing on last week's Super Tuesday and widen his delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. 

The Sanders campaign is outspending Biden on the TV and radio airwaves across the six states that hold their nominating contests today — $2.9 million to Biden's almost $2.2 million, according to Advertising Analytics. But Biden's effort has been boosted by spending from his allied super PAC, Unite the Country. 

Both campaigns are spending the most in Michigan — Sanders and Biden have spent about $1.2 million each, with Unite the Country spending another almost $400,000.  

The Biden campaign and his super PAC have also run ads in Missouri and Mississippi, but neither have spent a cent on TV or radio ads in Washington, Idaho and North Dakota.

The Sanders campaign, by comparison, has gone up on the airwaves in all six states voting Tuesday. 

Sanders' top ad across these states, according to Advertising Analytics data, is one that attacks Biden on social security by using audio from a speech in 1995 where he called for a spending freeze across the government. His campaign has spent more than $644,000 to air the ad in states holding votes on Tuesday. 

The Biden campaign has bristled at those attacks, and has spent almost $200,000 in those states on ads that criticize Sanders for going negative and argue Biden has said he'd expand Medicare and Social Security. 

Biden's top ads in the states voting Tuesday are different versions of the same spot, which feature former President Obama's praise of Biden as "an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service." 

And Unite Our Country has spent $376,000 in these states on a spot that quotes Biden talking about his campaign, and includes some brief swipes at Sanders (Biden is quoted int he ad saying he wants to "build on ObamaCare" instead of scrapping it, and "Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat"). 

Biden holds double-digit lead in new Michigan primary poll

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders in Michigan by double digits ahead of tomorrow's presidential primary, a new poll shows. 

Monmouth University's new numbers show Biden with 51 percent support, compared to Sanders' 36 percent.

The former vice president, who has been rising at the polls ever since last month's victory in South Carolina, has a significant edge (of at least double-digits) with white voters, non-white voters, voters aged 50 or over, women, self-described Democrats, moderates and conservatives.

Half of voters say they're firmly decided, 23 percent said they are open to changing their mind, and another 17 percent already voted early. 

Biden and Sanders both have a similar edge over President Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup. Biden leads Trump 48 percent to 41 percent, while Sanders leads 46 percent to 41 percent. 

Monmouth polled 911 registered Michigan voters (411 of which were likely Democratic primary voters) between March 5 and March 8. The margin of error for the larger sample was 3.1 percentage points, while the margin for the smaller sample was 4.8 percent. 

Michigan is becoming the next big battleground in the Democratic presidential primary race. Both Sanders and Biden have dropped about $1 million each on television and radio ads through Monday and there's been a flurry of activity there in recent days. 

The Vermont Independent senator canceled a rally in Mississippi last week to pivot to Michigan to hold events there, held a big rally with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the University of Michigan over the weekend, and won the endorsement of Rev. Jesse Jackson as he makes a play for the state's black voters. 

But Biden has been laser-focused on the state too, rolling out a bevy of endorsements in recent days. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer backed him after his victories on Super Tuesday. And Biden is set to appear in the state on Monday with two former presidential primary rivals, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris, NBC News' Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor report.

Sanders is hopeful he can win the state, like he did in 2016's presidential primary, to give his campaign a jolt of momentum after a tough showing on Super Tuesday. But Sanders' headline-capturing Michigan victory in 2016 only netted him a narrow delegate advantage from the state, which former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton offset by a large margin-of-victory in Mississippi, which holds its primary on the same day as Michigan.

Sanders is at risk of a similar dynamic this year — exit polling from Super Tuesday showed Biden cleaning up with black voters in southern states like Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. 

After it got stymied in Washington, Democrats hope to show key reform package can advance in states

WASHINGTON — Democratic legislators in 10 states are set to introduce a version of the government reform package known as HR-1, which has floundered in the GOP-controlled Senate, as Democrats try to demonstrate they can advance their agenda beyond Washington. 

The group behind the effort told NBC News that the measure is a collection of reforms, including an expansion of voting rights — early voting, same-day registration, and a restoration of rights for former felons — an attempt to end gerrymandering by moving to an independent redistricting process and restrictions on corporate political contributions and the so-called "revolving door" of legislators becoming lobbyists.

House Resolution 1 was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top agenda item after Democrats won back control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. It passed the lower chamber on a party-line vote a year ago Monday, but went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The For the People Act, as both the national and state-level bill is known, will be introduced in a wide wide range of states including battlegrounds like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire and North Carolina, along with some bluer states like Connecticut and Hawaii, and red ones like South Carolina, Missouri and Kentucky. 

The cross-country push is being coordinated by the group Future Now and Future Majority, which together are part of a renewed focus by liberals on statehouses after years of dominance by conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“It’s important to remember that the assault on democracy didn’t start with (President Donald) Trump -- it started in the states,” said Daniel Squadron, a former New York state Senator who is the co-founder and executive director of Future Now. “By expanding access to voting, reducing the power of corporate money in elections, and strengthening ethics and oversight, the For the People Act will ensure that state governments are more accountable, responsive, and focused on the broad public interest, not narrow special interests.” 

The group aims to help Democrats win statehouses, while its policy arm has built an online policy library as part of the research and strategy help it provides to state lawmakers, many of whom have only limited professional staff and expertise at their disposal.

State legislative and gubernatorial races will be especially important in 2020 ahead of next year's decennial redistricting process, which will re-write congressional district lines for the next year, lines that are, in many states, subject to the approval of the state legislature and governor. 

Trump campaign 'proceeding normally,' but no rallies scheduled

WASHINGTON — There are few things President Trump says he enjoys more than a large-scale rally with thousands of cheering supporters. And while he has pledged to keep up the pace amid concerns about large gathering as the coronavirus outbreak intensifies, his re-election campaign has not announced any upcoming rallies for the weeks ahead, marking the first time without one on the calendar this year.

The campaign maintains it is “proceeding normally” and simply hasn’t made any future plans public. “We will announce rallies when we are ready to do so," principal deputy communications director Erin Perrine told NBC News. "President Trump had a town hall this week, a fundraiser, and we have loads of campaign events on the event schedule on the website.” 

Those “events” are mostly smaller gatherings for volunteer trainings but there is one “Women for Trump” event on the books with Second Lady Karen Pence next week in Pennsylvania.

When asked at the CDC on Friday whether he’d considered not having rallies due to coronavirus fears, the president told reporters: “No, I haven’t.” He doubled down on that over the weekend, when he said he expects “tremendous rallies” to take place but did not offer any specifics beyond that.

“We're doing very well.  And we've done a fantastic job with respect to that subject on the virus,” Trump added.

For weeks, the president has maintained that mass gatherings are “very safe.” The president has held 10 rallies so far in 2020 and notably headlined campaign events around every major Democratic voting contest — including in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and North Carolina. This week will mark the first time voters head to the polls without the president continuing his consistent pattern of shadowing the Democratic campaigns this primary season.

It’s worth noting other candidates are continuing to campaign and hold large events, though they have signaled a willingness to adjust plans if guidance from medical professionals changes course. Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday his team is “listening to the experts and the CDC” and they will take “advice from them” on any upcoming mass gatherings.

Biden aides also put out a statement late Sunday night, indicating they "will continue to closely follow guidance offered by federal and local public health officials on the types of events we hold and how we execute them."

Trump has a fundraiser in Longwood, Florida tomorrow but, apart from that, there is no public campaign travel on his schedule. Asked on Saturday about whether elderly people should be concerned about attending political rallies, HHS Sec. Alex Azar told reporters during a White House briefing that he didn’t want to comment in his official capacity but that anyone who is older and has an underlying condition should “exercise caution.”

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed that message in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," saying: “If we continue to see the community spread go up I think you need to seriously look at anything that's a large gathering. Again, you have  to understand… particularly if you're an individual who has an underlying condition and are vulnerable.”

Sanders: 'Establishment put a great deal of pressure on Pete Buttigieg, on Amy Klobuchar' to back Biden

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders said Sunday that the Democratic Party establishment pressured his former presidential primary opponents to back Joe Biden ahead of Super Tuesday. 

Both former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar endorsed Biden in the days before the Super Tuesday contests. The former vice president did better than originally expected in those contests last week, racking up a delegate lead over Sanders and upending the nominating fight. 

"The explanation is not complicated. The establishment put a great deal of pressure on Pete Buttigieg, on Amy Klobuchar who ran really aggressive campaigns," the Vermont Independent senator said.

"I know both of them. They worked really, really hard. But suddenly, right before Super Tuesday, they announced their withdrawal. If they had not withdrawn from the race before Super Tuesday, which was kind of a surprise to a lot of people, I suspect we would have won in Minnesota, we would have won in Maine, we would have won in Massachusetts."

Buttigieg senior adviser Lis Smith responded to Sanders in a tweet, saying that his "decision to get out of the race was his and his alone."

On Sunday, California Sen. Kamala Harris also endorsed Biden

Earlier in the interview, Sanders argued his campaign is well-suited to win the state of Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday, taking shots at Biden's record in the process.

"I think we've got a real shot to win here in Michigan because the agenda that we are talking about is an agenda that works for the working families of this state," Sanders said Sunday on "Meet the Press."

"And furthermore, it really contrasts my views with Joe Biden. Now that we're down a two-way race, I think it is clear for the American people to see where Biden's record is and where my record is."

Sanders pointed to Biden's support for trade agreements, which the Vermont senator said cost Michiganders jobs. And he said that Biden's support from some wealthy donors undercuts his ability to represent the working class. 

He went on to defend from the Biden campaign's argument that negative campaigning will hurt Democrats' ability to defeat President Trump in November, a message the Biden campaign is putting up on the airwaves.  

Biden campaign invests $12 million in ad buys

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Former Vice President Joe Biden is taking his recent influx in money and pouring more into TV, radio and digital ads than ever before. The campaign is investing $12 million in total paid media in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — states that all vote within the next two weeks.

Of the $12 million, $8 million is being allotted behind two TV ads in markets across all six states.

In a new ad called "Always", the Biden campaign goes after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, pointing out that after Biden’s numerous wins on Super Tuesday “Sanders has gone on the attack” on Social Security.

 

 

“Politifact has called the Sanders campaign attacks false. Joe Biden has always been a strong supporter of social security,” the narrator says in the 30-second ad. “Negative ads will only help Donald Trump. It's time we bring our party together.”

Both presidential candidates have gone after each other about their Social Security records since January when Sanders said Biden had wanted to cut Social Security benefits. Biden has denied those assertions.

 

The second ad, entitled "Service", has aired in numerous states already and focuses on former President Barack Obama honoring Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

 

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.

Image: Supporters cheer for Joe Biden as polls close in South Carolina on Feb. 29, 2020.
Supporters cheer for Joe Biden as polls close in South Carolina on Feb. 29, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

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. 

Image: Joe Biden speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.
Joe Biden speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Tom Gralish / The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

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.

Image: Conservatives Gather At Annual CPAC Event
Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2020 in National Harbor, Md,. on Feb. 28, 2020.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

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.

Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jennifer Wexton at a swearing-ceremony during the opening session of the new Congress on Jan. 3, 2019.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jennifer Wexton at a swearing-ceremony during the opening session of the new Congress on Jan. 3, 2019.Susan Walsh / AP

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.

Aliscia Andrews
Aliscia Andrews.Courtesy Aliscia Andrews

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.

Joe Biden and Tim Kaine
Joe Biden and Tim Kaine at a campaign rally at The American Civil War Center in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 5, 2012.Steve Helber / AP file

 

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).

 

Steyer has an ad evoking Obama too, as does the Super PAC backing Warren. And a new Sanders spot shows him walking with Obama.

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. 

Image: Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg at a caucus night event in Las Vegas on Feb. 22, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

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.

Image: Tom Perez
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez addresses the Women's March at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on Jan. 20, 2018.Cliff Owen / AP file

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. 

Image: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to guests during a campaign stop at the Winyah Indigo Society Hall on Feb. 26, 2020 in Georgetown, South Carolina.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to guests during a campaign stop at the Winyah Indigo Society Hall on Feb. 26, 2020 in Georgetown, South Carolina.Scott Olson / Getty Images

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." 

Pelosi projects unity of House Democrats as Sanders rises

WASHINGTON — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., projected complete unity within the House Democratic Caucus Thursday when it comes to the idea of backing the eventual presidential nominee of their party. 

At Pelosi’s weekly press conference, NBC News asked Pelosi what she’s telling her members about Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who might be nervous about what his possible victory in the Democratic race would mean for down-ballot races. 

“The presidential is its own race. Contrary to what you may be hearing or writing, we are not getting — we are all unified. Whoever the nominee is of our party, we will wholeheartedly support,” she said. “Our gospel is one of unity, unity, unity. So I don’t have the experience that you may have described."

Pelosi said that her responsibility is to win the House again in November with a “mainstream and non-menacing” message. When asked if Sanders has been delivering such a message, she demurred. The Speaker of the House said that Democrats already demonstrated their ability to win in the 2018 midterms by owning the ground game with their mobilization efforts, messaging and money. 

Pelosi added that the Democratic Party will support the candidate who wins a majority of delegates, which is not what Sanders has previously said he would do if the situation arose.

“Whoever the nominee is, we will support with respect for his or her positions and hopefully with their respect for our positions as well," Pelosi said.

CPAC speakers celebrate Romney's absence, prompting cheers

OXON HILL, Md. — Multiple speakers at the 2020 Conservative Political Action Conference took aim at Senator Mitt Romney Thursday morning, celebrating the Utah GOP senator's absence from CPAC and prompting applause from the crowd.

During a session featuring Republican Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said he feels “a little tongue in cheek” about Romney.

Image: Former Republican Presidential candidate Romney acknowledges supporters as he speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Maryland
Mitt Romney acknowledges supporters as he speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md. on March 15, 2013.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

Schlapp said that not having Romney at CPAC “worked out just fine,” which resulted in cheers from the audience.

“You can stand for that too,” Schlapp added.

Meadows retorted by asking Schlapp, "You mean they would rather have Donald Trump here than Mitt Romney?”

Schlapp excluded Romney from the event after the senator broke with the GOP and President Donald Trump during the impeachment trial, voting to convict the president on one article of impeachment.

Schlapp noted he’d be worried for the senator’s “physical safety" if he attended the conference.

The President of Turning Point USA, a non-profit organization that aims to educate and organize primarily conservative students to “promote freedom” per its website, name-checked Romney for his vote.

Charlie Kirk labelled the impeachment of Donald Trump an unconstitutional sham. The mention of Romney's name sparked booing from the crowd.

"Every time his name is mentioned, you should respond that way," Kirk said. "Because he lied to every single person in this room that knocked on doors for him, that made phone calls for him, that donated to his campaign."

Kirk also accused Romney of belonging to the "same political class that President Trump ran against,” even accusing President Barack of Obama of being a “Marxist president” that Romney was supposed to crusade against.

CPAC continues through Sunday with headliners like Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and President Trump attending the days-long event. The conference theme is "America vs. Socialism."

Klobuchar cleans up on endorsements — from newspaper editorial boards

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has been raking in the endorsements — from newspaper editorial boards.

Despite not having large numbers of congressional or celebrity supporters that some of the other candidates have, Klobuchar has received the backing of a dozen newspaper editorial boards. 

The papers formally supporting Klobuchar span across early and Super Tuesday states, from New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada as well as several publications in upcoming primary states like the San Francisco Chronicle, Mercury News/East Bay Times, the Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times. 

Image: Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar meets with supporters and volunteers at one of her campaign offices on Nevada Caucus day in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 22, 2020.Patrick Fallon / Reuters

“We have our sights not just on Super Tuesday but beyond since Washington state is a week after Super Tuesday," Klobuchar said at a kick-off event at her Las Vegas office on the morning of the Nevada caucuses while ticking off the endorsements. "We're really excited about what's happening as we go forward.”

Klobuchar only has six endorsements from fellow members of Congress, all but one coming from fellow Minnesotans.

Two of the candidate's editorial board endorsements were split with other candidates. The New York Times endorsement was shared with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and the Las Vegas Weekly backing was joint with former Vice President Joe Biden.

She did lose out on the endorsement of The Boston Globe, which went to Warren, and The State — the second largest newspaper in South Carolina — which went to Pete Buttigieg. 

While the editorial boards consist of largely white, educated people across the country, Klobuchar nevertheless argues that she can appeal to a large, diverse electorate and offer voters the “receipts” of her record to prove that she can get things done.

Courting the endorsements is part of the strategy, campaign staff told NBC News, to put Klobuchar in front of a broad swath of voters to win them over.

“It’s time for Democrats to look beyond fiery speeches, beyond big ticket promises devoid of price tags, and if possible, beyond the cinematic beckoning of that billionaire button-down Messiah stalking your smartphone," the Houston Chronicle editorial board wrote. The newspaper added that people simply have to ask: "Who can really get things done?”

“Who can get proposals past the gauntlets of the federal judiciary and congressional gridlock? In the current field only Klobuchar and Joe Biden have a track record of bipartisan effectiveness in Washington," the editorial board continued. "Biden, in his third bid for president, hasn’t articulated the fresh vision needed.”

The recent endorsement did, however, bring up previous reporting about how Klobuchar treats her staff, noting that “if Klobuchar wants Americans to believe she’s the decent, empathetic antidote to Trump, she should prove it with her staff.”

In her most recent endorsement from the Bangor Daily News, a small newspaper in Maine, the paper said that Klobuchar was the only candidate to speak to them, and that she “brings needed realism, a track record of hard work, and an understanding of rural America to the job."

Amy Klobuchar.
Amy Klobuchar.NBC News

According to the Maine newspaper, "she also has a record of winning in more conservative rural areas and among swing voters, important qualities in a Democratic nominee who will face President Donald Trump in November.”

The Bangor Daily News also argued that having Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the nominee poses “a danger for Democrats."

"Having an avowed socialist at the top of the ticket could hurt the party’s candidates for the U.S. House and Senate,” the editorial board said, echoing a point that Klobuchar herself has often insinuated on the trail. 

Biden holds big lead in new South Carolina primary poll

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a 20-point lead over Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in a new Monmouth University poll of South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary, with 36 percent to Sanders' 16 percent. 

With the Palmetto State primary this coming Saturday, philanthropist and billionaire Tom Steyer sits at 15 percent, the only other candidate to hit double-digits in the poll. 

On which side of the 15-percent mark candidates like Steyer and Sanders hit will be important, if Saturday's results hem close to the poll's findings. That's because 19 of the state's delegates to the Democratic National Convention are allocated proportionately by the statewide results of the primary, but are only split amongst the candidates who reach that 15-percent threshold. 

Image: Joe Biden shakes hands with Rep. James Clyburn, R-S.C., after receiving Clyburn's endorsement for president in North Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 26, 2020.
Joe Biden shakes hands with Rep. James Clyburn, R-S.C., after receiving Clyburn's endorsement for president in North Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 26, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Behind the top three candidates in the poll are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 8 percent, former South bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 6 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 4 percent and Hwaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard with 1 percent. 

Fifteen percent of likely primary voters told Monmouth that they were undecided, and only 40 percent of likely primary voters said they were set on their choice. 

When just looking at black voters, who typically make up the majority of the South Carolina Democratic primary electorate, Biden holds an even bigger lead. He has support from 45 percent of black voters, compared to Steyer's 17 percent and Sanders' 13 percent. 

Biden has long been banking on South Carolina, a state in which he has formed deep relationships during his time in politics and one where black voters (one of his strongest constituencies) are are powerful voting bloc.

But Steyer has invested heavily there, spending more than $20 million on the airwaves through Thursday, according to Advertising Analytics. 

And Sanders is looking to ride his strong showings in the first three nominating contests into South Carolina, where all of the candidates are looking for a bounce ahead of Super Tuesday, which comes just days after the primary. 

Biden campaign mobilizes in Super Tuesday states

GEORGETOWN, S.C. — The Biden campaign said Wednesday it’s launching a new six-figure, “multi-channel” paid media campaign in Super Tuesday states to push early voting – with a special emphasis on reaching African American voters.

The ad “Service,” which has been running in SC this week including just before the debate and features President Obama’s remarks when he presented Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom, will be on the air in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The ad buys will target shows and stations that over-perform with African American viewership, the campaign said. Separately, the campaign will run radio ads in Texas and North Carolina talking about how Biden will build on the Obama legacy. 

In California, North Carolina and Texas, they are running digital ads on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube also focused on the early vote. 

Those television ads will be Biden's first primarily targeted to Super Tuesday states — other ads have run in states holding elections on Super Tuesday, but those ads aired in markets that also covered portions of the early primary states (like the Boston media market, which covers large portions of New Hampshire). 

The campaign calls its limited ad spending “strategic” — another way of reflecting the campaign’s limited ability to compete with deep-pocketed rivals on the airwaves in Super Tuesday states. Through Tuesday, Biden's camp had only spent about $46,000 there on television and radio advertising, according to Advertising Analytics, the least of any Democratic candidate left on the ballot. 

And Biden's affiliated super-PAC, Unite the County, hasn't run an ad in a Super Tuesday state either. 

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has already spent $172.3 million in those states, while billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer has spent more than $35 million. Both are funding their own campaigns with their massive personal wealth. 

Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign has spent $11 million in Super Tuesday states; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has spent $1.7 million; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has spent $543,000; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has spent $338,000 and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has. spent $363,000. 

Super-PACs backing Warren and Klobuchar are also up on the air, and all of those campaigns have more ad spending already booked. 

So no matter the total size of the six-figure investment, Biden will still trail the Super Tuesday television and radio spending of most of, if not all of his rivals. 

Separately, the campaign announced today a reallocation of staff in the states that follow Super Tuesday – Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, Missouri and Washington – in addition to staff already in California, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Florida.

In a statement, Biden campaign Super Tuesday States director Molly Ritner said: "Over the past few months, we have continued to build a strong team on the ground in Super Tuesday states — and we’re excited today to add to our Super Tuesday team while also building out our battleground state operation. Joe Biden has built the broad and diverse coalition that we know it will take to beat Donald Trump, and these resources will allow us to continue to bring the Vice President’s message to the voters that we know make up the base of our party.”

Jim Clyburn endorses Joe Biden

CHARLESTON, S.C. — House Majority Whip, and influential South Carolina Democrat, Rep. Jim Clyburn made his endorsement of Joe Biden official on Wednesday morning, praising the former vice president's record and years of service for the state. 

Clyburn's endorsement comes after NBC News learned he would endorse the former Vice President, but held off on the announcement until after Tuesday night's Democratic debate. Clyburn first announced the endorsement in a tweet, before appearing with Biden in person, writing, "Joe Biden has stood for the hard-working people of South Carolina. We know Joe, but more importantly, he knows us." 

However, Clyburn said he struggled to decide if he should make an endorsement in this race even though he had long decided who he would vote for. He said it was not until he met an elderly constituent at his accountant’s Richland County funeral last week that Clyburn realized he could not stay silent. The constituent said they were waiting to hear from Clyburn before deciding who they would vote for. 

"I decided, then and there, that I would not stay silent," Clyburn said. 

Clyburn continued, "I want the public to know that I am voting for Joe Biden, South Carolina should be voting for Joe Biden." 

As the House Majority Whip and the longest serving Democrat from South Carolina, Clyburn’s influence in the “first-in-the-South” primary is immense given his extensive networks to mobilize support. While his endorsement was not a surprise, it comes at a time when Biden needed an extra vote of confidence to prevent opponents from eroding his support among African American community.

"Nobody with whom I've ever worked with public life, is anymore committed to that motto, that pledge that I have to my constituents than Joe Biden," Clyburn said. "I know his heart, I know who he is, I know what he is." 

Following Clyburn’s remarks, Biden was visibly emotional, wiping away tears from his eyes as he recounted how kind Clyburn and his deceased wife Emily have been to him throughout his career. Echoing Clyburn, Biden boldly stated that South Carolinians and the country are not talking about wanting a “revolution” — a jab at Sen. Bernie Sanders. Instead, he said people are looking for results, which he and Clyburn have been able to do at the national level when they spearheaded the Affordable Care Act and Recovery Act through Congress.

"Jim has a voice of powerful, powerful moral clarity that's heard loud and clear in the nation's capital, and he always reminds us, reminds everyone on both sides of the aisle that it's about you, family and community," Biden said. 

He continued, "I'm here, heart and soul, with everything I've got to earn the support of the people of South Carolina." 

Biden's strategy relies on him to do well in South Carolina to give him necessary momentum going into Super Tuesday next week. Projecting confidence, Biden believed that if he wins South Carolina with the help of Clyburn and his constituents, there will be no stopping his campaign.

"If you send me out of South Carolina with a victory, there will be no stopping us. We will win the nomination, we will win the presidency and most importantly we'll the eliminate the fear so many have in this country of a second term of Donald Trump," Biden said.  

New Buttigieg campaign memo outlines strategy for Super Tuesday and beyond

CHARLESTON, S.C. —  More than one third of the total delegates to the Democratic National Convention are up for grabs in Democratic primary races on Super Tuesday, and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is asserting that he has no intention of exiting the Democratic race before then.

A new campaign memo, obtained by NBC News, states, “this race will not be determined on Super Tuesday” if Buttigieg is able to raise enough money to stay in the competition for the long haul and limit Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to no more than a lead of 350 pledged delegates on March 3. 

The memo outlines that the Buttigieg campaign’s focus is less about winning specific states and, instead, about targeting specific congressional districts and blunting Sanders’ momentum. 

Image: Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Carson City, Nev., on Feb. 17, 2020.
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Carson City, Nev., on Feb. 17, 2020.Eric Thayer / Reuters

“In the current multi-candidate field, Super Tuesday contests are highly favorable to Senator Sanders, but his position will diminish dramatically as the field of candidates narrows and contests move to the Midwest,” the memo states. 

Internal polling and research suggests that voters casting ballots in the March 10th and 17th contests, are “much more favorable” to Buttigieg, per the memo. 

“We know that if we do not shrink Sanders’ margin of victory coming out of Super Tuesday, he will have too great a lead in the delegate race for anyone to catch up,” the memo reads. 

The Buttigieg campaign’s strategy for trimming Sanders’ margins in Super Tuesday states will include ad buys to help bolster the name recognition of the mayor to peel off Sanders’ support by congressional district — where delegates are up for grabs by any candidate who can get at least 15 percent support. 

On Tuesday, Buttigieg launched advertisements for the first time in all Super Tuesday states except Tennessee and Utah, with a $3.5 million investment in 22 specific media markets targeting congressional districts through the local and national cable television airwaves, digital efforts and on Hulu and Roku.

“Because of how delegates are awarded at the individual district level, we can precisely target each district on platforms like YouTube and Facebook without any geographic spillage.” the memo explains.

Buttigieg is also slated to target these areas with in-person public campaign events in this final week. He plans to visit Selma, Ala., Austin, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Okla. 

However, the campaign will need to raise more money to be competitive in these states.The campaign, which has said it employed more than 500 individuals on staff, is explicit in the memo in its need to raise $13 million by Super Tuesday to stay competitive. 

The Buttigieg campaign did not move resources to several Super Tuesday states until just over a week ago and they’re going up with their first television ads this week lagging behind many of their competitors. 

A new 30-second spot titled, “Urgent” will run in 12 Super Tuesday states: Alabama, Arkansans, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. 

The campaign is banking on the premise that the field “will significantly winnow after Super Tuesday,” and ultimately, this plan will only work if the moderate lane of candidates gets smaller.

A senior Buttigieg aide told NBC News, “I think it's incumbent on anyone who doesn’t have a clear path to think long and hard about staying in the race.” 

Bloomberg surrogates preview debate tactics against Sanders

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Hours ahead of the Democratic debate in South Carolina, surrogates for former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg held a press conference targeting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the need for him to be “vetted” now that he’s a “front-runner.”

Rep. Greg Meeks, D-N.Y., Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin, Augusta, Ga. Mayor Hardie Davis, former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Flint, Mich. Mayor Karen Weaver — all elected officials of color — slammed Sanders for his record, particularly on gun control.

“We need a candidate who's fully vetted that can go on to defeat Donald Trump. We don't believe that Senator Sanders has passed this test,” said Benjamin.

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders walks behind Mike Bloomberg at a Democratic presidential primary debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders walks behind Mike Bloomberg at a Democratic presidential primary debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, 2020.Mike Blake / Reuters

All of the speakers at the press conference hit Sanders’ multiple votes against the Brady bill, legislation which required a waiting period for gun purchases and background checks.

“No one, not any of them, has a perfect record when it comes to the issues that are important to the black community,” Meeks said. “Too often Bernie Sanders has been on the wrong side of history, missing in action or unable to make progress on virtually every issue for black voters.”

Meeks noted that while Bloomberg has apologized for his past mistakes on policies such as stop and frisk, Sanders “has not been clear” in where he has failed on issues like gun reform.

“While we welcome that Bernie Sanders has changed his position on some things, he has strongly criticized other Democratic candidates for their previous policies, even after they have acknowledged they were wrong,” Meeks added.

The campaign surrogates also promised a "180 degree shift" in Bloomberg's debate performances. 

"Number one, I think that the first half of the debate when you had over sixty people attacking him, it was a poor response," Meeks said on Bloomberg's first debate performance. "He's gotta defend himself. I think he did better in the second half of the debate. And I think that you'll see a 180 degree shift tonight."

How previous Dems won South Carolina and the nomination

WASHINGTON — As 2020 candidates prepare for the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday, the focus is on black voters, a growing base for the party in the Palmetto State and a key voting bloc for eventual party nominees in past elections. The demographic makes up about two-thirds of the state's Democratic electorate. 

Every Democratic winner in South Carolina’s primary since 1992 has ultimately become the party’s nominee except for John Edwards. Though Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leads the 2020 field in delegates after first and second place finishes in multiple early states, he'll likely need to overcome his past challenges in South Carolina to clear his path to the nomination.

Image: Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party "First in the South" dinner on Feb. 24, 2020 in Charleston, S.C.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

His 2016 primary finish was disappointing in South Carolina, especially among black voters. Hillary Clinton carried 74 percent of the state with Sanders trailing nearly 50 percentage points behind her, according to exit polls.

The racial breakdown between the two candidates’ supporters in the state was starkly different. Among Clinton voters in the primary, 71 percent identified as black while 64 percent of Sanders’ backers identified as white.

2008 primary exit polls show that Barack Obama won over about double the vote share of Clinton, including 80 percent of the black vote but less than one-fourth of white voters in the Palmetto State. 

General election exit polls from 2004 show that blacks only made up about 30 percent of voters but with a vast majority — 85 percent — supporting John Kerry.

Going into tonight’s debate in South Carolina, Joe Biden leads among likely Democratic voters and African-Americans in the state in the latest NBC News/Marist poll out Monday. This comes despite his weak performances in the early states thus far.

Sanders only trails Biden by 4 points — 23 to 27 percent support respectively — with likely Democratic voters in South Carolina. In the black subset of this group, the senator is 15 points behind Biden with only 20 percent support.

Billionaire entrepreneur Tom Steyer comes in a close third with 19 percent from black voters.

The poll was conducted before the Nevada caucuses, a heavily diverse state that Sanders won by more than a two-to-one margin. 

The seven candidates on the ballot and still in the race will compete for 54 pledged delegates to the National Democratic Convention, the greatest number of delegates up for grabs in the campaign cycle so far. Mike Bloomberg will not be on the ballot and South Carolina cancelled its Republican primary.

Biden clinches support from all House Dems from N.C.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — In the race to Super Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden has an advantage at least when it comes down to Congressional endorsements across the fourteen states voting next week. On Tuesday, Biden clinched all three Democratic House members from North Carolina when Rep. David price joined fellow N.C. Reps. G.K. Butterfield and Alma Adams. 

And that endorsement comes as Biden tries to indicate he has the best chance to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary contest. 

Biden has a total of 48 Congressional endorsers from both the House and the Senate, according to NBC News’ count, including 20 from Super Tuesday states alone making him the most endorsed Democratic presidential candidate from Congress. NBC News has also learned that South Carolina heavyweight House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is expected to endorse Biden on Wednesday, bringing his total count of Congressional endorsers to 49.

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Nevada Caucus night event in Las Vegas
Joe Biden speaks during a Nevada Caucus night event in Las Vegas, Feb. 22, 2020.Patrick Fallon / Reuters

Biden has also received the most endorsements from House Democrats who flipped their Congressional seats during the 2018 blue wave election. Many of these “front-line” Democrats represent states like Iowa and Texas, and say they need a more moderate candidate like Biden to keep their seats in 2020. Price echoed that in his endorsement.

"This is a critical time in the nominating process. I have worked with many of the candidates directly and have listened carefully to their ideas. I respect the commitment that each has brought to the race and I will gladly support whomever our party nominates. However, I believe Joe Biden is the best candidate to unite our party and our nation in a way that ensures Democratic control of not only the White House, but also the House and Senate," Price said in a statement. 

While the impact of endorsements on voters seems to have faded, the Biden campaign says that their influence is critical since their networks bring in the resources and support needed to sustain their campaign operation in Super Tuesday states. Endorsers have often gone on bus tours for Biden in numerous early primary states while Biden was competing elsewhere.

Biden endorsers in Super Tuesday states may also become necessary for the campaign as they have yet to start airing ads in Super Tuesday states. 

Catholic support for Trump is up but bloc favors 2020 Dems, according to new survey

WASHINGTON — A new online poll released Monday finds that Catholic support for President Trump has increased since the end of 2019 despite impeachment, but that Trump loses in head-to-head match-ups against top Democratic challengers among these Catholic voters. 

The latest Eternal World Television Network/RealClear Opinion Research poll, which surveyed 1,521 registered self-identified Catholic voters in the United States, discovered that Joe Biden is the dominant primary and general election candidate.

Image: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Timonthy Dolan
From left, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and his wife Melania Trump, stand for the National Anthem at the 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York , on Oct. 20, 2016.Andrew Harnik / AP file

Among those in the bloc likely to vote in the Democratic primary, Joe Biden leads the pack with 29 percent support. Biden, who identifies as a Catholic, also beats Trump by the greatest amount among the Democratic candidates in a hypothetical general election face-off, garnering 51 percent support versus Trump’s 40 percent.

Within the primary, Biden is followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with 24 percent and Mike Bloomberg, who surged from seventh place to third place in Catholic support, up 15 points since November. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., follows the former New York City mayor, and Pete Buttigieg comes in last among the top contenders.

In head-to-heads with Trump, the places just about hold. Sanders leads Trump by 9 points, 50 percent to 41 percent. Bloomberg also beats Trump by 9 points, 48 versus 39 percent. Warren is next in line with a six-point advantage — 48 to 42 percent.

Buttigieg faces the narrowest gap of the competitive 2020 candidates in a contest with President Trump, only ahead by 4 points. 

Despite Trump’s weaker performances against potential Democratic rivals, the president’s overall approval rating did increase among registered Catholic voters surveyed. President Trump’s job approval among Catholics stands at 47 percent — less than half of the group though up from 44 percent in November.

The demographic was starkly divided on how they’ll vote in 2020. About one-third of Catholics said they will definitely vote for Trump in 2020 while slightly more reported that they will never vote to reelect the president.

Trump’s support stems primarily from participants who consider themselves devout or active Catholics, about one fifth of those polled. That 18 percent of devout Catholics was also a more diverse group of voters with large shares of Latinos and women. 

Among this subset, Trump’s approval rating was 63 percent. A majority of these devout Catholics — 59 percent — said that they plan to vote for the president while just 20 percent said they’ll vote to oppose Trump. 

In 2016 exit polls, 23 percent of voters identified as Catholic. President Trump beat Hillary Clinton within that demographic by 4 points, 50 percent to 46 percent.

The poll from RealClearPolitics and EWTN News, a network dedicated to providing news from a Catholic perspective, showed that the Catholic voting bloc is crucial to the president’s reelection bid.

The president’s backing by Catholics stems in part from their approval of the U.S. economy. More than half of Catholics asked said that the country is better off financially than it was before Trump assumed the presidency.

About two-thirds of Catholics interviewed believe that they are personally better off than they were four years ago. 

The survey also discovered that over 40 percent of Catholic voters polled argue that there’s an “anti-Christian” bias in the media. This number rises to 59 percent among the most devout fifth within the bloc.

Monday’s poll is the second of a four-part series pursued by EWTN News and RealClearPolitics. The margin of error was about plus or minus 2.8 percent and participants were interviewed from January 28 to February 4. 

 

Vandalism hits Bloomberg campaign offices across the U.S.

WASHINGTON — At least seven of Mike Bloomberg’s campaign offices have been vandalized over the last two weeks, campaign officials say, in a string of incidents that the Bloomberg campaign has blamed without evidence on Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

In the latest case, discovered early Monday morning, a Chicago office was graffitied with the words “racist,” “sexist,” and “oligarch” spray-painted in red on the windows of the building. Other vandalism at offices in Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee have referenced Bloomberg’s wealth and stop-and-frisk policing policy.

Image: Mike Bloomberg's Knoxville campaign office was vandalized with graffiti on Feb. 21, 2020.
Mike Bloomberg's Knoxville campaign office was vandalized with graffiti on Feb. 21, 2020.Hayes Hickman / Knoxville News Sentinel / via Reuters

Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, called the incident an “act of hate" and referenced the Sanders campaign.

“While we do not know who is directly responsible, we do know Senator Bernie Sanders and his campaign have repeatedly invoked this language, and the word 'oligarch' specifically when discussing Mike Bloomberg and his campaign,” Sheekey said.  “Sen. Sanders’ refusal to denounce these illegal acts is a sign of his inability to lead, and his willingness to condone and promote Trump-like rhetoric has no place in our politics.”

Sheekey called on Sanders to instruct his supporters and staff “to elevate the discourse in this campaign and end their spread of hateful rhetoric.” He suggested the incidents could lead to violence if not tamped down by Sanders, adding, “This needs to end before someone gets hurt.”

No direct evidence has emerged of any involvement from Sanders supporters in the vandalism. The Sanders campaign has not commented on any of the incidents.

The Bloomberg campaign meanwhile, has pointed out that many of the specific phrases graffitied on Bloomberg’s office have been used by Sanders’ top surrogates and staffers, including national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray, senior advisor David Sirota and Rep. Nina Turner, Sanders’ campaign co-chair.

Still, blaming Sanders supporters for at a minimum inspiring the vandalism represents a risky strategy for Bloomberg, who could face questions about a rush to judgement if evidence emerges that another party was to blame. It also opens Bloomberg up to criticism that by trading in unproven allegations against an opponent, he’s using tactics that Democrats have long derided Trump for employing.

The vandalism against Bloomberg’s offices first came to light in mid-February when offices in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Toledo, Ohio, were vandalized. Signs and writing on the windows vilified Bloomberg as a “corporate pig” and an “oligarch,” according to the Bloomberg campaign and local news coverage.

More incidents were soon discovered in Flint, Mich., where an office was defaced with a sign reading, “Eat the Rich,” the campaign said. Late last week, the campaign’s office in Knoxville, Tenn., was defaced with expletives spray-painted in orange, video footage of the office shows.

So far, no one has been injured in the acts of vandalism, the Bloomberg campaign stated.

The incidents come as Bloomberg faces increasing ire from the other 2020 candidates and their supporters for crashing the Democratic primary late in the game and thrusting himself into the top tier with a deluge of spending from his personal fortune. In just a few months, Bloomberg has already poured more than $464 million of his own money into his campaign.

Image: Mike Bloomberg Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders walks behind Mike Bloomberg during a break at the ninth Democratic 2020 U.S. Presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 19, 2020.Mike Blake / Reuters

Yet while Bloomberg has been taking many of the incoming attacks from other Democratic candidates, it’s Sanders who is the clear front-runner and leader in the delegate race following his massive victory in Nevada, where Bloomberg didn't compete.

So as Sanders’ dominance in the race has solidified in the last few days, Bloomberg and the others have increasingly turned their attention to blunting his momentum. Their arguments echoed concerns from the Democratic establishment that Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist, might not only lose to Trump but become an albatross around the necks of down-ballot Democrats, damaging the party’s prospects for keeping the House and flipping control of the Senate in November.

Dan Kanninen, director of states for the Bloomberg campaign, told reporters on Monday that nominating Sanders against a candidate as strong as President Donald Trump would be a “fatal error” for Democrats. Still, he asserted that Bloomberg would support whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee — even if it’s Sanders.

-Gary Grumbach contributed

Steyer poised to make debate return in South Carolina

WASHINGTON — After missing last week's debate in Nevada, billionaire Tom Steyer looks poised to make his return to the stage this week in South Carolina. 

Steyer appears to have qualified as of Sunday morning, after a new CBS News/YouGov poll found him in third place with 18 percent. The billionaire philanthropist has been polling well in the Palmetto State, allowing him to qualify with two state polls of at least 10 percent. 

He stands to be the only addition to Tuesday's debate, as all who qualified for Nevada's debate are locked in and Tulsi Gabbard remains all-but certain to miss the threshold. 

Buttigieg looks to cement viability before Super Tuesday

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — After finishing in the top two in the Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg hoped to shape this Democratic contest as a two-man race between himself and Bernie Sanders, but as voters here make their voices heard today, the field remains diluted

Buttigieg's chief opponents, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, have no plan to exit the race before Super Tuesday. And among each of the campaigns, there's anxiety that the forthcoming results will there's provide little clarity as to which candidate is best positioned to counter a surging Sen. Bernie Sanders and fend off former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s big-spending operation.

On Super Tuesday, March 3, more than half of the total delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be apportioned. And before those states, which might be friendlier to the Buttigieg campaign, Democratic candidates are still trying to prove themselves competitive in Nevada and South Carolina where the majority of the Democratic electorate is voters of color.

And Buttigieg is still struggling to gain their support

“I think he’d be the first to say the candidate who can’t get black and brown support shouldn’t be the president,” a senior Buttigieg campaign official told NBC News. “We will need to demonstrate that we can be successful so we can have the permission structure to go on to Super Tuesday.”

But Buttigieg's best hopes might come from voters who haven't made up their minds yet. Recent polling in Nevada indicates that there is still a sizable part of the electorate that has yet to make up its mind. And in New Hampshire, Buttigieg did well with those voters: Of the 48 percent of New Hampshire voters who said they chose a candidate in the final days, Buttigieg won the largest share of them with 28 percent support. 

Money, though, may be Buttigieg's bigger issue in reaching those voters. 

Recently, Buttigieg sent a fundraising email to supporters decrying Bloomberg's spending. “We are now also up against a billionaire who is throwing colossal sums of money on television instead of doing the work of campaigning,” Buttigieg wrote. “He just expects others to clear a path for him and his money.”

Image: Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Carson City, Nev., on Feb. 17, 2020.
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Carson City, Nev., on Feb. 17, 2020.Eric Thayer / Reuters

In a second fundraising email Buttigieg’s deputy campaign manager, Hari Sevugan, put it more bluntly: “We need to raise $13 million to keep our campaign going through Super Tuesday.”

And in these Super Tuesday states, without money it can feel impossible to get your message across. 

“This isn’t Iowa or New Hampshire. You can walk faster than you can drive around here,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a longtime California political professor. “You have to have a motivated base — and money. You need to have money.”

Buttigieg hits Sanders, Medicare for All in two South Carolina ads

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — As the Democratic primary race heads South, Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out with a new television ad taking direct aim at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on health care.

Buttigieg hit the airwaves in South Carolina on Friday with a new 30-second spot distinguishing his "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan from Sanders’ Medicare for All plan. Ad viewers won't hear those differences from Buttigieg though, they'll hear from a female narrator telling viewers that Medicare for All could force them off their plans. 

“Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” would completely eliminate private insurance, forcing one hundred fifty million Americans off their current plans — including twenty million seniors on Medicare Advantage,” the narrator says as a photo of Sanders sits on screen for nearly 15 seconds.

Then, the ad flips to shots of Buttigieg speaking to and meeting with voters as the narrator describes his health care plan as, “a better way to lower costs and cover everyone.” The spot ends with a pointed pitch for “progress” instead of “polarization.”

Buttigieg has doubled down on this message in several weeks, including during the Democratic debate in Nevada where he called Sanders one of the most "polarizing" candidates. The former mayor has also questioned how exactly the Vermont senator would pay for his health care plan.

Sanders for his part has outlined several options for paying for his plan, but has signaled that the specifics will come later.

"You're asking me to come up with an exact detailed plan of how every American — how much you're going to pay more in taxes, how much I'm going to pay," Sanders told CNBC in October. "I don't think I have to do that right now."

For Buttigieg, this latest television ad buy is part of a one-two punch, coinciding with a new 60-second radio ad titled, “Right Plan,” that contrasts also the two healthcare plans. It also comes as new South Carolina polling suggests Sanders has expanded his base while Buttigieg is making his last efforts to gain traction in the Palmetto State.

Nevada GOP House candidate hopes to gain traction

WASHINGTON — With all eyes on Nevada ahead of tomorrow's presidential caucuses, congressional candidates in the state are also revving up their campaigns. One Republican receiving attention is Lisa Song Sutton, an Asian-American in her thirties, former Miss Nevada, and entrepreneur whose past ventures include founding a boozy cupcake shop. She’s running for the GOP nomination in the state's Fourth Congressional District, currently held by Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford.

Song Sutton told NBC News in a phone interview last month that while politics wasn’t originally part of her plan, she’s running because she feels that Horsford has “gone D.C.” on voters and is a part-time Nevadan failing to represent them.

Raising The Stakes Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament
Model Lisa Song Sutton in Las Vegas in June 2016.Gabe Ginsberg / Getty Images

Song Sutton also argued that she — along with a record-number of Republican women considering runs for Congress  — can offer voters an additional, new face of the GOP in 2020.

“We’re coming from every possible background,” the candidate said. “The GOP knows that it needs to look more like America.”

But before facing Horsford, the former Miss Nevada faces a crowded primary of nearly ten challengers. 

Song Sutton claims she brings something to the table that her competitors don’t, saying her candidacy is about unification and promoting community engagement within the majority minority district. 

“This is my community,” she said, adding that she has ties to even the bluest spots in the district, which spans from Las Vegas to rural areas. “I want to serve it and I think I can do that in a very effective way.”

Song Sutton noted that her 2014 Miss Nevada title helps her candidacy and said her campaign has averaged 2,000 miles each month talking to voters. 

Song Sutton has amassed nearly 32,000 Twitter followers and surpassed her primary rivals in individual contributions for two consecutive quarters. She raised more than $130,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019 and a total of about $258,000 for the year according to FEC filings.

She was the only GOP candidate to finish 2019 with no debt and gained nearly $128,000 in the first 90 days of her campaign  — more than any of her Republican competitors raised in the same amount of time on the trail. 

And her campaign has picked up endorsements from some of the top GOP women in the Silver State, including former Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian and Las Vegas City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman.

Image:
File photo of a Nevada voter registration form at the Lloyd D. George federal courthouse in Las Vegas. ISAAC BREKKEN / AP

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the UVA Center for Politics, told NBC News Wednesday that although Song Sutton led the pack in fundraising last quarter, he doesn’t consider any of the GOP candidates’ performances in that metric “particularly impressive.” 

Kondik stressed however, that Democrats must retain Nevada to win the White House and warned that losing either NV-03 or NV-04 "would be a bad sign for Democratic hopes of winning the House.”

Professor Dan Lee at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas reiterated this point Wednesday, arguing that districts like this “play a role in shifting the balance of majority power in the House." 

Both political experts deem the Fourth Congressional District leaning or likely Democratic.

The filing deadline for the primary is March 13 and Nevadans will vote in the contest on June 9. 

Bloomberg has spent more than $400 million on presidential campaign

LAS VEGAS — Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg spent an unprecedented $220.6 million in the month of January alone on his presidential bid, new campaign finance disclosures show. 

The latest filing sheds even more light on the unprecedented nature of the self-funded bid by one of the world's wealthiest people — Bloomberg spent more money in January than any candidate has ever spent in one calendar month. And overall, he's spent more than $400 million on his campaign so far. 

The Bloomberg campaign told reporters it has so far spent more than $300 million on advertising, $7 million on polling and $9 million in payroll for its more than 2,000-member staff. It's also paid $25.6 million to Hawkfish, the digital-ad firm Bloomberg founded, which Bloomberg plans on retaining through November to mount an effort against President Trump even if he does not emerge victorious in the Democratic nomination fight. 

Bloomberg isn’t accepting any donations from supporters, but currently has about $55.1 million to spend in cash on hand. A campaign aide emphasized that Bloomberg will spend whatever it takes to defeat Trump, and that this number isn’t indicative of the remaining budget of the campaign. 

Biden makes emotional speech to pass gun reform legislation

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Former Vice President Joe Biden made an emotional commitment to pass gun reform legislation if elected president of the United States on Thursday — calling anyone who has not and would not support the movement "cowards".

Speaking just miles away from the site of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, Biden delivered a passionate plea for politicians to finally put families touched by gun violence over gun manufacturer’s interests. 

During his speech, he scorned Republicans and some Democrats, specifically naming Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for voting to protect gun manufacturers from being sued by individuals touched by gun violence. Even though he acknowledged that Sanders’ viewpoints on the issue has changed, he called it “immoral” for anyone to have ever voted in favor of immunity.

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Campaigns In Las Vegas Area Of Nevada
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks in Henderson, Nev., on Feb, 14, 2020.Alex Wong / Getty Images

“Folks, it's just flat out immoral. It's just flat out immoral. You know, too many Republicans and some Democrats, like Bernie Sanders, voted five times against the Brady bill that I was passing.”

Biden added, “Every day that we do nothing about this epidemic of assaults and assault weapons, high capacity magazines in our streets, is an insult.”

The former vice president has often referred to the broken and divisive politics surrounding gun violence at his campaign stops, but he has elevated the rhetoric since touching down in Las Vegas where 59 people were killed in a 2017 mass shooting. His more forceful words promising reform both at events and in TV ads are intentional, the Biden campaign says, since the issue is one of the most important to caucus-goers in Nevada. 

“Why in God’s name can we say that we can't do anything about a hundred and fifty thousand people being shot dead in the United States of America,” Biden said raising his voice. “Look, why are guns different? Because of cowardness. Because of cowards. Cowards who are afraid to take on these special interest because they are so damn powerful.”

Biden became visibly emotional, putting his hands over his face and wiping away tears at one point, after hearing Stephanie Pizzoferratto talk about losing her four-year-old daughter to a stray bullet. 

“For all the people across the country, normal, normal has become living a nightmare,” Biden said after alluding to how quickly one’s life can change due to gun violence.

Biden said that if he’s elected president he will send Congress legislation on day one of his presidency that would repeal the liability protection for gun manufacturers and close the background check loopholes and waiting periods. 

But if he’s not elected president, Biden said he would commit the rest of his life to defeating the NRA’s influence.

“Whether I am your president or I am a citizen fighting for it, I promise you I will not rest until we beat these guys because it is immoral what's happening,” Biden said. “I promise you, if I'm your next president they're going to be held accountable because I am coming after them.”

 

Bloomberg surpasses Warren in major endorsements after debate debut

WASHINGTON — Mike Bloomberg has officially surpassed Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in presidential endorsements from members of Congress and governors after his debut on the debate stage Wednesday night. 

With the Nevada caucuses set for Saturday, Warren still does not have any major endorsements from politicians in the Silver State. Bloomberg will not be on the ballot in Nevada.

Image:
Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP

Joe Biden is the sole Democratic candidate with formal support from a Nevadan. Rep. Steven Horsford, the Democratic member for NV-04, endorsed the former Vice President on February 14. Biden leads the pack with a whopping 49 official backings from members of the House and Senate, along with governors of several states. 

Bloomberg picked up three endorsements Thursday following his first debate appearance, stealing Warren’s second place spot. The former New York City mayor has a total of 17 endorsements — 16 from U.S. Representatives and one from Rhode Island’s Democratic governor.

Warren now takes the bronze for endorsements with 14 in total.

Bloomberg’s latest endorsements came from Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Pete Aguilar, and Nita Lowey of New Jersey, California, and New York respectively. 

Warren, who slipped in the polls as Bloomberg surged, repeatedly took swipes at the billionaire philanthropist at Wednesday’s debate hosted by NBC News. 

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” she said early in the night. “A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

Bloomberg was a primary target on the debate stage and has been widely criticized for his policies and wealth by other candidates. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., takes fourth place in formal support with nine major endorsements. Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Sound Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg are tied with seven. Klobuchar and Buttigieg are viewed as competing for the same voter support and clashed several times at the debate.

Both Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who is still in the 2020 race, and entrepreneur Tom Steyer — who did not qualify for last night’s debate — have no official support from members of Congress or governors. 

New PAC backs Warren with seven-figure Nevada ad buy

LAS VEGAS — A new PAC launched by four female activists is now supporting presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with a seven-figure ad buy in Nevada ahead of Saturday’s caucuses.

The ad aired by Persist PAC, which isn’t authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee, features images of the senator with President Barack Obama, arguing that Warren will take President Trump “on and win.”

“When you don’t grow up rich, you learn how to work. When you take on Wall Street, you know how to fight,” the narrator says. 

When asked for comment, the Warren campaign disavowed PACs broadly but did not specifically mention Persist PAC. 

“Senator Warren’s position hasn’t changed,” the campaign said. “Since day one of this campaign, she has made clear that she thinks all of the candidates should lock arms together and say we don’t want Super PACs and billionaires to be deciding our Democratic nominee.”

At the last Democratic debate, Warren boasted that everyone on the stage except for her and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is “either a billionaire or is receiving help from PACs that can do unlimited spending.”

Warren has also repeatedly criticized former Mike Bloomberg this week for buying the election, even labeling him a “egomaniac billionaire” on Twitter. 

A source involved with Persist PAC told NBC News that the group’s founders believe Warren is the best person to become president and that they need to help elect her in order to enact the campaign finance change she often talks about on the trail. 

To do that, they said, requires informing voters and getting the word out about her, working within the rules as they are currently written.

Image: Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren addresses the Care in Action Domestic Worker Meeting in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 18, 2020.David Becker / Reuters

Separately, the Vice President of Communications at EMILY’s List,  Christina Reynolds, confirmed that her organization has given $250,000 to Persist PAC. It’s not an endorsement, but EMILY’s List is donating to the group along with one outside organization backing Klobuchar.

“EMILY’s List was created to elect pro-choice Democratic women and we are proud of the campaigns both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren are running,” Reynolds told NBC News. “While we respect their views and agree on the need for campaign finance reform, we believe this election is too important and we want to do what we can within the bounds of existing law to support them. We have made equal donations of $250,000 to each organization.”

Biden debuts new web ad hitting Bloomberg on Obama criticisms

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Frustrated over Mike Bloomberg’s television blitz casting himself as a stalwart ally of President Barack Obama, Joe Biden’s campaign is hitting the former mayor with a new online video spotlighting his past criticism of the administration.

Playing off the Bloomberg campaign’s attempt to build a viral online following with Instagram memes, the Biden video includes clip after clip of Bloomberg criticizing Obama on health care (calling Obamacare “a disgrace”), race relations (faulting him for not doing more to “pull people together”), climate change (saying “Obama did basically nothing.”

For good measure, it also features Bloomberg with kind words for President Donald Trump before the fellow New York billionaire ran for president. 

After the video's release, Bloomberg released his own video on Twitter which showed Biden complimenting Bloomberg on his work on public health and environmental causes. 

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."

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. 

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. 

A new Super PAC gets behind Amy Klobuchar ahead of Super Tuesday

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Kitchen Table Conversations, a new political action committee supporting Amy Klobuchar, which filed with the FEC last Friday, is the first Super PAC to back the Minnesota senator's candidacy.

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.”

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. 

Dry runs for November

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. 

Image: President Donald Trump greets supporters at a rally in Las Vegas on Sept. 20, 2018.
President Donald Trump greets supporters at a rally in Las Vegas on Sept. 20, 2018.Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images

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.

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

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. 

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.

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In New Hampshire Ahead Of First Primary Contest
Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., shake hands as Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., look on prior to the start of the Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 7, 2020 in Manchester, N.H.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

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: 

  • Steyer: $14.0M
  • Sanders: $1.8M
  • Buttigieg: $1.2M
  • Warren: $1.2M
  • Biden: $1.1M
  • Trump: $859K
  • Klobuchar: $792K
  • 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.

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.  

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.

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates pose together before the start of their debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S.
Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren gather onstage before the start of the debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 7, 2020.Brendan McDermid / Reuters file

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.

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."

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. 

And when Bloomberg entered the presidential race in November, de Blasio said his mayoral tenure has been undoing Bloomberg's policies. 

"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.

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. 

The ad buy also comes as Klobuchar continues to trail the other leading contenders in South Carolina, and among voters of color. South Carolina's primary will take place on Feb. 29.  

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. 

Image: Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a Get Out the Vote rally at Elm Street Middle School on Feb. 9, 2020 in Nashua, N.H.Win McNamee / Getty Images

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.

Image: Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 13, 2020.
Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 13, 2020.Jonathan Drake / Reuters

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.

Image: US-VOTE-2020-DEMOCRATS-DEBATE
Tom Steyer participates in the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images file

“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.” 

Image: Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event on Feb. 5, 2020, in Providence, R.I.David Goldman / AP file

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.

Image: Donald Trump Jr. speaks with his brother Eric and wife Lara, as well as his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle during a "Keep Iowa Great" press conference in Des Moines
Donald Trump Jr. speaks with his brother Eric and wife Lara, as well as his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle in Des Moines, Iowa on Feb. 3, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

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

WASHINGTON — The Nevada Democratic Party released a memo to reporters Tuesday morning detailing the early voting process that will take place ahead of state’s caucuses next Saturday, 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, states in the memo originally sent to Nevada campaign staff Monday.

Image: Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden prepare to caucus for him in the gymnasium at Roosevelt High School
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden prepare to caucus for him in the gymnasium at Roosevelt High School, Feb. 3, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

“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. 

President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally on Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H.
President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally on Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H.Evan Vucci / AP

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.

The Minnesota senator has ridden a wave of post-debate momentum the last three days: raising more than $3 million and jumping to third in one prominent tracking poll.

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.

New Hampshire leaders stay on the sidelines ahead of primary

WASHINGTON — Less than 24 hours before the New Hampshire primary, the only member of Congress from the state who is endorsing a presidential candidate is Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster.

Kuster, who has represented New Hampshire's second district since 2013, announced her endorsement of former South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, on January 15.

Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg visits The Works Cafe with U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH) in Concord
Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg visits The Works Cafe with Rep. Annie Kuster in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 17, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

“With our country so consumed by division, @PeteButtigieg is the leader who can finally turn the page on the Trump presidency and bring our nation together," Kuster tweeted that day. "He has the courage to break from the past to lead us to a better future — I'm excited to endorse him to be our next president."

Buttigieg shortly after thanked Kuster for her backing, writing in a statement that amid a time of dysfunction in Washington, Kuster has united constituents and “spent her career delivering results for New Hampshire families." 

The congresswoman co-chairs the campaign and has hit the trail with Buttigieg. 

No other national politicians from the state have yet to formally support a 2020 presidential candidacy for the first-in-the-nation primary. The Granite State's lack of endorsements also stands in contrast with the number of Iowan endorsements issued ahead of last week’s caucuses.

Three out of four congressional districts in Iowa are represented by Democrats and all of them announced endorsements of 2020 Democrats prior to the February 3 caucus in the state.

Democratic Reps. Abby Finkaneur and Cindy Axne of IA-01 and IA-03 respectively endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in January. David Loebsack of the Hawkeye State’s second district endorsed Buttigieg the same month.

Sanders, Buttigieg raised more money online in N.H. than rest of Democratic field

WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg sit at the top of the polls in New Hampshire one day before the state's primary. And new data shows they raised more money online from the state last year than the rest of the Democratic presidential field. 

Sanders raised the most New Hampshire online dollars of any candidate in 2019 through the Democratic online-fundraising platform ActBlue. He raised $727,410 from Granite Staters through the platform, which handles virtually all online donations for Democratic candidates, an NBC News analysis shows. 

Buttigieg finished 2019 in a clear second place for New Hampshire online donors, significantly behind Sanders but also well above his other competitors. He raised almost $510,370 through the platform. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren raised $344,600 through ActBlue from voters in her neighboring state, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden's $253,380, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's $190,000 and businessman Andrew Yang's 147,610.  

That order — Sanders at the top, followed by Buttigieg then Warren then Biden then Klobuchar then Yang — mirrors the ActBlue fundraising results from Iowa. It's also almost exactly how the candidates finished in the state's caucus last week, according to the state Democratic Party's results, with Sanders and Buttigieg locked in a virtual tie, followed by Warren, then Biden and Klobuchar. 

However, Iowa's results have been marred by concerns about accuracy and the NBC News Decision Desk has not called a winner or allocating any delegates as a result of the caucuses at this time. 

ActBlue is the primary online fundraising tool that candidates use to accept donations. Fundraising totals through ActBlue don't include offline donations, like checks sent to campaigns directly.  

Klobuchar releases new ad ahead of New Hampshire primary

KEENE, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is making her final pitch to New Hampshire voters the day before the first-in-the-nation primary with the release of a new closing ad airing on cable, digital and radio.

The ad, “Empathy,” includes excerpts of Klobuchar’s closing debate statement on the stage. The senator’s debate performance has widely been viewed as strong fueling additional interest in her candidacy and sparking significant fundraising totaling about $3 million. 

“There is a complete lack of empathy in this guy in the White House right now, and I will bring that to you,” Klobuchar says in the new ad. “If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you, and I will fight for you. If you have trouble deciding if you’re going to pay for your childcare or your long term care, I know you and I will fight for you. Please, New Hampshire, I would love your vote, and I would love the vote of America.”

It's a message and sentiment Klobuchar often emulates on the campaign trail, especially in the final days while campaigning in the Granite State.

Recent polling has suggested Klobuchar is in or near third place in New Hampshire, a state where there are still many undecided voters and high independent and undeclared electorate counts. 

The Minnesota candidate has also received endorsements from the only statewide newspaper in New Hampshire, The Union Leader, and two other papers in the state, The Keene Sentinel,and Seacoast Media Group

Steyer to skip primary night in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Billionaire Tom Steyer will be skipping New Hampshire primary night to campaign in the more diverse early states of Nevada and South Carolina, his campaign confirms to NBC News.

In lieu of spending election day in the Granite State, he will kick off a bus tour in Reno, NV.

"Like he said on the debate stage, Democrats have to build a national, diverse coalition in order to defeat Donald Trump in November,” his spokesman Jake Lewis said in a statement. “So Tom stopped in Nevada the day after the Iowa caucuses and will be traveling to South Carolina today then on to Reno on the 11th for his bus tour across Nevada because these states are critically important to his strategy to build that broad coalition Democrats need to beat Donald Trump."

His South Carolina trip had been previously announced but the campaign had not made his plans for Tuesday public until today.

Steyer spent the last five days in New Hampshire, but has only held 32 public events across seven trips to the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Sanders on his medical records: I 'released as much' as 'any other candidate'

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had a heart attack last year, said Sunday that his campaign has released "as much" medical information as other candidates.

Sanders argued on "Meet the Press" that his rigorous campaign schedule stands out among his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls as proof of his good health, but that once you start releasing medical records, "it never ends." 

"We have released as much documentation, I think, as any other candidate," Sanders said. 

"You can start releasing medical records, it never ends. We have released a substantive part." 

He added that his doctors have confirmed "that I am in good health. I am in good health."

Sanders had previously told reporters last September that releasing medical records is "the right thing to do." 

"The American people have the right to know whether the person they're going to be voting for president is healthy, and we will certainly release our medical records before the primaries, certainly before the first votes are cast," he said at the time.

The Vermont senator released three letters from doctors at the end of last year, which concluded he was "more than fit enough" to be president. The letters included some test results as well as more explanation of Sanders' heart attack and his recovery.

Klobuchar campaign announces it's raised $2 million after debate performance

DURHAM, N.H. — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is capitalizing on a strong performance in Friday night's Democratic debate. According to the campaign on Saturday, Klobuchar has raised $2 million since the debate ended. The campaign said that this is the best fundraising haul for the team after any of the debates. 

“With proven grassroots support, Amy continues to outperform expectations and punch above her weight,” Klobuchar's campaign manager Justin Buoen said in a statement. “Following her debate performance, we’ve raised $2 million and have seen an outpouring of donations from all 50 states which will allow us to compete in New Hampshire and beyond.”

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At an event in Durham, N.H. on Saturday, Klobuchar leaned into her debate performance telling rally-goers that it's important to her to get to know the voters in each state. 

"I had an opportunity last night to address the people of New Hampshire. I think that I was the one that mentioned New Hampshire the most," Klobuchar said. "Maybe that is because I realize there's a primary coming up, and I also think it is part of being a good president and being a good elected official. That you represent the people that you see and you get to know the issues and what matters to them. That is what driven me so much in my work in public service."

Klobuchar has received praise for her debate performances in the past, as well, but those performances haven't always helped her in polls. In the latest poll out of the Granite State, Klobuchar registered at just 5 percent support. 

Biden hits Buttigieg on experience in new video

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign released an aggressive new video against former Pete Buttigieg on Saturday, contrasting his record on major national issues with the smaller-scale accomplishments of the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.

The video follows Biden's remarks at the Democratic debate on Friday and on the campaign trail where he has said it’s a risk for the Democratic Party to nominate someone who’s only elected experience is mayor of a small city. On Saturday, he noted that South Bend’s population is smaller than Manchester — New Hampshire’s largest city.

The campaign's new attack video says that while Biden helped pass the Affordable Care Act and the 2009 stimulus bill, Buttigieg "installed decorative lights under bridges giving citizens of South Bend colorfully illuminated rivers,” and "revitalized the sidewalks of downtown South Bend by laying out decorative brick.”

The video also more seriously targets Buttigieg for firing the city’s first African American police chief. 

Following the video’s online debut, Biden hit Buttigieg directly at a rallying event in Manchester. He told the crowd that for as much as Buttigieg touts how Democrats tend to pick new, underdog candidates as their nominee, he fails to mention that every nominee has won based on support from the African American community in which Buttigieg lacks support.

Buttigieg campaign spokesperson Chris Meagher responded to the ad, saying, “while Washington politics trivializes what goes on in communities like South Bend, South Bend residents who now have better jobs, rising income, and new life in their city don't think their lives are a Washington politician's punchline.“

“The vice president’s decision to run this ad speaks more to where he currently stands in this race than it does about Pete’s perspective as a mayor and veteran,” Meaher said.

New Hampshire officials anticipate high turnout, clean reporting for election

MANCHESTER, NH — New Hampshire's chief election's officer, Secretary of State Bill Gardner, says he is anticipating a record turnout on Tuesday's primary, predicting there will be 420,000 ballots cast, including 292,000 cast specifically in the Democratic primary. 

“This would be the most votes cast in a presidential primary when an incumbent is running for re-election,” a statement from Gardner's office said.  

Not only could this be the highest turnout election that Gardner has seen, it will also be the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary, and state officials are working to ensure that it goes off without a hitch. 

Image: Manchester Voter Fraud Commission
Secretary of State of New Hampshire Bill Gardner (center) addresses the audience during the second meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on September 12, 2017 in Goffstown, New Hampshire.Kayana Szymczak / for NBC News

Gardner, Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald were among state officials who tried to assuage concerns that Tuesday's primary will have any of the chaos that consumed the Iowa caucuses. Sununu pointed to the integrity of the paper ballots during the press conference. 

“When our citizens cast their ballot, they know their vote will be counted correctly with integrity, and on time,” Sununu said.

N.H. officials are also putting into place several security mechanisms to assure the public of that integrity: there will be an Election Day hotline staffed with a team of attorneys ready to respond to issues, and every town will be visited by a polling place inspector from the Department of Justice, including midnight voting towns which is a new addition this year. 

“This is not a 100 year tradition as much as I think we see it as 100 year responsibility of getting it right,” Sununu said, applauding state officials for ensuring transparency and reliability in the process for years and even decades. “Not just the state, but the nation and even the eyes of the world do look upon New Hampshire and trust New Hampshire to lead the nation to get it right every single time.”

The primary's results are expected to be known around 9:30 p.m. on election night, according to Gardner. At each location, moderators will read the ballot results out loud, the county’s clerk will write down the results and return envelopes to one of 36 counting locations statewide. At 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, officers will pick up the envelopes and deliver them directly to the Secretary of State’s office by 7 a.m.

Given inconsistencies in the Iowa caucuses surrounding an app that was used, officials assured that optical scanner devices used to count ballots are not connected to the internet, and instead rely on manually secured memory cards, an issue that Gardner says distinguishes New Hampshire from Iowa.

“We don’t have apps that deal with voting or tallying the votes," Gardner said.

And as to why teams of attorneys may be needed, MacDonald said it is so issues can be resolved "collaboratively." 

“To the extent that any issues do arise on election day — it has been our experience that they can be resolved cooperatively, collaboratively working with local election officials,” MacDonald said. 

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said he is fully confident that Tuesday's primary will be done and counted cleanly. 

“We’ve had 100 years without an issue,” Buckley said. “We have 100 percent confidence our local election officials along with our state officials will make sure everything runs perfectly.”

Sanders hits Buttigieg for billionaire support ahead of New Hampshire primary

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., went after Pete Buttigieg Friday for the former South Bend mayor's support from big-money donors at the final New Hampshire Institute of Politics' “Politics & Eggs” event of the cycle.

Sanders singled out Buttigieg and billionaire candidates Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg in the same breath while speaking to the crowd at Saint Anselm College, reading a series of newspaper headlines like Forbes’ “Pete Buttigieg has most exclusive billionaire donors than any Democrat” and The Hill’s “Pete Buttigieg tops billionaire donor list,” among others.

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In Presidential Primary Debate In Des Moines, Iowa
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the Democratic presidential primary debate on Jan. 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

“I like Pete Buttigieg, nice guy,” Sanders said to awkward laughs in the room. “But we are in a moment where billionaires control not only our economy but our political life.”

Sanders also mused about a general election against President Trump, saying that he has read that “some of his advisors tell him that I will be the toughest candidate for him to run against.”

The senator faced the reality that turnout in Iowa — where he and Buttigieg remain essentially tied amid questions about the accuracy of the vote count — was not what his campaign had hoped for but pointed out some positives. 

“The Iowa caucus is behind us and while the voter turnout is not as high as I would have liked, you know what did happen? We saw a 30 percent increase in young people under 29 voting," Sanders said. "If we're gonna defeat Trump, we need a huge increase in young people's participation in the political process."

He added that his campaign needs to reach out to “some of Trump's working class supporters and make it clear that they understand the fraud that he is.”

Sanders was asked about criticism that his candidacy is similar to that of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing candidate who lost badly in last month's elections there, and whether he was concerned that could foreshadow what happens in the United States in 2020. 

Sanders responded that while Trump will be a difficult opponent to run against, he believes that having the largest voter turnout in history will be key for Democrats.

“I think we are the candidate,” Sanders added. “We are a multi-generational, multi-racial campaign that has the capability of reaching out to communities all across this country, bringing them into the political process to defeat Trump.”

The New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “Politics & Eggs” is sponsored by companies such as Comcast, Bank of America and Eversource Energy — in other words, the entities Sanders consistently attacks.

The room's walls were plastered with the groups' signage and many audience members present work for the companies. This was not a typical crowd for a Sanders event. Instead of the usual chants of “Bernie, Bernie!,” Sanders was met with polite applause. 

Sanders and Buttigieg will both attend ABC News' presidential debate tonight. 

-Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.

Democratic group says congressional fundraising dominance isn't trickling down-ballot

WASHINGTON — Forward Majority, a Democratic super PAC focused on helping the party win control of state legislatures, is warning that Democrats’ congressional fundraising dominance isn’t trickling down to key state legislative races.

In a memo outlining a recent analysis of 2019 fourth quarter fundraising numbers circulated by the group last week, Forward Majority notes that “Democrats are being significantly out-raised by Republicans in the most competitive" state legislative campaigns.

Image: Beto O'Rourke campaigns with Texas State Representative candidate Dr. Eliz Markowitz in Katy on Jan. 11, 2020.
Beto O'Rourke campaigns with Texas State Representative candidate Dr. Eliz Markowitz in Katy on Jan. 11, 2020.Annie Mulligan / for NBC News

Although congressional Democrats “have been clobbering their Republican opponents,” candidates further down the ballot are struggling. 

Data from other groups support these claims. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which aims to reclaim the chamber majority, brought in $60 million in 2019 and reported record-breaking numbers surpassing the GOP in the fourth quarter of 2019.

On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $125 million in 2019 — $40 million more than its GOP rival organization. About three quarters of that cash came from moderate Democrats’ campaigns in Trump districts.

That's not the case in state legislative races even in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, which are in the national spotlight as 2020 congressional and presidential candidates focus on the states. 

In Florida, Republicans outpaced Democrats in the fourth quarter by a whopping six-to-one margin in areas Democrats hope to pick up. In 2019, Republicans raised over $3.5 million across Florida House targets while Democrats gained only half a million. 

The GOP more than doubled Democrats’ earnings in key State House races in Texas, raking in over $2 million last year. 

In Arizona, where both the State House and State Senate are up for grabs, Democrats only raised 38 percent of the GOP’s haul in target races — about $650 thousand compared to $1.7 million in 2019. 

Forward Majority says that the discrepancy between Democratic fundraising at the national level versus the state level has led to different election outcomes, pointing to 2018 results as proof. 

The PAC launched a $10 million initiative, “Roadmap 2020,” in January to transfer power from Republicans to Democrats in the three competitive sunbelt states plus North Carolina.

2020 pick-ups are particularly important for state Democrats because the congressional redistricting process, a responsibility of state legislatures, begins in 2021 following the release of this year’s census.

Forward Majority’s communications director, Ben Wexler-Waite told NBC News Wednesday that the PAC will spend “where we believe establishing legislative majorities will upend Republicans' ability to rig the national electoral playing field." 

Image: Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments on a partisan gerrymandering case on Oct. 3, 2017.
Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments on a partisan gerrymandering case on Oct. 3, 2017.Olivier Douliery / Getty Images file

States like Texas and Florida, Wexler-Waite said, matter for redistricting because they’re gerrymandered and set to gain new congressional seats after the census. The next redistricting process begins in about a decade. 

“At this critical moment in history, it's never been more important for Democrats to fight back,” the spokesman noted. 

Pieter Brower, a regional press secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) — the official organization dedicated to electing Democrats to state legislatures — told NBC News Thursday that it’s not surprising that Republicans are ahead in fundraising though his group is making strides for Democrats. 

“It’s no secret that Republicans have deep-pocketed donors at their disposal,” Brower said. “Looking at a tough district and deciding that there’s no way we can win becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"We’re going on complete offense this year," he added. 

Former presidential candidate Joe Sestak endorses Klobuchar

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Pennsylvania Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate, Admiral Joe Sestak, is endorsing Senator Amy Klobuchar for president, her presidential campaign tells NBC News.

"We need a nominee with a depth and breadth of experience to govern effectively, a proven track record of winning in red and blue districts and states so we can unite this country again, and an understanding of the need to rebuild our global leadership so we can convene the world to tackle the defining challenges of our time,” Sestak said in a statement.

Image: Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar greets people after speaking at a World Affairs Council event in Manchester, N.H. on Feb. 6, 2020.Rick Wilking / Reuters

"Having seen her on the campaign trail and observed her work in the Senate, it's why I know Amy Klobuchar is uniquely qualified to be President. I'm proud to endorse her," he added.

Sestak will campaign for Klobuchar in New Hampshire throughout the weekend ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary, hosting events at veteran’s organizations throughout the state alongside fellow Klobuchar endorsers, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Jim Smith and retired Brigadier General Kevin Ryan.

Klobuchar often leans into her ability to unite voters of varying political ideologies on the campaign trail.

“I bring the receipts to this primary, and that is that I have been able to win big in the rural of rural areas in the reddest of red congressional districts, never losing once in every congressional district in my state,” Klobuchar said Thursday in Manchester.

“I think if we are going to have the kind of coalition that we need to bring patriotism and decency, back in the White House, we have to bring people with us," she said.

The endorsement from Sestak comes as Klobuchar holds a steady fifth place in recent polling, on top of earning the endorsements of all three New Hampshire newspapers that have endorsed so far.

Andrew Yang campaign sheds staff after Iowa results

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Businessman Andrew Yang's campaign confirmed on Thursday that they have fired dozens of staffers across Iowa as well as some national staff, including its policy and political directors.

“As part of our original plans following the Iowa caucuses, we are winding down our Iowa operations and restructuring to compete as the New Hampshire primary approaches,” Yang's campaign manager Zach Graumann said in a statement. “These actions are a natural evolution of the campaign post-Iowa, same as other campaigns have undertaken, and Andrew Yang is going to keep fighting for the voices of the more than 400,000 supporters who have donated to the campaign and placed a stake in the future of our country.”

The firings were first reported by POLITICO. 

Several laid-off staffers told NBC News that the layoffs occurred en-masse and unexpectedly. Emails announcing the changes were sent to staff members shortly before midnight on Wednesday, two days after Yang appeared to place sixth in the Iowa caucuses after receiving just 1 percent of the state delegate equivalents — a disappointing finish for the candidate who had been touting for days a possible surge.

In the email sent to fired staff obtained by NBC News, the Yang campaign wrote that they have experienced “unprecedented success” and credited much of the success to the soon-to-be-fired staffers. 

“However, the campaign has had to make tough decision [sic] to remain viable in the race for the presidency,” the email said. “We have explored many options, including the restructuring of the campaign and various use case scenarios.”

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks at the Ideal Social Hall on Jan. 30, 2020 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks at the Ideal Social Hall on Jan. 30, 2020 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The announcement continued, “After reviewing our options, we have concluded that we must eliminate several positions within the campaign. It is with deepest regret that I inform you that your position is one that will be eliminated effective Feb. 5. This decision is final and will not be modified.”

The Yang campaign confirmed in a statement that there was a dispute with unionized workers in Iowa and that its legal team “was not provided sufficient time” to review a memorandum of understanding provided by some unionized staffers the weekend before the Iowa caucuses.

“Despite our repeated attempts to negotiate with these select individuals, we were rebuffed with no reason given,” the statement read. “After months of hard work on the ground organizing volunteers, knocking on doors, and making phone calls, our organizers deserve better. They should not be exploited for personal gain and attention by a select group of individuals with suspect motivations within their ranks.”

Several former staffers turned to social media to announce their surprise that their campaign emails were locked and their gas cards turned off. 

“I just got a notification that my gas card was shut off and my campaign email was disabled,” one former Iowa field organizer wrote on Twitter. “Is this how we tell folks they’re fired in the campaign?” 

The former staffer later followed up with another tweet: “No worries guys, got it all straightened out — this IS how they tell you.” 

However, the staffer told NBC News that she was not harboring a grudge against the campaign and said “I believe in Andrew wholeheartedly, and I know he cares about and respects me, just miscommunication that hurt my feelings, but I know it's not intentional” and says she plans to volunteer in New Hampshire for the Yang campaign. 

A former headquarter staffer told NBC News, “Overall it came as sort of a surprise, that it was just in an email and then other stuff got deactivated.”

This staffer didn't know how many staff members were fired but said that others from ballot access, email response, youth organizing teams and volunteer organizing staff received the same email. 

“It’s definitely understandable as our organization continues to have to reallocate resources to N.H. at this time. Despite the layoff of my colleagues, we still do wholeheartedly support the Yang campaign,” the staffer said, confirming the campaign's statement that this restructuring was considered "before the Iowa results."  

Another headquarters staffer said, “I've loved working with this team and it's been an awesome experience to work with them" but this may have come down to money concerns. 

Joe Walsh ends long shot presidential campaign

WASHINGTON — Former Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, one of President Donald Trump’s long shot primary challengers, announced Friday he’s suspending his campaign due to “cult-like” support for the incumbent in the party.

Walsh came in at only 1 percent in the Iowa caucuses, despite spending considerable time in the state in recent months. Walsh told CNN that “any Democrat” would be better than Trump and vowed to help support the eventual nominee, but declined to say which candidate in the opposing party would receive his backing.

With Walsh's exit, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is the president’s lone challenger in the race ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Walsh and Weld both filed to be on the ballot last November. 

Michael Bloomberg releases plan for military families

DES MOINES, Iowa – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a policy plan for military families on Friday. The plan focuses on the economic and health concerns of military families and specifically addresses increasing access to mental health services through public-private partnerships and to fully fund the Housing and Urban Development-Veteran Affairs' supportive housing program. 

The six main highlights of the plan include: 

  • Increased access to mental health services, and provide annual mental health exams for active duty service members
  • Eliminate co-pays for preventative health care services and expand telehealth services to veterans in rural areas
  • Provide resources to cover in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for service-women and female veterans, and expand availability for childcare for military families at on-base childcare centers 
  • Require people across the Department of Defense and in Veterans Affairs to be trained to handle reported sexual assaults
  • Reverse the ban on transgender Americans, and grant honorable discharge to those forced out of the service due to this plan
  • Fully fund HUD-VA's supportive housing program

Bloomberg's campaign highlighted some of Bloomberg's work with veterans while he was mayor, like launching the Veterans Employment Initiative and mandating that every city agency appointed a liaison to coordinate with the mayoral office veterans affairs. 

Buttigieg gets endorsement from swing-district N.J. Rep. Kim

NASHUA, N.H. — Fresh off a strong performance in Iowa, Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is getting the endorsement of Freshman New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim, a former national security officer in the Obama and Bush administrations.

“I represent a district that Trump won by six points,” Kim told NBC News. “The approach that he’s taking is one that will excite people in places like my district and other parts of this country that are frankly frustrated with how things have been operating and really looking for somebody that's going to do things differently.”

“I used to work at the White House," Kim told NBC News. “I spent a lot of time in the Situation Room, a lot of time in the oval office on tough issues.”

Image: Pete Buttigieg
Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg greets supporters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire the morning after the flawed Iowa caucus on Feb. 4, 2020 in Manchester, N.H.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Kim says he has seen first-hand the challenges a President Buttigieg might face, but that the candidate has been “tested in hard times,” and has a strong moral compass that would serve him well in the White House. 

Like Buttigieg, Kim knows what it’s like to run as the underdog candidate. In 2018, Kim defeated GOP incumbent Tom MacArthur and acknowledges that Buttigieg still faces a long road to the nomination.

“The challenge is really one of being able to tell your own story,” Kim said. “I've experienced it just in my own congressional district, and to be able to have to do that, across this entire country is just such an enormous task.”

However, with a wave of momentum coming out of Iowa, Kim says Buttigieg has the organization required to go the distance.

“I definitely think he has the capacity, and the organization, and the team that can put him in those types of positions to really get in front of people.“

Buttigieg and Kim have known each other for more than 15 years, the two first met before heading off to Oxford together as Rhodes Scholars. Buttigieg was even there when Kim met his future wife during graduate school orientation and both men attended one another’s weddings. 

“He is a really honorable person and he's somebody that's just been extraordinary to watch over the years and developing in his leadership,” Kim said of the former mayor.

Kim first endorsed Senator Cory Booker for president before the New Jersey lawmaker suspended his campaign.

He is the seventh member of Congress to endorse Buttigieg.

New Hampshire poll shows Sanders leading, Buttigieg and Biden fighting for second

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has a slim lead in New Hampshire according to a poll from Monmouth University released on Thursday, receiving 24 percent support from likely Democratic voters in the Granite State. 

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden trail with 20 and 17 percent support respectively. 

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In Detroit Over Two Nights
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JULY 30: Democratic presidential candidates Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) (L-R), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (L-R) , Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), take the stage at the beginning of the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. 20 Democratic presidential candidates were split into two groups of 10 to take part in the debate sponsored by CNN held over two nights at Detroits Fox Theatre. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)Scott Olson / Getty Images

The poll finds Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 13 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 9 percent support, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang both with 4 percent. Philanthropist Tom Steyer trailed the field with 3 percent support and all other candidates earned 1 percent or less. 

Just five days away from the first-in-the-nation primary here, voters minds aren't made up. Just 49 percent of likely voters say they are "firmly set" in their choice. And with the New Hampshire primary just five days away, candidates and their surrogates have descended on the state to make their final pitches to voters. 

Even though the difficulties in reporting the winner from the Iowa caucuses stunted one candidate from being able to claim an outright victory, the fallout has changed the thinking of some candidates' supporters. Twenty percent of Biden's supporters said they were less confident in him after the Iowa caucuses, where it appears he came in fourth. On the contrary, 56 percent of Buttigieg's supporters said Iowa made them feel more confident about their choice — Buttigieg is still in a race for first against Sanders in the Hawkeye State. 

Perhaps the best news for Biden and Warren though, who is looking at a third place finish in Iowa, is that for 78 percent of New Hampshire voters, the caucuses didn't make them rethink their candidate choice.

Bernie Sanders raises $25 million in January, announces new ad campaign

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign announced a $25 million fundraising haul in the month of January on Thursday. According to the campaign, more than 649,000 people made 1.3 million donations, and over 219,000 of the donors in January had never donation to the Sanders campaign before.

The campaign said the average donation was $18. 

“Bernie’s multiracial, multigenerational, people-driven movement for change is fueling 2020’s most aggressive campaign for president,” Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement. “Working class Americans giving $18 at a time are putting our campaign in a strong position to compete in states all over the map.” 

Image: Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally, on Feb. 5, 2020, in Derry, N.H.Steven Senne / AP

Sanders also announced a $5.5 million TV and digital ad buy to build up their footprint in Super Tuesday states as well as expand their airwaves time in early states like South Carolina. The ad campaign funding will be split between 10 total states: Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, California, Texas. 

The fundraising announcement comes after Sanders' 2019 fourth quarter filing showed him to have raised the most money of all the Democratic candidates for president. Sanders also ended 2019 with the most money in the bank going into the primary season. 

Sanders' fundraising figures were released while he remains in a tight race for first place in in the Iowa caucuses and days before the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11. 

Republicans rest on Trump legal team’s arguments for acquittal votes

WASHINGTON — Despite its rejection by more than 500 of the nation’s leading legal scholars and the star constitutional scholar who testified on behalf of House Republicans, several Republican senators said they are leaning heavily on arguments made by celebrity defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz for their votes to acquit President Trump on Wednesday.

During the Senate trial, Dershowitz argued that “abuse of power,” one of the impeachment articles against Trump, is not impeachable unless it falls into certain categories, including treason, and that a modern day statutory crime or criminal like offenses need to have been committed.   

When asked which constitutional experts the GOP conference consulted in deliberating their votes, at least three senators referred NBC News only to the president’s own defense team, on which Dershowitz served.

Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Braun of Indiana and Tim Scott of South Carolina cited no opinions other than Trump’s defense team in deliberations over Trump’s guilt or innocence.

Among the team, Dershowitz made the “constitutional case” for the president. Former special prosecutor Ken Starr also participated in the president’s defense presentation.

The arguments forwarded by Dershowitz have drawn the most criticism.

“Alan is completely alone,” said Prof. Frank Bowman, whose area of expertise at the University of Missouri includes impeachment.  “There’s no disagreement on the stuff Alan’s peddling. Zero, zip, nadda,” he said. “You can’t find anybody who’s actually an impeachment expert saying what he’s saying.” 

More recently, the Harvard assistant professor whose work Dershowitz pointed to in his presentation, Nikolas Bowie, said Dershowitz was incorrectly citing his work

Dershowitz insisted Bowie’s work product still supports his underlying argument; yet in an email to NBC, he could not reference any other living constitutional scholars who agree with him.

“Several prominent 19th century scholars led by Dean Dwight of Columbia law school agreed that a crime was required. Contemporary professors deserve no more credibility for their views than academics and judges who were closer in time to the adoption of the constitution,” he said.

Even self-identified conservative scholars dispute the legal case Dershowitz made on the Senate floor. Larry Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law expert, called it a “crackpot theory.”

But impeachment is an inherently political process and Republicans like Rob Portman of Ohio, who concede the president acted inappropriately, are voting to acquit based, at least partly, on Dershowitz’s argument. 

“In this case, no crime is alleged,” Portman said Tuesday on the Senate floor. 

“I think Ken Starr’s a pretty good constitutional scholar and former solicitor of the United States,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told NBC News. “But that’s not the point. The point is what Speaker Pelosi made early and often, which was that impeachment should never be a partisan exercise.”

The Senate heard no additional witnesses, relying solely on arguments made by attorneys for both sides. By contrast, during the 1999 impeachment of Bill Clinton, the Senate heard from 19 constitutional scholars in person and many others submitted written opinions, said Bowman.

Interviews with GOP senators underscore the exceedingly narrow universe of constitutional expertise that informed the Senate’s expected verdict that Trump did not engage in impeachable conduct.  

Image: Attorney Alan Dershowitz addresses a question from senators during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate Chamber
Attorney Alan Dershowitz addresses a question from senators during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate Chamber, Jan. 29, 2020.Senate TV / Reuters

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., did not name any scholars GOP senators consulted in deliberations other than Dershowitz for his reasoning.

“I can tell you it gave a framework for many to think about it,” he said. “For many of us … it struggled to rise to where you can have a slam dunk case,” he said, because “it was how it originated.” 

When pressed for additional scholars who were consulted, he said: “I don’t know that. All I can tell you the discussion of [Dershowitz’s argument] was a plausible one in terms of how you can look at what rises to the level of impeachment.”  

“The partisan nature of it was as compelling as anything,” Braun said. 

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said the retired Harvard professor gave the party a single opinion and that was enough. 

“They sort of dressed it up in someone they can point to as a constitutional scholar ... So there you have it,” she told reporters. “At the end of the day, they’re saying ‘he did it, so what?’”

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in his floor speech that there are other experts who agree with Dershowitz, before citing only Dershowitz.

“It came from others who were well respected attorneys on each side,” said Inhofe. “The president didn’t commit a crime,” he stated, saying that distinguishes Trump from former presidents Bill Clinton, who committed perjury under oath, and Richard Nixon.  

Inhofe’s press office did not return calls and an email seeking names of the attorneys who support Dershowitz.

Scott, the South Carolina senator, declined a request for a reporter to accompany him on a Senate subway to discuss the constitutional case.

“You cannot come with me,” he said.

When asked if he considered opinions other than Dershowitz, Scott said: “You’ll have to ask the president’s team.”

Warren highlights Obama praise in new ad

MANCHESTER — In a new digital campaign ad coming out this morning, Elizabeth Warren is highlighting her relationship with former President Barack Obama and his support of her work building the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

The new ad, which the campaign says will also soon air on TV, comes after former Vice President Joe Biden's apparent fourth-place finish in Iowa and on the same day that Michael Bloomberg debuted an ad featuring his work with Obama, as well. 

The ad, first shared with NBC News, is titled ‘Elizabeth understands” and begins with a 2010 Rose Garden address, where Obama lauds Warren for her work fighting for the middle class. 

“She’s a janitor’s daughter who has become one of the country’s fiercest advocates for the middle class,” Obama says at the top, “She came up with an idea for a new, independent agency standing up for consumers and middle class families.”

On the campaign trail, Warren often ends her town halls telling audiences about her time fighting to build the CPFB, a message that ties into an overall theme in her campaign: she’s a fighter.

The ad also touches on that message, too with a line from Obama, referring to the uphill battle Warren faced while trying to start the CPFB, calling Warren tough.

“She’s done it while facing some very tough opposition. Fortunately, she’s very tough,” he said.

The ad will be released in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Candidates shuffle ad dollars ahead of New Hampshire primary

DES MOINES, Iowa — With the New Hampshire primary less than a week away, the Democratic presidential candidates shuffling their ad spending in the hopes of trying to gain an edge in the next contest and get the kind of bounce that never came from Iowa

Here's a look at the ad-buy shuffle, with data courtesy of media-monitoring firm Advertising Analytics. 

  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who sits in third place in Iowa as the results continue to be counted, cut $375,00 in television ad dollars from Nevada and South Carolina on Tuesday.
  • Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's currently in fourth place in Iowa, added $433,000 in TV spending to markets that cover New Hampshire. 
  • Businessman Andrew Yang placed $280,000 in New Hampshire-area markets. 
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden cut $58,000 in Nevada TV ads and placed $90,000 in New Hampshire-area TV ads.
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg added almost $400,000 in TV ads as his campaign foreshadowed a large increase in TV spending by the billionaire that's already launched a historic ad blitzkrieg. 
  • Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg placed $137,000 in New Hampshire-area television ads.
  • Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer dropped $212,400 onto the airwaves in the New Hampshire area.
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard booked $53,000 on the New Hampshire airwaves
  • Vote Vets, a progressive veterans group backing Buttigieg, is spending another $191,000 on TV ads in New Hampshire.
  • And Unite the Country, a super PAC supporting Biden, announced it's investing $900,000 in television and digital ads backing Biden in New Hampshire. 

New Hampshire Democrats say they're ready for their turn in the spotlight

MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Democratic candidates descend upon New Hampshire, the state is ready for its closeup less than a week before its first-in-the-nation primary, according to two New Hampshire Democratic Party officials. 

Amy Kennedy, the executive director of the NHDP, said on Tuesday that she expects voter turnout to be at an all-time high, and voter enthusiasm to be strengthening head of next Tuesday's contest. 

"There's just such an appetite to remove Donald Trump from office that we're going to see something larger than what we had in 2018 and 2019 with both our midterms and our municipal elections," Kennedy said. 

Those expectations come in spite of several of the candidates missing key opportunities to campaign in the Granite State because of the Senate's impeachment trial. 

Image: Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Holds Town Hall In Keene
Audience members wait for the start of a campaign event with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in in Keene, N.H., on Feb. 4, 2020.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Kennedy pointed out that many of the candidates have been coming to New Hampshire for months and sometimes visiting "before they even start having conversations about running for president."

“I think the energy and excitement is still up. And again, they’ve got six more days now to hear from all the candidates directly," Kennedy said. 

And as campaigning heats up in the state, the NHDP feels confident about their turn in the spotlight in the wake of Iowa's struggles

“This is our hundredth anniversary of the New Hampshire primary, and so we have had a process in place for years with our voting systems that we have absolute confidence in,” said Amy Kennedy, executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “There’s no reason to doubt their ability to do this properly. And we also have measures like paper ballots and additional counts, recounts that have to happen if there’s any question.” 

And after a chaotic end to the Iowa caucuses, some in the Granite State would like everyone to remember the popular saying, "Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks presidents." 

"New Hampshire voters do pick presidents and we think that with the time and the focus that New Hampshire gets for the primary, it's a good place for a candidate to really shine and then decide how they want to run their campaign," Kennedy said. 

The Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests have faced criticism for going first in the primary season because both states are majority white and and aren’t representative of the Democratic Party. After Monday’s reporting issues after the Iowa caucuses, those criticisms renewed

But Kennedy, and NHDP communications director Holly Shulman said that their state’s contest is evened out by Nevada and South Carolina going third and fourth. 

“We’re really excited by the inclusion of South Carolina, and about it into the early state combination here. We’re proud to have them as our sister early states, and with them we believe that this is representative of our Democratic Party as a whole,” Kennedy said. 

Shulman added, “The polling of all the candidates here has been really closely tracking what’s happening in South Carolina and Nevada,” so the results aren’t “that different.” 

While energy is up in New Hampshire, voters' minds aren't made up. And according to Shulman, candidates would do well to remember that to voters “everyone is someone else’s second choice.” 

“[Voters] have lots of choices and they love all of them, and that’s why they’re waiting so long to make their decisions,” Shulman said. “The candidates know that, and they understand that the only way to win over voters is to make sure that they’re focused on the general election, and on their message and on on their policies.” 

RGA hits Michigan governor ahead of SOTU rebuttal

WASHINGTON — The Republican Governors Association launched a digital ad campaign Tuesday targeting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who will deliver the Democratic Party’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address tonight.

According to a statement from the RGA released Tuesday, the initiative will call attention to Whitmer’s “broken promises and tanking approval rating.”

The ads are set to air on Facebook and Instagram around the Michigan State Capitol and in the Lansing area — where Whitmer will rebut Trump from a local high school. 

One of the ads, titled “Broken Roads, Broken Promises,” includes media coverage accusing Whitmer of failing to fulfill her primary campaign promise best captured by the slogan: “Fix the damn roads.”

About one-minute long, the ad highlights the Michigan Governor’s decision to veto infrastructure funding for Michigan totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. It also features unflattering polling depicting her approval rating on the decline.

Whitmer has said she vetoed that funding because it was only a short-term fix and that she’s focused on achieving a “a real, long-term funding solution that will actually fix the damn roads. “

President Trump even makes an appearance, criticizing Whitmer at a rally in her home state in December. 

“I understand she’s not fixing those potholes,” the president says on screen.

When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, announced the Democrats’ selection of Whitmer to represent the party following the State of the Union, he boasted about her action on issues that the RGA scrutinizes in its ads. 

"Governor Whitmer's dedication to Michiganders is a model for public servants everywhere," he said. "Whether it's pledging to 'Fix the Damn Roads' or investing in climate solutions, Governor Whitmer's vision for the future is exactly what this country needs, and I'm thrilled she is giving the Democratic response."

In its statement, the RGA also singled out “Whitmer’s attempt to get back on track in her recent State of the State address,” which faced blow back after experts determined that her new transportation plan would “saddle future generations with debt and fail to fix the majority of roads in the state.”

Image: FILE PHOTO: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Whitmer reacts with her daughters after declaring victory at her midterm election night party in Detroit,
FILE PHOTO: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer reacts with her daughters, Sydney (L) and Sherry after declaring victory at her midterm election night party in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/File PhotoJeff Kowalsky / Reuters

Communications Director of the RGA, Amelia Chassé Alcivar, said Tuesday that Whitmer’s failure to make substantive progress on her campaign pledge is “no joke” for Michigan residents “still driving on the crumbling roads she promised to fix.”

The spokeswoman also stressed that Michiganders need their governor “to do her damn job.”

The ad campaign announcement came around the same time that Whitmer held a press conference outlining her plan to rebut President Trump. 

"When I stay tethered to the dinner table issues I know it resonates with people all across our country," the governor said. 

Bloomberg: 'No question' that Trump is 'worried about me'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there’s “no question” that President Donald Trump fears running against him in a general election, after a feud between the two New Yorkers escalated over the weekend. 

In an exclusive interview with NBC News in California, Bloomberg looked past his Democratic rivals who are competing in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, insisting his own future in the race won’t be affected by results of the caucuses. Instead, Bloomberg said he’s “running against Donald Trump.” 

“I think there’s no question that he’s worried about me, because otherwise he wouldn’t respond,” Bloomberg says. “Donald doesn’t want to run against me because he knows I’ve taken him on, and every time, I’ve beaten him. I’m trying to tell the public what I did and what I will do and not get into a silly contest. He can’t run on his record.” 

Bloomberg’s comments come as the gloves have come off in Bloomberg’s growing rivalry with Trump, who took to Twitter over the weekend to insult Bloomberg over his height — claiming, without evidence, that Bloomberg was arranging to stand on a box during an upcoming debate. That led Bloomberg’s campaign to push back, calling Trump “pathological liar” and asserting that the campaign is now on a “wartime footing” with the Republican president. Trump and Bloomberg also aired dueling ads during the Super Bowl on Sunday at a cost of some $11 million. 

With his numbers starting to climb in national polls, Bloomberg has sought to portray himself as above the fray of the Democratic primary and primed to defeat the president, which Democratic primary voters have widely said is the top quality they’re seeking in their nominee. That argument has gained fresh attention amid signs of a surge by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who more moderate Democrats have said they fear may be too liberal to win over centrist voters needed to defeat the president.

In the interview, Bloomberg said he plans to stay in the race even if a candidate like former Vice President Joe Biden emerges as a clear front-runner out of Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first and second primary contests.

“I'm not running against Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, I'm running against Donald Trump and whether they win in one of these states or both of these states or not, it just doesn't influence what I'm going to do,” Bloomberg said.

After entering the race too late to compete in the earliest states, Bloomberg has mounted an unconventional campaign focused on the delegate-rich states that vote later in the calendar, as well as on general-election battlegrounds that will be key to deciding the next president.

So as the other Democrats converge on Iowa on Monday for the caucuses, Bloomberg is in California, which kicks off its early and mail-in voting periods this week.

Image: Michael Bloomberg
Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg addresses supporters during a campaign stop in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 3, 2020.Rich Pedroncelli / AP

The stakes are high: California has 10 times the number of delegates as Iowa in the Democratic primary nominating contest. More Democrats are expected to vote early in California than in the Iowa caucuses in total.

In the interview, Bloomberg also lamented the all-but-certain acquittal of Trump in the impeachment trial, where closing arguments are taking place in Washington on Monday ahead of an expected final vote on Wednesday.

“It’s a disgrace, no question about that,” he said, adding that the whole Republican Party was contributing to it. “I don’t like impeachment, but there’s so much evidence we had to do it. I’m not a senator, but I’d vote to convict.”

He added: “It’s obvious they’re going to let him off the hook and the public will have its chance on November 3.”

Iowa will test whether Steyer's spending strategy works

DES MOINES, Iowa — With voting set to start in the 2020 Democratic presidential contests, billionaire Tom Steyer is about to face a critical test: whether the prodigious spending that has thus far buoyed his candidacy will win over enough voters to propel it into the next phase of the contest.  

The 62-year old former hedge fund manager is also sharpening his message, casting himself as an uncompromising progressive in hopes of capitalizing on the distaste and discomfort a distinct coalition of voters feel toward the political establishment. But Steyer, well behind in most polls both nationally and in early voting states, needs to turn out more than just a handful of voters tired of the political system. 

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidate Tom Steyer Campaigns In Clinton, Iowa
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer exits after a campaign stop at the The Living Room on Jan. 31, 2020 in Clinton, Iowa.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By portraying himself as a leader with experience outside the Beltway, Steyer, in the final to sprint through Iowa and other early states, aims to turn out voters who don’t always participate in elections — highlighting his investment in commonly overlooked communities.

He’s also contrasting himself with other 2020 contenders like former Vice President Joe Biden who are leaning into their willingness to work across the aisle if elected — touting their relationships with Republicans. Steyer argues that the other side isn’t interested in compromise. 

“There’s no point in talking to someone who refuses to talk,” Steyer recently told a group of voters in Clinton, Iowa, referencing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Have you seen any give? Did he ever compromise with Barack Obama?”  

It’s a message that seems to be resonating voters who say they are fed up with the political system in Washington. One voter at a recent town hall in Burlington, Iowa said he’d never caucused before but liked Steyer because he wasn’t a political insider.

On his last bus tour through Iowa, Steyer drew in larger crowds. More than 120 voters showed up to the Clinton town hall — double the number the campaign expected — and a few of his audiences have topped Biden’s in size.  

In Iowa, where Steyer has spent nearly $16 million on TV and radio ads, the campaign has focused on barnstorming corners of the state not traditionally considered Democratic strongholds — like Storm Lake, where Steyer is one of only four candidates with an operating field office.    

And it’s not just where or who the campaign is targeting but about the message to these voters, too. 

Steyer regularly highlights the need for congressional term limits on the trail. He also touts his investments in rural communities and his long history of fighting climate change.

“There’s something about Tom and his message — being that outsider on traditional messaging — that appeals to rural Iowans,” Ben Gerdes, Steyer’s senior press secretary, told NBC News. 

Looking past Iowa, Steyer has rapidly staffed up in South Carolina. With 92 paid staffers, his presence is the largest in the state —and roughly double that of Biden’s. Formerly incarcerated men make up a large portion of that number and have been tasked with campaigning for Steyer in their neighborhoods.  

In New Hampshire, where he’s made a total of only six trips, Steyer also highlights his outsider status and regularly brings up climate change on the stump. He’s made targeted outreach efforts to areas like the Seacoast, where the risks and impacts of rising tides hit closest to home. 

Steyer maintains his status in the race doesn’t necessarily depend on the results Monday night in Iowa. 

When asked for a best-case scenario, Gerdes was optimistic, but also realistic: “Our belief is, even just beating expectations, showing some momentum here where no one expects us to do anything ... then the whole dynamic of the races changes.”  

Bernie Sanders raised more online from Iowans than rest of Dem field

DES MOINES, Iowa — As the clock ticks closer to Monday night's Iowa caucuses, new federal election filings from the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue provide the latest glimpse as to each candidates' financial strength in the Hawkeye State. 

That new data shows that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders raised more money online from Iowans, $703,000, than his Democratic presidential rivals in all of 2019. 

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised the second most with $519,000, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's $418,000, former Vice President Joe Biden's $251,000,  Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's $185,000 and businessman Andrew Yang's $142,000. 

No other active presidential candidate raised more than $100,000 in Iowa online donations, according to ActBlue data. 

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a campaign field office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a campaign field office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters

ActBlue processes all virtually every online donation to Democratic candidates and is required to itemize every single donation in its report to the Federal Election Commission, unlike campaigns that aren't required to disclose information for donations under $200. 

So its semi-annual filing journalists, campaigns and data-nerds the ability to comb through those online donations for analysis. 

Click here for more coverage from the latest federal election filings. 

For Warren, 'unity' is more than a talking point

IOWA CITY, Iowa — As she makes her closing pitch to Iowa voters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has increasingly stressed the need for party unity.

“I've been building a campaign from the beginning that's not a campaign that's narrow or not a campaign that says us and nobody else," Warren said at a rally in Cedar Rapids Saturday. "It's a campaign that says, 'come on in because we are in this fight together. This fight is our fight.'”

Image: Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Campaigns In Eastern Iowa
Jonathan Van Ness, of the Netflix series Queer Eye, introduces Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Jan. 26, 2020 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Her comments come after a surrogate for Bernie Sanders pointedly joined in with a group of the Vermont Senator's supporters to boo Hillary Clinton Friday night.

But Warren's push is more than just a reactionary move, there's some data behind it as well. 

A Warren aide tells NBC News that among people they’ve identified as planning to caucus for Warren who also caucused in 2016, there’s a 50-50 split between those who supported Sanders and Clinton. 

That means unity isn’t just a messaging point, it’s borne out in who the campaign sees its attracting at this point. It’s why they weren’t (and aren’t) directly attacking Sanders and why she doesn't directly engage on questions about Clinton. 

In fact, speaking to reporters on Saturday, Warren skirted questions on both of those issues — re-emphasizing that message of needing to come together.

What we learned from the Q4 candidate filings

DES MOINES, Iowa — Friday’s new batch of campaign finance reports gave us one more look under the campaigns’ hoods before Monday’s Iowa caucuses. 

Some candidates already pushed out their top-line numbers from the fourth fundraising quarter, but the full reports give a comprehensive look at the financial health of these campaigns.

Here are some takeaways from the NBC Political Unit: 

Bloomberg’s self-haul 

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is running an unprecedented campaign as the richest presidential candidate in modern history. And the FEC reports show it. 

Despite refusing to take individual donations, Bloomberg spent $188 million in the six weeks his campaign was active in the fourth fundraising quarter — more than every other active Democratic presidential candidate combined (except for fellow billionaire Tom Steyer). 

He spent $132 million on television advertising; $757,000 in airfare; $3.3 million on polling; and $8.2 million on digital advertising, for example. 

And while he closed the quarter with about 145 people on the payroll, a campaign aide said he’s expanded to more than 1,000 since. 

One of the wealthiest people in the world, Bloomberg can afford it. But it’s still a risky bet, as Bloomberg isn’t on the ballot in any of the first four states. 

Fellow billionaire Tom Steyer is taking a similar path — he spent $154 million of largely his own money last quarter. But while his wealth isn’t as large, he’s competing in the early states. 

Money in the bank 

Sanders ended 2019 with the most cash on hand in the field, with more than $18 million in the bank. That’s more than his rivals at the top of the polls — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren finished with $13 million, and former Vice President Joe Biden trailed behind them both with only $8.9 million in cash.

It’s no surprise to see candidates spending big right before the start of voting. That’s part of the bet — spend big and hope to see it reflected in the polls and when voters cast their ballots. 

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, speaks at a presidential campaign event in Perry, Iowa, on Jan. 26, 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, speaks at a presidential campaign event in Perry, Iowa, on Jan. 26, 2020.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Sanders’ big spending came as he rebounded in the polls. And his massive $34.6 million fundraising haul to close 2019 shows he’s not likely to struggle for cash. 

But others are hoping that a big spend can help turn around a slide at the polls and put them in good shape once votes are cast. 

That’s the case with former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. 

Buttigieg spent almost $9 million more last quarter than he took in, amid a fall at the polls. So his campaign is looking for that investment to pay dividends in the early states.  

Battle of the Progressives 

Sanders and Warren have been fighting for the progressive vote the entire presidential cycle. But when it comes to the money fight, Sanders is winning. 

Take their total individual contributions: Sanders brought in over $34 million dollars in the last quarter of 2019, while Warren brought in just over $21 million. That’s a turn around from the third quarter when Warren’s fundraising skyrocketed. In the third quarter, Sanders just barely outraised Warren that quarter, $25.2 million to $24.5 million. 

Sanders’ deep pockets have allowed him to outspend Warren when (and where) it matters: The lead up to Iowa and the other early state contests. 

Since the start of the fourth fundraising quarter (Oct. 1, 2019), Sanders has spent more than $16 million on television and radio ads, compared to $7.4 million for Warren, data from Advertising Analytics shows. 

Even so, they’re spending at similar rates to each other and the rest of the field. 

Sanders’ burn rate (which means the amount of money he spent divided by the amount of money he brought in) was over 144 percent, while Warren’s burn rate was just a bit higher at 155 percent.

So while Warren continues to have the resources to mount a strong campaign, it’s Sanders who has the fundraising edge among the progressive candidates.

Boots on the ground 

Of the three top-polling candidates, Warren almost doubled her staff in the fourth quarter – ending 2019 with over 1,100 staff members on her payroll. 

Sanders ended the quarter with about 850 people on his staff payroll – about 300 more than the last quarter, and Biden’s staff on payroll stayed nearly stagnant even despite an uptick in fundraising: In this quarter he had about 488 people on payroll, in quarter three he had about 446.

While the candidate makes the headlines, it’s the staff on the ground across the country who helps convert support into ballots cast, particularly once the calendar opens up on Super Tuesday and campaigns require a larger footprint across the country. 

Campaigns that ended in Q4 

FEC reports aren’t just useful for active candidates, those reports can help shed some important light on campaigns who have closed up shop. 

Take California Sen. Kamala Harris, who dropped out in early December. When she suspended her campaign, she said her “campaign for president simply does not have the financial resources to continue.” 

And now we know what she meant. 

Image:  Kamala Harris
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Nov. 20, 2019, in Atlanta.John Bazemore / AP

Harris raised just $3.9 million in the fourth quarter, but spent $13.1 million.

It was a similar story for former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who raised $966,000 and spent $3.9 million. 

Both ended with little left in their bank accounts — O’Rourke had just $361,000 cash on hand to close the year, while Harris had $1.4 million left in the bank but with $1.1 million in debt. 

Warren surrogates preach party unity

DES MOINES, IOWA — At around the same time that Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., booed Hillary Clinton at a Bernie Sanders campaign event on Friday, Elizabeth Warren’s surrogates here were pitching a different message: Party unity.

Warren “is the person who can unite our party,” said Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., who joined Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Katie Porter, D-Calif.

“We deserve a person who will listen,” Pressley added. “Elizabeth hears all of us.”

All three were stumping for Warren on Friday night with the senator stuck in Washington, D.C., as a juror in President Trump’s impeachment trial — just as Tlaib and Reps. Ilan Omar, D-Minn., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., were campaigning for Sanders. 

Warren ultimately made it into Iowa late Friday night, while Sanders called into his campaign's event in Clive, Iowa before traveling to the state for events this weekend. 

For all of the similarities of Warren’s and Sanders’ messages — attacking corporate power, decrying income inequality, eliminating college debt — the biggest difference between the two campaigns might be Sanders’ insurgency versus Warren’s unity.

Tlaib did walk back her boo comments on Saturday morning. And importantly, Sanders wasn’t present to hear them.

But judging from the polls two days before the Iowa caucuses, Sanders’ insurgency — at least on the Democratic left — appears to be a more powerful force than Team Warren’s call for unity.

Michael Bloomberg releases tax plan

DES MOINES, Iowa – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his tax plan on Saturday. The plan lays out seven key objectives to generate $5 trillion in revenue. 

The plan's main focus is the 2017 tax reform legislation signed by President Trump which cut taxes for large corporations and high-income individuals. Bloomberg, who made his billion-dollar fortune by launching his financial software company Bloomberg L.P., says in the plan that the tax cuts on companies were too big.

Image: Mike Bloomberg Makes Speech On Affordable Housing and Homelessness
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event on Jan. 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C.Mark Wilson / Getty Images

"Trump’s tax reform cut business taxes too much – giving U.S. businesses a bigger tax cut than they had even asked for. While our tax code needs to ensure that our producers stay competitive with foreign companies, they can and should contribute more," the plan states. 

Furthermore, the Bloomberg campaign said that the current tax law is "deeply unfair" because it "allows accumulated wealth to pass from generation to generation with little or no tax due, and provides countless loopholes that the rich can exploit to reduce their taxes still further." 

The main objectives of Bloomberg's plan are: 

  • Raise rates for high-income taxpayers, restoring the top rate on income from 37 percent to 39.6 percent.
  • Set capital gains tax at the same rate as income for taxpayers above $1 million and implement policies to curb avoidance and deferral for the wealthiest Americans.
  • Impose a 5 percent surtax on incomes above $5 million a year to pay for improvements in the country’s infrastructure, education and health care systems.
  • Lower the estate-tax threshold and ensure protection of family-owned farms and small businesses. 
  • Close loopholes, including the “pass-through” 20% deduction, the “like-kind” provision and the carried-interest loophole.
  • Raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.
  • Provide necessary resources to the IRS.

Biden campaign releases new Iowa ad, Super Bowl ad before caucuses

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa – With just two days before the Iowa caucuses, former Vice President Joe Biden is rolling out two new ads in Iowa markets to make his final pitch to Iowans. 

The first ad, entitled "Right Here", emphasizes Biden's key campaign point that the next president won't have time for "on the job training." The ad also revisits Biden's campaign announcement video. It begins with images of the Charlottesville clash in 2017 and warns that America is at risk of losing its democratic values if President Donald Trump is re-elected.  

"We’re being reminded every day there’s nothing guaranteed about democracy, not even here in America. We have to constantly earn it, we have to protect it, we have to fight for it," Biden says in the ad. 

"Right Here" will run in the top two Iowa markets: Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. 

In addition, the campaign will also be cutting a new version of an ad that's been running in Iowa for the Super Bowl, called "Character." airing a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl, entitled "Character" in the same two markets. The ad begins with images of former President Barack Obama, before turning to President Trump. 

These ads come amid the Biden campaign ramping up its Iowa airwaves presence. Two other ads have been on the air, and will continue to run through the caucuses on Monday. 

 

Sanders surrogate Rashida Tlaib says she erred by booing Clinton

DES MOINES, Iowa — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., apologized Saturday for joining supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders Saturday night in booing when the name of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton came up at a campaign event in Clive, Iowa.  

The moment happened during a panel discussion where Tlaib and other surrogates were campaigning for Sanders while he remained in Washington, D.C. for President Trump's Senate impeachment trial.

The moderator, Sanders supporter and Des Moines, Iowa school board member Dionna Langford invoked  Clinton when discussing those who didn't support Sanders. Immediately, the crowd began to boo, and Langford pleaded with the crowd to stop. 

“Remember last week when someone by the name of Hillary Clinton said that nobody — We’re not gonna boo, we’re not gonna boo,” Langford said. “We’re classy here.”

However, Tlaib disagreed with Langford's call. 

“No, I’ll boo. Boo!” Tlaib said. She continued, “You all know I can’t be quiet. No, we’re going to boo. That’s alright. The haters, the haters, will shut up on Monday when we win.”

On Saturday morning, Tlaib apologized for her comments, saying in a tweet thread that, "I allowed my disappointment with Secretary Clinton's latest comments about Senator Sanders and his supporters get the best of me. You all, my sisters-in-service on stage, and our movement deserve better. I will continue to strive to come from a place of love and not react in the same way of those who are against what we are building in this country."

FEC reports bring new details about pro-Biden super PAC

DES MOINES, Iowa — Friday's campaign finance deadline helps to shed new light on the super PAC that's boosted former Vice President Joe Biden's television advertising footprint. 

The end-of-year fundraising report from Unite Our Country, the group backing Biden, raised $3.7 million from 71 total donors. That report includes information from the second half of 2019. 

Because super PACs can take unlimited contributions from donors (unlike candidates, that can only take a maximum of $2,800 per person per cycle), the group was able to rack up big money quickly. 

One giver, longtime Democratic donor George Marcus, gave Unite Our Country $1 million. Marcus, a prominent Democratic bundler, hosted a fundraiser for Biden in Palo Alto, Calif. in October. Marcus is also listed on the Biden campaign's list of individuals who have bundled at least $25,000 for the campaign (bundlers help collect donations to the campaign from other donors). 

The pro-Biden super PAC also received two checks of $250,000 each and 21 checks of at least $100,000, including from former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman and state Sen. Dick Harpootlian. 

It also received a $75,000 check from Boston Red Sox Chairman Thomas Werner. And as the New York Times' Shane Goldmacher points out, despite Biden's pledge to not personally take any contributions from fossil fuel company executives, one fossil fuel executive donated $50,000 to the super PAC. 

The new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission do not include money raised and spent since the start of 2020. Those transactions won't need to be filed with the FEC until July. 

Unite Our Country has been an important ally for Biden, particularly on the airwaves. 

Since the start of the campaign, it's spent $4.4 million on television ads, according to data from Advertising Analytics. Combined with the $4.2 million Biden's own campaign has spent on television and radio ads, the combined effort puts Biden in fifth place in overall television and radio advertising spending nationwide. 

And the effort has been important in Iowa too, ahead of next week's pivotal caucus. When the campaign's Iowa spending is combined with the super PAC spending, Biden's campaign leapfrogs businessman Andrew Yang and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into fourth place in Iowa ad spending. 

Klobuchar holds first N.H. tele-town hall amidst impeachment

WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., held her first New Hampshire tele-town hall while in Washington, D.C. this morning for the impeachment trial. In the forty-minute call, Klobuchar made the case for her candidacy and discussed her experiences campaigning across ten counties of the Granite State.

After ticking through her presidential agenda, Klobuchar indirectly called out her fellow presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently announced a major ad buy set to air during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Image: Sen. Amy Klobuchar boards her campaign bus after a stop in Humboldt, Iowa, on Dec. 27, 2019.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar boards her campaign bus after a stop in Humboldt, Iowa, on Dec. 27, 2019.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

“It's not always the richest candidate,” she said. “[A]nd no you won't be seeing my ad in the Super Bowl but you will know that I'll be out there in my green bus, getting votes the right way.”

She also said on the call that she “can’t think of a better group of people right now" than those in New Hampshire who understand that it’s not always the most famous candidate who is best to lead the ticket.

Klobuchar plugged her two newspaper endorsements from the N.H. Union Leader and Keene Sentinel, and added that voters in New Hampshire and other early voting states “have this obligation ... a history of picking people ... that maybe other people didn't think we're going to win.”

According to the Klobuchar campaign, over eight thousand people were on the call.

Voters on the call asked a range of questions about the candidate’s plans for tackling climate change and how she’ll protect Social Security.

Klobuchar was also pressed on how she’ll unify the country after Trump’s presidency and responded that she’ll be transparent and truthful. 

“I also think the first day after I got elected I would start calling every governor in this nation, Democrat or Republican to get their ideas, I would work with leadership in both houses ... and then act on it,” she said. 

The penultimate question of the tele-town hall was about the impeachment trial, to which Klobuchar responded that she was heading to the Senate right after the tele-town hall ahead of a potential vote on witnesses. 

Klobuchar’s closing pitch was that she’s not just making an anecdotal plea for support but rather, that facts matter in New Hampshire.

While she wishes she could be in the state, she underscored that she must fulfill her constitutional duty as a senator to act as a juror in the impeachment hearing

“My ask of you is to run for me, to help me, to make sure that I don't lose ground or lose time,” she said, “because I have been doing my important work.”

-Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.

McConnell opponent Amy McGrath endorses Joe Biden

BURLINGTON, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden often tells his audiences that the best way to beat Republicans — in the White House and in Congress — is at the polls. And he now has the endorsement of another Democratic candidate trying to do just that. 

Amy McGrath, a Marine combat veteran and rising star in Democratic politics, is the favored Democratic candidate challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Senate in Kentucky and announced her endorsement of Biden on Friday.

McGrath said she’s backing Biden because she believes he will bring back “honor and integrity” to the White House. Moreover, she cites Biden’s ongoing commitment to the working class in Kentucky as an example of how Biden could unite the entire country.

Joe Biden and democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath
Joe Biden and democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath shake hands during a campaign event in Owingsville, Ky., on Oct. 12, 2018.Bryan Woolston / AP file

“While some Democrats believe the challenges we face as a nation demand revolutionary action, others — like me — believe the best path forward is to start by unifying our country and delivering results for American families,” McGrath said in a campaign release.

McGrath is facing a tough race against McConnell, who is slightly out-raising her in the race. Her endorsement echoes what many first-term House Democratic candidates are stressing when making their pitch to voters for supporting Biden: they need a candidate at the top of the ticket that appeals to Republicans, independents and Democrats alike to help them win their races.

Biden is making that same pitch for himself on the trail. 

"One of the reasons why I am running is to take back the United States Senate. We are not going to get a whole lot done if we don't not only win the presidency [but] if we are not able to go out and win back the Senate," Biden said in Iowa on Sunday. "That depends a lot on the top of the ticket." 

McGrath's endorsement for Biden is not surprising — Biden stumped for McGrath during the 2018 midterms when she ran for the House. While she lost her race for Congress, many other moderate candidates were able to flip GOP seats.

Biden touted her endorsement at his event in Burlington, Iowa Friday, pointing out how sharp she is as a candidate to go against McConnell.

“This woman knows how to shoot. this woman knows how to play,” he said.

Vulnerable Republican senators deal with challengers at home on impeachment

WASHINGTON — On Friday, the Senate will vote on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial of President Trump. This has left a handful of vulnerable Republican senators stuck between toeing the party line in the trial and dealing with attacks on the campaign trail in their home states. 

Some Republicans like Maine's Susan Collins and Utah's Mitt Romney, have said they'll vote for witnesses. But at least three vulnerable members, like Colorado's Cory Gardner, Arizona's Martha McSally and North Carolina's Thom Tillis reportedly feel that allowing witnesses could hurt them in their primaries

Here’s how the challengers to some of 2020's most vulnerable Republicans are talking about impeachment: 

Iowa

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst caused headlines when she rhetorically pondered if the impeachment trial would affect former Vice President Joe Biden's chances at the Iowa caucuses.  

Her likely opponent, Theresa Greenfield, has remained quiet on the issue of impeachment since November, when her campaign noted that “It’s wrong, plain and simple, for any president to pressure a foreign government to investigate a political opponent.” 

But this week on Twitter Greenfield chided the senator for her comments on Biden, and is now fundraising off them.

Maine

In order to flip the Senate, Democrats probably need to win in Maine against Collins. Her challenger, Sara Gideon, seized on Collins’ seeming indecision regarding witnesses — Collins voted against witnesses at the outset of the trial, but by the end of opening arguments said she would vote for witnesses. Gideon responded on Twitter saying, "You can't say you are for witnesses, and yet vote time and time again with Mitch McConnell." 

North Carolina 

While some Republicans have tried to find a middle ground during the hearings, Tillis has made clear that he intends to vote to acquit President Trump.  His Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee-endorsed challenger, Cal Cunningham, has said that that a fair trial "includes witnesses." 

Arizona

McSally caused a media stir by calling a reporter a "liberal hack" for asking her about witnesses, and later tweeted that she did not want to hear from witnesses. Her chief opponent, astronaut Mark Kelly, has stayed away from the impeachment issue as well.

However, Kelly did take a veiled swipe at the president and McSally by releasing a statement that said his “campaign won’t ask for or accept any assistance from a foreign government. That’s an easy decision because it’s against the law." 

Colorado

While Gardner is an official "no" on witnesses, his likely opponent in Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, supported the president's impeachment and has repeatedly stressed the need for witness testimony, saying that without it, the trial would be “a sham.”  

Georgia

Sen. David Perdue will likely face either former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff or former Columbus, Ga. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. Tomlinson is a supporter of the president's removal and called out Perdue for not “even pretending to be” a fair juror.

While Ossoff tweeted in September that “If Trump pressured a foreign power to smear his political opponent, dangling security assistance as leverage, he should be impeached,” he has not weighed in on the president's impeachment since. 

 

Andrew Yang chokes up as Iowa campaign winds down

WATERLOO, Iowa — Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang became visibly emotional while talking about his time in Iowa when campaigning in Dubuque, Iowa Thursday. 

“I've been coming to Iowa for almost two years,” Yang said. “I started coming in Spring of 2018, I have to say I loved campaigning here, you all have been beautiful to me and my family.” 

“I'm really glad that you all are going to determine the future of our country,” Yang added, his voice cracking.

Yang then placed his head in one of his hands and cried while the audience applauded, with some shouting out “Thank you, Andrew!” 

It’s rare to see presidential candidates getting emotional as they campaign across the country. Yang most recently became deeply emotional at a gun control forum in Des Moines, Iowa last summer, after being asked how he would address unintentional shootings by children as president. 

“I have a six and three-year-old boy, and I was imagining ...” Yang said at the forum, putting his head in one hand as he cried. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw it.”

Yang is currently on a 17-day bus tour through Iowa. With the Iowa caucuses looming right around the corner, Yang has been in a full-on sprint to speak to as many voters as he can before February 3rd. 

“My kids love it here,” Yang said in Dubuque. “They came in the summer, they've been here this past week. One, they love daddy's bus, ‘cause now daddy's got a huge bus.”

“My boys don't really understand what I'm doing,” Yang added. “Just told them daddy has a really big deadline on Monday.” 

Yang has had 78 events in January alone, according to the Des Moines Register’s candidate tracker, dramatically outpacing candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who have spent most of the past two weeks in Washington, D.C. during the impeachment trial. 

But even former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigeg and former Vice President Joe Biden couldn’t keep pace with Yang this month. Buttigieg had 48 and Biden had 31 events. 

In the latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll, Yang was polling at 5 percent among likely 2020 Democratic caucus goers. 

Bloomberg nabs endorsement from Utah's lone Democratic congressman

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah's lone Democratic member of Congress, is throwing his support behind Mike Bloomberg’s presidential bid the campaign announced Friday morning, arguing that the former New York City mayor is the candidate best positioned to heal a divided country and move beyond partisan politics.

McAdams marks Bloomberg’s sixth congressional endorsement in a span of six weeks and might help the former mayor bolster his appeal as a consensus candidate who can win over independents and disaffected Trump voters.

Image: Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting in Washington on Jan. 22, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

McAdams, a former Salt Lake City mayor, defeated Republican incumbent Mia Love in a tight race during the 2018 midterms and represents one of reddest districts held by a Democrat. 

President Trump carried Utah’s fourth congressional district by nearly seven percentage points in 2016.

During his House campaign, McAdams touted himself as a moderate Democrat — someone who would work across the aisle and focus on the issues.

In Bloomberg, the congressman said he sees a leader with familiar values and a similar aim. “Washington is full of people who talk.”

“Our country is desperately in need of a doer like Mike who puts people ahead of politics,” he said in a Bloomberg campaign release.  

"I'm honored to have the support of Congressman McAdams, a former mayor who understands the importance of getting things done," Bloomberg said. "In Utah and in Congress, he's led on the issues critical to this election, taking action to create jobs, improve education, and expand access to affordable health care for every American. I'm looking forward to working with him to bring people together and rebuild America."  

Casting aside the early-state strategy of his fellow 2020 contenders, Bloomberg has made a play — and also significant investments — in swing areas across the Midwest and in states like Texas, Florida and North Carolina. 

Despite Bloomberg's late entrance into the race, and not competing in the traditional early states, he’s made gains in national polls and has spent more than $230 million on television and radio ads so far.

Bloomberg, with help from leaders like McAdams, hopes this “Blue Wall” strategy pays off on Super Tuesday, when a large number of delegates are up for grabs in 14 states, including Utah.

Buttigieg seeks contrast with Biden and Sanders ahead of Iowa caucuses

DECORAH, Iowa — With four days until the Iowa Caucus and closing arguments setting in, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is directly contrasting himself with other top Democratic contenders. He went after Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., by name Thursday arguing that it’s time for both men to make way for a new approach to governing, presenting himself as a clear alternative to potential caucus goers in the room.

Biden has suggested in the past that now is not the time for voters to take a risk on someone new. And Buttigieg took aim at those remarks. “The biggest risk we could take with a very important election coming up is to look to the same Washington playbook and recycle the same arguments and expect that to work against a president like Donald Trump who is new in kind,” he said calling on the crowd to help him “turn the page.” 

Image: Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Buena Vista University in Iowa on Jan. 25, 2020.
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Buena Vista University in Iowa on Jan. 25, 2020.John Locher / AP

The candidate hit Sanders for his, “go all the way here and nothing else counts” approach to politics as ineffective for getting things done and cautioned against focusing on disputes of the past without an eye toward the future.

“This is no time to get caught up in reliving arguments from before,” he said. “The less 2020 resembles 2016 in our party, the better.”

In recent weeks, Sanders and Biden have sparred over Iraq war votes and Social Security. Buttigieg characterized the arguments between the two veteran lawmakers as backwards facing relics of the past.

“This is 2020 and we've got, not only to learn the lessons of the war in Iraq, but to make sure we don't get sucked into a war with Iran,” he said.

Buttigieg himself has previously criticized Biden’s “judgment” because of the former Vice President’s vote in favor of the Iraq war. He said that the conversation taking place around the issue now is different.

“My point is that we can't get bogged down or caught in those arguments without a view toward the future,” the former mayor explained. “The next president’s going to face questions and challenges that are different in kind from what ... has been litigated and argued about in the 1990s.”

On disagreements over Social Security, he noted that "Donald Trump is threatening Social Security, and announcing cuts to Medicaid today."

Buttigieg said he felt the need to call his competitors out because he sought to guarantee a “clear understanding of the different paths that we offer" ahead of the last days before the caucus.

“This is a moment in particular where I think the stakes of the election are coming into focus and the differences in how each of us believe we can win and govern are also coming into focus,” he said.

As for alienating voters by going after fellow contenders days before the caucus, Buttigieg isn’t worried. “We’re competing,” he said expressing his desire to “make sure that that choice is as clear as possible, going into these final days.”

Trump campaign previews Super Bowl ads

DES MOINES, Iowa — President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign previewed the first of two Super Bowl ads on Thursday, making the argument that the country is “stronger, safer and more prosperous” under the current administration.

“America demanded change and change is what we got,” the spot opens, with a dramatic narrator and images of the president campaigning nationwide. The commercial touts wage growth, low unemployment and promises that “the best is yet to come.”

The ad, "Stronger, Safer, More Prosperous," doesn’t mention other candidates in the race and features news clips on the strong economy. The other 30-second ad won’t be seen until it actually airs during the highly-viewed game on Sunday.

“Just as the Super Bowl crowns the greatest football team, nothing says ‘winning’ like President Donald Trump and his stellar record of accomplishment for all Americans,” said Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Trump will be in Iowa for his own re-election rally Thursday night ahead of a significant push from his campaign which will include surrogates on the ground in the Hawkeye State through next week's caucuses.

Earlier in the day, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s campaign released a 60-second spot focused on gun control that, like the president's ad, will hit the airwaves during the Super Bowl

The dueling advertisements will mark the first time presidential campaigns have bought airtime during a Super Bowl, though the Trump campaign is quick to point out that they were first to reach out to the broadcaster, FOX, last fall and reserved the slot in December. Weeks after that, the Bloomberg team followed suit.

Iowa ad spending ticks up in the last week before caucuses

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ad spending in Iowa is ramping up just five days out from the caucuses. Democratic Majority for Israel, a group that campaigns against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, is spending $681,000 against Sanders in Iowa in the final week of the race (Jan. 28 to Feb. 3), according to data from Advertising Analytics. 

The ad the group is airing in heavy rotation — it was on air twice within 15 minutes on local TV in Iowa — features a woman speaking to the camera saying, "I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’ health considering he just had a heart attack." After recovering from his heart attack, Sanders released a letter from his doctors declaring him "in good health" and "more than fit" enough to be president. 

Just a few days out from the Iowa caucuses, here is all of the ad spending in the final week of the race: Here is  (Jan. 28 to Feb. 3):

From Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 

  • Steyer: $1.4 million
  • Sanders: $1.2 million
  • Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $992,000
  • Warren: $947,000
  • Buttigieg: $854,000
  • Klobuchar: $767,000
  • Democratic Majority for Israel: $681,000
  • Yang: $613,000
  • Biden: $530,000
  • Bloomberg: $51,000
  • Club for Growth: $34,000
  • Florida Sen. Rick Scott: $19,000
  • Delaney: $19,000

SOURCE: Advertising Analytics

Bloomberg unveils Super Bowl ad on gun violence

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ad touts his record on preventing gun violence, evoking the story of a mother whose son was shot and killed at just 20 years old. 

The ad, set to air during Sunday's Super Bowl, cost $11 million to run, according to data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. President Trump's campaign is also slated to run a Super Bowl ad as well. 

In Bloomberg's ad, Calandrian Simpson Kemp tells the emotional story of the 2013 death of her son, George Kemp Jr. She then praises Bloomberg for his role in starting Moms Demand Action, a grassroots gun violence prevention group under Bloomberg's umbrella organization Everytown for Gun Safety. 

"I heard Mike Bloomberg speak, he's been in this fight for so long," Simpson Kemp says in the ad. 

"When I heard Mike was stepping into the ring, I thought, 'Now we have a dog in the fight.'"

Bloomberg's work on gun violence is one of his main selling points to a Democratic primary electorate, and it's something that the campaign says it will focus on in the coming days. 

Along with the release of the ad, the Bloomberg campaign says it's going to keep highlighting the stories of gun violence survivors and will launch a multistate bus tour ahead of February's National Gun Violence Survivors Week. 

“I chose to devote the entire 60-second ad to gun safety because it matters to communities across the country and it will be a top priority for me as president,” Bloomberg said in a statement. 

“Calandrian’s story is a powerful reminder of the urgency of this issue and the failure of Washington to address it."

The eye-popping cost of the ad emphasizes how Bloomberg's significant personal wealth is a game changer for his presidential bid — he's already spent hundreds of millions more on ads than his Democratic presidential rivals. 

Bloomberg has also leveraged his relationships with mayors throughout the country during his presidential bid — his campaign announced an endorsement Thursday from Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who mentioned Bloomberg's record on gun violence prevention in announcing her endorsement in a statement provided to The Washington Post

Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.