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Biden campaign launches general election ad in battleground states
WASHINGTON — With sights set on the general election, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is launching its first set of targeted digital ads in battleground states that focus on President Trump's lack of preparation in handling coronavirus.
The ad, "Unprepared" will play in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All of the states will see three versions of the ad, an almost two-minute, 15-second and 6-second version, on Facebook and Instagram.
"Unprepared"'s longest version begins with a narrator accusing Trump of failing to preemptively prepare the country for a pandemic. The ad goes on to say that Trump's campaign and its allies are instead launching “negative attacks against Joe Biden to hide the truth.”
Trump and Biden, and respected super PACs, have been attacking each other on China. The Trump campaign launched its own digital ad last week attacking Biden's record on China — suggesting he was sympathetic to China. While Priorities USA, a super PAC supporting Biden, has paid for ads attacking the president's coronavirus response.
This ad continues that back-and-forth by comparing Biden and Trump’s positions on China in their own words. The ad attempts to remind voters that the former vice president said he would've sent officials to China to investigate the virus, while Trump did not.
“Donald Trump left this country unprepared and unprotected for the worst economic and public health crisis in our lifetime and now we’re paying the price. All the negative ads in the world can’t change the truth,” the ad concludes.
This ad marks the Biden campaign's first major investment in targeted ads in states they hope to pick up in the 2020 general election. Aside from Facebook and Instagram, the campaign will also be running the ad in key media markets in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on YouTube to counteract the president's online ad running there.
Biden campaign launches new video attacking Trump on coronavirus response
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is mounting a new offensive against President Trump and his allies over the administration's response to the coronavirus. The new digital campaign argues that Trump “was more worried about protecting his trade deal with China than he was about the virus that had already come to America."
In a new digital video, first shown to NBC News, Biden says, "The uncomfortable truth is that this president left America exposed and vulnerable to this pandemic. He ignored the warnings of health experts and intelligence agencies, and put his trust in China’s leaders instead. And now, we're all paying the price,” Biden says in a new digital video first previewed to NBC News.
Biden also points Trump ending the Obama administration's "PREDICT" program and reducing the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's footprint in China as two specific actions that left the U.S. less ready both to identify the health crisis at an early stage, and address it once it had spread.
“When the coronavirus started to spread, the CDC wanted to get into China to get information that could save American lives. China said no. And President Trump refused to insist on access,” Biden said.
The former vice president ended the video by promising to protect the American people during potential future outbreaks if he's elected president — in recent days Biden has said he would re-establish the Obama-era global health pandemic office and elevate it to a cabinet-level position.
The Biden team's new video reflects how China has become an early flashpoint between Trump and Biden. While both men have limited their attacks against each other press conferences or virtual events, super PACs support both candidates have launched China-focused attacks in recent weeks.
America First Action, a super PAC supporting the president, released two new ads on Friday in key battleground states suggesting Biden has been sympathetic toward China throughout his career. And Priorities USA, a group supporting Biden, launched a weeks-long effort of TV ads attacking the president's coronavirus response.
The Biden campaign is expected to continue focusing their attacks against Trump’s responsiveness to coronavirus on China on Friday. Biden's foreign policy senior adviser Tony Blinken and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, whose state will be holding a mail-in-ballot primary this month, will be holding a "Trump's Failure to Stand Up to China" press call.
GOP super PAC releases new ads targeting Biden on China
WASHINGTON — Allies of President Trump are finally responding to Democratic super PAC ads criticizing the president's coronavirus response — with a new set of ads attacking former Vice President Joe Biden.
As part of its multi-million ad buy in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, has released two new TV ads attacking comments Biden has made about China, according to Advertising Analytics.
One of the ads, entitled "Bad Folks", focuses on Biden saying China is "not bad folks" and then flashes to Biden and China's President Xi Jinping together when Biden was vice president. Biden has mentioned on several occasions throughout the campaign that he got to know Xi during his time in the White House when former President Barack Obama sent Biden to China to meet with Xi.
The second ad, "40 Years", also paints Biden as sympathetic toward China. The ad points to a 2011 speech in which Biden said that "a rising China is a positive development". The ad also says that Biden wrongfully admonished Trump's decision to stop travel from China to the U.S. due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, though, these ads left unsaid the president's own positive words about China — especially during the pandemic. On a tweet on Jan. 24, Trump tweeted his thanks to Xi for his "efforts and transparency."
Biden gets backing from organizing and minority-focused groups
Since becoming the apparent nominee, Biden has been accumulating more support from a variety of Democratic groups, including Let America Vote (LAV), which endorsed him Thursday.
Another group that endorsed Biden Thursday, End Citizens United had gone after Biden during the primary when the former vice president signaled he wouldn't disown a super PAC, namely the Unite the Country PAC, from supporting his campaign. While Biden was the first 2020 Democratic candidate to not say no to help from an outside organization, many of his rivals would eventually also tacitly agree to PAC support.
ECU and LAV President Tiffany Muller said the groups are throwing their support behind Biden now because “he’ll work to get big money out of our politics and more Americans participating in our democracy.”
Biden responded to the endorsements with saying he'll work with the groups to reform the campaign finance and electoral systems.
“Our Constitution doesn’t begin with the phrase, 'We the Democrats' or 'We the Republicans.' And it certainly doesn’t begin with the phrase, 'We the Donors.' It begins with ‘We the People.’ Today, our campaign finance and electoral systems are broken. I’m excited to work with End Citizens United and Let America Vote to fix this once and for all,” Biden said.
Biden added that voting groups like LAV are essential during the coronavirus pandemic to advocate for safe vote-by-mail or safe in-person voting systems ahead of the November election.
Voto Latino, a grassroots group that focuses on Latino voters, also announced Thursday they were backing Biden. This is the first time the organization has endorsed a presidential candidate since its founding in 2004. Emgage PAC, an outside group that says it represents Muslim American interests, also endorsed Biden — the group formerly backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The groups' endorsements signal more Democratic coalescing around Biden's campaign, now that he is the party's apparent nominee and has gotten the backing of almost all his former primary opponents.
CORRECTION (April 17, 2020, 9:10 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated who End Citizens United and Let America Vote supported in the Democratic presidential primary. The groups endorsed Joe Biden on Thursday; they had not previously endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Biden's former campaign manager shifts to general-election role
WASHINGTON — One year ago, Greg Schultz was racing to assemble the pieces of a Joe Biden presidential campaign as the former vice president neared his long-speculated, but never 100 percent certain entry into the crowded Democratic primary.
Now, the longtime Biden political adviser is taking on a different challenge as the campaign’s general election strategist, ramping up efforts to align and execute planning among Team Biden, the Democratic National Committee, state parties and other key stakeholders.
The assignment, which became official this week, rounds out the reorganization of the senior ranks of Biden’s campaign operation after Jennifer O’Malley Dillon replaced Schultz as campaign manager last month. Schultz, who has continued to serve as a senior adviser to the former vice president, will also act as a campaign surrogate with a focus on key Midwestern battleground states.
Schultz first joined Biden’s orbit formally in 2013 with a post in the vice president's office, after having worked with the vice president as the Obama reelection campaign’s Ohio state director in 2012.
He worked with other top Biden advisers to position the then-vice president for a potential 2016 bid — which he ultimately passed on — and then oversaw his post-White House political action committee before leading up the 2020 effort.
"Greg's talent and leadership have been an important part of this campaign's success since the beginning, and I'm grateful he's taking on this new role to help ensure we run a well-organized and effective general election campaign to beat Donald Trump and restore the soul of this nation,” Biden said in a statement to NBC News.
To say the Biden campaign is confronting a general election campaign without precedent is an understatement, and not just because it is President Donald Trump they are trying to unseat from the White House. As the nation faces both an economic and public health crisis, Biden’s campaign headquarters in Philadelphia is empty — with staff now scattered throughout the region and Biden himself off the trail, addressing the country from a home television studio.
The unusual pause in the campaign has given Biden and his team a measure of additional space to recalibrate their operation from one focused on winning the nomination to one now exclusively focused on November.
Schultz’s assignment now builds off the work he did mapping out Biden’s strategy in the 2018 midterms, when Biden campaigned in two dozen states for candidates up and down the ballot. He reports to Dillon in the role as part of the campaign’s senior staff.
John Morgan, a top Biden donor who has worked extensively with Schultz since the campaign launch, said Biden told him that Schultz’s role working with the DNC especially would be critical.
“That’s a place that the biggest checks can go, and that’s the place that Michael Bloomberg’s money has already gone and continue to go to,” he said. “I just think it shows the trust that Joe Biden has in Greg.”
Poll: Coronavirus concerns are especially affecting younger Americans
WASHINGTON — A new poll released Thursday finds that younger Americans are experiencing the coronavirus pandemic more acutely than the country overall when it comes to health and the economy. Young people are also significantly more critical of President Trump and his handling of the crisis.
The survey from the Democratic-leaning Super PAC, NextGen America, and left-of-center polling firm, Navigator Research, reveals that Americans ages 18-34 are more likely than the general public to know someone who has lost their job, who has had work hours reduced, or who has been infected with the virus all by about 10 percentage points.
Nearly one-quarter of younger Americans — 24 percent — know somebody who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, versus 16 percent of the overall public. Strong majorities of young people know somebody who has either lost their job (64 percent) or had hours cut amid the public health crisis (74 percent).
That’s compared with 53 percent and 65 percent of all Americans, respectively, who say the same thing.
Almost one-in-four younger Americans also report that they personally have lost their jobs while 14 percent of all Americans say the same.
What’s more, this younger demographic is experiencing the most anxiety about grappling with coronavirus than any other age group and is more likely to worry about finances. According to the poll, young Americans are tapping into their savings and applying for unemployment insurance at higher rates than others.
On a call with reporters Thursday, Bryan Bennett — a Navigator Research adviser — stressed that the pandemic has a “heightened economic impact” on young people of color, especially. The poll reveals that younger Americans from communities of color are starting to spend their savings, and are applying for unemployment insurance or nutritional assistance at slightly higher rates than the broader young American sample.
When it comes to the president, younger Americans disapprove of Trump and his response to the coronavirus crisis far more than the nation does generally. Whereas the overall public is largely split on Trump’s coronavirus response with 49 percent approving and 48 disapproving, his approval is underwater among the youngest Americans — 41 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove — per Navigator’s daily tracking up to this point.
Women and people of color within the young American demographic are particularly critical of the president with approximately two-thirds of both subsets saying Trump didn’t take the crisis seriously enough.
“The blame is falling squarely on Trump,” NextGen Executive Director, Ben Wessel, said on the call. Speakers also noted that state governors and local governments continue to receive higher marks than the president especially among the youth.
Where young people and all Americans vastly agree is in their broader views of the coronavirus crisis. Approximately three-quarters of both younger Americans and older Americans label the pandemic a “major crisis” and say “the worst is yet to come.”
NextGen and Navigator Research’s findings are based on online interviews with over 6,000 registered voters — 1,555 of which fall into the 18-34 age category — conducted as part of their daily tracking poll from March 20-April 11. The broader sample’s margin or error is plus-minus 1.3 percent and the younger subsample’s margin of error is plus-minus 2.5 percent.
Tweet the Press: NBC's Carol Lee discusses the administration's coronavirus response
WASHINGTON — On this week's Tweet the Press, we spoke with NBC News correspondent Carol Lee about the latest developments on the administration's coronavirus response plan.
Hours before President Trump says he will be announcing new guidelines on "opening up America again," Carol ran down what that might look like, what questions still haven't been addressed and what business leaders want to see from the president.
Click here to read the full conversation.
Senate campaigns raise big money ahead of possible coronavirus crunch
WASHINGTON — Senate incumbents and challengers in key states raised big money in the first quarter of 2020 even as societal and financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic could dampen fundraising totals going forward.
A Senate Democratic challenger outraised a Republican incumbent in six of the 10 most competitive races rated by Cook Political Report (where a Republican incumbent is running for reelection).
Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath and Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly leading the pack, having raised $12.9 million and $11 million respectively.
Some Democratic challengers at least doubled (or nearly doubled) their incumbent counterpart’s efforts in the Senate battleground — Kelly, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Maine Speaker Sara Gideon and North Carolina’s Cal Cunningham.
And Kansas’ Barbara Bollier raised $2.4 million while the four top Republicans in the race combined to raise under $900,000.
That’s while Republican incumbents all put up at least six-figures in receipts from this past January through March — with Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell raising the most with $7.5 million and Arizona Sen. Martha McSally close behind with $6.4 million.
Going into April, the average incumbent Republican has $9 million banked away, a nest egg that’s larger than most Democratic competitors’ and one that could become increasingly important if fundraising efforts come to a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Take Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. She outraised her top-raising Democratic challenger this quarter, Theresa Greenfield. But Ernst has about $6.5 million in her war chest, while Greenfield has just $3.8 million.
As Democrats hope that big numbers from people like Kelly, McGrath and South Carolina’s Jaime Harrison can help expand the map, or at least siphon off resources from other key states, Republicans are trying to keep the pressure on the few vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for reelection this cycle.
Republican John James, who lost his 2018 Senate bid, outraised incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters $4.8 million to $4.1 million. And the two are virtually tied in cash-on-hand, with slightly more than $8.5 million banked away.
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones significantly outraised the top two Republicans in the race, former Sen. Jeff Sessions and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. But Jones still has a tough race ahead of him regardless of which candidate makes it out of the runoff, considering how deep-red Alabama is.
In Georgia’s special election, incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler raised $6.2 million — but only about $1 million of that came from individual donors. Loeffler personally contributed about $5.1 million to her campaign. And her Republican challenger, Rep. Doug Collins, raised just $2.5 million and that included a whopping nearly $1.7 million transfer from his House account.
Rep. Justin Amash to decide whether to launch presidential bid 'soon'
WASHINGTON — Rep. Justin Amash is expected to make a decision “soon” on whether he will jump in the race for president his office says, potentially launching the latest attempt by a conservative to challenge President Donald Trump.
The Michigan Independent paused campaign activities for his congressional re-election bid in mid-February “to carefully consider a presidential run."
"He has been discussing the potential campaign with his family, his friends, his team, and others, and a decision can be expected soon,” his office tells NBC News.
Amash, a fierce critic of the president, stoked speculation earlier this week when he responded to Trump saying that a president’s authority is “total.” Amash tweeted that Americans “deserve another option” and that he’s “looking closely” at it.
The libertarian-minded lawmaker would not run as a Republican and would likely have to win the nomination of a third party in order to effectively compete in a significant number of states in November. Amash’s office has not speculated which third party Amash would run under. The Libertarian Party has plans to hold its nominating convention next month.
The Michigan lawmaker left the Republican party in 2019 after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which Amash said was reason to open impeachment proceedings against the president. In an op-ed in the Washington Post announcing he was leaving the GOP, he didn’t mention the president by name but instead focused on the two party system, saying that “modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral.”
Elizabeth Warren endorses Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid Wednesday, making her the latest prominent Democrat to publicly throw their support behind Biden in recent days.
Warren announced her decision in a message on Twitter, where she said that America needs an empathetic president like Biden to help Americans reconnect with the federal government.
"In this moment of crisis, it is more important than ever that the next president restores Americans' faith in good, effective government," she said.
"Joe Biden has spent nearly his entire life in public service. He knows that a government run with integrity, confidence and heart will save lives and save livelihoods."
She connected Biden to her call for big, structural change to America, arguing that she's seen his commitment to helping everyday Americans in how he handled the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008.
"When Donald Trump is gone, we will need to do more than heal a nation that has been bitterly divided. We will need to rebuild and transform our country. And I've seen Joe Biden help a nation rebuild," she said.
And Warren emphasized that Biden is open to new ideas as he's made a handful of policy announcements in recent weeks that echo policies Warren or Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders promoted on the campaign trail.
During a virtual town hall last month, Biden touted his support for a Warren that would make it easier for people to file for bankruptcy, which includes allowing bankruptcy to relieve student debt. He's also supported expanding his free-college plan, adopted portions of her language on corporate bailouts to his COVID-19 relief plan, pressed for conditions on corporations that receive stimulus money and endorsed Warren's legislation calling on a CDC study on the racial disparity of the effects of COVID-19.
"Among all the other candidates I competed with in the Democratic primary, there's no one I've agreed with 100 percent of the time over the years. But one thing I appreciate about Joe Biden is he will always tell you where he stands," she said.
"When you disagree, he'll listen. And not just listen, but really hear you and treat you with respect, no matter where you are coming from. And he's shown throughout this campaign that when you come up with new facts or a good argument, he's not too afraid or too proud to be persuaded."
Warren's backing punctuates a recent flood of endorsements to Biden, a sign the Democratic Party is coalescing around their party's presumptive nominee.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Biden on Monday, joining Biden's livestream and saying that "I will do all that I can" to see Biden defeat Trump.
Then, former President Barack Obama unveiled his endorsement Tuesday in video message where he said that Biden “has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery.“
—NBC's Mike Memoli contributed
The Democratic Party still looks like Obama's party
WASHINGTON — With former President Barack Obama endorsing his vice president, Joe Biden, on Tuesday, it’s worth recalling that the 2020 exit polls revealed that more Democratic primary voters said they wanted the next president to return to Obama’s policies — rather than pursue a more liberal course.
That could be one of the biggest reasons why Joe Biden’s message of restoration beat out Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ revolution during the Democratic primary season. It’s also why we saw almost all of the Democratic presidential candidates — from Biden and Sanders, to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and even former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — feature Obama in their TV ads.
In New Hampshire, a plurality of Democratic primary voters — 40 percent — said the next president should return to Obama's policies, and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Biden overwhelmingly won those voters, according to the exit poll.
By contrast, 39 percent of Democrats in the Granite State wanted the next president to change to more liberal policies, and Sanders got 43 percent of those voters on his way to his narrow victory in that primary.
In South Carolina's primary, which Biden won overwhelmingly, 53 percent of the Democratic voters said the next president should return to Obama's policies, and Biden won 62 percent of those voters. Just 27 percent wanted the next president to change to more liberal policies, and 17 percent wanted a more conservative president.
The pattern also played out in the big Super Tuesday states:
- Virginia (which Biden won): 47 percent return to Obama’s policies, 28 percent more liberal.
- North Carolina (which Biden won): 56 percent return to Obama’s policies, 29 percent more liberal.
- Texas (which Biden won): 50 percent return to Obama’s policies, 34 percent more liberal.
- California (which Sanders won): 43 percent return to Obama’s policies, 40 percent more liberal.
But in Obama's endorsement video of Biden, the former president acknowledged that he would be pursuing different policies if he were running for president today instead of 2008.
“You know, I could not be prouder of the incredible progress that we made together during my presidency. But if I were running today, I wouldn’t run the same race or have the same platform as I did in 2008. The world is different, there’s too much unfinished business for us to just look backwards. We have to look to the future,” he said.
AFT launches ads blasting Trump for PPE claims
WASHINGTON — The American Federation of Teachers is launching a new round of television and online ads featuring nurses and health care workers blasting President Donald Trump for accusing them of stealing personal protective equipment (PPE), the tools these workers have needed to protect themselves while caring for COVID-19-positive patients.
The spots, obtained by NBC News ahead of Tuesday's launch, feature health care professionals urging Americans to contact the White House to demand masks and other PPE as they still face shortages at hospitals and health care facilities across the country.
The ads start with a clip of Trump last month questioning how New York hospitals are using PPE, saying, “Something’s going on. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?”
Several different nurses respond, with one saying, “President Trump suggested that nurses like me are possibly stealing masks.”
“We don’t have the protective equipment,” another nurse says.
Then another nurse says, “Do your job Mr. President,” and another follows up by saying, “…and give us the equipment we need to do our job.”
AFT membership doesn't just include teachers — the union has a smattering of members from other vocations, including a large group of nurses.
In a Tuesday statement, AFT President Randi Weingarten said that health care workers are targeting the president “for his odious suggestions that they are somehow thieves and demanding that he does his job as they do theirs.”
“Trump calls himself a wartime president, but our states don’t have the funds or testing they need, and our hospitals and healthcare professionals remain dangerously ill-equipped to fight this pandemic,” she said. “His refusal to do his job means our heroes will remain exposed and at risk.”
AFT’s ads called “Thieves” cost in the mid-six-figures, the group told NBC, and will air in 15-second and 30-second versions in the Washington, D.C. and New York City markets on a number of channels including CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel.
Klobuchar and Abrams team up to promote vote-by-mail, other expansions
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams are teaming up in a new video promoting efforts to expand voting-by-mail and early voting ahead of the November general election.
The roughly three minute video, which features Klobuchar and Abrams separately, largely focuses on issues of voting safety during the coronavirus pandemic and ask people to sign a petition to support expanding vote-by-mail.
Klobuchar pointed to recent concerns about Wisconsin's primary last week, held at a time when statewide shut-downs and social distancing measures are critical, according to public health officials.
“As we saw in Wisconsin, voters were faced with things that should not happen in the United States of America,” Klobuchar says in the video. “Everything about it was wrong. People should not have to decide between their own health and their own right to vote. We can do both, we can protect people's health, and we can allow them to vote.”
Klobuchar is a lead sponsor of legislation introduced last month seeking to protect voting rights during the coronavirus pandemic by implementing vote-by-mail and expanding early voting nationwide for November. Abrams, a former Georgia House Democratic Leader, is also the founder and chair of Fair Fight Action, which works to promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country and encourages voter participation.
Klobuchar and Wyden’s bill calls for funding to be given to the states so they can expand voting, keep polls open 20 days in advance, ensure no-excuse mail-in voting and train a “new generation of poll workers.”
“Voting by mail is easy, secure, and the healthiest and safest way to cast your ballot,” Abrams says in the video. “You can vote by mail while you are socially distancing and stay at home. Just as we adapt to new norms to protect ourselves and our loved ones, we must also adapt to how we conduct our elections.”
“Republicans and Democrats can certainly agree that we must be prepared in November,” she says. “We need the resources now to help states conduct elections and expand vote by mail. The stakes are too high in this election, and we must get this done.”
Former first lady Michelle Obama’s organization “When We All Vote” formally announced support for Klobuchar’s vote-by-mail bill on Monday.
“When We All Vote recently announced its support for the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020, which represents the organization’s first time supporting federal legislation,” the press release said. “The reforms in the bill are aligned with When We All Vote’s three voting principles.”
Klobuchar tweeted her thanks to Obama for supporting her bill, saying, “During a time of crisis, we must protect the right to vote AND Americans’ health. Let’s pass this bill.”
The partnership of Klobuchar and Abrams comes amid speculation that both could be considered by apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as his running mate for the fall.
Poll: Majority of public says Trump’s urge for NFL season to begin on time was inappropriate
A Seton Hall Sports poll released Monday showed that a majority of Americans believe medical experts — rather than President Trump — should decide when the National Football League season begins amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This comes after the president spoke to league commissioners last Saturday, encouraging them to start the NFL season on time — a move that most of the public disapproved of according to this same survey.
The poll shows that six-in-10 Americans believed Trump’s conference call with sports commissioners, in which he expressed his desire to have fans at games by August, was inappropriate given current medical guidance on the coronavirus.
Just 36 percent said the president’s comments were appropriate.
When asked who should determine when the NFL resumes play, a clear majority of respondents — 61 percent — said medical experts should decide. Only 7 percent said the president should decide, and another 11 percent said it should be up to state governors.
About 20 percent of the nation believes the NFL should decide whether to hold games in September on its own.
In a separate question, 55 percent of those polled said the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak was not strong enough, while 38 percent labeled the government’s handling appropriate. A mere 6 percent called the government’s response excessive. The numbers were about the same for those self-identified as sports fans.
As to when the NFL season should start, nearly half of respondents — 46 percent — said it should not go on as planned for September 13, versus 36 percent who said it should. By a vast 57-point margin, 77 percent of the public argued that the college and professional football seasons should be delayed if players don’t have sufficient training ahead of time compared to 20 percent who said a delay wouldn’t be necessary.
The poll also found that 62 percent of those surveyed credited sports leagues for cancelling their seasons early-on because of the novel coronavirus, saying they played a role in making government officials take the outbreak more seriously.
The Seton Hall Sports Poll was conducted by the Sharkey Institute within the university's Stillman School of Business April 6-8 via landline and cell phones. It surveyed 762 adults in the United States, and it’s margin of error is plus-minus 3.6 percentage points.
Conservative group to launch ads opposing mail-in voting
WASHINGTON – A conservative group has launched a paid advertising campaign against mail-in voting amid the escalating, partisan battle over alternative ways to vote as the coronavirus pandemic rages.
The group, Honest Elections Project, is launching a week-long $250,000 digital and television ad campaign on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN to protect against the “brazen attempt to manipulate the election system for partisan advantage.” Honest Elections Project is a non-profit group that is not required to release its donors.
Jason Snead, the executive director of Honest Elections Project, told NBC News in a phone interview that “there are a lot more opportunities for malfeasance” with mail-in voting. He said that ballots could go missing, get lost or invite ballot harvesting.
Mail-in voting has become the latest partisan battleground in the fight over voting access.
With stay-at-home orders and uncertainty over when the risk of coronavirus infection will dissipate, Democrats in Congress are pushing legislation and federal funding to enable states to implement mail-in voting ahead of the November election.
When We All Vote, the group backed by former First Lady Michelle Obama, on Monday launched a grassroots effort to pressure states and the federal government to adopt widespread mail-in voting, online voter registration and early in-in person voting.
While some Republicans, like New Hampshire’s Governor Chris Sununu, are also moving in that direction, many Republicans, including most in Congress and President Donald Trump, have resisted, saying it increases the opportunity for fraud.
During a late-March interview on Fox News, Trump said that Democrats were proposing "levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."
Honest Elections Project and many Republicans have said that absentee-ballot voting is a good alternative. While many absentee ballots are also sent in by mail, states often limit access to specific groups of people who must request absentee ballots and provide a reason why they can’t make it to the polls.
In contrast, a massive expansion of mail-in voting would cover more people and not require an excuse to request a ballot by mail.
A spokesman for Honest Elections Project said they will spend “whatever it takes” to combat an effort to move the election to be conducted by mail. It has also hired the law firm Consovoy McCarthy PLLC to file counter-lawsuits when voting-access groups in states around the country push for mail-in voting.
Massive Trump re-elect fundraising dips in March amid coronavirus
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s re-election announced Monday it raised a combined $212 million in the first quarter of 2020, with contributions dipping in the month of March compared to the earlier part of the year even as the effort still maintains a strong financial advantage over Democrats.
In one of the first concrete signs that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on fundraising, the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee brought in $63 million last month compared to $86 million in February.
The pro-Trump groups reported more than $240 million in the bank, an increase of $40 million since January.
The total comes from both the main campaign entity, the RNC and its authorized joint fundraising committees, combined. And in a sign the effort is ramping up significantly in the on-year, the $212 million raked in last quarter was up from the $156 million generated from January to March of 2019.
The campaign and the RNC pivoted to virtual voter interactions, including fundraisers, after the White House announced strict new social distancing rules in mid-March. Several high-profile surrogate events, including a multi-day, high-dollar swing for Ivanka Trump and a California trip for first lady Melania Trump, were postponed indefinitely.
The Trump team’s transition to a fully digital operation took place almost immediately, with the entire re-elect effort converting volunteer events to phone banks and the campaign’s online arm is now holding daily events on social media platforms.
Trump Victory, the joint venture, is boasting that their volunteers have already made more than 17 million voter contacts since most of the nation went into lockdown exactly one month ago.
Despite the challenges of cyber-organizing and fundraising, the campaign remains confident Trump's handling of the coronavirus challenge can help his political standing.
“Americans can see President Trump leading this nation through a serious crisis and they are responding with their continued enthusiastic support for his re-election,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee NC have yet to report their first-quarter hauls for 2020. From the start of 2019 through February, the RNC had significantly outraised the DNC — $294 million for the RNC to $115 million for the DNC.
But while Trump's campaign lapped Biden's in fundraising, Democratic donors were divided between a large field of candidates. The Democratic presidential campaigns combined significantly outraised Trump's campaign in 2019, so Democrats are hopeful a unified effort will help close the resource gap.
In total, the Trump campaign and RNC committees have raised $677 million to date this cycle, which is $270 million more than former President Barack Obama’s re-elect teams had at this point in 2012, when the Democratic incumbent was seeking re-election.
“The enthusiasm for President Trump and our Party remains strong, and we continue to be all systems go toward November," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
Cuomo: 'I’m not running for president'
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will not run for president in 2020.
“I’m not running for president. I'm not running fro vice president. I'm not running anywhere," Cuomo said at a coronavirus news conference on Saturday. "I'm not going to Washington, I'm staying right here.
Cuomo said that is was "flattering" that some Democrats wanted to see him replace former Vice President Joe Biden as the nominee, but also called it "irrelevant" in a time of crisis.
"There is no politics here. I have no political agenda, period," Cuomo said.
Trump campaign renews focus on Hunter Biden in controversial China ad
WASHINGTON — As President Trump's campaign gears up for a general election face-off with apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden, it's also reintroducing attacks against the former vice president’s son and his business dealings with China.
In a new digital ad released on Thursday, the president’s re-election team is attempting to paint Biden as lenient on China when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic and travel ban, and specifically highlights a trip to Beijing that Hunter Biden joined his father on in 2013. The two-pronged approach is an effort to weaken Biden, while using his son’s work with overseas companies to create a perception of corruption.
“During America’s crisis, Biden protected China’s feelings or perhaps China’s investment?” the text on the screen reads, spliced between news reports of the visit and Biden praising various Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping.
Beyond the 60-second online spot, the Trump campaign and its allies have started to highlight more news reports about the former vice president’s trip, which came under scrutiny again as the impeachment investigation began last fall after the president tried to dig up damaging information against the Bidens amid unproven allegations related to Hunter’s work with a Ukrainian energy company.
Almost immediately, reporters and the Biden campaign noticed that the commercial on China featured an image of Biden and former Washington governor and Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, who was also on the 2013 trip. The photo appears in a montage with other Chinese officials, implying that Locke was among them. Locke is Chinese-American and also served as ambassador to China.
“The shot Biden’s campaign is complaining about is relevant because it’s Joe Biden standing in front of Chinese flags during his 2013 trip to Beijing — the trip where Hunter accompanied him and met with Chinese business partners. It’s immaterial who else is in the shot with Biden,” Trump communications director, Tim Murtaugh, said in a statement to NBC News.
The Biden campaign is now calling for the spot to be removed.
“This is utterly disgusting and should be pulled immediately,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates tweeted.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang also condemned it, tweeting: "Gary Locke is as American as the day is long. Trump rewriting history as if he effectively responded to the virus is utter garbage."
As coronavirus spread across the country, Asian-American lawmakers have spoken repeatedly about a rise in xenophobia and discrimination directed at them, warning of the dangers of linking blame for the respiratory illness to any group of people.
Murtaugh says the campaign has no plans to take the ad down or re-edit it to make clear Locke is not a Chinese official. It will also continue to highlight questions about Hunter Biden’s business activity while his father was vice president, much as Trump’s defense team did during the impeachment trial.
The focus on China and Biden comes as the White House continues to argue Trump was tough on China when the coronavirus outbreak began spreading beyond Wuhan, specifically pointing to travel restrictions on foreign nationals traveling from China to the United States in late January.
A recent New York Times investigation found, however, that 430,000 people have flown from China to the U.S. since the outbreak started with as many as 40,000 arriving since the rules went into effect.
The ad implies that Biden linked the travel limitations to “Trump’s record of hysterical xenophobia,” but there is no proof that the former vice president was referring to the new guidelines when he delivered those remarks.
Still, the bite is used repeatedly in the spot, followed later by a clip of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, praising the decision as “a very smart move.”
Calls mount for Postal Service investigation into Wisconsin absentee ballots
WASHINGTON — Wisconsin Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin are calling for a formal investigation by the U.S. Postal Service into its handling of absentee ballots for Tuesday's election, ballots that many voters say they never received in the first place.
The Republican Johnson and the Democrat Baldwin made the request in a Thursday letter where they cited widespread reports of concerns from across the state. They cited one report that three tubs of absentee ballots were discovered at a USPS center after polls closed, and concerns from the Milwaukee Election Commission about voters saying they'd never received the ballots they requested.
"Unfortunately, there have been numerous accounts from the state that USPS failed to fulfill that critical function for some voters," the senators wrote.
"We are concerned there may be more examples, and request that you promptly open an investigation to determine the cause of these failures, which appear to have disenfranchised many Wisconsin voters. As the COVID-19 crisis continues and as more voters are likely to request to vote by mail where available, this year’s forthcoming elections will require that USPS’s existing vote-by-mail procedures are strictly and effectively followed. It is critical that you quickly identify what has gone wrong and propose solutions that USPS can swiftly implement."
The two senators are not the only ones raising concerns about absentee ballots after an election upended by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the United States Postal Service on Wednesday, Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht said that the city had received a "high volume of communication from voters that had never received ballots that had been mailed, or were waiting for ballots that had been mailed more than 10 days prior."
The commission narrowed down the complaints primarily to ballots sent on March 22 and March 23 — the return rate for ballots sent on those two days was under 25 percent, compared to a city-wide rate the commission expects to be above 65 percent once all votes are counted. And Albrecht wrote that more than 1,000 people who were sent ballots on those two days reached out to the commission to say the ballots never came.
"Due to the severity of this situation, and the number of Milwaukee voters that have been prevented from voting while waiting for their ballots, I am asking for a formal investigation by the United States Postal Service into the whereabouts of these ballots and a report back to me as to the outcome of this investigation," Albrecht wrote.
While a rash of other states moved quickly to postpone their elections in light of guidance to avoid public gatherings as a way to slow the spread of the virus, Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has said the election would go on as scheduled, initially calling on the Republican-led legislature to approve a plan allowing all voters to be sent an absentee ballot so they could still vote even if concerned about leaving their home.
But just one day before the election, and after imploring the legislature to postpone the election, Evers issued an executive order of his own postponing in-person voting.
However, courts directed that the election would go on as scheduled. Voters, particularly in Milwaukee, had to wait on long lines in order to cast their ballots for both the presidential primary as well as general elections for some down-ballot races.
—NBC's Shaquille Brewster and Nadine Comerford contributed
Environmental group bets $14 million on moving swing voters against Trump
The League of Conservation Voters, a deep-pocketed environmental group, is preparing a $14 million ad campaign against President Donald Trump, targeting a relatively narrow band of swing voters that the league believes can be moved by environmental messages, the group told NBC News.
Based on polling and analytic modeling, the group identified 1.5 million voters in six battleground states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — who it thinks could be persuaded to vote in November in part, they hope, based on messages about clean water and air or the climate.
LCV Victory Fund, the league's super PAC, will inundate those voters throughout the late spring and early summer with recurring digital ads and direct mail literature — the literature will arrive at voters’ mailboxes over six times before the parties’ national conventions in August.
Pete Maysmith, who runs LCV's campaign operations, says the idea is to expose these voters to potentially new information about what the Trump administration has done to roll back environmental protections and then “burn that in over a relatively long period of time."
Maysmith also said that they believe these issues can move people because their views on green issues are less hardened since they've flown under the radar during Trump's administration. According to Maysmith, the relatively unknown Trump policies on climate make it easier to persuade people to change their opinions — unlike something such as President Trump's border wall.
"People already know that’s happening," Maysmith said of the wall. “It doesn’t really move vote choice in the same way as when you tell that same swing voter about clean water protections that have been torn apart. Because they don’t know that, it’s new information.”
LCV’s digital ads will be run in partnership with the massive Democratic super PAC Priorities USA in four states — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. Maysmith said these ads and their direct mail are "an opportunity to educate."
Research from Democratic pollster Geoff Garin found only 33 percent of potentially persuadable voters in those key states were familiar with what they say is “Trump’s actual environmental record” and that when those voters were told about Trump's record, their support for Democrats grew by 20 points.
Other recent research has also found that climate could be a surprisingly effective message in trying to peel voters away from Trump.
Sanders to keep staffers on health care plan through November
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders will cover the costs of health care for everyone on his campaign staff through the end of October, campaign manager Faiz Shakir told staff Thursday afternoon on a conference call.
The approximately 500 Sanders staffers now looking for employment after the senator suspended his presidential bid Wednesday will continue to be covered through COBRA on the campaign's dime
A campaign spokesperson explained that while the Sanders campaign staff won't be paid their salaries alongside their health care, they will receive severance checks on May 1.
Staffers who were with the campaign for more than six months will receive two pay-periods worth of pay. Staffers who were with the campaign for less than six months will receive one pay-period of pay.
The move stands in stark contrast to billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who laid off campaign staffers despite initially saying he would pay staff to mount an effort against President Trump's reelection even if Bloomberg was not the Democratic Party's nominee.
The remaining Bloomberg staffers, many of whom were focused on battleground campaign states before being let go, will receive health care through the end of April, according to a statement from a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson.
The news comes the same day as former Vice President Joe Biden announced he planned to expand access to Medicare and forgive some student debt, seen as a nod to Sanders' supporters because of his focus on both issues.
In nod to Sanders, Biden looks to adopt more progressive policies
WASHINGTON — On his first day as the apparent Democratic nominee, Joe Biden is extending another olive branch to backers of his more progressive rivals, announcing his intent to expand access to Medicare and forgive loan debt for many students.
The former vice president said Thursday that he would seek to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60, and forgive federal loan debt for those making less than $125,000 who graduated from any public undergraduate colleges and universities along with those who attend private Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Minority Serving Institutions.
While Biden cast these announcements as a nod in the direction of Senator Bernie Sanders on key priorities of his movement — saying Sanders and his supporters “can take pride in their work laying the groundwork for these ideas" — the campaign also notes that the policy moves are driven by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Recovery will require long term changes to build a more inclusive and more resilient middle class, and a greener and more resilient economy,” Biden writes in a new Medium post. "We have to think big — as big as the challenges we face. As we start to lay the groundwork for recovery, we have to build back better for the future."
Before Sanders announced the suspension of his campaign Wednesday, Biden had already adopted another piece of Sanders’s platform — to make public colleges and universities free, but only for families whose income is below $125,000. Separately, he had also embraced Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren's bankruptcy reform plan, an area where the two clashed in the past.
One of the key differences between Biden and Sanders in the Democratic primary was whether to build on, or overhaul entirely the Affordable Care Act. Biden proposed the former, saying he would add a public option and enhance subsidies for purchasing ACA plans, among other changes. Sanders instead offered voters a Medicare for All program that would move most Americans from private health insurance to a government-run plan.
Sanders said Wednesday he intends to continue pressing for the Democratic Party to embrace Medicare for All in its platform. Sanders’ campaign did not comment on Biden’s announcement Thursday.
Pro-Trump Super PAC commits over $25 million for ads in Florida, North Carolina
WASHINGTON — The official pro-Trump Super PAC, America First Action, committed Thursday to additional broadcast spending of over $25 million in two key presidential battleground states for the fall ahead of Election Day.
According to a statement released by the group this afternoon, America First Action is reserving $26.6 million for pro-Trump advertising set to air from September through November’s general election on Florida and North Carolina’s airwaves. This is in addition to the $10 million it previously said it’s investing in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, which will focus on “Sleepy Joe Biden," the now-apparent Democratic nominee after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign Wednesday.
In Florida, America First Action is reserving a total of $18.5 million with about seven million dollars and $11.3 million for the Tampa and Orlando media markets respectively. In North Carolina, the group will commit $3.8 million for ads in Charlotte’s markets and $4.3 million for Raleigh-Durham’s airwaves.
“America First is making the Florida and North Carolina reservations because we are confident we can secure inventory at the best possible rates in these crucial battleground states,” PAC President Brian Walsh explained in the statement. He added that more decisions on spending will be made next month.
The previous investments in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin unveiled last week include pro-Trump digital, cable, broadcast, and mail advertising beginning this month and continuing until late May. Two million dollars will be spent in Michigan’s Traverse City, Flint, and Grand Rapids areas while nearly three million will be spent in parts of Wisconsin including Green Bay’s media markets. In Pennsylvania, $5.5 million will be dedicated to ads in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, among other markets.
The group's latest broadcast buy comes as President Trump's campaign focuses on digital advertising at the moment. America First Action emphasized that its recent spending commitment is just part of its first wave of independent expenditures in the 2020 cycle.
House super PACS announce more than $90 million in early TV reservations
WASHINGTON — The top Republican and Democratic super PACs in the battle for the House majority have announced more than $90 million in initial television ad reservations as they draw the contours of the 2020 battleground.
This week, the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC announced $51 million in early television reservations, while the GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund said it will book $43 million for its first wave. Both groups will be advertising through a variety of mediums and are expected to add more money to buys as Election Day draws closer.
The busiest market right now is Philadelphia, where CLF is booking $6.5 million to the HMP's $6.1 million. It's home to a handful of competitive races in 2020 in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including the reelection races for New Jersey Democratic Reps. Andy Kim and Tom Malinowski, New Jersey Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew (a former Democrat), Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, and Pennsylvania Democratic Reps. Matt Cartwright and Susan Wild.
Both sides plan to invest heavily in Minnesota as well — HMP is reserving $7.4 million in the state compared to CLF's $3.25 million. The state is home to four freshmen lawmakers who could face competitive reelection fights (Republican Reps. Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn, and Democratic Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips), as well as the long-time Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, who has repeatedly defied the odds and held onto his red district.
The two groups are also investing heavily in Iowa ($8.4 million in TV bookings between the two parties), Atlanta ($7.7 million), Detroit ($6.4 million) and Houston ($5.3 million).
Other big markets for the Democratic group include Las Vegas (HMP is booking $3.5 million there) and Miami ($3.3 million).
Other notable points of emphasis for CLF include Los Angeles (the group is booking $3 million there) and New York's 22nd Congressional District, where CLF says it's booking $2.2 million aimed at dethroning Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi.
Biden holds lead in latest general election polls
Apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is hanging onto his lead in two general election polls against President Trump this week. In the latest Quinnipiac University poll, released Wednesday, and Monmouth University poll released Thursday, Biden leads Trump by eight points and four points respectively — both leads land outside of the polls' margins of error.
The polls were both conducted before Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, ended his presidential campaign on Wednesday.
While Biden maintains a lead against Trump in almost every general election poll, the president's base doesn't look keen to leave Trump. In the Quinnipiac University poll, Republicans back Trump with 91 percent support. And registered voters in the Monmouth University poll show nearly the same favorability toward the president and the apparent Democratic nominee.
Forty-two percent of registered voters said their opinion of the president is "very" or "somewhat" favorable. When asked about Biden, 41 percent of registered voters said they found him very or somewhat favorable, in the Monmouth poll. So Biden's strength may be coming from independents — a group which broke for Trump in 2016.
In the Quinnipiac University poll, independents favor Biden 44-35 percent. And the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic could strengthen that support for Biden. Fifty-one percent of registered voters in the Quinnipiac poll said Biden would do a better job in a crisis than President Trump. And in the Monmouth University poll, about a third of registered voters said that Trump's handling of the pandemic will make it less likely he'll get re-elected: 31 percent said it makes it less likely, 27 percent think it makes it more likely he'll be re-elected and 36 percent said it will make no difference.
The Quinnipiac University poll was taken between April 2 and 6 with a margin of error of 2.2 points. The Monmouth University poll was completed between April 3 and 7 with a 3.6-point margin of error.
New Trump campaign ad compares Sanders to Biden after Sanders ends 2020 bid
WASHINGTON — Less than two hours after Sen. Bernie Sanders announced he was suspending his presidential campaign, President Trump's campaign debuted a digital ad closely comparing him to Joe Biden, the now-apparent Democratic nominee.
The new online spot ties the policies of the Vermont senator and former vice president together on issues including immigration and fossil fuels, and refers to them as “a big government socialist and a big government liberal" respectively.
After listing positions Sanders and Biden both support, the commercial ends by claiming “they’re more alike than you think, but at least Bernie remembers his positions."
President Trump's reelection campaign has invested six figures in the online spot, according to communications director Tim Murtaugh. The 30-second ad makes no mention of coronavirus, which is the main reason the 2020 campaign has been moved from an in-person campaign to a virtual battleground in a matter of weeks.
“With Bernie suspending his campaign, it’s clear that the Dem establishment got the candidate they wanted in Sleepy Joe. But Biden & Sanders agree on all the big issues. They are both the same,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted.
Meanwhile, President Trump is trying to appeal to some of Sanders’ supporters, firing off three messages on the Independent Vermont senator after news broke that he was dropping out of the race.
“This ended just like the Democrats & the DNC wanted, same as the Crooked Hillary fiasco. The Bernie people should come to the Republican Party!” Trump said.
Sanders drops out: How Biden, Sanders (and Obama) got to this point
WASHINGTON — According to multiple sources involved in the process, Joe Biden’s and Bernie Sanders’ teams have been having ongoing conversations since early March, especially once Biden took a more significant delegate lead after Michigan's presidential primary.
Those conversations began initially over process issues – especially about how the campaigns should handle the Arizona debate, which ultimately moved to Washington over the Coronavirus. But lines of communication were then established and conversations continued at a big picture level over how to unite the party and bring this to a conclusion.
President Obama was part of those discussions — he spoke with both Biden and Sanders multiple times over the past month.
Ultimately, they planned out the choreography that's beginning to unfold. But as one source put it, “the dates kept slipping” — in part because Sanders, a member of Democratic leadership in the Senate, was dealing with the congressional response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The sides agreed that Tuesday's Wisconsin primary was an important benchmark — as a Sanders advisor put it, they have been trying to land the plane for some time, but “Wisconsin gave us a natural exit ramp.”
Though Wisconsin’s results would take days to come in, the Sanders team nonetheless knew the trajectory of the race was not changing no matter what the outcome. But he would stay in the race in part to help continue driving Democratic turnout for a state Supreme Court election that was a priority for local Democrats.
Biden’s campaign also made clear that they were eager for that specific date to hold firm, and they were prepared, if it did not, to shift their public rhetoric ever so slightly to turn the heat up for Sanders to take steps to begin uniting the party.
Obama especially emphasized that in his conversations with Sanders, another source involved with the process told NBC. But Obama, and Biden as he has said publicly, never once themselves told Sanders to drop out.
Biden’s team had announced Wednesday's virtual town hall meeting” on unemployment and issues facing working families knowing the timeline in place. That will be Biden’s first opportunity to publicly thank Sanders for moving to unite the party.
Asked about contacts between the Biden and Sanders campaigns, a Biden aide told NBC:
“The two campaigns continue to be engaged on a range of topics that will build on the former Vice President’s existing policy proposals and look forward to furthering our shared goals to move the country forward. We look forward to sharing more on that front in the near future.”
—NBC News' Kristen Welker contributed
Sanders' campaign ends without expanding his 2016 base
WASHINGTON — As Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign Wednesday his ultimate downfall was that he never expanded beyond his progressive base.
In fact, he ended up underperforming from 2016.
That explains how he went from the frontrunner in a still-crowded race of Democratic candidates in February, to someone who couldn't win a single county in Michigan or Florida when the field whittled down a month later.
And while Sanders had to navigate a much larger field of viable candidates in 2020 than he did four years ago, his vote percentages underscore his difficulty in holding onto a sizable number of 2016 supporters who left his camp for other candidates.
Sanders' best showing came in the next nominating race, Nevada, where he got 47 percent of the state delegate equivalents in a field that continued to have six major Democratic candidates (not including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who didn't compete in Nevada).
But after that came another underperformance in South Carolina in late February, when those same six candidates were in the race: He garnered just about 20 percent (was 26 percent in 2016) of the vote.
And then on Super Tuesday — after Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg had dropped out of the race and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden — the trend continued:
- Alabama 16 percent (was 19 percent in 2016)
- California 36 percent (was 46 percent)
- Texas 30 percent (was 33 percent)
- Virginia 23 percent (was 35 percent)
- Vermont 51 percent (was 86 percent)
- Michigan 36 percent (was 50 percent)
- Mississippi 15 percent (was 17 percent)
- Missouri 35 percent (was 49 percent).
After Sanders' exit from the 2020 race on Wednesday, President Trump was blaming Elizabeth Warren for the Vermont senator’s defeat.
But as the numbers show above, Sanders' problem wasn't Warren. Instead, it was his inability to expand beyond his diehard supporters from 2016 — before and after Warren dropped out of the 2020 race.
Sanders urges paychecks for laid off, furloughed in fourth Coronavirus stimulus
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is not pleased with the job President Trump is doing handling the coronavirus pandemic that has cost nearly 13,000 American lives, so he is urging his congressional colleagues in the legislative branch to take the lead.
In an op-ed published Wednesday in the British newspaper The Guardian, published hours before he suspended his presidential campaign, Sanders wrote he believes President Trump is incapable of “providing leadership."
"This is a frightening and devastating time for our country, and the world. Never before in our lifetimes have we had to deal with both a public health pandemic and an economic meltdown,” Sanders wrote.
As the focus of the Sanders campaign shifts to Coronavirus response, the senator is out with a list of priorities he hopes makes it into the next congressional package, which is already being discussed on Capitol Hill.
This includes intensifying the use of the Defense Production Act, which Sanders says Congress should explicitly authorize to compel the private sector to produce more products needed by medical personnel across the country. “We cannot rely on Trump to do it,” Sanders said.
Trump has invoked the DPA on a handful of occasions, but Democrats have criticized him for not going further.
Sanders also wants to ensure that every worker in America continues to receive their full paycheck and benefits, through the duration of the pandemic.
“We cannot wait before taking the bold action that is necessary,” Sanders wrote. “In my view, it makes a lot more sense to prevent the collapse of our economy than figuring out how we put it back together after it crumbles."
While Sanders said he knows a full Medicare-For-All bill would not be agreed upon for this stimulus, he wants to make sure Americans receive all of the healthcare they need regardless of income. He proposed that Medicare pay all deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for the uninsured and the underinsured during this crisis, regardless of immigration status.
As part of his campaign's focus on coronavirus, Sanders held a livestream Tuesday night focused on how the African American community is specifically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Campaign surrogates discussed racial disparities in treatment during visits to doctors' offices and emergency rooms, and how and why data shows COVID-19 is more deadly in majority-minority communities.
Health officials say those with pre-existing conditions including heart disease, diabetes and asthma are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as the fact that many African Americans in some of the nation’s “hot spots” are employed in essential service industry jobs, requiring face-to-face contact.
Sanders has held nine, similar, livestreams in the past few weeks, all focused on the pandemic.
New Biden super PAC ad highlights Democrat's coronavirus plan
WASHINGTON — The super PAC supporting Joe Biden is returning to the national airwaves with a new television ad, this time focusing on the Democrat’s plan for tackling the coronavirus outbreak.
The 30-second spot from Unite The Country pivots from the group’s other recent paid messaging, which faults President Trump for how he has handled the pandemic.
Instead, the ad asks what Biden would do differently, before laying out elements of his previously announced plan, including ensuring all states had at least 10 mobile testing sites, greater availability of safety care, free vaccines, and an extended Obamacare enrollment period – something the Trump administration recently ruled out.
The new ad will begin airing early this week on cable airwaves nationally as part of a six-figure buy, a spokesperson for Unite the Country told NBC News.
That new investment is in addition to the previous, seven-figure campaign behind the earlier ad, which made the point: "Crisis comes to every president. This one failed.”
The Biden campaign itself has been largely off the airwaves during the pandemic. Ahead of today’s Wisconsin primary, the campaign focused on text and phone outreach to voters there.
Last week, the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, announced it will spend $10 million on ads criticizing Biden in swing states.
Wisconsin voters and poll workers head to polls in protective gear
WASHINGTON — After a dramatic battle over whether to even hold its primary on Tuesday in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Wisconsin voters are in fact heading to the polls.
With public health officials warning against non-discretionary travel and suggesting Americans wear face-coverings while venturing outdoors, Ryan Jenkins from TMJ4, NBC’s Milwaukee affiliate, spotted poll workers and voters donning masks and other protective equipment.
Be sure to check out today’s First Read for more on how we got here, and for what this could portend for elections to come, particularly the general election.
John Lewis endorses Biden for president
WASHINGTON — Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, endorsed Joe Biden for president Tuesday, saying the former vice president will inspire another generation "to speak up, to speak out, to be brave, to be bold."
"It is my belief that we need Joe Biden now more than ever before," Lewis, D-Ga., told reporters. "He will be a great president. He will lead our country to a better place. He will inspire another generation to stand up, to speak up and to speak out. Be brave, to be bold. That's why I'm committed to supporting him."
In an interview with NBC News' Craig Melvin airing later this morning on "Today," Biden calls Lewis "one of my heroes," praising his courage and sacrifice in the fight for civil rights, especially as part of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.
Biden said: "The fact that he would endorse me is just — it makes me even more certain that I should be doing what I'm doing. I'm a great, great admirer of John Lewis. He's a man of enormous integrity."
Georgia has delayed its primary until May 19 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Although he was diagnosed December with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, Lewis said he was committed to traveling across the country to rally support for Biden.
"We need his voice. We need his leadership, now more than ever before. We need someone who will get our country on the right side of history and help save our planet," he said
As vice president, Biden joined Lewis in 2013 in celebrating the 48th anniversary of the Selma voting rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He also paid tribute to Lewis at a separate commemoration of the march in Selma this year.
Lewis' backing comes as Biden has a commanding delegate lead over his only remaining challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, but with many states — including Lewis' home state, Georgia — having delayed their primaries. Still, it underscores what has been Biden's greatest asset in arriving at this position — the overwhelming support of African American voters.
Asked whether Biden should pick a woman of color as his running mate in light of that support he's enjoyed, Lewis said it "would be good to have a woman," as Biden has already pledged to choose.
"We have plenty of able women — some are black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native America," he said. "I think the time has long passed for making the White House look like the whole of America."
Behind the scenes of Sunday's unexpected White House coronavirus briefing
WASHINGTON — Sunday was supposed to be a quiet day at the White House, with no briefing scheduled and a decision from senior aides to call a “lid” before noon, indicating there was no expectation of seeing President Trump for the rest of the day.
The president's top health officials and secretary of defense appeared on the morning shows, warning of a brutal week ahead, conceding the administration was “struggling” to get the pandemic under control, and predicting the coming days could be “the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives.”
Given that it was Palm Sunday, the coronavirus task force was slated to meet remotely in the early evening via teleconference, led by Vice President Mike Pence from his residence.
But President Trump was not satisfied with that plan, according to a source close to the task force, and didn’t want the “dour” messages from the surgeon general and Dr. Anthony Fauci to be the only public-facing moments of the day. He felt it was important to have a presser to stress “glimmers of hope,” according to this person.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams gave a dire projection on Meet the Press hours earlier, saying that this week “is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, it's going to be our 9/11 moment.”
Two officials close to the task force told NBC News that prior to Sunday they had not heard Adams refer to this week as the next Pearl Harbor and 9/11, and thought the language was a bit strong.
Trump therefore decided to convene the group in person in the Situation Room on Sunday and then floated the possibility of an evening press conference on Twitter, which even caught several aides off-guard.
“It came as a surprise,” a senior administration official admitted.
Reporters were ultimately called back to the White House and a lengthy, 83-minute briefing followed. Senior staffers have repeatedly argued a consistent presence from the president is as critical as ever.
“It is important during this unprecedented crisis to hear from the president and these briefings are one of the methods he has chosen to communicate directly to the American people,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told NBC News in a statement.
On Sunday afternoon, members of the task force eventually made their way to the West Wing, marking the second weekend in a row where they were asked to come to an in-person meeting after conference calls had already been scheduled and publicly announced.
The other instance was when Trump haphazardly floated a quarantine for the tri-state area last weekend and the abrupt nature and frenzied response caused the vice president and others to scramble to the Situation Room for an evening meeting. Hours later, the potential quarantine was walked back and scrapped entirely.
DNC reserves $22 million in YouTube ads for general election
WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee announced on Monday that it will reserve $22 million in YouTube ads ahead of the general election as the party looks to fight President Trump's fundraising and online campaign behemoth.
The ads will start in September in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and then in October in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.
While the party hasn't announced the content of the ads yet, it said in a release announcing the effort that the strategy is aimed at boosting turnout for the party's presidential nominee as well as the entire Democratic ticket.
Campaigns and political groups typically get better rates for ads when they make earlier investments.
“Now more than ever, it’s critical that we reach voters where they are online — and this digital program will help us mobilize the voters we need to make Donald Trump a one-term president,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement.
“By making these kinds of historic, early investments in our battlegrounds and campaign infrastructure, the DNC is putting our eventual nominee and Democrats running at every level of the ballot in the strongest possible position to secure victory in November.”
Patrick Stevenson, the party's chief mobilization officer, added in a statement that the party had been already planning an "aggressive general election online strategy" before the coronavirus pandemic upended American life, and the campaign trail.
"The pandemic has only reinforced the importance of communicating with voters across a wide range of online channels and utilizing a variety of innovative, data-driven digital tactics," Stevenson said.
"That's the approach we’re taking, and these ads will be another important tool that will help our eventual nominee and Democrats running at every level win in November.”
While the new DNC ads will hardly be the only digital ad spending from Democratic groups this cycle — other outside groups have already begun announcing commitments of their own — the party says it's working to reserve more ads across "several other platforms."
But as the eventual nominee stands to help the party significantly up its digital investments, Democrats will face a robust digital operation on the Republican side, one that's spent heavily on digital platforms in the hopes of re-electing Trump.
The Trump campaign alone has spent more than $48 million on Facebook and Google since the start of 2019, according to a digital tracker by the Democratic communications firm Bully Pulpit Interactive, with more coming from the Republican National Committee and other allied groups.
Much of that online spending has gone to ads encouraging supporters to sign up and donate to the Trump campaign.
Wisconsin primary confusion leaves Biden campaign scrambling to mobilize voters
WASHINGTON — As Wisconsin chaotically moves ahead with its presidential primary on Tuesday, Joe Biden’s campaign is scrambling to figure out the best ways to target and mobilize voters amid a major pandemic that has fully upended the 2020 presidential contest.
Wisconsin, which has been under a stay at home order since March 25 to combat the coronavirus crisis, had been scheduled to hold its primary over the objections of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who unsuccessfully pressed the Republican-led legislature to halt in-person voting, and others who are warning it's too dangerous to hold an election with the pandemic raging.
But it's unclear what that primary will look like after Evers' last-minute decision Monday afternoon to issue an executive order suspending in-person voting and moving it to June 9.
While Sanders bested Democrat Hillary Clinton by 13 points in Wisconsin's 2016 primary, polling shows Biden well ahead of Sanders this time, but given the unusual circumstances of this contest, no outcome is assured. And Wisconsin is a key general election battleground that Trump narrowly carried in 2016. So Biden’s team, which has been following work from home guidelines set by the campaign in early March, has been forced to campaign in earnest.
Biden has not visited Wisconsin during the primary season and the campaign has done no television advertising there. Outside of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who carpet-bombed the airwaves during his brief bid, no candidate has spent significant money on the Wisconsin airwaves this presidential cycle. The former Vice President's campaign spent about $600 to run a new digital ad featuring Biden asking Americans to help protect COVID-19 frontline workers that Wisconsinites saw over four days last week on Facebook and Instagram.
Most of the campaign efforts have been spent on direct voter contact, advisers say.
Organizers have retired their door-knocking clipboards, turning their attention full-time to reaching voters on the Team Joe app and Pencil, a voter-database texting app that allows them to text persuadable voters and have ongoing conversations with them. The Biden campaign says that they have sent 3.1 million initial text messages from their texting platform since the March 17 primaries to voters living in key states like Wisconsin.
But instead of solely focusing on selling their candidate, campaign staffers say they are consoling Wisconsin supporters and key constituencies amid the distress caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Besides restructuring their direct voter contacts, staffers are being trained on how best to engage and inform voters about the virus in an effort to not just win over their support, but also solidify their trust in the candidate in a key battleground state as they eye the general election against President Donald Trump.
“We’re calling supporters and would-be volunteers to ask them how they’re doing, how they’re staying safe,” Molly Ritner, the campaign’s states director, said in an interview with NBC News. “Sometimes we’re the only ones interacting with these people on a daily basis.”
The Biden campaign is banking on their “aggressive” shift to a phone-calling and texting approach to put them over the edge in Wisconsin, the first real test for them to mobilize voters at a time when they are being told to stay at home. Achieving success and turnout in the Badger state could lay a rough template for how the campaign approaches future contests next month, most of which have become vote-by-mail primaries.
Concerned about the potential public health dangers of in-person voting on Tuesday, the campaign has prioritized getting as many supporters as possible to sign up for absentee ballots instead.
“The health and safety of our staff, supporters, and the general public is Biden for President’s number one priority. We encourage voters to take advantage of absentee ballots,” Biden said at the end of a recent statement announcing his endorsement of Jill Karofsky in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race.
So far only 1.2 million Wisconsinites have requested an absentee ballot according to the Wisconsin Election Commission, a much lower number than the 2.1 million who voted in the 2016 primaries.
Ahead of Tuesday’s contest, the Biden campaign has also relied on endorsers in and outside the state to tap into key constituencies in congressional districts they are targeting. Last week, they tasked a campaign co-chair, Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, to lead a call with faith leaders and urge them to inform their congregants to sign up for absentee ballots and vote safely.
The forced pivot to digital has moved them away from traditional campaigning strategies like airing TV ads in Wisconsin, instead prioritizing having Biden appear regularly on national TV and participating in virtual events that a broader swath of voters can view live or after it airs. The campaign targeted young Wisconsin voters on social media to attend Biden’s young adult happy hour last week viewable from the campaign’s livestream page.
“Virtual events don’t have physical borders like a state does, so we’ve been able to target events broadly to Wisconsin voters to have them participate,” campaign states director, Molly Ritner, said.
Pete Buttigieg launches PAC aimed at electing young leaders
HOUSTON, TX — Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out of the presidential race just over a month ago, is launching "Win the Era," a political action committee aimed at electing a new generation of leaders.
The PAC, named after a common refrain Buttigieg used while on the campaign trail, will represent a continuation of his work to support generational change candidates running in down-ballot races.
“The work of electing a forward-thinking generation of Democratic candidates never ends,” Buttigieg senior advisor Lis Smith said in a statement. “Pete will do his part by building and leading the Win the Era PAC as we get closer to the November election."
In an email to supporters, Buttigieg leans into a sense of urgency related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the need for strong state and local leadership.
“Our nation and world are in a period of upheaval right now, which will make it more important than ever to support and elect good leaders this November and into the future,” Buttigieg writes. He later adds, “In the past few weeks especially, we’ve seen the importance of our institutions and the reality that local and state leadership is extremely important.”
Per the email, the PAC will be rolling out endorsements focused on candidates who represent “a successor generation of leadership,” and Democrats who are competing in conservative places highlighting “areas with emerging diversity in the electorate not yet reflected in leadership,” among other attributes.
Buttigieg, known for being a fundraising powerhouse throughout his presidential bid, hopes to create that same energy around his latest project.
The Buttigieg campaign will refund general election donations made to his campaign, as required by law. Buttigieg ended up with about $3 million in money earmarked for the general election, an NBC News analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows. He is urging his donors to instead put that money toward his newly formed PAC with an option to donate up to $5,000 via the PAC's website.
In addition, to asking his supporters for donations, Buttigieg is also urging them to send along information on lesser-known candidates who the PAC should consider supporting.
Biden leads Trump in new national poll
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in the latest Grinnell College national poll. The poll of likely voters, released Wednesday, shows Biden garnering 47 percent support to Trump's 43 percent support.
The poll also measured a hypothetical head-to-head contest between Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Trump leads Sanders, 44 percent to 43 percent, well within the poll's 3.5-point margin of error for likely voters.
And while the poll shows a close race between either potential Democratic nominee and Trump, support among self-proclaimed Trump supporters is stronger than support for either Sanders and Biden supporters.
Of those who identify as Biden supporters in a head-to-head match-up with Trump, just 55 percent said their "mind is made up" on supporting Biden. Forty-three percent of them said they could be persuaded to support a different candidate.
The same story seems to be true of Sanders supporters. Of likely voters who identify as supporters of Sanders, 50 percent said they're steadfast in their decision — and 44 percent of them could be persuaded otherwise. The president, meanwhile, continues to see strength in his base.
Eighty-two percent of self-identified Trump supporters say their mind is made up on who they'll support in the general election, with just 17 percent saying they could be persuaded to vote for someone else.
The Grinnell College poll was taken between March 27 and March 30 as concern about the coronavirus pandemic rose and as new guidelines for social distancing were put in place. But as unemployment rates rise due to the pandemic, Americans are split on if they think the economy is in a better or worse place than when President Trump took office. Forty-three percent of Americans said the economy is better than at the beginning of 2017, while 42 percent said it is worse.
Trump campaign demands Sessions stop tying his Senate campaign to the president
WASHINGTON – President Trump’s re-election campaign sent a scathing letter to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week, calling him “delusional” for tying himself to the president in his current Senate campaign and demanding it stop circulating any mailers that imply Trump supports his bid.
The Trump campaign specifically called out Sessions’ team for an advertisement that mentioned the president by name 22 times and “even makes the delusional assertion that you are President ‘Trump’s #1 Supporter.’”
“We only assume your campaign is doing this to confuse President Trump’s loyal supporters in Alabama into believing the President supports your candidacy in the upcoming primary run-off election. Nothing could be further from the truth,” wrote Trump campaign chief operating officer Michael Glassner in a letter obtained by NBC News.
The New York Times first reported on the letter.
Trump endorsed former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, Sessions’ primary opponent, last month after the two men advanced to a runoff. Aides close to the president had tried to get him to hold off on slamming Sessions until after the primary, which Trump did, until the morning after.
The president famously told "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd that the single “biggest mistake” of his administration was appointing Sessions as attorney general and wishes he would have made that decision differently.
Sessions, for his part, has repeatedly complimented Trump in this race, tweeting adoring videos and reminding voters that he was the first senate backer of then-candidate Trump back in 2016.
The Trump campaign letter to Sessions includes text from the president’s tweets in mid-March endorsing Tuberville, with bolded emphasis added to underscore the point.
“We want to be absolutely clear about it: President Trump and the Trump Campaign unambiguously endorse Tommy Tuberville,” the letter included, with a stark warning at the end. “We demand that you and your campaign immediately stop circulating mailers—or any other similar communication—that wrongly suggest otherwise.”
Session’s team did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment, but spokeswoman Gail Glitcho told the New York Times that "Alabamans don't like to be told what to do," pointing to the 2017 Alabama special election where Trump's preferred candidates lost the GOP primary and the general election. She went onto argue that Sessions is "indeed one of the strongest supporters of President Trump and his agenda."
The Alabama Senate race has now been postponed until July 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tweet the Press talks with NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres
WASHINGTON — In case you missed today's Tweet the Press, we spoke with NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres about the latest on coronavirus.
The wide-ranging discussion touched on what to expect across the country, how the virus is affecting young people, whether Americans should wear masks and what to expect about the treatments being explored.
Click on the link here to read the full conversation on Twitter.
With Biden or Sanders at the top of the ticket, Democrats look down-ballot for diversity
WASHINGTON — With the party's presidential race having been whittled down from a historically diverse field to two white men, Democrats are pointing to at least one bright spot when it comes to diversity among their candidates in 2020: state legislative elections.
According to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which aims to elect Democratic state legislators nationwide, there are over twice as many Democratic women serving as state delegates or senators compared to their Republican counterparts — 1,455 versus 670 respectively. And in some key battleground states, the party has recruited more diverse candidates considering race and sexual identity than the GOP.
DLCC president, Jessica Post, told NBC News in a recent phone interview that diversity matters because it energizes the Democratic base and leads to victories.
“Diversity is our winning strategy,” she said. “We’ve recruited great communities thinking about the voices that need to be represented.”
The efforts to attract a diverse field of candidates is especially crucial in states where election outcomes will affect congressional redistricting. For example, the DLCC reports that Democrats are running eight LGBTQ+ candidates for the Texas state House versus none for Republicans. There are 20 Democratic candidates of color seeking seats in the North Carolina state Senate compared to Republicans’ six. For the state House there, 40 Democratic minority candidates are running against the GOP’s single candidate of color.
The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) — the DLCC’s counterpart — did not respond to NBC News’ request to confirm these numbers but answered several other questions last week, saying they are supporting candidates of various backgrounds in pivotal states.
The RSLC reports that over fifty Republican women are running for Pennsylvania's state legislature while in Florida, there are about 30 GOP minority candidates. In Georgia, almost 40 Republican women along with four Asian-American and two African-American candidates are seeking state seats, according to the GOP committee.
RSLC communications director, Stami Williams, said these examples reflect the GOP’s “great success” in recruiting diverse candidates and noted that Democrats flipped less than half the amount of legislative seats during Trump’s first three years than Republicans did in the same period under President Obama.
The DLCC's Post argues that the GOP views legislative diversity as a mere “add-on” to their agenda, saying that the party has “fallen down on the job.”
Yet despite growing diversity down-ballot, Democrats face criticism for lacking diversity at the party’s upper echelons after the most minority and female-heavy field narrowed down to two older, heterosexual, white men — former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
For Post, the boost in state-level Democratic diversity isn’t purely a reaction to the party’s dilemma at the top. She believes that Trump and his party have been “repellent to women and people of color,” and have motivated diverse candidates to run for state office.
The DLCC president said that she’s encouraged by Biden’s commitment to choose a female running mate.
“We would’ve loved to see many of these diverse candidates stay longer in the presidential field,” Post stated. “I do think it’s notable that we have a direct way to point to our state legislative pipeline of diversity right now with Stacey Abrams [former Georgia state minority leader] potentially being a vice presidential nominee.”
Director of the Center for American Women and Politics, Debbie Walsh, told NBC News last week that an “almost primal” desperation to beat Trump this election drove Democratic primary voters to make a “calculated choice” to back candidates they deemed electable — not personally preferable.
These voters, Walsh emphasized, assumed that nontraditional presidential candidates couldn’t defeat Trump. She pointed to the spike in down-ticket diversity as evidence that less conventional candidates can win.
State legislative primaries began in March and will continue through September. The results of the November general elections will significantly impact the 2021 congressional redistricting cycle.
Biden leads Sanders in Wisconsin primary poll
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by over 30 points in Wisconsin, according to the latest Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday. Per this poll, Biden garnered 65 percent support among likely Democratic voters versus Sanders' 32 percent support.
Wisconsin's primary, which is still scheduled to take place on April 7 despite the coronavirus pandemic, is one of the only contests still taking place in April — and it could be a stunning defeat for Sanders. In 2016, Sanders won the Wisconsin primary by 14 points. On Wednesday, Sanders called for the Wisconsin primary to be postponed, have early voting extended and encouraged people to vote by mail.
Despite lagging poll numbers, Sanders has said he will continue to assess his campaign and stay in the race. On Wednesday he said on MSNBC, "We're taking a hard look at our campaign. We do have a narrow road, a path to victory. It's going to be a tough fight."
Biden has since said that there isn't a need for more Democratic debates, but that he will not call for Sanders to exit the race.
The new poll also shows Biden just narrowly pushing ahead of President Trump in a general election match-up, where Sanders lags slightly behind Trump. Forty-eight percent of registered voters support Biden in a general election, with 45 percent supporting the president — however that falls within the poll's 4.2-point margin of error. The poll's February tracker showed the president and Biden tied in the state.
Wisconsin could become a must-win state for both the president and the eventual Democratic nominee. President Trump was the first Republican nominee to win Wisconsin since former President Ronald Reagan in 1984. And much of Biden's campaign has been focused on restoring the so-called "Blue Wall" in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Laid off Bloomberg staffers docked taxes for campaign phones, computers
WASHINGTON — Laid off campaign staffers to Michael Bloomberg's campaign who received their final paychecks on Tuesday were docked hundreds of dollars to cover taxes on their campaign-issued cellphone and laptop, three former Bloomberg campaign staffers told NBC News.
The deductions came as a lawsuit against the Bloomberg campaign, alleging that the campaign fraudulently promised jobs through November, has grown from one plaintiff to more than 50. The plaintiffs are seeking to get the case certified as a class action in seven states, a move that could raise the number of claimants to over a thousand.
Former staffers told NBC News that their paychecks were docked more than $400. The Bloomberg campaign had touted how they had lured top talent to the campaign with new iPhone 11s and MacBooks, and offered to let staff keep them when they were let go. A campaign spokesperson said staffers were told during the off-boarding process that they’d pay taxes on those items, but several former staffers said they did not realize that it would be automatically deducted from their remaining paychecks.
Sally Abrahamson, an attorney for the former staffers suing the campaign, said her firm, Outten & Golden, is now investigating the campaign’s deduction of “purported taxes on cell phones and laptops.”
“It doesn't sound right. How can workers be expected to pay taxes on something they didn't want?” Abrahamson told NBC News. “The law certainly doesn't allow an employer to pay wages with anything but money.”
Earlier this month, Bloomberg abandoned his initiative to form an independent super PAC to absorb his presidential campaign and instead transferred $18 million to the Democratic National Committee. He laid off his staff of more than 2,400 people in that process and those staff members were invited to enter a competitive hiring process for a job at the DNC. Laid off staff will lose their health insurance at the end of April amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit, filed by a former field organizer, alleges that Bloomberg’s campaign promised potential hires they’d have jobs through November regardless of who won the nomination. Many of the 50 additional plaintiffs who joined the lawsuit in an amended complaint filed in federal court Monday said they left other lucrative jobs and relocated across the country based on the campaign’s assurances.
A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson, responding to both the docked paychecks and the expanded lawsuit, re-issued the campaign's statement from earlier in March.
“This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year,” the spokesperson said. “Staff worked 39 days on average, but they were also given several weeks of severance and healthcare through March, something no other campaign did this year.”
Democratic groups significantly outspending GOP groups on airwaves since coronavirus crackdown
WASHINGTON — Democratic candidates and aligned groups are outspending their Republican counterparts in the two weeks since President Trump announced guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
There's been $23.5 million spent on political advertising from March 16 (the day the administration announced its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines) through Tuesday, with Democrats making up 69 percent of that ($16.2 million), Republicans making up 29 percent of that ($6.7 million), and independent groups filling in that last 2 percent.
All of these figures are from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
Four of the top five biggest spenders over this period were Democrats:
- Senate Majority PAC, the group aligned with Senate Democrats, has spent $3 million
- Priorities USA Action, which is backing former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid, has spent $2.8 million
- One Nation, the non-profit aligned with Republican efforts particularly in the Senate, has spent $1.7 million
- American Bridge 21st Century, the Democratic-aligned group that plays up and down the ballot, has spent $1.3 million
- And Unite the Country, the pro-Biden super PAC, has spent $741,000
The ad backed by the most spending in that window was from Priorities USA, which is running an ad that's criticizing Trump's response to the coronavirus outbreak. It's spent $1.2 million to run that spot so far.
The ad with the second-most money behind it is from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, attacking Biden on Social Security and Medicare. Although both Biden and Sanders have wound down their ad spending to a virtual halt recently, Sanders spent $620,000 to run the ad over the time period. Virtually all of that came in the days surrounding the March 17 primaries, the ad has barely run since.
The Republican-aligned ad with the most spending behind it in recent weeks has been from One Nation, a spot that plays up Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst's work on prescription drugs. That spot has had $333,000 behind it since March 16.
During this time period, the top markets were the Portland-Aurburn market in Maine, Phoenix, and two markets in Florida covering Orlando and Tampa.
Maine is home to GOP Sen. Susan Collins' re-election race; Arizona held its presidential primary on March 17 and has a competitive Senate race; and Florida also held its presidential primary on March 17.
Physician embraces his expertise while campaigning in the coronavirus era
WASHINGTON — As candidates across the country adjust to campaigning in the age of coronavirus, Dr. Cameron Webb sees an opportunity and is embracing his experiences as a physician and public health expert on the trail.
“It’s necessary to have the range of professional backgrounds represented in our legislature,” Webb told NBC News in a recent phone interview. “I think the expertise that I have is really useful in a moment like this.”
Webb hopes to be the first Democrat to fill Virginia’s fifth congressional seat since 2008, a GOP-held district the size of New Jersey that includes Charlottesville and much of central Virginia. A practicing physician and a public health sciences director at the University of Virginia’s medical school, he has made expanding affordable health care a major focus of his career and campaign.
“My job is to walk into rooms and ask people where it hurts,” Webb explained. “When you have a district that’s this diverse, that’s this broad, you have to be a really skilled listener in order to meet everybody’s needs.”
So far, the candidate thinks this strategy of listening to voters like he does with patients has been effective, and that his background allows him and his campaign to “model the leadership” required during the coronavirus crisis.
Webb, who serves on Virginia’s Medicaid board, remarked that he’s grateful for his state’s 2019 Medicaid expansion as the pandemic takes a toll on patients and businesses.
The candidate previously worked under both Presidents Obama and Trump as a White House Fellow serving on the health care team and a drug pricing task force. When speaking to NBC News, he compared Obama’s track record on public health to Trump’s, commenting that there are “very clear differences'' in how this pandemic would play out under the former president.
Although Webb stressed that he won’t use the novel coronavirus as political leverage, he argued that the crisis reveals “other fault lines” in society and called out the American health care system for failing people.
“We’re seeing the lack of access to health care through the lens of this virus,” he said.
The fifth district is widely-considered a likely Republican seat and includes counties that pivoted from pro-Obama to pro-Trump but Webb doesn’t view the race as an “uphill battle.” The physician must beat out four other candidates in the Democratic primary before facing expected GOP competitor, Rep. Denver Riggleman, who won the district by almost seven percentage points in 2018.
The Riggleman campaign did not respond to a request for comment but the congressman’s Virginia distillery, Silverback, recently began producing hand sanitizer, which it’s offering for free to first responders and health care workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the UVA Center for Politics, told NBC News last week that Republicans are favored to win the district but that it’s competitive enough to elect a Democrat “under the right circumstances." He noted that Webb may “fit the moment.”
The Democratic primary is currently scheduled for June 9 and the district is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of seats it aims to flip from red to blue.
Sanders: 'There is a path' to the nomination
READINGTON, N.J. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been coy as of late about the future of his presidential campaign, told "Late Night" host Seth Myers on Monday he believes “there is a path” for him to win the Democratic nomination.
Sanders currently trails former Vice President Joe Biden by 312 delegates according to NBC News' delegate tracker, and most of the Democratic primary races that occur in April have been pushed to later this Spring or Summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. But on Monday, Sanders touted his grassroots support which helped him earned first place finishes in a number of the early voting states, including delegate-rich California.
"There is a path. It is admittedly a narrow path," Sanders said.
He added, "We have a strong grassroots movement who believe that we have got to stay in, in order to continue the fight to make the world know that we need Medicare for All, that we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, that we need paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said.
But Sanders did repeat his promise that he would support Biden if he himself is not the nominee.
“We’re seeing just how dangerous [President Trump] is with all of the misinformation that he is providing during this Coronavirus pandemic,” Sanders said, “So, yes, we have got to defeat Trump.”
Earlier this month when asked about the future of his campaign, Sanders said he was “focused” on coronavirus legislation, and heatedly told reporters that that he was not interested in answering campaign questions.
“I'm dealing with a f****** global crisis. You know? We're dealing with it and you're asking me these questions," Sanders told reporters earlier this month.
After suffering a series of losses in primary states in March, Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir told reporters the senator was “going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign" from Burlington, Vt. which is where Sanders has been when he was not voting in the Senate.
Republican, Democratic super PACs place initial ad buys in fight for Senate
WASHINGTON — Key Republican and Democratic super PACs have announced big spending plans in the fight for the Senate majority.
Both the Senate Majority PAC and the Senate Leadership Fund, groups aligned with top Democratic and Republican leaders respectively, have announced their first round of television advertising investments in recent days. The groups are focusing on five of the same states — Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina — with Senate Leadership Fund spending in Kentucky as well.
SLF is booking $67.1 million, the group announced in a press release last week. And SMP is booking $69.2 million, it said in a press release Monday.
North Carolina is the beneficiary of the most early ad booking, with the Democratic SMP announcing plans to reserve $25.6 million there and the Republican SLF planning to book $21.8 million. There, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis will take on Democratic former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.
An NBC News/Marist University poll taken in late February of that race showed Cunningham up 5 points on Tillis among registered voters, 48 percent to 43 percent, within the margin of error. That poll took place just before the state's primary.
The race receiving the next-most early booking dollars is Iowa, where Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is defending her seat against whichever Democrat wins the primary currently scheduled for June 2.
Ernst's favorability rating fell to 47 percent among Iowa adults in the March Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, but 41 percent of likely voters said they'd definitely vote to re-elect Ernst compared to 31 percent who said they'd definitely vote for someone else.
Close behind in that early-spending figure is Arizona, where SMP is booking $15.7 million and SLF is booking $9.2 million through an affiliate group called Defend Arizona. There, Republican Sen. Martha McSally is looking to win the rest of the term vacated by the death of the late Republican Sen. John McCain.
While McSally lost the state's 2018 Senate race, she was appointed to fill McCain's seat after his death. A recent Monmouth University poll had Kelly up 6 points over McSally among registered voters, within the margin of error.
Then there's Maine, which has already been home to a significant bevy of television ad spending by other outside groups. SMP is booking $9.6 million there while SLF is booking $7.2 million ahead as Republican Sen. Susan Collins seeks to defend her seat. The top Democrat in that race is state House Speaker Sarah Gideon, but Betsy Sweet, the former director of the Maine Women's Lobby, is also running.
The groups are also going toe-to-toe in Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is expected to take on former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. The Democratic SMP plans to book $5.2 million there, with the Republican SLF booking $5.5 million.
And SLF is also putting $10.8 million in early television spending into Kentucky through another affiliated group, Keep Kentucky Great. There, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection and will likely face off against Marine veteran Amy McGrath.
These totals don't include what's expected to be a large digital presence by both groups, and the investments are likely to change as it gets closer to election day, with groups moving money around or injecting more money into competitive races.
NYC Democratic House candidate announces positive COVID-19 test
WASHINGTON — New York City Democratic House candidate Suraj Patel has tested positive for COVID-19, he confirmed in a new statement Monday.
Patel, one of the candidates featured in a recent MTP Blog story about how the new social distancing guidelines and the threat of coronavirus has fundamentally upended House campaigns, disclosed his positive test in a new statement posted on social media and on the blogging platform Medium.
He said he began developing symptoms earlier this month — which he described as "troubling tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing followed by a regular fever of 102 degrees. Patel lives with two doctors, one of whom is his brother, which he said underscored the need for him to test to see if had COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, so that his roommates would know whether they were at risk.
Patel said that ultimately, he and his two housemates all tested positive. But he's now "fully recovered" and "asymptomatic."
"New Yorkers and Americans at large are stepping up in a tremendous unified way. We know how important it is to our most vulnerable populations that we slow the growth of this COVID epidemic. But as this becomes less abstract and more personal — when people’s loved ones start to show symptoms — human nature is such that we are going to want certainty and safety," Patel wrote, before calling for universal COVID testing.
"The only proven way to slow and eventually stop this pandemic is to have an accurate picture of who has had the disease, who currently has it, and who is still at risk. Social distancing and the strong leadership of Governor Cuomo and others is buying us vital time, but the question is what is our federal government doing with the time that the sacrifices of so many Americans are buying them?" he wrote.
"If we fail to universally test, we face an indefinite amount of time in social distancing, only to see new cases of the virus arise when we ultimately return to normal life."
Patel is running in the Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Texas Republicans back Lt. Governor on controversial coronavirus comments
HOUSTON — Republican leaders in Texas are defending Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's controversial comments on coronavirus as illustrative of his love of country, even as others see those comments as reckless amid a national crisis.
Patrick, a Republican and popular former conservative radio host, drew headlines last week when he said he supported President Trump’s call to restart the U.S. economy as quickly as possible despite the ongoing spread of the virus.
The virus has proven most deadly to older people and those with underlying conditions, which means many of those being treated or hospitalized are elderly. Texas has almost 3,000 cases of Covid-19, the illness produced by the coronavirus, according to NBC News. Some 47 people have died.
Emphasizing the need to “get back to work,” Patrick told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”
Patrick, who turns 70 this week, added, “No one reached out to me and said, 'As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?' And if that is the exchange, I'm all in.”
Patrick’s comments sparked backlash online, spurring hashtags including, #NotDyingforWallStreet and #TexasDeservesBetter. But in Texas, prominent Republicans said Patrick has a point.
“He's really telling a story which is, you know, he wants to make sure there's an American economy for people to come home to,” Houston area state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, 61, told NBC News. “That’s a big worry. The virus is a big worry, but then the next worry is, ‘do I have a job.’”
McKinney-area state Sen. Angela Paxton, 57, told NBC News: “We want to protect people and keep them healthy. Everyone is going to agree on that. How do we do it, that's where there's differences.”
She added, “But I think on the other hand, there's no one that is going to say, it doesn't matter if we destroy our economy.”
The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, a 70-year old grandmother of six, said that while the economy is a concern so is respect for the value of life.
“My children and my grandchildren are certainly not ready for their Tootsie to go anywhere or to put myself at risk,” Price said.
“I don't know what talent he would sacrifice? Is it young talent? Is it the experience in seniors? Or where is it?“ Price said. “I just can’t quite get a handle around that.”
Other Texas GOP leaders suggested Patrick had been talking about a sacrifice he would be willing to make — not asking the rest of the country to do so.
“He was talking about himself,” Denton-area state Sen. Pat Fallon, 52, said. “He perfectly has every right to say, ‘I love this country so much that I would sacrifice, if I had to, my own well-being, to ensure the prosperity and opportunity that I had that my kids and grandkids could have.' And I think it’s very noble.”
Not everyone is convinced, particularly Republicans who have been critical of Trump's pull on their party.
“He’s a public official, he knows what he says has policy implications and it's absurd to think that he just meant himself,” said Rick Tyler, a former aide to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and MSNBC political analyst who has frequently criticized President Trump.
John Weaver, a Texan and longtime Republican political strategist who has since founded a group that's aimed at defeating Trump in November, argues Patrick wouldn’t actually be among the most vulnerable if restrictions were lifted. Texans who live along the US-Mexico border or lack access to adequate care, Weaver said, would be the ones who suffer.
“He's talking about those people in the valley, who don't have health insurance because they blocked the expansion of healthcare in this state. He's talking about people in parts of Houston where, because of density and lack of healthcare, they're more at risk.” Weaver said. “He's not talking about himself.”
“There's no real public policy out there where people are going to say, ‘Fine, we'll get the economy moving again at the expense of 2 percent of the population,’” Weaver added.
In a statement released the day after the Fox News interview, Patrick seemed to reframe his message away from senior citizens potentially sacrificing their lives.
“When you close the doors of every business in America, you cannot help but destroy the economy and with it, the opportunity for the next generation to live the American dream,” the statement said.
Here's what the Democratic presidential primary schedule looks like in the age of coronavirus
WASHINGTON — States continue to postpone Democratic presidential caucuses and primaries as the threat of coronavirus looms large and White House social distancing guidelines remain in place for another month.
All presidential contests before March 17 were held as scheduled but the list of states that have altered voting plans due to the novel coronavirus is extensive.
Here's the modified schedule so far listed by original contest date.
Arizona primary (held)
Florida primary (held)
Illinois primary (held)
Ohio primary: now set to be an all-mail election on April 28
Georgia primary: postponed to May 19.
Puerto Rico primary: postponed to April 26 at the earliest.
Alaska Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with the deadline on April 10.
Hawaii Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with a deadline of May 22.
Louisiana primary: postponed to June 20.
Wyoming Caucuses: in-person caucuses suspended in favor of mail. The deadline is April 17.
Connecticut primary: postponed to June 2.
Delaware primary: postponed to June 2.
Maryland primary: postponed to June 2.
New York primary: postponed to June 23.
Pennsylvania primary: postponed to June 2.
Rhode Island primary: postponed to June 2, will be “primarily” by mail.
Saturday, May 2
Kansas Party-Run primary (DNC considers this a caucus)
Tuesday, May 5
Indiana primary: postponed to June 2.
Tuesday, May 12
West Virginia primary
Tuesday, May 19
Kentucky primary: postponed to June 23.
Tuesday, June 2
New Jersey primary
New Mexico primary
South Dakota primary
Washington, D.C. primary
Saturday, June 6
Virgin Island caucuses
New Biden digital ad argues Trump's 'ego will cost lives' to coronavirus
WASHINGTON – The Biden campaign is issuing a cautious warning about President Donald Trump’s leadership in a new video, saying that his “ego will cost lives" in the fight against coronavirus.
In a digital video posted to Twitter and Facebook Saturday evening, the campaign uses Trump’s own words during a White House press briefing, where he admitted to telling Vice President Mike Pence not to call Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, two Democrats, because he is “wasting” his time speaking with them.
“You don’t want to call the governor of Washington? You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” the video shows Trump saying.
In response, the campaign posts text on the screen over horror-movie like music that say, “His failure will cost lives. His downplaying will cost lives. His incompetence will cost lives. His ego will cost lives.”
The digital video, which is currently not a paid ad, already has about 5 million views on Twitter and thousands of engagements on Facebook and Instagram.
Biden has spent the past week criticizing Trump for his slow response to preventing the spread of the COVID-19, often pointing to numerous examples of Trump downplaying the seriousness of it earlier this year. The claims in the video are the furthest the campaign has gone in sharply pointing out how Trump’s continued approach to leading the effort could lead to American deaths.
On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Biden's criticisms of the president were not as aggressive as his campaign's.
While his campaign has repeatedly warned that Trump's reaction to the crisis could cost American lives, Biden says he thinks it would be "too harsh" to say Trump has blood on his hands.
“He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists," Biden said.
Whitmer also deflected Trump’s direct attacks against her in a "Meet the Press" interview.
“I've talked to the vice president a number of times. We're working with everyone from the White House on down through FEMA, DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers because it's got to be all hands on deck. We are not one another's enemies. The enemy is the virus,” she said on Meet the Press.