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Trump campaign releases new mobile app, tooled for virtual volunteering
WASHINGTON — After teasing it for seven months, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign finally launched a new phone application to rally supporters on Thursday that has been re-imagined for the virtual political age.
The digital tool was originally pitched as a key way to organize before the coronavirus pandemic brought a traditional presidential race to a halt. Now, it allows volunteers to work remotely and “earn points” for signed memorabilia and special treatment at future events when they return.
Campaign manager Brad Parscale, the architect behind the mobile app, suggested that the new online portal will allow Trump supporters to “get the facts straight” from the president and called it “groundbreaking" contrary to "other lame political apps you’ve seen.”
The “Trump 2020” app also pushes users to check out the online broadcasts the campaign is holding nightly after each White House coronavirus task force briefing. The short, 30-minute virtual shows have attracted millions of views, per senior officials.
Once a supporter logs in, a screen reads: “As a reward for helping us fight against socialist Democrats you can earn items like Expedited Entry and special event access, even a picture with President Trump!”
Under “rewards,” it costs 100,000 points to get a picture with the president and 28,000 points for “expedited entry to skip the line” at a Trump campaign gathering. Netting 5,000 points will earn fans a $25 store discount. Supporters can get 100 points for sharing the app and they can add to their total by sharing stories to Twitter and Facebook.
It’s unclear exactly when the Trump campaign will return to the trail this year with large events but discussions are underway for rallies to begin again later this summer and fall ahead of November’s election.
In the “events” section of the app, all gatherings are currently listed as phone calls or livestreams.
Throughout the health crisis, the re-elect effort has touted its ability to convert a conventional campaign into a virtual one. This app, the campaign says, will help give supporters another opportunity to get involved and help reach new voters who support the president’s agenda.
The app includes a “news” section that features the latest campaign statements, as well as curated attacks on former vice president and apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden. There are also dozens of videos from the campaign’s rapid response team embedded throughout.
One congressional race, three very different ways to advertise on coronavirus
WASHINGTON — Today's First Read Ad Watch heads to northwest Georgia for the battle to replace retiring GOP Rep. Tom Graves, where there are some very different ways that candidates are messaging on coronavirus.
In Clayton Fuller’s recent spot in the deep-red district, he begins by talking about how he was called up by the Air National Guard for coronavirus response, before pivoting to his work as a prosecutor who will stand with President Trump.
In another advertisement, neurosurgeon John Cowan blasts “weak Republicans” like Mitt Romney and “deranged Democrats” like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi before shooting a prop with a sign with “COVID-19” written on it.
And in a third spot, Marjorie Taylor Greene calls fines for violating social distancing orders “a dose of Chinese-style socialism,” warning that America could become “a socialist nation under China’s thumb.”
In Georgia's 14th Congressional District, a district that President Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016, the GOP primary is effectively the only game in town. So there's a large field of candidates beyond these three looking to grab the seat.
But on the airwaves right now, these three candidates are taking three significantly different tacks toward messaging on the coronavirus crisis.
This is an excerpt from Thursday's edition of First Read, the newsletter from NBC's Political Unit. Sign up by clicking here.
Al Gore backs Joe Biden in Earth Day online event
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden earned another notable endorsement on Earth Day from the influential climate change activist and former Vice President Al Gore.
Gore endorsed Biden via Twitter Wednesday before joining him in a question-and-answer live stream to discuss how best to curb climate change and help communities that have been disproportionately affected by the warming global temperatures.
He told Biden and the over 3,000 viewers tuning into the livestream that it’s “not rocket science” who they should vote for if they prioritize ending the climate crisis.
"If there is anyone out there who has any doubt whatsoever about the choice to be made in this election, it is simple, it is not complicated, it is clear cut. Vote for Joe Biden, vote against Donald Trump, put us on the road to solving the climate crisis," Gore said.
Since leaving the White House in early 2001, Gore, who served as President Bill Clinton’s vice president, has been one of the lead voices raising the alarm on the devastating consequences brought forth by climate change, and calling for immediate action. Gore was also the Democratic Party's 2000 presidential nominee.
During the town hall, he warned that some permanent damage is already irreversible, but that the world is at a “tipping point” that requires cooperation to prevent the globe from becoming completely uninhabitable.
His endorsement comes hours after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who ran a climate-focus campaign for president last year, also backed Biden Wednesday. The Biden campaign hopes that endorsements like these can help attract Sen. Bernie Sanders’ young progressive supporters who cite global warming fears as a key issue of concern for them.
In recent weeks, Biden has shown a commitment to hear progressive groups concerns about climate change by announcing a joint-task force with Sanders that would propose policies to enhance his current climate proposal. Gore has also pledged to quell skeptics worries that Biden is not progressive enough on climate reform.
“Your election is absolutely crucial,” Gore said. “And I want to do everything I can to convince everybody that cares about the climate crisis that this is a no-brainer. This is a real simple choice. And if anybody has any doubt about that, come talk to me.”
Warren endorses down-ballot women candidates for the fall
In an email provided exclusively to NBC News, the Massachusetts Democratic senator told supporters: “Now, here’s something I’ve learned about how to make real change: It takes a grassroots movement fighting from the outside — and leaders fighting from the inside. Today, I’m endorsing leaders who know how to fight and win.”
The list highlights candidates running for re-election, like Democratic House incumbents Sharice Davids of Kansas, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, and Katie Porter of California who were part of the “blue wave” of women elected to the House in 2018. Porter was also one of the co-chairs of Warren’s presidential campaign.
Two women on the list, Tricia Zunker running in Wisconsin's seventh district and Christy Smith running in California's twenty-fifth district, are receiving Warren’s endorsement right before they face special elections next month.
In Nebraska's second district, Warren is backing progressive Kara Eastman who’s facing a moderate Democratic opponent in a competitive district.
Warren’s list also throws light on several local races, including Sarah McBride, a transgender activist running for a senate seat in Delaware. Highlighting candidates in local races is in line with the former 2020 candidate's message of electing Democrats “up and down the ballot.”
”This November, statewide and state legislative elections will be especially critical as we recover from the coronavirus crisis in the short term and rebuild our economy in the long term,” Warren writes in the email to supporters.
The email doesn’t directly call for monetary donations to the candidates, but asks Warren’s supporters to fill out to a survey for how they plan to help the candidates listed.
Warren noted in her email that she will announce more endorsements in the future.
Jay Inslee endorses Biden for president
WASHINGTON — Washington Gov. and former 2020 presidential candidate Jay Inslee endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday in a special Earth Day edition of Biden's "Here's the Deal" podcast.
"You're going to have a concrete plan for action within the next 10 years to develop a clean energy plan, so we just don't plan to 2050. I know that you have efforts to really do things in the next 10 years and I'm very excited about this," Inslee said.
Notably, Inslee endorsed Biden’s climate change plan — even though many green groups and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have been critical of it. Specifically, groups have argued that Biden's goal of reducing carbon emissions by 2050 instead of 2030 doesn't go far enough.
Inslee, who focused most of his presidential bid on climate change, ended his campaign in August. He has since been back in the national spotlight due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Seattle area saw one of the country's first major outbreaks and has over 12,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Inslee has been applauded for issuing an early stay-at-home order. On Tuesday, Inslee said he wouldn't be lifting the movement restrictions by May 4, when the current stay-at-home order was supposed to be lifted.
Inslee listed coronavirus as one of the many reasons he's endorsing Biden because of “his willingness to follow science and really help us get us out of the COVID-19 crisis” by bringing “a reasoned approach rather than just ignoring doctors.” He also believes Biden’s empathy that guides how he helps people will lead him to be honest with the American people during times of crisis.
"I know that you have a willingness to follow science and really help us get us out of the COVID-19 crisis. You're going to bring a reasoned approach to that rather than just ignoring doctors. You're going to follow their advice," Inslee said.
Biden has been consolidating support in the Democratic Party since Sanders ended his presidential campaign and endorsed Biden. Inslee is one of the last 2020 presidential candidates to endorse Biden and the two had gone head-to-head during the campaign about Biden's climate plan.
RNC says "full steam ahead" with convention plans, Biden remains unsure for DNC
WASHINGTON — The Democratic and Republican parties are on different tracks when it comes to planning their nominating conventions during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, the apparent Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden said he wasn't sure if a traditional convention could happen at all, while Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said the party is moving "full steam ahead" in planning an in-person convention for late August in Charlotte, N.C.
"We don't build out our convention until July. So I think we have at least until the end of June or early July to make a decision if we have to switch from a traditional convention to something scaled back. But we will have to have an in-person convention. Those are the bylaws of the RNC and so currently, going forward, we're planning on a full-scale convention," McDaniel said on Monday.
The Democratic National Committee has already postponed their convention to Aug. 17 from their original week in July due to the pandemic. However, the apparent nominee said that unless science makes that possible, it still might not happen.
"I very much, as any candidate would, wants to have an actual convention, be in a position where the middle of August, we're able to actually have a convention where people show up, and you have businesses being able to open up more than they are now, but it requires the president to take action now to do the things that need to be done. So that we have adequate testing," Biden said on Monday to a local Wisconsin news outlet.
When asked about the likelihood of any traditional, in-person convention for his apparent nomination, Biden said, "I, honest to God, don't know."
The differences in the parties' plans tracks with how their candidates' campaigns have been responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said he intends for the president to hold in-person rallies before the general election in November.
"We will get back to those rallies. Never fear, the president is certain that we're going to be back out there speaking directly to the American people," Murtaugh said.
Biden has been a bit more conservative with his campaigning plans. Before the DNC announced they would postpone their convention to mid-August, Biden got ahead of them and said that he would want the convention pushed back or made into a virtual convention.
Similarly, the two candidates have been on opposite sides of possible voting mechanisms for the November election with the president saying he doesn't support mail-in ballots, while Biden has said it's time to start considering a virtual election.
Joe Biden's presidential campaign raised $46.7 million in pivotal month of March
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden raised $46.7 million in March, according to new campaign finance filings, as he was tightening his grip on the Democratic Party's nomination.
His campaign spent $32.4 million in March, ending the month with $26.3 million banked away, Biden's latest report to the Federal Election Commission shows.
The total is a dramatic increase from Biden's fundraising in recent months — he raised $8.9 million in January and $18.1 million in February. In March, Biden began to widen his lead in the Democratic presidential nominating fight by scoring big victories on Super Tuesday and in contests the subsequent weeks before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered much of American life and caused many states to delay their nominating contests.
Biden pointed to the difficulties of campaigning (and living life) during coronavirus in a Monday-night message to supporters. But he also thanked those supporters for helping him turn the tide after poor showings in the early weeks of voting and spoke of his focus on making President Trump a "one-term president."
"It was your support which has made us the presumptive nominee of our party. That is something no one was predicting just a little over a month ago. Many of the so-called experts had declared our campaign over. Not you. You and so many others lifted us up on your shoulders, generated record levels of turnout, and propelled us in state after state to a historic comeback victory," he said.
"Now I am especially proud to say that every one of our primary opponents has endorsed our campaign. We are leading a unified Democratic party to take on Donald Trump."
While the big fundraising quarter shows Biden's ability to galvanize Democratic dollars behind him, Biden and the Democratic National Committee trail the joint Republican effort aimed at reelecting Trump by a significant margin.
When the two joint fundraising committees affiliated with Trump's reelection effort are added in, the full Republican effort closed March with about $244 million in cash on hand, while the DNC and the Biden campaign had about $57 million (when the DNC's $5 million in debt is subtracted).
As the incumbent, Trump has had the luxury over the past three years of raising big money through joint fundraising committees, which allow donors to spread out money across a handful of committees involved in a unified effort. Biden will have that luxury as well, without Trump's head start.
That said, Biden's campaign raised more than three times that of the Trump campaign in March (Trump's campaign raised $13.6 million last month).
And through February, the Democratic presidential candidates combined this cycle raised $768 million through February, outraising the combined effort of the Trump campaign and the RNC by more than $300 million over the same time period.
Mike Bloomberg spent over $1 billion on presidential campaign, new FEC reports show
The reports show that he spent a total of $1,051,783,859.43 through March of this year. Bloomberg, one of the richest men in the world, didn't accept individual contributions during his bid and instead self-funded his campaign. According to Advertising Analytics, Bloomberg spent $453 million on television ads and at least $82 million on digital ads. He also invested heavily in polling and building up a large campaign of over 500 staffers across the country.
Late last month, Bloomberg announced he’d pour $18 million into the Democratic National Committee, transferring the funds from his campaign to boost the party apparatus instead of creating his own super PAC.
The former New York City mayor's campaign now faces a potential class action lawsuit for allegedly promising jobs through November to over one thousand campaign staffers and then laying them off after the campaign was suspended. The staffers stopped receiving paychecks in the first week of April, and will stop receiving health care benefits at the end of the month.
Bloomberg announced his candidacy in November and dropped out of the race on March 4 after a poor performance on Super Tuesday. The billionaire entrepreneur’s only electoral victory was in American Samoa.
GOP Super PAC pledges $100,000 to support Rep. Steve King's primary challenger
WASHINGTON — The GOP Super PAC, Defending Main Street, announced that it will spend $100,000 to support the Republican state legislator challenging Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in the fourth district congressional primary.
The group said Monday it would invest in direct mail, phone calls, and social media advertising aimed at boosting state Senator Randy Feenstra over King, who has been thrown off all congressional committees after making racist comments in an interview.
“Now more than ever, the people of Iowa’s 4th District need a voice in Washington, D.C.,” Defending Main Street Treasurer, Sarah Chamberlain, said in a statement.
“The small businesses, farmers, and families of this district are being excluded from eminently crucial decision-making amid the pandemic. It is time to restore the level of comprehensive representation these Iowans deserve," she added.
King was stripped of his committee assignments by House Republicans last year after they repeatedly condemned his remarks. The final straw for those House Republicans were comments last January about white nationalism.
King had asked in a New York Times interview: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
In a statement shortly after, King told NBC News: "I reject white nationalism. I reject white supremacy. It's not part of any of my ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology."
Feenstra has argued that King can’t “defend President Trump” thanks to his hindered position in Congress. And he has run ads touting his pro-life credentials, support for Trump’s border wall, and ability to “deliver” for the area in the state Senate.
Feenstra has raised $844,000 and had $416,000 in his bank account at the end of March. King has raised $301,000 and had $27,000 in his bank account through March. The winner of that primary — which is now scheduled for June 2 — will likely face J.D. Scholten, the Democrat who was just 3 percentage points away from beating King in 2018.
Defending Main Street is a Super PAC aimed at supporting what it calls "governing Republicans." It's aligned with the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that endorsed Feenstra earlier this year.
Prominent environmental group endorses Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — Former vice president Joe Biden embraced an endorsement from a prominent environmental advocacy group, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), Monday and suggested that he’s open to building on his climate plan with environmental leaders and organizations.
The LCV, which aims to elect pro-environmental candidates nationwide, announced its formal support for the apparent Democratic nominee in a statement Monday morning. That statement applauded Biden’s proposed climate plan and the candidate’s record of protecting the environment and addressing the climate crisis.
“We are proud to endorse Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States,” LCV Action Fund Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Tiernan Sittenfeld, stated. “We cannot afford the cost of inaction or another four years of a Trump presidency.”
Responding to the endorsement, the Biden campaign said in its own statement Monday that it’s committed to working with the LCV on expanding its current climate policy.
“I have asked my campaign to commence a process to meaningfully engage with more voices from the climate movement,” Biden said. Together, his campaign along with leaders and organizations like the LCV will “collaborate on additional policies in areas ranging from environmental justice to new, concrete goals we can achieve within a decade, to more investments in a clean energy economy.”
Biden stressed that climate change is an important issue this election cycle, especially for younger voters — a more progressive demographic that his Democratic primary opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, had more success with during the nominating fight — and that it will be a top priority under his leadership if elected president.
“In the months ahead, expanding this plan will be one of my key objectives,” Biden said. “I know this is an issue that resonates with many, including young people and those who have seen floods, fires, and drought destroy lives and livelihoods.”
Biden released his original climate agenda last June. His "Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice" includes a push for the United States to reenter the Paris Climate Agreement, to achieve net-zero emissions before 2050, to expand clean jobs and to take other actions to mitigate climate change.
Some progressive environmental groups, like the Sunrise Movement, have criticized Biden's plans for not going far enough, and have instead embraced more progressive candidates like Sanders.
In the LCV’s endorsement of the candidate, the group slammed President Trump for being an anti-environmental president and said that Biden will restore the U.S.’s status as a global environmental leader.
“Since day one, Donald Trump has threatened our planet and risked the health of our communities — especially communities of color and low-wealth communities — undermining the unprecedented climate legacy of the Obama-Biden administration,” Carol Browner, LCV Board Chair and former Clinton EPA Administrator, said in the statement.
“We are all in to help elect Joe Biden,” she added.
The LCV has invested $14 million in a direct-mail campaign and online advertising aimed at Trump in several swing states including Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Democratic senators ask for $3.6 billion in next relief bill for mail-in voting
WASHINGTON — As lawmakers begin discussing what the next phase of coronavirus relief legislation will include, mail-in voting is becoming one of the major fronts in that fight.
At least 40 Democratic senators are expected to send a letter to all four congressional leaders on Monday, asking for $3.6 billion in funds for universal mail-in voting in the next major relief bill.
The request is likely to receive partisan opposition. Universal mail-in voting has become a contentious issue with many Republicans, including President Donald Trump who said he is opposed. Republicans are likely to point to the $400 million Congress already appropriated to help states accommodate voting changes in the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed last month.
But Democratic supporters say that money isn’t enough. They point to a recent plea from the bipartisan National Association of Secretaries of State, who say that they need financial help from the federal government for the upcoming election, noting that states are having to take money from their election fund to help with general COVID-19 health care response.
In the letter to the leadership, written by Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ron Wyden of Oregon and obtained by NBC News, the senators say “we must prepare accordingly” in case another wave of coronavirus re-emerges in the fall or if it’s still not safe to congregate next November.
“We saw what happened in Wisconsin: their primary election turned into chaos, and American voters were left disenfranchised or left compromising their health to vote,” Coons told NBC News. “Every American voter — Republican, Democrat, or Independent — should be able to cast their ballot safely this fall, and we can guarantee that by giving states the resources to expand vote-by-mail so it’s an option for every eligible voter in every state.”
Ohio governor calls on FDA for help with testing during MTP interview
WASHINGTON — If it's Sunday, does America have enough coronavirus tests to begin the move toward relaxing social restrictions?
Vice President Mike Pence answered that question affirmatively Sunday, telling "Meet the Press" that with testing capacity at 150,000 a day and 4 million already tested, America has enough tests to meet the testing criteria to move into Phase 1 of the federal government's reopening guidelines.
But minutes later, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine joined the show to plead with the Food and Drug Administration to green-light a tweak to test-kits aimed at solving a supply shortage that DeWine said is hampering his ability to "double or triple" testing capacity.
"We really need help. [If] anybody in the FDA is watching, this would really take our capacity up literally overnight," DeWine said.
And the feeling is bipartisan — Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that supply shortages are hampering her state's ability to accelerate testing too, and called on the federal government to use its power to demand states fill the gap.
Moving to Phase 1 doesn't just require tests, and it's a long way from a return to normalcy.
But the differing levels of comfort that the governors and the administration have with America's testing capacity is yet another sign of tension as the Trump administration tries to walk the line between projecting strength and deflecting responsibility.
This is an excerpt from Sunday's edition of First Read, the newsletter from NBC's Political Unit. Sign up by clicking here.
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.
Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in latest national poll
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by nine points in the latest Fox News general election poll. The poll, released Saturday, shows Biden garnering 49 percent support of registered voters, and Trump at 40 percent — pushing Biden outside the poll's three-point margin of error.
The subsection groups show even stronger support for Biden. Suburban women, a key group in the 2018 midterms, support Biden over Trump by a 57-34 point margin. Biden also won self-described "moderates" with 53 percent support — Trump garnered just 24 percent support from the same group.
The Fox News poll shows overall stability of Biden's support. In their February poll, Biden led Trump 49-41 percent, and in January he led 50-41 in the same poll. However, this is the first Fox News poll to also measure support of potential general election tickets.
Biden announced at the last Democratic presidential debate that he would choose a woman as his running mate. Registered voters seem to agree with that decision — in this poll, 63 percent of registered voters approve of that choice. And of three potential female senators Biden could pick, each ticket leads the Republican Trump-Pence ticket.
Fox News polled Biden with California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — all former presidential candidates in this cycle. Harris and Klobuchar have since endorsed Biden, while Warren has yet to endorse either Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
According to this poll, a Biden-Harris ticket and a Biden-Klobuchar ticket beat Trump-Pence with a 50 to 42 percent margin. A potential Biden-Warren ticket had a larger margin of victory at 52-42 percent support. All three ticket victories were outside of the poll's margin for error.
The Fox News poll was conducted between March 21 and 24.
Democratic super PAC expands ad on Trump's coronavirus response
WASHINGTON — The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA is expanding their ad buy attacking President Trump on his coronavirus response to Arizona, a source with knowledge of the activity told NBC News.
NBC News reported Thursday that the group had been inquiring about rates in Arizona, a state that tends to vote Republican but has become more competitive for 2020. Later Thursday, Priorities USA announced it would spend $600,000 to run the ad in Arizona.
The ad, titled "Exponential Threat," splices remarks by the president downplaying the threat of the coronavirus alongside a chart that shows growing cases.
The Trump campaign had already issued letters to TV stations Wednesday arguing that the ad should be taken down because it contains "false, deceptive, and misleading information" about the president and threatened to take legal action if they didn't immediately stop airing it.
The ad was part of a $6 million TV and digital buy from Priorities USA in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is still running in all four states despite the Trump campaign's efforts, the source with knowledge said on Thursday.
Bernie Sanders' big delegate math problem
And the exercise shows just how challenging the math is for the Independent Vermont senator.
Overall, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sanders by 312 pledged delegates, according to NBC News’ Decision Desk.
Biden has won 1,174 pledged delegates or 53 percent of all allocated pledged delegates, while Sanders has won 862 or 39 percent.
To reach the magic number of 1,991 — a majority of all pledged delegates — Biden needs to win 46 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.
Sanders, by contrast, needs 64 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to obtain a majority.
There are two main reasons why Sanders’ deficit is so daunting.
The first is the Democrats’ proportional-allocation system. Unlike Republicans, who often award their delegates based on winner-take-all rules, Democrats award theirs proportionately — so if you win a state or congressional district 55 percent to 45 percent, you get 55 percent of the available pledged delegates while your opponent gets 45 percent.
So the only way to rack up huge delegate hauls is to win a state decisively — like Biden did last week in Florida, when his 62 percent-to-23 percent victory in the state netted him 100-plus more delegates than Sanders earned in the Sunshine State.
Bottom line: Narrow victories in future contests for Sanders won’t really cut into Biden’s lead.
The second delegate challenge for Sanders is that there are fewer caucus contests than were four years ago.
In 2016, Sanders was often able to keep close with Hillary Clinton because he’d rack up decisive victories in caucus states like Colorado or Washington state. But this time around, those states — and a few others — are holding primaries instead of caucuses, which keeps Sanders’ margin and his resulting delegate hauls smaller than they were in 2016.
Sanders might trail Biden by just 312 delegates. But that deficit is really wider than those numbers suggest.
Former Obama labor secretary among those launching new pro-Biden super PAC
WASHINGTON — A group of Democrats, including former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, are launching a new super PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden that is aimed at helping him secure pivotal western battlegrounds in a general election bid against President Trump.
NBC News has learned that the group, Win the West, will launch Thursday with Solis, a current member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who served with Biden in the White House, as the group's first co-chair. Former Biden speechwriter Mathew Littman will serve as the executive director.
While Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running in the Democratic primary race against Biden, the NBC News Decision Desk projects he trails Biden by more than 312 delegates, as the nominating contest has been upended by the coronavirus outbreak.
Win the West aims to protect two blue-trending states in Nevada and Colorado, while also taking the battle to two red-leaning states where Democrats have had recent success, Texas and Arizona. Its leadership argues that while other groups are focusing on more conventional swing states, it can be effective in those western states where Democrats believe demographics are shifting in their favor.
"America is at a watershed moment in our nation's history. Now, more than ever and especially during this time of crisis, it's vital that we elect a true patriot, someone who values facts and the truth, and who has a profound understanding of how government works and how it can help everyday Americans who are hurting," Solis said in a statement announcing the group's creation.
"The only candidate who meets this criteria is former Vice President Joe Biden, and that is why I was proud to be an early endorser of his campaign for President. I know, because I've worked with Joe and I've seen him in action."
Along with the announcement of the group's launch, Win the West is out with its first video, a digital ad that primarily points to Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic to argue the president has not lived up to the moment.
The digital spot highlights Trump's late January comments to CNBC that his administration had the coronavirus outbreak "totally under control," the administration's decision not to replace top officials who handled pandemics after they had left their jobs, and uses a mash-up of Trump's comments compared to recent headlines to argue that the president "has downplayed the coronavirus."
The Trump campaign and its allies have spent the past few weeks defending the administration's response to the outbreak, arguing that Democrats are politicizing the moment and obfuscating about the president's response.
"While Joe Biden and his allies are spreading falsehoods about the administration’s response to coronavirus, President Trump, his administration and Congressional Republicans are stepping up and making sure Americans are safe," Joe Ascioti, the Republican National Committee's research director and deputy communications director, said in a Wednesday statement criticizing another pro-Biden super PAC's ad hitting Trump on the virus response.
Administration’s mixed messaging on Defense Production Act causes confusion
WASHINGTON — President Trump signed the Defense Production Act (DPA) a week ago today but there has been consistent confusion as to whether it is being utilized to produce medical equipment needed for the coronavirus pandemic.
The bottom line: the DPA has not yet been used in this manner, despite calls from governors and mayors of the hardest-hit areas to fully activate the DPA. Medical professionals have been among the most outspoken on the desperate need for certain equipment and supplies.
The Korean War-era DPA would allow the federal government to control the supply chain and compel companies to produce much-needed items. So far, according to the president, several private sector corporations like 3M, Ford, General Motors and Tesla are already doing this themselves without needing the DPA.
Here's a timeline of how the president and his administration have discussed the DPA in recent days:
March 18, 2020
President Trump at briefing: “We'll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it. In other words, I think you all know what it is, and it can do a lot of good things if we need it. And we will -- we will have it all completed, signing it in just a little while. Right after I'm finished with this conference, I'll be signing it. It's prepared to go. So we will be invoking the Defense Production Act.”
Trump tweeted that same day:
March 19, 2020
President Trump at briefing: “We hope we are not going to need that...I've done it. Yeah, if we find that we need something, we will do that, and you don't know what we've done. You don't know whether or not we've ordered. You don't know if we've invoked it. You don't know what's been ordered, what's not been ordered...I also just invoked the Defense Production Act to help facilitate distribution of essential supplies if necessary.”
March 20, 2020
President Trump at briefing: “I did it yesterday...We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things…. We are using it.”
March 21, 2020
President Trump to Kelly O’Donnell at briefing: “ If I don't have to use — specifically, we have the act to use, in case we need it. But we have so many things being made right now by so many — they've just stepped up.”
March 22, 2020
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on Meet the Press: “Yeah, so I think it's an insurance policy. Right? It's a lever. If we have to throw that lever we will… And so we haven't had to use it yet. Will we have to use it? Maybe.
March 22, 2020
White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro at briefing: “Now what I can tell you so far is that the Defense Production Act, sir, has given me quiet leverage. When you have a strong leader you can take a light hand initially. So what we've seen with this outpouring of volunteers from private enterprise, we're getting what we need without, without putting the heavy hand of government.”
March 24, 2020
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on CNN: “Just a little while ago my team came in and we're actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on. And the second thing we’re going to do it we’re going to insert some language into these mask contracts that we have for the 500 million masks. DPA language will be in that today.”
March 24, 2020
FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow clarifies in statement to NBC News: “At the last minute we were able to procure the test kits from the private market without evoking the DPA.”
March 24, 2020
President Trump tweet: “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.”
March 24, 2020
President Trump at briefing: “Private companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the DPA in order to get them to do what they have to do. It's called leverage. You don't have to use it from the standpoint of -- actually, it’s been activated, but you don't have to use it. But the threat of it being there is great leverage. And companies are doing as we ask, and companies are actually -- even better than that, they’re coming through and they're calling us. And it’s been, really, something to see. This morning, Ford, 3M, and General Electric Healthcare are making tremendous numbers -- they’ve already started -- of respirators ventilators and face shields. They’re working together. We didn't have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way. The fact that we have it helps, but we didn't have to. And for the most part, we won't have to.”
Biden says there have been 'enough debates' with Sanders
WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be ready to debate former Vice President Joe Biden, but the frontrunner and current delegate-leader in the Democratic primary thinks it may be time to move on.
In a virtual press conference with campaign reporters on Wednesday, Biden responded to Sanders’ latest signal that he’s staying in the race by wanting to participate in an April Democratic debate. A debate has not yet been scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we've had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Biden said after noting that his focus since stepping off the campaign trail two weeks ago has been devoted to the coronavirus crisis.
Biden and Sanders remain as the only two Democratic candidates still vying for the nomination as the campaign trail has come to a halt. While Sanders continues to mull staying in the race, his announcement to debate Biden and organizing investments in New York suggest he will remain a competitor at least through April’s primaries.
On Tuesday, Biden said on MSNBC that he intends to continue to campaign regardless of how long Sanders stays in the race.
“As I said from the beginning, that's not for me to decide,” Biden said. “I'll continue to make the case why I think I could be president and should be president now and make the case for it. It's in a sense putting all politics aside.”
Brenda Jones announces bid against Rashida Tlaib in 2018 rematch
WASHINGTON — Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib is poised for a rematch against Detroit City Council President and former Rep. Brenda Jones two years after voters briefly sent both women to Congress on the same ballot.
Jones, who officially announced her bid for Congress on Wednesday, narrowly won the Democratic primary in the special election to replace the late Rep. John Conyers and serve out the rest of his term in 2018. But Tlaib edged her out in the party's primary for the next full term, which began on 2019, by a similarly small margin.
With both Democrats cruising through the general election in the deep-blue seat, that meant Jones served in Congress for a few weeks before turning the seat over to Tlaib to start 2019.
Jones officially filed paperwork declaring her bid with the Federal Election Commission on March 18, but announced her bid on Wednesday in a video. She said she recorded the video instead of holding a press conference because she wanted to set an example of following the new social distancing policies being championed to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
In that video, she addressed the "period of uncertainty" as coronavirus has dramatically changed Americans' way of life, let along upended the political campaign process.
"You cannot live without hope. That's why my candidacy is based on hope — hope for a better tomorrow, hope for our children, hope for our families, and hope for the hopeless," Jones said.
She went on to lay out a "three-pronged" plan for the district if elected: Bringing resources to the district, "uniting the district," and focusing on important issues.
And she pointed to her city council experience as indicative of how she'd serve if elected again to Congress.
In 2018, there were six total candidates on the Democratic primary ballot running for the full term in Congress, with four on the ballot to serve out Conyers' partial term. As of Tuesday, Jones and Tlaib are the only two major Democratic candidates running, with a third candidate, Stephen Michael Patterson, having not reported spending or receiving any money so far this cycle.
Tlaib has become a national name since she took office, partially because of her standing among progressives and work with a group of female freshman Democrats nicknamed "The Squad," a group that includes Tlaib as well as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar .
The group of lawmakers has been a top target for Republicans as, particularly President Trump.
Recently, Tlaib has been appearing with Omar and Ocasio-Cortez during livestreamed roundtables with Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who they've endorsed to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee, on coronavirus.
“Rep. Tlaib looks forward to running a strong campaign and winning re-election regardless of who is on the ballot, but at this time she is 100% focused on responding to the coronavirus and getting our communities and residents the resources they need to protect human health and our local economy," Denzel McCampbell, a Tlaib spokesperson, told NBC by email.
"Rep. Tlaib is hard at work pushing groundbreaking policies to make direct payments to all Americans to weather this storm, leading legislation to save state and local governments from financial collapse, and preventing utility shutoffs, evictions, and foreclosures."
Congressional candidates put elections on back burner
WASHINGTON — While coronavirus has shut most of America behind closed doors, congressional candidates are juggling the uncertainty of the situation with the electoral reality.
The guidelines from the White House aimed at curbing the spread of the virus makes it virtually impossible for candidates to fundraise and campaign in the way they normally would.
“The character of our district and neighborhood is one of social interaction. We don’t have large living rooms, homes and yards to spread out,” Suraj Patel, a Democrat who is challenging Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney for her deep-blue, New York City seat, told NBC News.
Patel told NBC that his entire campaign staff has shifted to remote and digital work, focusing on community service, holding virtual town hall meetings with those affected by the economic slowdown, and releasing policy proposals aimed at recovery.
Meanwhile, he said his staff has used telephone canvassing software to check in with seniors, delivering supplies and handmade cards across the district.
Maloney told NBC her campaign shifted quickly to remote work too, suspending its attempts to collect signatures to qualify for the ballot and pledging not to challenge any opponents’ signatures so that they could keep all staff safe. The primary for the seat is on June 23, and New York has not yet announced if any of their primaries will be moved because of coronavirus.
With her team contacting constituents to keep them informed about the crisis, she said she's remained “laser-focused on taking action to alleviate the suffering that people are experiencing during the crisis, passing bills that will help everyday Americans get through the challenges of the coming months, and holding the administration accountable.”
Another elected official balancing a run for Congress during the crisis is Republican New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis — she represents a coronavirus hotspot and is trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Max Rose in New York’s 11th district.
But Malliotakis says her priority is no longer her congressional campaign.
“The campaign’s on the back burner. I’m 100 percent focused on doing my job as an Assembly member, making sure that we do important things that need to be taken care of in Albany,” Malliotakis said.
She also said this has been a time to work across party lines — she’s been in constant contact with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as Rose too.
“We may be adversaries often times when it comes to policy,” Malliotakis said of Democrats, but noted that in New York, “we are working together really closely.”
And Rose is on the same page.
“All I care about is addressing the incredibly serious public health crisis,” Rose told NBC. “Elections be damned, we’ve got lives on the line.”
Rose added that when it comes to elections, there is “no balance” with campaigning until this pandemic subsides, and that politics has no place in current conversations.
“Right now, nobody should be talking politics in any way, shape or form. Nobody. Now, the only thing that anybody should be concerned about is saving lives,” Rose said.
On that front, challenger candidates like Malliotakis are hoping that focusing on their current jobs will end up as their biggest campaigning tool.
“Quite frankly, if I don’t do a good job in the position that I’m elected right now, I wouldn’t deserve to be elected to Congress,” Malliotakis said.
Malliotakis’ focus on her current position is similar to that of another state Assemblywoman, Christy Smith in California. Smith and Naval officer Mike Garcia are facing off in the CA-25 special election, currently slated for May 12.
Smith told NBC in a statement that she is “focused on my work as this community’s public servant, ensuring state response to my local constituents and connecting people with essential information, services, and resources.” She added that she’ll “revisit campaign-related issues” after the crisis is at bay.
While Garcia doesn’t hold public office, he told NBC he’s prioritizing getting accurate information out to his would-be constituents, primarily through his website, which includes a list of local and small business resources as well as official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This coronavirus is a serious challenge. We are taking it seriously,” Garcia said “We have no choice. We have to do it with class, we have to do it with grace.”
Sanders campaign ramps up virtual organizing ahead of potential New York primary
BURLINGTON, VT — Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign has shifted to entirely virtual organizing while Americans socially distance due to the coronavirus outbreak but the campaign put out a release Tuesday touting New York state staffing and volunteer organizing. While some states have moved their primaries due to the outbreak, New York's Democratic Primary is still set for April 28.
The Sanders campaign says they hosted a volunteer call with thousands of New York supporters this week, signing up more than 1,300 call and text shifts. The campaign is using their proprietary "BERN" app and old-fashioned phone banking, as well as organizing "Digital house parties," while New Yorkers are holed up at home.
While the Sanders campaign shifts resources to future states, the campaign continues to say nothing has changed since last week's statement that the candidate is assessing the status of his campaign and having conversations with supporters on a path forward.
Sanders has been focused this week on coronavirus, holding multiple campaign live-streams on the topic with experts and congressional colleagues, raising millions for charities involved in coronavirus aid, and releasing a $2 trillion plan of his own.
Biden edges out Trump in new national poll
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a narrow three-point lead on President Trump in a new national presidential race poll from Monmouth University. Forty-eight percent of registered voters prefer Biden, while 45 percent prefer the president — however that lands within the poll's margin of error. The poll did not release data on how Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders fared in a general election stand-off with Trump.
The picture changed slightly when the poll shifted to key state voters. According to the poll, 50 percent of voters in 300 "swing counties" — counties in which less than 10 points separated Trump and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — back Biden while just 41 percent support the president. Trump and the leading Democratic candidate essentially split the current vote for Independents — Trump edges out with 45 percent, and Biden garners 44 percent.
While the possible general election contest is extremely close, some key questions could end up affecting whether voters change their allegiances. Twenty-five percent of registered voters said their current financial situation was best described as "struggling", and just 12 percent of registered voters said their financial status was improving. That could magnify as the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has some experts saying unemployment could reach 20 percent in a worse-case scenario situation.
However, it's not clear that Americans blame the Trump administration for their financial situations. Fifty-two percent of registered voters said the federal government had "no real impact" on their finances, and 29 percent said the government "helped" their financial situation. The Monmouth University poll was conducted between March 18 and March 22.
Both candidates have also seen upticks in their favorability since February. Forty-six of registered voters view President Trump either very or somewhat favorably, up two points since February, and 43 percent of registered voters view Biden very or somewhat favorably, up three points from the last poll.
Trump re-elect effort campaigns virtually as coronavirus outbreak pauses normal voter interaction
WASHINGTON – Since the coronavirus pandemic has essentially brought the 2020 race to a halt, President Trump's campaign and Republican National Committee have pivoted to a fully virtual outreach plan as millions of voters are confined to their homes.
On Saturday, the Trump re-election effort made a record 1.5 million calls, marking the first time this kind of voter contact has been done purely remotely by the party, according to the RNC. Volunteers highlighted the administration’s response to the current health crisis, while encouraging supporters to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for their own safety.
“With our ability to engage with voters virtually and digitally, Trump Victory is not missing a beat, and we continue to be full steam ahead to November,” RNC Chief of Staff Richard Walters told NBC News in a statement.
After President Trump announced strict new social distancing rules last week, the campaign and RNC had to convert all their in-person campaign events into virtual interactions, including fundraisers. Earlier this month, the campaign had to postpone several high-profile surrogate events, including a multi-day, high-dollar swing for Ivanka Trump and a California trip for first lady Melania Trump.
Since then, Trump Victory – the joint operation between the campaign and the RNC – has held hundreds of volunteer trainings in virtual settings, including using an application called “Trump Talk.” Nearly 50,000 people signed up to use it and make calls from the comfort of their own homes in the last week alone, the RNC said.
This past weekend, during a designated “day of action,” volunteers were provided with scripts that touted the president’s “bold leadership” on the coronavirus that has infected more than 46,000 people in the country and left at least 561 dead, according to data from Johns Hopkins as of Tuesday morning. They were instructed to highlight the “unprecedented, comprehensive, and aggressive whole of America approach,” as the administration faced some criticism from medical professionals that not enough was being done to combat the virus.
To that point, the talking points included that Trump took “quick and decisive action” back in January to restrict entry into the U.S. from foreign nationals who had visited China. If voters didn’t answer, they were left with a voicemail from senior adviser Lara Trump which included information about “how to help slow the spread” of the deadly respiratory illness.
That messaging comes as a Democratic super PAC is launching ads that criticize Trump's response to the virus, arguing that he did not take the virus seriously enough.
The major societal changes that have forced millions to work from home in recent days has also contributed to a surge in online traffic for GOP websites such as Vote.GOP and TrumpVictory.com, nearly doubling their normal visitors, per the RNC. The campaign has also directed supporters to go to ArmyforTrump.com, a tool that allows volunteers to sign up for various outreach opportunities and become “digital activists.”
So far this cycle, Trump Victory has outpaced its 2016 and 2018 voters contacts, boasting 9 million to date. The number of calls made on Saturday alone was bigger than any total week of calls made ahead of the last midterm elections, the group highlighted.
Though fundraising in March may be hampered by the pandemic’s restrictions, the re-elect effort raked in $87 million in February and has more than $231 million in the bank.
Dem super PAC launches ads hitting Trump on coronavirus response
WASHINGTON — Priorities USA Action, the biggest Democratic super PAC working to deny President Trump re-election, is out with a new ad campaign that criticizes the president's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
The group released two television ads Monday — one on coronavirus and one aimed at contrasting Trump with former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the Democratic primary race.
The first spot includes various comments of President Trump talking about the virus over a span of months run one after another as a graphic shows the number of coronavirus cases in America rising exponentially.
"The coronavirus...this is their new hoax...we have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China...One day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear...When you have 15 people...and within a couple of days, it's going to be close to down to zero," Trump can be heard saying in those spliced-together comments.
The spot then ends with video of Trump telling reporters on March 13 that "I don't take responsibility at all" when asked about the delays in testing.
The second television spots paints a dismal picture of the current situation, "Thousands infected, an economy in free fall, and government unprepared," before showing that same clip of Trump saying he doesn't take responsibility for the test-kit shortage.
The ad then shows Biden's address on coronavirus from earlier this month, where he said "I can promise you this: When I'm president, we will be better prepared, respond better, we'll lead with science."
The Trump administration, his campaign and his allies have been on the defensive as to its response to the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks, arguing that the administration has taken action that has stopped the pandemic from getting worse.
They've also accused Democrats of misrepresenting at least one comment, arguing that he said "this is their new hoax" in referring to Democratic criticism of his administration's coronavirus response, not about the virus itself.
Priorities will run the first TV ad that solely criticizes Trump as part of a $6 million TV and digital campaign across Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the Biden contrast ad could also hit the airwaves after that ad runs, but the timing for that is not clear. The two digital ads will begin running online starting Tuesday.
The group has said it plans to spend $150 million before the Democratic convention, much of it on the airwaves.
“From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Donald Trump has repeatedly misled the American people and exposed us to unnecessary danger. His failure to lead continues to have real life and death consequences as hospitals, local and state governments, small businesses, and millions of Americans are left without the tools and information they need,” Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement.
“Tens of thousands of people are sick, hundreds have already died, and millions are losing their jobs. We simply cannot allow Donald Trump to continue to lie and spread misinformation unchecked."
Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director, criticized the Priorities ads in a statement to NBC News.
"It used to be that Americans faced national adversity with unity, but Joe Biden and his allies have abandoned that principle in favor of rank, despicable politics. They offer nothing but partisan sniping from the sidelines and seek to undermine the federal response to the crisis by misinforming and frightening people," he said.
"All Joe Biden knows about handling a public health crisis is that the Obama White House had to apologize for his irresponsible remarks during the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Americans can see that President Trump is out front and leading this nation and is the clear choice to see us through the crisis.”
UPDATE: On Wednesday, the Trump campaign said it sent television stations cease and desist letters calling on the stations to stop running the ad, arguing that the "hoax" comment from Trump was falsely represented in the ad.
Bloomberg campaign faces potential class action lawsuit for layoffs
WASHINGTON — Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign is facing a potential class action lawsuit for allegedly promising jobs through November to more than a thousand campaign staffers and then laying them off last week.
A former field organizer, Donna Wood, filed the suit today in U.S. District Court, in the southern district of New York, on behalf of herself and others seeking to get it certified by the court as a class action.
NBC News first reported in January that Bloomberg was planning to fund a major campaign effort through November and was committing to pay staff through then, even if he lost the nomination. But Bloomberg reversed course last week and laid off his entire staff. He instead transferred $18 million to the Democratic National Committee and told laid off staffers to fill out a Google form if they were interested in entering a competitive hiring process for a DNC job. The staffers will stop receiving paychecks in the first week of April, and will stop receiving health care benefits at the end of April.
“The Bloomberg campaign had represented to folks they were going to keep people on through November, regardless of his candidacy, which is one of the reasons we think he attracted such talent,” Sally Abrahamson of Outten & Golden LLP, one of the attorneys on the case, told NBC News. “He’s terminating, we believe, over 1,000 people at a time when we believe unemployment is likely going to be 20 or 30 percent, and they’re going to lose their health care.”
The Bloomberg campaign responded by saying that their staffers received severance and extended health care, while other campaigns didn't give those benefits.
"This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year. Staff worked 39 days on average, but they were also given several weeks of severance and health care through March, something no other campaign did this year," a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said. "Given the current crisis, a fund is being created to ensure that all staff receive health care through April, which no other campaign has done. And many field staff will go on to work for the DNC in battleground states, in part because the campaign made the largest monetary transfer to the DNC from a presidential campaign in history to support the DNC’s organizing efforts.”
NBC News obtained a copy of an interview script that was used by the Bloomberg campaign to evaluate potential hires for the campaign. Among the talking points listed under “At a Glance” is “Employment through November 2020 with Team Bloomberg.”
The lawsuit has three components: unpaid overtime compensation for field organizers who would have to pro-actively join the case — attorneys involved in the case tell NBC they are talking to “dozens” of potential claimants, alleged fraudulent inducement and breach of contract, allegedly suffered by those who were promised jobs through November, and it seeks the compensation they would have received through November.
If the case is certified as a class action, it will move forward on behalf of everyone who falls into that category unless they opt-out of the class action.
The Affordable Care Act is turning 10. Where does the landmark law go next?
WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act is turning 10 this week, and it's still in the news and still facing an existential threat from Republican critics even as some of its benefits have become widely accepted.
Among the ACA's core features: It barred insurers from turning away customers or charging more based on pre-existing conditions, created a new subsidized market for individual private insurance, expanded Medicaid to higher income workers, eliminated lifetime and annual caps on benefits and allowed young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26.
In many ways, the 2020 election has been a debate about its legacy. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ran on moving all Americans to a Medicare for All system, rather than private insurance, while former Vice President Joe Biden has argued building on the ACA to make its benefits more generous.
On the Republican side, President Trump is backing a lawsuit to overturn the law in its entirety, which the Supreme Court is set to hear this Fall. He reiterated his support for that effort over the weekend, saying it would allow him to "get rid of the bad health care and put in a great health care" even as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic with a health care system tied to the ACA.
The White House has not announced a detailed replacement plan for the law, and Biden asked Trump and Republican state officials on Monday to drop the lawsuit.
Former Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who shepherded the ACA as chair of the Senate Finance Committee said the law was a “good start” toward universal coverage. The law reduced the number of uninsured by about 20 million people after its implementation, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But that number has ticked up under President Trump and the health care system still faces rising costs for hospitals and drugs. That unsteadiness has led Baucus to embrace a single-payer health care system.
“I felt at the time we were not ready for single payer,” Baucus told NBC News. “But down the road we’re going to move in that direction. Why? Because our current system, even under the legislation that passed, is still too inefficient. Too many dollars are being spent that don't provide health care."
While Baucus may agree with Sanders on the broad policy direction, he thinks Biden would be best to shepherd the next health care goal through because the next Democratic administration must seek common ground with Republicans.
“We should try extremely hard for it to be nonpartisan and maybe begin with smaller steps at first,” he said. "Otherwise if you jam something down somebody's throat, it's not durable. The other side will try to figure out how to submarine it or undermine it as they did with the ACA."
There are some signs that the law is becoming more entrenched. The GOP faced a backlash in 2017 when they tried unsuccessfully to partially repeal the law and scale back its benefits. And, while still divided along partisan lines, the latest NBC/WSJ poll found the ACA with its highest net rating: 42 percent of registered voters believe it was a good idea, versus 35 percent who say it was a bad idea.
But the ACA has struggled to meet some of its goals and the way it's been implemented isn't the same as supporters envisioned when it was passed.
The law's regulations on insurers and lack of subsidies for customers making over 400 percent of the federal poverty limit have left many middle and upper income Americans facing premiums that are high or unaffordable.
“If they can’t get coverage through their job, those individuals' premiums have skyrocketed,” said Avik Roy, founder of The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and critic of the law. “It could have been done in a much more effective way that guaranteed coverage for people who were sick, but also made it more affordable to people who are healthy.”
The law has also changed over the years. President Trump's 2017 tax bill zeroed out the ACA's individual mandate — which penalized people for going without insurance. And some sources of funding, like a tax on more generous employer plans, have been eliminated.
The Supreme Court ruled that states had to voluntarily participate in its expansion of Medicaid, but 14 states haven't. The Trump administration has also expanded access to insurance options outside of the law’s regulations, including plans that factor in pre-existing conditions.
Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary under President Obama, told NBC News the law had been undermined but believes its legacy is secure.
“The country has moved to a place where there is a vast majority of people who feel health care is a right,” she said. “I don't think that was a given 10 years ago and it's not just in the Democratic Party. People may have a different idea how to get there, but it's a basic premise that people support."
Biden ally Larry Rasky passes away at 69
WASHINGTON —Larry Rasky, a close ally of former Vice President Joe Biden who played a key role in the super PAC that boosted Biden during the Democratic presidential primary, has died.
Rasky's eponymous public relations firm confirmed his death in a brief statement on Sunday.
"Larry was a giant in so many ways, not just professionally but personally. He loved and was loved by so many. He always treated the company like a family and we are all shocked and saddened by the news of his passing. He has left an indelible imprint on everyone he touched and the company that bears his name will go on in his spirit," the statement from Rasky Partners read.
He was 69 years old, according to the Boston Globe. The paper said the cause of death was not yet known.
Rasky was a longtime public relations professional who worked with a lanundry list of Democratic politicians — including Biden, then-Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey (who is now a senator), former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and President Jimmy Carter.
Having worked as Biden's press secretary during his 1988 presidential bid, he served as Biden's communications director during his 2008 presidential campaign.
This cycle, he served as the treasurer to Unite the Country, the super PAC backing Biden.
Biden remembered Rasky during an interview with the Globe as a "real friend" who gave him "confidence."
“He was also generous and sharp and he just had a spirit about him. His passion for politics was amazing,” Biden told the paper.
"No matter how down I was going into something, that ridiculous laugh of his would always make a difference. He always knew when to kid and when not to kid.”
“I think the reason people loved him was his deep loyalty to his friends and the causes he believes in,” Markey told the Globe. “It’s something that just drew people to him, and it’s why so many people are missing him today.”
Others shared their memories of Rasky on Twitter as the news broke Sunday.
Sanders wins big in Democrats Abroad primary, party says
WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has won the Democrats Abroad presidential primary, the contest held by Americans living overseas, according to results announced Monday
Julia Bryan, the group's global chair, shared those results on a Monday morning video conference in part due to the coronavirus outbreak that has paralyzed the world.
She said that Sanders won 57.9 percent of the almost 40,000 ballots, with former Vice President Joe Biden following with 22.7 percent and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren winning 14.3 percent.
"We saw a 15 percent increase in voter participation over our 2016 primary number," Bryan said on the call.
"It's particularly impressive considering the challenges we had with the virus shutting down so many of our centers.”
She added that raw voter turnout was the highest in the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France and Mexico.
NBC's Decision Desk has projected Sanders' victory but has not yet allocated Democratic National Convention delegates based on those results. But Bryan said that per the Democrats Abroad rules, Sanders would receive nine delegates and Biden four based on the results.
Not including the Democrats Abroad result, the Decision Desk projects Biden has won 1,165 delegates so far to Sanders' 851.
Biden calls on Trump to drop Obamacare lawsuit amid coronavirus crisis
WASHINGTON — On the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, former Vice President Joe Biden is calling on President Donald Trump and Republicans to put politics aside during the coronavirus crisis and drop their lawsuit against the landmark health care legislation he helped shepherd through Congress.
In a letter addressed to Trump, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and 18 state attorneys general, Biden is asking them to recognize that the law they are seeking to repeal gives Americans the assurance they need during a public health crisis like the one that has currently paralyzed the country.
“At a time of national emergency, which is laying bare the existing vulnerabilities in our public health infrastructure, it is unconscionable that you are continuing to pursue a lawsuit designed to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance,” Biden writes.
“You are letting partisan rancor and politics threaten the lives of your constituents, and that is a dereliction of your sworn duty.”
Biden has staunchly defended building on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, throughout his campaign. His plan calls for adding a public option like Medicare that would provide coverage to Americans if they do not want to keep their private plan or are uninsured. His position has often come under fire by his most progressive rivals who describe his plan as a moderate approach to reforming the broken system.
The former vice president often tells his crowds how difficult it was to pass President Barack Obama’s landmark legislation to remind them that a complete overhaul of the healthcare system, as proposed in Medicare for All, would be impossible to pass through an already divided Congress.
In his first letter addressed directly to the president as a candidate for his job, Biden said that many Americans can rely on accessing healthcare during the coronavirus scare thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
“It is the reason 100 million people with pre-existing conditions—including conditions like asthma and diabetes that make them at higher-risk for adverse health impacts from the coronavirus—don’t have to worry about being charged more or denied coverage,” he writes.
Biden argues that “no underlying constitutional flaw” exists within Obamacare, citing that the Supreme Court has already upheld the law twice. The only reason Texas v U.S. is being argued, Biden said, is because Congressional Republicans zeroed out the individual mandate statute in 2017, bringing into question its legality.
“History will judge all of us by how we respond to this pandemic,” Biden warned. “The public health imperative we now face is bigger than politics and it requires all of us to summon the courage to lead and to do what is right for the American people.”
Sanders' campaign raises over $2 million for coronavirus charities
BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Bernie Sanders campaign is focusing its resources on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and his supporters appear to be following suit. In the last 48 hours, the Sanders campaign said they’ve raised more than $2 million from 50,000 donations for select charities.
The charities were selected by the Sanders campaign to help those suffering from the outbreak: Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, One Fair Wage Emergency Fund and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
In addition to using his campaign to funnel money to charities, Sanders also released a $2 trillion proposal to fight this virus, which would include the U.S. government covering all medical bills accrued during this time period, speeding up testing, invoking emergency powers to scale up production of supplies like surgical masks and ventilators and providing substantial unemployment insurance to those who lose jobs as a result of the outbreak.
The campaign says the last two days are just the start, and they intend to raise money for other charities over the coming days.
Sanders turns his campaign to coronavirus relief
Bernie Sanders is shifting his focus from building political support to supporting efforts to respond to the coronavirus spread. The Vermont senator announced on Friday that he will host an online roundtable in Burlington, Vt., where he is "assessing the state of his campaign."
The roundtable will be the first public comments from Sanders since he snapped at a reporter on Wednesday for asking about his timeline for deciding on the future of his campaign. Sanders has not publicly addressed Tuesday night's primaries, which were unanimously won by former Vice President Joe Biden.
Since then, Sanders senior adviser Tim Tagaris said the campaign has used social media platforms, email and text lists to "educate and activate people around his coronavirus response and raise big-money for charities helping people impacted.” On Thursday, the campaign sent an email to supporters prompting them to use a campaign-established fundraising page to donate to up to five charities helping people during the pandemic.
Sanders also released a $2 trillion proposal on Monday that he said he would present to Democratic leadership that includes having Medicare, as it exists now, pay for all medical bills accrued during this emergency, whether or not the bill is related to the coronavirus.
Bloomberg gives $18 million to DNC in lieu of starting his own group to beat Trump
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is transferring $18 million left in the accounts of his now-defunct presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee and forgoing, for now, creating his own independent political group to help Democrats in November.
“While we considered creating our own independent entity to support the nominee and hold the President accountable, this race is too important to have many competing groups with good intentions but that are not coordinated and united in strategy and execution,” Bloomberg’s campaign said in a memo to the DNC. “The dynamics of the race have also fundamentally changed, and it is critically important that we all do everything we can to support our eventual nominee and scale the Democratic Party’s general election efforts.”
The funds will be put towards the DNC's battleground buildup program, to hire data and operations staffers, among other efforts, in a dozen states that will be important in the general election.
Bloomberg will also offer to transfer campaign field offices the billionaire's campaign set up and paid for to local state Democratic Parties as in-kind contributions. His staff, some of which were planning to transfer to work for Bloomberg's independent entity in six battleground states, are all being laid off. They will be paid through the first week of April and have full benefits through the end of April.
“With this transfer from the Bloomberg campaign, Mayor Bloomberg and his team are making good on their commitment to beating Donald Trump,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “This will help us invest in more organizers across the country to elect the next president and help Democrats win up and down the ballot.”
However, this differs significantly from the message the Bloomberg campaign pushed since his entrance into the presidential race in November. The plan, if not the nominee himself, was to fund a sizable campaign effort through the general election working to elect the Democratic nominee, paying his large staff and keeping a sizable amount of offices open.
Bloomberg spent more than $400 million on his presidential campaign and is worth an estimated $50 billion, according to Forbes, so $18 million is a relatively small amount for one of the richest men in the world.
Since ending his campaign earlier this month after a disappointing showing in Super Tuesday contests, Bloomberg has given to other pro-Democratic groups, such as a $2 million contribution to the group Swing Left, and he’s pledged at least $40 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Under campaign finance laws, while the contribution is well in excess of contribution limits from individuals, campaigns are allowed to make unlimited contributions to party committees.
Yang nonprofit announces coronavirus relief effort for the Bronx
As Congress and the White House work to pass an emergency economic stimulus bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is taking matters into his own hands.
Yang’s new nonprofit organization, Humanity Forward, announced Friday it will be distributing at least $1 million in $1,000 cash payments to 1,000 working poor households in the Bronx as part of a coronavirus relief fund in partnership with other organizations.
“Given the nature of this crisis, we thought it was imperative to act now and get money into people's hands, and also demonstrate that this is exactly what our government should be doing,” Yang told NBC News.
The one-time payments will be provided within the next two weeks to clients of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, a financial empowerment nonprofit. Additionally, Humanity Forward is also partnering with One Fair Wage, a nonprofit advocacy group, to support service workers across New York City who have been impacted by COVID-19-related closures — through cash relief payments of $213 to symbolize the $2.13 an hour tipped minimum wage.
“The coronavirus has seized up our economy and sent it into a tailspin and the people that are suffering most are service workers,” Yang told NBC News. “New York City is also the most densely populated part of the country, and if there’s any place you would want people to have the ability to stay home and look after themselves and their families, it would be in New York.”
Sources familiar with Yang’s thinking say the entrepreneur is seriously considering a run for New York City mayor, where he could implement UBI at a local level — he even spoke with Michael Bloomberg recently about a potential bid.
His organization’s coronavirus relief effort will also include $100,000 in micro-grants of $250 or $500 to individuals who request emergency funds directly via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Yang said the direct cash payment proposal in the Senate GOP relief bill is going to be an “instrumental and vital” game-changer for millions of Americans.
“I'm thrilled that they're landing on direct cash in Americans’ hands,” he said. “If it had been up to me, I perhaps wouldn't have means-tested it at that level, but it's going to help tens of millions of Americans and that's the goal. So I'm glad that they're heading in the right direction.”
Yang was critical of the Trump administration’s response to the crisis, but hopes the president will support an emergency universal basic income plan regardless of any political downside for Democrats.
“Most everyone thinks that they botched the handling of trying to impede the spread of the virus initially, so I can't imagine anyone who thinks that this is going to be a political positive for the Trump administration,” said Yang. “We’re in this mess, we have to try and take care of our people.”
Yang added that his team has been in communication with the White House legislative office, providing research on cash transfers for citizens to the Treasury Department. Yang says he also has been in contact with former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, but would not speculate on cabinet possibilities.
Yang said his current priority is providing immediate relief to those most affected by the coronavirus, but he hopes to fund UBI pilot programs in the future
“I think people are going to like it, and that after it happens in response to this crisis, then people will say, ‘Wait a minute, I’d probably like it no matter what, and it will prepare us for the next crisis,’” Yang said.
Yang is confident that exploring universal basic income will be part of the conversation in the general election.
“Americans are going to be dramatically impacted by getting money into our hands, and I think there's a real chance that this becomes a major issue in the 2020 election itself -- and it may be in the Democratic Party platform,” Yang told NBC News. “I believe that this is going to become the law of the land sometime in the next number of months and years because it's going to be hard to put the genie back in the bottle honestly.”
“I would never be someone who would wish this terrible crisis and pandemic on our country, but I do believe that our campaign might have advanced this particular solution right at the right time.”
Disability community vote up for grabs in 2020, poll finds
WASHINGTON — A new poll finds that more than half of potential voters in battleground states say they have a disability (16 percent), a family member with one (32 percent), or a close friend who does (11 percent), and the voting bloc is largely contested ahead of the 2020 elections.
The results released by the Democratic polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), and the disability rights organization, RespectAbility, also show that the disability community favors Joe Biden over Senator Bernie Sanders in head-to-heads with President Trump.
Among battleground voters in the disability community, 49 percent prefer Biden compared to 44 percent who support the president — only a five point difference, which is within the poll’s margin of error. With Sanders as the Democratic nominee however, 45 percent favor Trump while 44 percent prefer Sanders.
For those identifying as personally having a disability, Biden has a greater advantage. 53 percent of the group back the former vice president versus Trump’s 41 percent. Just 45 percent of disabled voters prefer Sanders compared to a close 44 percent who support Trump.
The results from the disability community closely resemble the results from all voters interviewed in battleground states. Similar to that subset, 49 percent and 45 percent of all voters support Biden and Trump respectively. Trump holds a one percentage point lead over Sanders, 46 percent to 45 percent, among all voters.
On a phone call with reporters Thursday, the Chairman of RespectAbility, Steve Bartlett, said that the poll results reveal that the disability community “is a very large segment of the voting public” and that the demographic is really “up for grabs” this election season.
“Candidates should not take this lightly,” he said, noting that attention to disability issues can garner candidates more support from the voting bloc.
In Senate and House races, the poll shows that the disability community leans slightly Democratic but is largely split between supporting Democratic and Republican candidates. In a generic Senate vote in the battleground states, half of the disability community reported they would back the Democratic candidate while 47 percent would support the Republican. On the House side, just over half — 51 percent — said they would vote Democratic compared to 46 percent who would go with the Republican.
Health care was top of mind for voters in the disability community with nearly 40 percent of the group reporting that the issue is an important consideration in determining which candidate to support in the 2020 elections. The economy and jobs came in a close second with just over one third of the disability community highlighting the issue.
Only eight percent said that the novel coronavirus is a major issue for them heading into the elections though, GQRR CEO, Stan Greenberg, said that these numbers will likely change as the pandemic worsens.
The poll was conducted by Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps, and interviewed 1,000 registered voters over the phone from March 9 to March 16 in sixteen presidential and Senate battleground states. The states included Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
590 respondents are members of the disability community and reflect voters in battleground states overall in terms of their demographic makeup. The poll's margin of error is three percent.
National parties give House members, candidates new campaign guidelines amid coronavirus
WASHINGTON — Congressional candidates plodding ahead in light of the coronavirus pandemic have received some recent guidance from national party organizations as they look to balance the needs of their campaigns with new public health restrictions.
A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson told NBC News that the organization is “urging campaigns to follow the guidance of national experts and their local public health experts and make sure that they are continuing to connect with voters, but doing that safely,” while erring on the side of caution to keep their campaign staff, volunteers and voters all safe.
The DCCC is also recommending that campaigns shift where possible to virtual events like tele-town halls, virtual phone banks or live-streamed roundtables.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., sent Republican House members a memo that ran through some suggested “best practices” on issues like fundraising, public events and communications.
Some of that guidance mimics what the DCCC told their members — the NRCC suggests limiting grassroots events, shifting field work to phone canvassing and launching tele-town halls.
On fundraising, Emmer cautioned that candidates should continue to fundraise but “be sensitive that your donors may have suffered financial losses during this pandemic” and ask their donors how they are holding up in light of the crisis.
Emmer specifically asked members to reconsider “snarky” comments and be sure not to spread misinformation.
“At times like this you need to ask yourself if your press release or snarky comment are in poor taste,” Emmer wrote. “If you share information on the coronavirus, do it from trusted sources like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services. Do not spread misinformation from politicized news stories.”
Chris Pack, the NRCC’s communications director, told NBC that the campaign arm sent additional guidance to non-incumbent candidates. Emmer left his member with this: “Do not get complacent. Use common sense, but put the health of yourself, your campaign staff and volunteers, and constituents at the forefront of every decision,” he wrote.
Biden, Sanders campaigns ramping down ad spending amid coronavirus spread
WASHINGTON – With the coronavirus outbreak prompting several states to postpone their primary elections, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders are slowing their ad spending to a virtual halt.
A Biden campaign spokesman told NBC News there is “no plan right now” to go up with TV or radio ads, largely because their ad strategy focuses on creating ads based on the issues voters in that upcoming primary state find to be most important. Facebook's ad-tracker shows the campaign is still running digital ads on the platform, however.
That same tracker shows that Sanders isn't currently running any Facebook ads. And data from Advertising Analytics shows that the Sanders campaign is dark on traditional media too (television and radio).
As the Biden campaign continues to iron out the best ways to campaign in this unprecedented time for presidential politics, the spokesman caveated that their current plan for remaining silent on the airwaves could change. One area where investments could be made is in digital ads now that most people are turning to video websites like YouTube and Hulu while they work from home.
Biden ads featured in states from Michigan to Georgia featured President Barack Obama thanking Biden for his commitment to “Service” and Biden’s call for Democrats to unite in an ad called “Always” to defeat President Donald Trump. They also rolled out new Spanish-language ads in Florida, Arizona and Illinois discussing Biden’s records on guns, healthcare and the need for leadership to prevent future global panic like the one caused by coronavirus.
Unite the Country, the Super PAC supporting Biden’s candidacy, will also not be on the airwaves or on digital in the coming weeks as they focus on expanding their group with sights set on the general election, Steve Schale, a top strategist for the group, told NBC News.
After projected losses in the Florida, Illinois and Arizona primaries on Tuesday night, Sanders' campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said in a statement that Sanders "is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign" but that "In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable."
Through March 10, before the campaign was completely upended by coronavirus, the Sanders campaign had significantly outspent the Biden campaign on the television and radio airwaves—$42.2 million to $14.6 million respectively.
—Mike Memoli contributed.
While Maryland delays primary, special election to replace Cummings will stay as mail-in only
WASHINGTON — As Maryland delays most primary elections from late April to early June in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the state will not push back the special election aimed at replacing the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Instead, that election will go on as scheduled, but all voters will cast their ballot by mail.
Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement Tuesday as part of the larger decision to shift the state's primary elections from April 28 to June 2. He directed the state elections board to come up with a plan to conduct a June primary "in a way that protects public health and preserves the integrity of the democratic process."
But Hogan added that while the election board told him it couldn't shift the entire state to vote-by-mail in time for the April primary to go on as scheduled, he felt it was "imperative that the people of the seventh congressional district have a voice in the House of Representatives and that Maryland has a full delegation representing our state in Congress." That's why he decided to keep that district's primary on schedule.
Maryland's 7th Congressional District has been vacant since Cummings died on Oct. 17, 2019. The state held a special primary for the seat on Feb. 5, with former Democrat Rep. Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik, a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, moving onto the special general election.
Biden under Secret Service protection again
WILMINGTON, Del. — After a nearly three year hiatus, Joe Biden is once again a protectee of the United States Secret Service.
A protective detail began its assignment with the former vice president and Democratic front-runner this week, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News, even as Biden is expected to remain off the campaign trail amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Biden campaign's formal request for Secret Service protection was submitted last week to senior congressional officials, who by law consult with the secretary of Homeland Security to consider if candidates should receive security from the elite law enforcement agency.
Since kicking off his campaign last April, Biden has had minimal security on the campaign trail — one private security guard often supplemented by local law enforcement from jurisdictions where he campaigned. The lighter security footprint allowed Biden to engage in the type of one-on-one, retail-oriented campaigning he preferred, especially in the early-voting states where voters place a premium on it.
Campaign officials have long been concerned about his safety given his high profile as a former vice president and the highly partisan environment. A high-profile incident in California this month, when a pair of dairy protestors stormed the stage as Biden celebrated a string of victories on Super Tuesday, pushed congressional Democrats publicly and Biden’s campaign privately to seek more rigorous protection.
Biden is not a stranger to Secret Service protection, of course. He first became a protectee of the agency in August 2008 when Barack Obama chose him as his vice presidential running mate. He and his family had a security detail throughout his eight years as vice president, and Biden for several additional months after he left office in 2017.
Illinois governor backs Biden for president
WASHINGTON — Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker is backing former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid, he announced Monday.
The endorsement came one day before the state's Democratic presidential primary and one day after Biden faced off against Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in a one-on-one debate Sunday night. The endorsement also comes as governors across the country are scrambling to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and spread.
"As our nation faces some of the biggest challenges of our time, I know Vice President Joe Biden is the right candidate to beat Donald Trump and lead us into a new era. It's time to unite as Democrats to restore respect to our nation's highest office," Pritzker said in a statement.
"Joe will stand on the side of working families and serve as a partner to us in Illinois as we work to create good paying jobs, expand healthcare and invest in education," Pritzker said. "After four years of Donald Trump's failure to lead with honor, tell the truth, or stand up for the middle class, we need a steady hand and a President who is ready to move our nation past the divisiveness and vitriol that have become the norm in 2020. I trust Joe to lead with his head and heart, to do what's right, and to get things done for the American people.”
During Pritzker's successful 2018 bid for governor, Biden praised the billionaire businessman-turned politician during a campaign swing through Illinois. Biden had already received an endorsement from Penny Pritzker, JB's sister who served in the Obama administration as the commerce secretary.
Biden already has the endorsement of both Illinois Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as a handful of other prominent Illinois politicians including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and eight Democratic members of Congress from the state.
—Marianna Sotomayor contributed
Biden touts support of Warren's bankruptcy reform plan as a bridge to progressives
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden surprised audiences when he announced his support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy reform plan during a virtual town hall, an issue both famously sparred over in public 15 years ago.
In his first virtual appearance before voters since cancelling public events to mitigate coronavirus concerns, the former vice president told a questioner from Illinois that one of the ways he would win over Bernie Sanders supporters is by coming to agreement on “a whole range of things” they’re both passionate about reforming, including bankruptcy.
“For example, one of the things that I think Bernie and I will agree on — I've endorsed Elizabeth Warren's bankruptcy proposal,” he said during the Friday evening livestream. “Allows for student debt to be relieved in bankruptcy. Provides for a whole range of other issues that allows us in fact impact on how people are dealing with their circumstances.”
Biden’s full throttled backing of the proposal is a notable shift from the position he held while serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he faced Warren, then a Harvard professor, in a hearing to debate the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCA). Warren laid out her case against why the bill that Biden supported was unfair because it made it harder for people to file for bankruptcy. The bill was ultimately signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Warren outlined how she would undo parts of BAPCA in a Medium article posted in January when both were seeking the presidential nomination. While Warren campaign allies did not respond to questions about Biden’s newfound support for her plan, former staff members took to social media to encourage any candidate adopt her plan.
“Elizabeth Warren did the homework, now *please* copy it — everyone,” Warren’s former social media director wrote in a tweet.
The timing of Biden’s endorsement comes as the former vice president is trying to unite all Democrats, including the most progressive wings of the party, as he faces off with Sanders. In recent weeks Biden has earned 11 endorsements from former 2020 Democratic candidates, but Warren has notably sat out on backing the two final contenders in the primary race.
While Biden said supporting Warren’s plan is one area for finding common ground with the Vermont senator, Sanders has often attacked Biden for his support for the 2005 bankruptcy bill. He often brought it up as a consequential stain in Biden’s Senate record alongside his support of the Iraq War and trade deals.
“The fact of the matter is I'm not beholding to the banks. I supported the bankruptcy bill because I believed taking a very bad bill was going to pass overwhelmingly and make it better made sense,” Biden said in a July 2019 speech where he defended controversial parts of his record that had come under attack by his opponents.
The Biden campaign told NBC News that Biden, who recently reviewed Warren’s plan, will likely speak more about why he supports her proposals at Sunday’s Democratic debate.
Biden's first virtual event encounters technological glitches
WASHINGTON — The virtual campaign is proving a bit complicated, after a Friday event for former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign encountered some technological glitches.
Biden is the first Democratic candidate to hold a virtual town hall due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and public events. The attempt to broadcast the first of two scheduled “virtual events” in the next several days involved a garbled-voiced Biden and ended roughly four minutes after the Facebook Live video began streaming in Illinois.
The former vice president acknowledged the issues while ending the livestream.
“Well, I’m sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections, but there is a lot more to say and I’ve probably already said too much,” Biden said.
But the appetite for these events appears to be there — the short event garnered more than 5,000 viewers.
On Saturday morning, the campaign released a link to a full, updated video without the technical glitches.
Much of the event focused on Biden explaining how he'd work to respond and recover the country from pandemics. He also tried to downplay the need for panic and outlined ways in which everyone can take precautions to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, while still connecting to people.
“Campaign events are no exception that’s why we’re connecting virtually today. We’re going to have to get better at the technical side of this,” Biden said.
Biden, Sanders increase ad spending amid virtual campaign
WASHINGTON — While the traditional campaigning in the 2020 race has come to a halt due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the Democratic presidential candidates have increased their TV and radio ad spending for the upcoming March 17 primaries, with millions of dollars on the airwaves in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.
Here’s a look at the ad spending in these four states through March 17, according to data from Advertising Analytics:
- Sanders: $1.4 million
- Biden: $564,000
- Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $522,000
FYI: Michael Bloomberg had spent $8.9 million in the state before dropping out
- Sanders: $6.0 million
- Biden: $5.1 million
FYI: Bloomberg had spent $44.6 million
- Sanders: $2.2 million
- Biden: $1.9 million
FYI: Bloomberg had spent $18.6 million
- Sanders: $2.3 million
- Biden: $1.3 million
FYI: Bloomberg had spent $15.4 million
Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman formally backs Biden
WASHINGTON — The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), California Rep. Karen Bass, announced Friday that she is endorsing Joe Biden for president, making her the 37th member of the CBC to back the former vice president.
In a statement released by Bass, the congresswoman said that Biden is the person who can provide a “steady hand that can bring an end to the past three and a half years of daily trauma inflicted” on Americans by the Trump presidency.
Bass added that during his time as vice president, she has come to know Biden as a true leader domestically and internationally — someone who “works tirelessly on behalf of all Americans, especially those purposely forgotten and antagonized by the current administration.”
In an interview with PBS, the chairwoman elaborated on her decision to back Biden and revealed that his rival, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, “called one time” to invite her to meet “last minute,” but when she couldn’t make it, he never called back. Her and Biden in contrast, have spoken “a number of times” during the campaign.
Bass also told PBS that Biden’s vice presidency reveals a “historic connection with African Americans,” and that Sanders “does not have a historic connection like that.” She continued to criticize Sanders, saying that if she were to run for president, she would work “years in advance on building ties and building relationships — not just with African Americans — with all communities.”
Sanders will 'wholeheartedly' support Biden if he's the nominee, adviser says
WASHINGTON — Senior adviser to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign Jeff Weaver said Thursday that Sanders will support former Vice President Joe Biden "wholeheartedly" if Biden is the Democratic nominee.
In an interview on MSNBC, Weaver said that the Sanders campaign is looking at the rest of the Democratic primary on a "week by week" basis, but that if he does not win the nomination, he would campaign for the former vice president. However, Weaver wouldn't say if that decision would come before or after the Democratic convention in July.
"I don't have a crystal ball," Weaver said. Adding, "Right now we are working hard and working hard to win."
The campaign is looking to shore up wins in this Tuesday's upcoming nominating contests — focusing specifically on Illinois and Arizona where Sanders performed well in 2016. However, states like Florida and Ohio will also be voting on Tuesday where Biden has a substantial likelihood of winning a larger share of delegates.
What might Michigan's primary turnout say about the general election?
WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders had hoped a strong showing in Michigan's Democratic presidential primary would help supercharge his fledgling campaign, but his campaign appears poised for a double-digit loss there.
NBC News contributor Dante Chinni, the director of the American Communities Project at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, pulled out three important takeaways from Michigan's primary:
- There are cracks in Sanders' coalition of young, college-age voters as well as the older working-class voters.
- Sanders' success in areas that support President Trump "seems to have fizzled."
- And turnout suggests Biden "might be the candidate to bring blue-collar voters back to the Democrats in 2020."
Click here to read his full analysis.
Gabby Giffords backs Biden ahead of Arizona primary
Giffords, who represented a Tucson-area district from 2005-2012, became a nationally recognized gun control activist after she was shot and critically wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011. Her endorsement comes ahead of next week's Arizona primary between Biden and Bernie Sanders, whose strength among Latino voters could prove significant in the state. Sanders won 53 percent of Latino voters in Nevada’s caucuses on February 22 and 41 percent in Texas on Super Tuesday.
Arizona votes on March 17, along with Florida, Illinois and Ohio.
“Joe Biden leads with his heart. He has the compassion and toughness to lead on gun safety. I’ve witnessed him comfort the survivors of gun violence, and I’ve seen him fight for solutions to gun violence — and win. This is the leadership we need in the White House. Joe Biden is the choice for a true gun safety president,” Giffords said in a statement provided to NBC News.
"Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is an American hero who embodies the courage and tenacity we need to take on and defeat the gun lobby," Biden said in a statement to NBC News. "I have been proud to work alongside Gabby in the fight to end gun violence and am honored to have her support today."
The endorsement could undergird Biden’s momentum coming off his strong showings in the March 10 primaries.
Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, is expected to be the Democratic challenger to Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the highest-profile Senate contests this year.
Sanders has come under criticism from Biden and gun control activists for some of his past votes on gun measures, particularly a law that shields gun manufacturers from liability.
As a presidential candidate, Sanders has emphasized his support for universal background checks and his D- minus rating from the NRA.
Giffords and Biden have worked together in the past on gun safety measures, including in the aftermath of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 first graders and six educators were killed. Two years later, they sat together off the Senate floor watching as a bill Giffords had fought for to expand background checks failed by five votes.
Biden leads Sanders by dozens of endorsements after big wins
WASHINGTON — Since his big win in the South Carolina primary less than two weeks ago, Joe Biden has earned more than 50 endorsements from Democratic governors and members of Congress.
That’s compared with just one endorsement for Bernie Sanders since the Vermont senator’s win in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22.
Overall, Biden has a total of more than 100 endorsements from major Democratic politicians, while Sanders has about ten.
The gap in their support has continued to widen as the former vice president racks up primary victories. Following Biden's near-30 percentage point margin win in South Carolina on Feb. 29, most of his former primary opponents have endorsed him.
In the last week and a half alone, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey have all rallied for Biden. Mike Bloomberg and John Delaney have also put their support behind him.
Other influential politicians who have jumped on board include Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton ally who previously served as Chair of the Democratic National Committee and the governor of Virginia.
The only former competitor backing Sanders after his definitive victory in the Nevada caucuses is author Marianne Williamson. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., dropped out of the race last week but she has yet to endorse Biden or Sanders.
Those backing Biden and Sanders also vary drastically in their ideologies and policy positions.
Since the South Carolina primary, Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Elissa Slotkin, and Andy Kim — moderates who all flipped their seats from red to blue in the 2018 midterms — have endorsed Biden. Kim is one of several House members who previously endorsed Buttigieg and then transferred his support to Biden after the former South Bend mayor suspended his campaign.
While just one member of Congress — Rep. Mark Takano of California — has decided to throw his support behind Sanders since his strong performance in Nevada lifted him into temporary front-runner status, those who backed the Independent Vermont senator prior to the caucuses come from the bluest of districts. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for example, are ardent Sanders campaigners.
From the start of his candidacy, Sanders has failed to win over any governors. Five governors in contrast, have issued formal endorsements for Biden, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer whose state is voting today.
Sanders and Biden scrap on the airwaves in Tuesday's states
WASHINGTON — It may not be super, but as the Democratic race hits the latest round of contests today, Joe Biden is looking to replicate his strong showing on last week's Super Tuesday and widen his delegate lead over Bernie Sanders.
The Sanders campaign is outspending Biden on the TV and radio airwaves across the six states that hold their nominating contests today — $2.9 million to Biden's almost $2.2 million, according to Advertising Analytics. But Biden's effort has been boosted by spending from his allied super PAC, Unite the Country.
Both campaigns are spending the most in Michigan — Sanders and Biden have spent about $1.2 million each, with Unite the Country spending another almost $400,000.
The Biden campaign and his super PAC have also run ads in Missouri and Mississippi, but neither have spent a cent on TV or radio ads in Washington, Idaho and North Dakota.
The Sanders campaign, by comparison, has gone up on the airwaves in all six states voting Tuesday.
Sanders' top ad across these states, according to Advertising Analytics data, is one that attacks Biden on social security by using audio from a speech in 1995 where he called for a spending freeze across the government. His campaign has spent more than $644,000 to air the ad in states holding votes on Tuesday.
The Biden campaign has bristled at those attacks, and has spent almost $200,000 in those states on ads that criticize Sanders for going negative and argue Biden has said he'd expand Medicare and Social Security.
Biden's top ads in the states voting Tuesday are different versions of the same spot, which feature former President Obama's praise of Biden as "an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service."
And Unite Our Country has spent $376,000 in these states on a spot that quotes Biden talking about his campaign, and includes some brief swipes at Sanders (Biden is quoted int he ad saying he wants to "build on ObamaCare" instead of scrapping it, and "Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat").
Biden holds double-digit lead in new Michigan primary poll
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders in Michigan by double digits ahead of tomorrow's presidential primary, a new poll shows.
Monmouth University's new numbers show Biden with 51 percent support, compared to Sanders' 36 percent.
The former vice president, who has been rising at the polls ever since last month's victory in South Carolina, has a significant edge (of at least double-digits) with white voters, non-white voters, voters aged 50 or over, women, self-described Democrats, moderates and conservatives.
Half of voters say they're firmly decided, 23 percent said they are open to changing their mind, and another 17 percent already voted early.
Biden and Sanders both have a similar edge over President Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup. Biden leads Trump 48 percent to 41 percent, while Sanders leads 46 percent to 41 percent.
Monmouth polled 911 registered Michigan voters (411 of which were likely Democratic primary voters) between March 5 and March 8. The margin of error for the larger sample was 3.1 percentage points, while the margin for the smaller sample was 4.8 percent.
Michigan is becoming the next big battleground in the Democratic presidential primary race. Both Sanders and Biden have dropped about $1 million each on television and radio ads through Monday and there's been a flurry of activity there in recent days.
The Vermont Independent senator canceled a rally in Mississippi last week to pivot to Michigan to hold events there, held a big rally with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the University of Michigan over the weekend, and won the endorsement of Rev. Jesse Jackson as he makes a play for the state's black voters.
But Biden has been laser-focused on the state too, rolling out a bevy of endorsements in recent days. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer backed him after his victories on Super Tuesday. And Biden is set to appear in the state on Monday with two former presidential primary rivals, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris, NBC News' Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor report.
Sanders is hopeful he can win the state, like he did in 2016's presidential primary, to give his campaign a jolt of momentum after a tough showing on Super Tuesday. But Sanders' headline-capturing Michigan victory in 2016 only netted him a narrow delegate advantage from the state, which former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton offset by a large margin-of-victory in Mississippi, which holds its primary on the same day as Michigan.
Sanders is at risk of a similar dynamic this year — exit polling from Super Tuesday showed Biden cleaning up with black voters in southern states like Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.
After it got stymied in Washington, Democrats hope to show key reform package can advance in states
WASHINGTON — Democratic legislators in 10 states are set to introduce a version of the government reform package known as HR-1, which has floundered in the GOP-controlled Senate, as Democrats try to demonstrate they can advance their agenda beyond Washington.
The group behind the effort told NBC News that the measure is a collection of reforms, including an expansion of voting rights — early voting, same-day registration, and a restoration of rights for former felons — an attempt to end gerrymandering by moving to an independent redistricting process and restrictions on corporate political contributions and the so-called "revolving door" of legislators becoming lobbyists.
House Resolution 1 was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top agenda item after Democrats won back control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. It passed the lower chamber on a party-line vote a year ago Monday, but went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The For the People Act, as both the national and state-level bill is known, will be introduced in a wide wide range of states including battlegrounds like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire and North Carolina, along with some bluer states like Connecticut and Hawaii, and red ones like South Carolina, Missouri and Kentucky.
The cross-country push is being coordinated by the group Future Now and Future Majority, which together are part of a renewed focus by liberals on statehouses after years of dominance by conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
“It’s important to remember that the assault on democracy didn’t start with (President Donald) Trump -- it started in the states,” said Daniel Squadron, a former New York state Senator who is the co-founder and executive director of Future Now. “By expanding access to voting, reducing the power of corporate money in elections, and strengthening ethics and oversight, the For the People Act will ensure that state governments are more accountable, responsive, and focused on the broad public interest, not narrow special interests.”
The group aims to help Democrats win statehouses, while its policy arm has built an online policy library as part of the research and strategy help it provides to state lawmakers, many of whom have only limited professional staff and expertise at their disposal.
State legislative and gubernatorial races will be especially important in 2020 ahead of next year's decennial redistricting process, which will re-write congressional district lines for the next year, lines that are, in many states, subject to the approval of the state legislature and governor.
Trump campaign 'proceeding normally,' but no rallies scheduled
WASHINGTON — There are few things President Trump says he enjoys more than a large-scale rally with thousands of cheering supporters. And while he has pledged to keep up the pace amid concerns about large gathering as the coronavirus outbreak intensifies, his re-election campaign has not announced any upcoming rallies for the weeks ahead, marking the first time without one on the calendar this year.
The campaign maintains it is “proceeding normally” and simply hasn’t made any future plans public. “We will announce rallies when we are ready to do so," principal deputy communications director Erin Perrine told NBC News. "President Trump had a town hall this week, a fundraiser, and we have loads of campaign events on the event schedule on the website.”
Those “events” are mostly smaller gatherings for volunteer trainings but there is one “Women for Trump” event on the books with Second Lady Karen Pence next week in Pennsylvania.
When asked at the CDC on Friday whether he’d considered not having rallies due to coronavirus fears, the president told reporters: “No, I haven’t.” He doubled down on that over the weekend, when he said he expects “tremendous rallies” to take place but did not offer any specifics beyond that.
“We're doing very well. And we've done a fantastic job with respect to that subject on the virus,” Trump added.
For weeks, the president has maintained that mass gatherings are “very safe.” The president has held 10 rallies so far in 2020 and notably headlined campaign events around every major Democratic voting contest — including in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and North Carolina. This week will mark the first time voters head to the polls without the president continuing his consistent pattern of shadowing the Democratic campaigns this primary season.
It’s worth noting other candidates are continuing to campaign and hold large events, though they have signaled a willingness to adjust plans if guidance from medical professionals changes course. Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday his team is “listening to the experts and the CDC” and they will take “advice from them” on any upcoming mass gatherings.
Biden aides also put out a statement late Sunday night, indicating they "will continue to closely follow guidance offered by federal and local public health officials on the types of events we hold and how we execute them."
Trump has a fundraiser in Longwood, Florida tomorrow but, apart from that, there is no public campaign travel on his schedule. Asked on Saturday about whether elderly people should be concerned about attending political rallies, HHS Sec. Alex Azar told reporters during a White House briefing that he didn’t want to comment in his official capacity but that anyone who is older and has an underlying condition should “exercise caution.”
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed that message in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," saying: “If we continue to see the community spread go up I think you need to seriously look at anything that's a large gathering. Again, you have to understand… particularly if you're an individual who has an underlying condition and are vulnerable.”
Sanders: 'Establishment put a great deal of pressure on Pete Buttigieg, on Amy Klobuchar' to back Biden
WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders said Sunday that the Democratic Party establishment pressured his former presidential primary opponents to back Joe Biden ahead of Super Tuesday.
Both former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar endorsed Biden in the days before the Super Tuesday contests. The former vice president did better than originally expected in those contests last week, racking up a delegate lead over Sanders and upending the nominating fight.
"The explanation is not complicated. The establishment put a great deal of pressure on Pete Buttigieg, on Amy Klobuchar who ran really aggressive campaigns," the Vermont Independent senator said.
"I know both of them. They worked really, really hard. But suddenly, right before Super Tuesday, they announced their withdrawal. If they had not withdrawn from the race before Super Tuesday, which was kind of a surprise to a lot of people, I suspect we would have won in Minnesota, we would have won in Maine, we would have won in Massachusetts."
Buttigieg senior adviser Lis Smith responded to Sanders in a tweet, saying that his "decision to get out of the race was his and his alone."
On Sunday, California Sen. Kamala Harris also endorsed Biden.
Earlier in the interview, Sanders argued his campaign is well-suited to win the state of Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday, taking shots at Biden's record in the process.
"I think we've got a real shot to win here in Michigan because the agenda that we are talking about is an agenda that works for the working families of this state," Sanders said Sunday on "Meet the Press."
"And furthermore, it really contrasts my views with Joe Biden. Now that we're down a two-way race, I think it is clear for the American people to see where Biden's record is and where my record is."
Sanders pointed to Biden's support for trade agreements, which the Vermont senator said cost Michiganders jobs. And he said that Biden's support from some wealthy donors undercuts his ability to represent the working class.
He went on to defend from the Biden campaign's argument that negative campaigning will hurt Democrats' ability to defeat President Trump in November, a message the Biden campaign is putting up on the airwaves.
Biden campaign invests $12 million in ad buys
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Former Vice President Joe Biden is taking his recent influx in money and pouring more into TV, radio and digital ads than ever before. The campaign is investing $12 million in total paid media in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — states that all vote within the next two weeks.
Of the $12 million, $8 million is being allotted behind two TV ads in markets across all six states.
In a new ad called "Always", the Biden campaign goes after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, pointing out that after Biden’s numerous wins on Super Tuesday “Sanders has gone on the attack” on Social Security.
“Politifact has called the Sanders campaign attacks false. Joe Biden has always been a strong supporter of social security,” the narrator says in the 30-second ad. “Negative ads will only help Donald Trump. It's time we bring our party together.”
Both presidential candidates have gone after each other about their Social Security records since January when Sanders said Biden had wanted to cut Social Security benefits. Biden has denied those assertions.
The second ad, entitled "Service", has aired in numerous states already and focuses on former President Barack Obama honoring Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Trump plays on Sanders' supporters dislike of Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has been eager to play up the divisions within the Democratic presidential race, especially when it comes to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
"It’s being rigged against — it’s sad — it’s being rigged against Crazy Bernie,” Trump said at his rally in Charlotte, N.C. on Monday after former Vice President Joe Biden picked up endorsements from former presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar ahead of the Super Tuesday contests.
And he tweeted this after Biden’s big victories on Super Tuesday: “The Democrat establishment came together and crushed Bernie Sanders, AGAIN! Even the fact that Elizabeth Warren stayed in the race was devastating to Bernie and allowed Sleepy Joe to unthinkably win Massachusetts. It was a perfect storm, with many good states remaining for Joe!”
Here's the logic — and data — behind why Trump argues that the Democratic race is “rigged” against Sanders, even though he's simply getting out-voted.
Just 38 percent of Sanders voters say they are enthusiastic or comfortable with Biden, versus 60 percent who have reservations or who are very uncomfortable with the former vice president, according to merged data from the January and February 2020 NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls.
That same level of discontent doesn't exist in Biden's supporters. In contrast, Biden voters actually have a net-positive view of Sanders.
Fifty-five percent of Biden backers say they are enthusiastic or comfortable with Sanders, while 42 percent say they have reservations or are very uncomfortable, according to the same polling.
So when Trump is decrying the raw deal he thinks Sanders is getting, he’s trying to keep many of these Sanders voters from joining up with Biden — if the former vice president ends up being the Democratic nominee.
Sanders cancelling speech in Mississippi as campaign pivots to Michigan
WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is cancelling a Friday speech in Jackson, Mississippi to campaign in Michigan, a sign the campaign is shifting focus after his poor showing in southern states so far this campaign.
Sanders had been planning to speak at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, a campus that houses the state's civil rights museum, with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who had recently endorsed Sanders.
But a Sanders aide told NBC News that he's canceling the speech and will instead head to Michigan, which also holds its primary on March 10.
After Biden outperformed expectations on Super Tuesday, Sanders is hoping he can reset the narrative with big wins next Tuesday in states like Michigan, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington, all states he won during his unsuccessful 2016 bid.
Michigan was a key state to Sanders' unsuccessful 2016 bid, one where his surprise victory gave him a shot of momentum in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
But while he won headlines with his victory, he only netted four more delegates from the state than former Sec. State Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, Clinton defeated Sanders 83 percent to 17 percent in Mississippi on the same day, netting 26 more delegates from the state than Sanders.
Biden threatens to run up the score on Sanders again in Mississippi. Sanders won just 11 percent of black voters in the state's 2016 primary (black voters made up 7-in-10 of the state's primary voters that year), and Biden cleaned up with black voters on this past Super Tuesday.
Bloomberg's massive Super Tuesday spending netted little
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's unprecedented spending threatened to shake up the Democratic presidential race, but as the dust continues to settle, he appears to have little to show for it.
Bloomberg dropped about $198 million in television and radio ads in states that held their nominating contests on Super Tuesday, according to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. And as of 10 a.m. ET, Bloomberg has netted just 18 delegates — $11 million per delegate so far with results still coming in.
That showing led to Bloomberg dropping on Wednesday morning, arguing that "after yesterday’s results, the delegate math has become virtually impossible — and a viable path to the nomination no longer exists."
Bloomberg's dollar-for-delegate tradeoff has been massive, but that investment is magnified when compared to how many delegates Biden is poised to win in states where he spent markedly less.
Despite not spending a dime on the air in Massachusetts, Biden is projected to win the state. Bloomberg, who spent almost $10 million there on those ads, is at 12 percent with 95 percent of precincts reporting.
In Texas, Bloomberg spent $52 million on TV and radio ads and appears to be poised for a distant third-place finish. Biden is the projected winner there, having spent about $463,000 on those ads.
Overall, Bloomberg spent just over $112 million on the airwaves in the Super Tuesday states that the NBC News' Decision Desk projects Biden will win. Biden spent $1.4 million on the airwaves in those states he's projected to win.
So far, Biden is projected to net 400 delegates on Super Tuesday alone.
Sanders launches three new ads targeting Biden
Bernie Sanders launched three new ads on Wednesday in nine states targeting former Vice President Joe Biden as the race rapidly narrowed following Biden's Super Tuesday victories.
One of the ads, "Feel the Bern," focuses on past comments then-President Barack Obama made about Sanders, complimenting him for being authentic and someone who has gotten bills passed for veterans. It's a new kind of ad for Sanders, as his campaign typically likes to draw on Sanders being an outsider, rather than a deal-maker.
Biden has consistently run his own TV and digital ads that show Obama complimenting him and granting him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And the Biden team is responding to Sanders' use of Obama, saying that Obama "chose" Biden, while Sanders considered a primary challenge against him.
"Barack Obama chose Vice President Biden to be his partner over 8 years in the White House, entrusting him with managing the stimulus that saved our economy from a depression, obtaining the deciding vote for the Affordable Care Act, and countless national security priorities," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said. "By contrast, Senator Sanders explored a primary challenge to President Obama, who he compared to a 'moderate Republican' and said was not a 'progressive.' As recent history has proven, no quantity of ads can rewrite history — and there's no substitute for genuinely having the back of the best president of our lifetimes."
The Biden team is also re-upping an ad they ran against Sanders in South Carolina that focused on Sanders' consideration of a primary challenge.
Sanders' two other ads, "Protect Social Security" and "Decimated," take direct aim at Biden's past votes.
The ads call out Biden for comments he made about freezing federal spending, which would have included Social Security benefits for a limited time, and for supporting trade deals, like NAFTA, that Sanders opposed.
Sanders and Biden have traded barbs on Social Security and trade deals before — Sanders is one of the only Democratic presidential candidates who voted against and spoke out against the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
The new ads will run in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Washington — all of which vote on either March 10 or 17.
'Delegate math': Inside the Biden campaign's Super Tuesday strategy
OAKLAND, Calif. — Joe Biden never expected a coronation, and his campaign prepared accordingly.
Despite his status as a former vice president and widely-admired party elder, his campaign knew the crowded field and ideological diversity of the party would pose headwinds for him and suggested a long, bruising battle for the nomination. The fact that Biden was never a prolific fundraiser also meant what resources the campaign had would need to be invested with great precision.
So the Biden campaign’s approach to Super Tuesday perhaps best illustrates what became a mantra of his top strategists: if Andrew Yang was the “math” candidate, Biden would be the delegate math candidate.
While much of the focus Tuesday will be on the statewide results in the more than dozen Super Tuesday contests, the Biden team will be looking just as closely for the results district-by-district — especially in the South. Of the more than 1,300 delegates at stake Tuesday, 875 will be awarded not based on the statewide tally but from the results in individual congressional districts (or, in the case of Texas, state senate districts).
Biden’s resounding win in South Carolina, boosted by overwhelming support of African American voters, validated the campaign’s view that by heavily targeting their limited resources into areas with the highest concentrations of black voters, they could in many cases pick off extra delegates across the map that could prove essential to limiting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ ability to gain an insurmountable lead.
Much of the strategy is based around the work of Biden’s analytics team. Since the earliest days of the campaign, they developed and maintained a ranking of — in the case of Tuesday — the 164 districts in play based on how likely Biden was to earn extra delegates by potentially keeping most if not all of his rivals under the critical 15 percent threshold.
That analysis is based on three factors: demographic and polling information that suggests strong Biden support; number of delegates at stake in a district; and the likelihood that other candidates won’t reach 15 percent support.
The number of delegates at stake in each congressional district varies depending on just how Democratic the district leans. Vermont’s at-large district awards 11 delegates Tuesday, while Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Minneapolis-based district awards 10. Four districts — two in Colorado, one in Maine and one in North Carolina — each award nine.
But not all are necessarily top targets for Biden. While the campaign quickly launched a new ad in Minneapolis on Tuesday seeking to capitalize on Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's endorsement, they have largely stayed out of Vermont and Colorado, which have far lower percentage of minority voters.
“It’s a delegate game, so we have been focused on targeting districts across the country," that "look like South Carolina, that look like the diversity of this country," Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said on MSNBC Monday.
The Biden team has, though, aggressively courted Alabama’s seventh Congressional District, North Carolina’s fourth, and multiple state senate districts clustered around urban centers in Texas. That includes not just putting money on the airwaves, but careful courtship of key lawmakers — including members of the Congressional Black Caucus and local legislators who represent what are often heavily-gerrymandered jurisdictions.
Biden needs the reinforcements, having not campaign much or at all in most Super Tuesday states. Prior to Saturday, Biden held just one public rally in California, Texas and North Carolina.
Biden’s travel has focused precisely to those types of locations his campaign thinks can provide an extra delegate edge — Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday in Selma, Ala., Monday in Houston and Dallas, and an Election Day stop in Oakland, where seven delegates are at stake.
“All along the way we’ve been valuing different geographies in terms of where we can win delegates, and planned our delegate and endorsements strategy around that,” said a senior Biden campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to expand upon the campaign’s strategy.
The official said that having the support of so many key lawmakers who represent these districts is especially useful, since they can help mobilize their own political organizations and offer insights that can supplement — or in some cases act in place of — Biden’s own campaign teams.
Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) said he has been visiting churches and attending community meetings to push the vote for Biden. And he said the endorsement of CBC members like him pays dividends beyond his district’s lines, as more and more African American voters move into suburban parts of Texas.
“The people that live in suburban areas that are not in our district that are African American, they look to us to see what we’re doing,” he said. “The influence in our districts and around our districts is very strong.”
Biden campaign adds ad buy in post-Super Tuesday states
DALLAS — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is amping up for its post-Super Tuesday ad campaign.
Biden's new buy in a trio of states that vote after Super Tuesday is part of a $1.5 million investment the campaign has devoted to spending in Missouri, Michigan and Mississippi. The ad will air in the states' largest markets including Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Lansing in Michigan; Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri; and Jackson, Meridien and Hattiesburg in Mississippi.
While the ad buy is new, the ad it's showing isn't. The ad, entitled "Service" evoke supportive words from former President Barack Obama about Biden's lifetime commitment to improving life for Americans.
Biden rakes in endorsements after definitive South Carolina win
WASHINGTON — Following Joe Biden’s resounding victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday, the former Vice President has racked up about 20 influential endorsements spanning from activists to current and former members of Congress. More support continues to trickle in Monday.
Biden leads the pack by dozens of congressional and gubernatorial endorsements with Mike Bloomberg in a far-away second place. The former Vice President has 59 endorsements from members and governors while Bloomberg has just 17.
Many of the latest endorsements come from Super Tuesday states and beyond, including seven backers from the House of Representatives, three politicians who held high state or local offices, plus others.
Among the members of Congress now supporting Biden, three are from Virginia, a battleground state where voting takes place tomorrow. Democratic Reps. Bobby Scott, Jennifer Wexton, and Don Beyer — who previously endorsed Pete Buttigieg — are all on the list.
Reps. Greg Stanton of Arizona, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Gil Cisneros of California — who flipped the seat in 2018 — and Veronica Escobar of Texas are backing Biden as well.
Current Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois announced her formal support for the candidate Monday afternoon. Previous Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, plus former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe also endorsed Biden after his win.
Among other influential endorsements are gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg, and late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s wife, Vicki Kennedy.
Kennedy tweeted Monday morning that she is “proud” to vote for Biden in Massachusetts because he is the candidate “who solves problems by bringing people together.”
She mentioned that she trusts Biden on expanding health care, a passion of her husband’s throughout his life.
The former Vice President’s campaign released a statement Monday morning listing nearly ten other endorsers who announced their support for Biden after the latest primary.
Biden won South Carolina with about a 30 percentage point lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who only garnered 20 percent of the vote. Biden won every county in the Palmetto State and was the favorite of two-thirds of African-American voters there.
The campaign told NBC News that Biden hauled in more than $5 million on Saturday night plus another $5 million Sunday.
Buttigieg: Campaign pressing onto Super Tuesday despite South Carolina result
WASHINGTON — Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg told "Meet the Press" Sunday his campaign is pressing on after a fourth-place finish in South Carolina's Democratic primary, arguing that his message has "resonated across the country."
Buttigieg said that his campaign has been able to "beat the odds and defy all the expectations" before, but he added that he's keeping an eye on how he can best help the party defeat President Trump in November.
"Every day I'm getting up, looking at how we can do what's best for the party. It's why we got into this race in the first place, the belief that a different kind of message and a different kind of messenger could rally people together, could forge new alliances, could help us reach out in the very places where we have the best messaging, yet found ourselves defeated by President Trump in 2016 and we cannot let that happen again," he said.
"And every day we're in this campaign is a day that we've reached the conclusion that pushing forward is the best thing that we can do for the country and for the party."
Warren campaign memo: 'We're in this race for the long haul'
HOUSTON — Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is making clear that they’re not going anywhere — and that, when the primary’s said and done, they believe no one will hit the delegate majority needed to claim the nomination outright.
“We’re in this race for the long haul,” campaign manager Roger Lau wrote in a new memo out to supporters Sunday morning, in which he touted the campaign's biggest fundraising totals ever, increased ad buys in key upcoming states, and — citing “internal projections” — an expected “sizable” delegate haul on Super Tuesday from “nearly every state.”
The memo comes a day after the Massachusetts senator finished a distant fifth in South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary and does not name one state that they expect to outright win come Tuesday.
After placing third in Iowa in early February, Warren has not won any new delegates since — leaving her fourth overall in the field for delegate totals.
But the campaign points to the $29 million they say they raised in February means she has the ability to stay in the race. The campaign says their movement is now 1.25 million grassroots donors strong, with an average donation of $31.
Warren’s team, like the other campaigns in a similar position, argues that “Super Tuesday will greatly winnow this field." And, they say that all of their Super Tuesday staffers and organizers will be re-deployed after Tuesday to states voting later in the calendar.
The memo says that “as the dust settles after March 3rd, the reality of this race will be clear: no candidate will likely have a path to the majority of delegates needed to win an outright claim to the Democratic nomination.”
The campaign also says it has increased Super Tuesday ad spending and that they’re also spending for states down the road. According to Lau, they’ve made more than $4.1 million in paid media investments in Wisconsin, as well as later March states — with a special, six-figure focus on black-owned radio stations across the March states.
“After Wisconsin nearly one-third of the pledged delegates will still be waiting to be elected, and there will be a three-week gap between electing delegates for the first time since voting began,” Lau writes. “In the road to the nomination, the Wisconsin primary is halftime, and the convention in Milwaukee is the final play.”