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Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

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

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

923d ago / 4:47 PM UTC

Trump and Pence opt for battleground states as backdrop to coronavirus response

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WASHINGTON — In the last six weeks, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have prioritized key 2020 battleground states to highlight their administration’s coronavirus pandemic response, sidestepping some hot spots that have been hardest hit by the health crisis. 

The president has traveled to Pennsylvania and Arizona this month and will head to Michigan later this week. Pence has toured more extensively, visiting Wisconsin, Virginia, Minnesota and Iowa since the outbreak exploded and he’s slated to speak in Florida on Wednesday. 

As the traditional campaign trail has effectively come to a halt, White House advisers see a two-fold opportunity in picking swing states as the backdrop for official events: touting their own efforts to re-open the country while reaching critical voters who could sway the election, all while earning important regional media coverage that the Trump campaign amplifies at every opportunity.

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump takes the stage following a tour at medical equipment distributor Owens & Minor in Allentown, Pa., on May 14, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

Trump and Pence haven’t yet been to any of the states with the most cases and deaths of coronavirus, partially because it may not be safe to do so: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts and California. None of them are considered battlegrounds, though the president has hosted the Democratic governors of New York and New Jersey in the Oval Office. Pence has also traveled to his home state of Indiana, which is not considered to be in play for 2020.

The White House doesn’t comment on upcoming travel and internal deliberations when it comes to the president and vice president’s schedules, but an official noted Trump and Pence wouldn’t go to counties that are still considered “hot zones” and the trips are mostly meant to “highlight the next phase of this recovery, showing states that have come out of the worst of it and are on a path to move toward safely reopening.”

The political strategy is not necessarily unique to this incumbent, even though the scale of the pandemic may be. Former President Barack Obama also strategically visited important places in his official capacity when he was running for re-election.   

But Trump has often more obviously blurred the lines between the two entities. During remarks at a medical equipment factory in Allentown, Pa. last week, attendees would be forgiven for confusing the official event for a campaign one. The familiar rally playlist was blasting and Trump attacked “Sleepy Joe Biden,” which was met with scattered laughter in a somewhat muted reaction from the crowd.

Neither Trump nor Pence has participated in an official re-elect fundraiser since early March, which has presented a challenge to their massive war chest efforts. It’s unknown when either will return to the trail for any conventional travel. The Trump campaign, for its part, is eager to take advantage of any visits that help elevate their re-election pitch in key states.

“Americans want to see their president out front and leading in a crisis and that’s exactly what President Trump is doing. He is in command and looking to get the economy reopened as soon as possible. It’s a very positive sign for all Americans that he’s getting out into the country again,” communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to NBC News.

Senior officials concede large rallies are likely impossible to hold until August, at the earliest, and it’s unclear what those would look like with health officials warning about the safety risks of mass gatherings. The president himself has said it “loses a lot of flavor” to have people socially distanced in large venues.

923d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

GOP governors balk at being used in ad by Kentucky Democrat

WASHINGTON — Two GOP governors evoked by Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath in a new campaign ad are criticizing the senate candidate for using their likeness in an ad that attacks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

The spot, which launched Saturday, points to Republican Govs. Larry Hogan, Md., and Mike DeWine, Ohio, along with Democratic governors to argue that "they're all showing us what real leadership is, and political party has nothing to do with it."

Then, she pivots toward an attack on McConnell, specifically pointing to his past comments about preferring to see states struggling with coronavirus-related budget gaps declare bankruptcy instead of receiving what his office later called "blue state bailouts." 

McConnell's comments about state aid initially drew bipartisan criticism from governors, and Hogan told ABC at the time McConnell "probably would regret making that comment."

The Kentucky Republican later said that he would be "open to discussing" more aid to states

Hogan registered his disappointment with the ad in a tweet, saying that "campaign ads politicizing the coronavirus response are not constructive." 

And DeWine called for McGrath to "remove my image from her advertising" in a statement, which added that McConnell "is focused, as I am, on the crisis and I appreciate his leadership." 

McGrath is expected to win the Kentucky Senate Democratic primary in June. 

In a statement, McGrath said "I strongly stand by my ad," framing the criticism as "exactly what's wrong with politics." 

“Every comment is, unfortunately, examined through a red or blue lens. In this case, I'm pointing out that leadership doesn't depend on your political jersey color. It's about your actions. Governors on both sides of the aisle are doing important work. Governor DeWine is one of them. It is disappointing that he rejects sincere appreciation from a Democrat, and it shows how far we have strayed from our ideals as a nation," she said. 

But McConnell's press secretary, Katharine Cooksey, accused McGrath of politicking in a statement. 

“In the same 60 seconds, Amy McGrath claims the coronavirus pandemic response is not about politics while she exploits the image of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for her own political gain. Governors across the nation, as well as Leader McConnell, are focused on navigating their states through this unprecedented pandemic regardless of approval ratings. Extreme liberal McGrath makes clear that she is only interested in shamelessly cozying up to popular leaders like Governor DeWine to score cheap political points," she said. 

925d ago / 2:49 PM UTC

RNC plans in-person convention 100 days out

WASHINGTON — Despite warnings from health officials about the potential risks of mass gatherings this summer, the Republican National Committee says it's still planning an in-person convention for this August in Charlotte, N.C. The RNC expects as many as 50,000 visitors to gather to re-nominate President Trump. 

“This 5-star event will play an integral role in promoting local businesses and generating millions of dollars across the region. It will leave a lasting impact,” the group said on Saturday — Saturday also marks the 100-day countdown to the event.  

Image: Republican National Convention
The stage is left empty after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus left the stage during protests on the floor on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

Earlier in May, the RNC announced it was adding a medical expert as a senior adviser to the convention planning team to develop “health and safety protocols.” That came after NBC News reported the group was considering alterations to the traditional four-day spectacle due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Democratic National Committee already pushed back their Milwaukee, Wis. convention from mid-July to August because of health concerns. The DNC has left open the possibility that parts of the convention will be held virtually, but officials expect a portion of the event will be held in-person.   

926d ago / 6:08 PM UTC

Biden veepstakes heat up with joint appearances, public backings

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WASHINGTON — As the interest in who apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden will pick as his running mate grows more intense with each passing week, many of those whose names have been mentioned are also putting in some high-profile appearances while the political handicappers continue to dissect their strengths and weaknesses. 

Here are some of the notable developments from this past week:

Abrams: Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has repeatedly and publicly promoted herself as a strong candidate for the job and on Thursday night she even made her case in a joint appearance with Biden on MSNBC at Biden's invitation.

Stacy Abrams Weighs Her Future
Stacey Abrams on April 23, 2019 in Atlanta.Elijah Nouvelage / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

“Stacey Abrams has done more to deal with the fair vote and making sure there is a fair vote than anybody,” Biden said when asked if the interview was an audition for Abrams. “She has a great, great capacity to explain things and to lay out exactly why it will be so critically important in this election.”

And when Abrams was asked why she was willing to be vice president but not run for the U.S. Senate, she emphasized her interests were in getting Biden elected. For his part, Biden chimed in and said she was “capable of doing any or both" jobs.

"My interest is, no matter what, that I help make certain that Joe Biden is the next president of the United States, that we win every election up and down the ballot so that we can right-size our country and move our nation forward,” Abrams said. 

Rice:  While Susan Rice, President Obama’s former national security adviser and U.N. Ambassador, is one of Biden’s more under-the-radar contenders, she told PBS Thursday that she “would say yes” if Biden asked her to run with him. 

“I’m committed to do all I can to help him win and to help him govern. So I will do as I best can in whatever capacity makes most sense,” Rice said.  

Rice doesn’t have the same name recognition as some of Biden’s other choices, but their relationship could already be simpatico — a key metric for the former vice president. The two served together for eight years in the Obama administration, and she has several years of foreign policy and Washington experience.

Whitmer: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's national profile has risen during the coronavirus pandemic — making headlines for controversial statewide orders and mentions in President Trump’s tweets — and Biden has heavily praised her.

On Thursday, during a town hall with Whitmer and the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, Biden told Whitmer, “Well look, you'd expect me to say this, I know because I think you're such a great governor, I think you've done one hell of a job.” 

And that comes after Whitmer defended Biden against sexual assault allegations and Biden said on MSNBC in March that Whitmer was always on his VP list, even before the coronavirus crisis.

“She didn't lengthen the list, she made the list in my mind two months ago,” Biden said. 

Warren: Though Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has been quieter in responding to speculation about Biden selecting her as his veep this week, there are signs that supporters of her former presidential primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, could unite around her.

California Rep. Ro Khanna, who served as Sanders’ national campaign co-chair, even tweeted Thursday that Warren “needs to be on the ticket” and listed examples of her legislative leadership throughout the pandemic. Khanna’s backing could signal a way for Biden to get progressives to coalesce around his candidacy. 

926d ago / 4:41 PM UTC

Projection: $6.7 billion could be spent on advertising in 2020 election

WASHINGTON — The spread of the coronavirus has halted live campaign rallies, door-to-door organizing and traditional sit-down interviews with candidates.

But it hasn’t stopped TV, radio and digital advertising.

Far from it.

Advertising Analytics projects $6.7 billion will be spent on advertising in the 2020 election cycle. And here are some other numbers to consider via Advertising Analytics: 

  • So far, a cumulative $2.19 billion has been spent during the 2020 cycle
  • This is over $1 billion more than what was spent at this point in 2016 and 2018
  • Excluding Michael Bloomberg, the $1.58 billion spent so far is nearly 2 times that of any other cycle
  • In 2016 and 2018, 54 percent of the cycle’s total cash was spent in the final 10 weeks
  • $443 million has already been reserved for the Fall of 2020
926d ago / 12:35 PM UTC

Progressive Super PAC targets Sanders supporters, urges support of Biden in new memo

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Former senior advisors to Sen. Bernie Sanders are sounding the alarm about a significant portion of Sanders' supporters who remain unsupportive of the apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden, calling it a "clear and dangerous trend" in a memo obtained by NBC News.

“Despite best intentions, the Biden campaign and the DNC are far behind on digital organizing, Latino outreach and progressive coalition building," former senior advisor Jeff Weaver wrote in the four-page document from his newly formed "America's Promise" PAC.

In an interview with NBC News, Weaver said that it is with these three priorities in mind that his Super PAC will spend the next six months persuading Sanders supporters to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in November. 

“We have an opportunity in this election to elect somebody who certainly is not anywhere near as progressive as Bernie Sanders,” Weaver told NBC News, “but who will allow us to lock-in legislatively and institutionally, some of the gains that the progressive movement has earned through it's hard work of these last five or six years.”

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Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in Houston, Texas on Sept. 12, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

While he said he is aware that not everyone who supported Bernie Sanders would be supporting Joe Biden, he pointed to issues including Biden’s support of a $15 minimum wage, making colleges and universities tuition free for families making less than $125,000 and expanding health care access as progress in the policy arena as common ground.

But it’s filling up the hypothetical arenas with Sanders supporters that Weaver’s super PAC is pledging to be laser-focused on, with recent polling of Sanders supporters showing less than favorable numbers for Biden. The super PAC’s memo points to an April USA Today/Suffolk University poll, which reported 1 in 4 Sanders supporters saying they would vote for a third party candidate, vote for President Donald Trump, not vote in November or were undecided about who to vote for, as a reason for the group to step in and provide support. 

Currently an eight-person operation, Weaver said he hopes for the Super PAC to be able to replicate the robust digital operation of Sanders’ presidential runs, in support of Joe Biden. “We cannot afford to have these constituencies ignored or talked to in an ineffective way during this process,” Weaver said. He told NBC News there have been internal discussions about the reservation of digital buys, focused towards the latino voting base. 

For Weaver, getting this super PAC off the ground was not without controversy. America’s Promise PAC was, until Tuesday, called “Future to Believe In” PAC. Sen. Bernie Sanders has famously been opposed to Super PACs and used his spokesperson to release a statement separating himself from this organization. He was unhappy with a name that mirrored his 2016 campaign slogan, leading to the renaming this week to “America’s Promise,” according to Weaver.

927d ago / 9:27 PM UTC

Tweet the Press: NBC's Ken Dilanian discusses Sen. Richard Burr and Chinese hacking

WASHINGTON — On this week's Tweet the Press, we spoke with NBC News national security and intelligence correspondent Ken Dilanian about Sen. Richard Burr vacating his post as the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and reports that China is trying to hamper coronavirus vaccine development in the U.S.

The Republican senator from North Carolina announced Thursday that he's temporarily stepping aside from his post as the head of the powerful committee after the FBI seized his cell phone as part of a possible insider trading investigation. Dilanian explained that "the use of a search warrant means the FBI convinced a judge there was probable cause to believe a crime has been committed." Burr insists that his February stock sales were based on public information rather than classified information provided to Congress about the coronavirus.

On China, Dilanian tells us that the FBI and DHS "issued a rare public warning" that they have seen China attempting to hack government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and labs "seeking info about coronavirus vaccine and treatment research" amid the global race for a vaccine.

Click here to read the full conversation. 

927d ago / 7:19 PM UTC

Steve King committee flap comes as GOP primary opponents hammer him for absence

WASHINGTON — A renewed dust-up over whether House Republicans will restore Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King's committee assignments comes as King's lack of standing on House committees has been a central issue in his primary race. 

King said Monday at a forum ahead of next month's primary that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told him he would "advocate" to Republican lawmakers that they restore positions stripped from him after his comments about white supremacy. 

But as prominent Republicans balked at the idea, a McCarthy spokesperson told NBC News that King's "past comments cannot be exonerated" and that King "will have the opportunity to make his case" to the committee that controls those assignments. 

While King had held his seat comfortably since he first took office in 2003, Democrat J.D. Scholten gave him a scare in 2018 in a race King won by just 3 points as King weathered the fallout from his comments and his lost assignments. 

Now, King faces another tough election, the 2020 primary, where his top opponent, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, has made King's lack of influence in the House a top issue. 

When President Trump faced impeachment in the House, Feenstra argued that because King lost his seat on House Judiciary, "King is unable to help due to his bizarre behavior and his removal from key committees," a move that left Iowans "without a seat at the table." 

In a recent ad sporting a delivery truck emblazoned with the words "Steve King Can't Deliver," Feenstra called King "the congressman who couldn't." 

And it's a message that outside groups opposing King have embraced too. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce dropped a recent ad criticizing King for getting kicked off the Agriculture Committee, "hurting our farmers." 

And the Republican Main Street Partnership, which has endorsed Feenstra, has used similar language in explaining their endorsement. The group's affiliated super PAC has said it is spending $100,000 on direct mail, phone calls and social media advertising in the primary. 

927d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

White House quietly sets up panel for possible Biden transition

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WASHINGTON — Mark Meadows will helm the White House panel, required by law, to begin planning for a possible transition of power to a new Democratic administration, the Trump administration informed lawmakers on Wednesday.

A memo to House and Senate committee leaders from a representative in the General Services Administration was the first public acknowledgment by any administration official that the White House was fully complying with legal deadlines, only recently established, to ensure a smooth transfer of power in the executive branch.

Meadows, the new White House chief of staff and a former North Carolina congressman, will serve as chair of the White House Transition Coordinating Council. Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, will serve as vice chair. 

The panel will also include Office of Management and Budget Director Russel Vought, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and other West Wing officials. There will also be a “transition representative for each eligible candidate” — this is likely to be former Vice President Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee.

Image: us-politics-trump-congress-republicans
President Donald Trump walks with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the White House on May 8, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

Four years ago, the Obama administration repeatedly touted the steps it was taking to help guide a new administration into office. In March 2016, then-chief of staff Denis McDonough convened a Cabinet meeting to outline the transition process and the steps agencies would be required to take throughout the year. The White House announced on May 6 that Obama signed an executive order establishing his White House Transition Council, two days ahead of that year’s initial deadline. 

More than two weeks ago, after NBC News first reported concern among Democrats about whether the administration would comply with both the letter and spirit of legal transition requirements, Vought issued a memo asking executive departments and agencies to identify senior career officials who would serve on a separate Agency Transition Directors Council. 

That council is led jointly by the Federal Transition Coordinator, Mary Gibert, and Michael Rigas, the acting deputy director of OMB, as specified under law. 

Vought’s memo said the first meeting of agency council would occur on May 27. It is unclear yet if the White House council would also meet, or whether President Trump has played a role in creating the panel. None of the 20 executive orders published in the Federal Register this year relate to the transition process. 

Biden said last month that he has already begun transition planning along with one of his closest and longest-serving aides, Ted Kaufman. Kaufman, who was appointed as a senator to fulfill the last two years of Biden's term in 2008, helped write the legislation that now guides these transition procedures. 

“You can't wait until you win if you win. You've got to start right now,” Biden told donors last week during a virtual fundraiser. “How do we go out and find 2,800 employees, 2,800 employees that need to be filled right away?”

There are no immediate deadlines for the Biden campaign to meet under law. But come September, Biden would be offered more robust government resources to aid its own preparatory work, including office space near the White House for a designated transition team to begin work. 

The GSA memo on Thursday identified the Department of Commerce headquarters as the location for such offices and said upgrades are now underway to the physical and IT infrastructure of that space.  

The memo also said that the GSA is “preparing to convene meetings” with the Justice Department, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to begin transition planning, which would include the facilitation of security clearance requests for key Biden advisors who would need access to classified information. In 2016, the Obama administration began providing intelligence briefings for Trump and Hillary Clinton representatives after the nominating conventions. 

The next legal deadline for the Trump administration will come after the parties’ nominating conventions, scheduled for August, when the administration has to enter into a formal memorandum of understanding with the Democratic nominee’s representatives, and also identify succession plans for federal agencies. 

927d ago / 10:59 AM UTC

New Planned Parenthood ad campaign seeks to show coronavirus’ abortion access impact

WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood Action Fund is launching an “accountability” campaign across eleven states, highlighting efforts to roll back, or expand, American’s access to reproductive healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic.

The $5 million buy, reported first by NBC News, includes digital, radio, mailers, and online organizing events in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Almost all of these states are battlegrounds in the coming November election. Some of the ads laud politicians for the work they’ve done; others urge voters to call their representatives to push back.

Image: Anti-abortion rights demonstrators outside the Supreme Court
Anti-abortion rights demonstrators outside the Supreme Court on March 4, 2020.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The awareness project is the first of several steps Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political arms will undertake in the next several months, Rachel Sussman, Vice President of State Policy and Advocacy for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told NBC News, calling it “a starting point to help connect the dots for people” about actions taken in their states during the pandemic.

Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, blue and red states have, unsurprisingly, responded to questions of reproductive health access in non-uniform fashion.

Some states, including Iowa, Ohio and Texas, classified abortions as non-essential procedures, counting them among the elective procedures suspended until the public health crisis abated. Activist groups challenged these decisions in court, resulting in varying rulings and appeals. But those states stand in contrast to rules set by governors in states like New York, Virginia, and Washington, where abortion was deemed essential and allowed to continue during the pandemic.

Other states have tried to legislate around reproductive issues during the pandemic, something PPAF and their state partners are seeking to highlight in the campaign.

Pennsylvania, for instance, has seen what once was a bipartisan push for expanded tele-health access grind to a halt because of the addition of an amendment that would prohibit doctors from prescribing certain kinds of pills used to induce abortion. Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf recently vetoed the bill, saying the added language “interferes with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians,” while Democrats and Republicans continued to spar over the inclusion of the amendment. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Michigan’s Health and Human Services Department has taken steps to increase access to reproductive health tools — including a campaign where condoms can be mailed to Michiganders who request them via email.

928d ago / 10:02 PM UTC

House Republicans balk at idea of giving Steve King back his committee assignments

WASHINGTON — Top House Republicans are voicing opposition to allowing Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King to get his committee assignments back, including the highest-ranking Republican woman.  

King was stripped of his spot on House committees last year after he made controversial comments about white supremacy and Western Civilization to the New York Times, which he claims were taken out of context by the newspaper.

A spokesperson for Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney told NBC News “Cheney does not support” giving King back his committee assignments.  She was the first Republican leader to condemn King’s comments and even called for him to resign from Congress.

At a forum on Monday night in Spencer, Iowa, King claimed that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was going to advocate for giving him his committee assignments back, as first reported by the Sioux City Journal.

“On April 20, Kevin McCarthy and I reached an agreement that he would advocate to the steering committee to put all of my committees back with all of my seniority because there is no argument against my fact-check document, I have disproven all of those allegations," King said at the republican forum Monday. 

“When Congress comes back into session, when the steering committee can get together, I have Kevin McCarthy’s word that then, that will be my time for exoneration."

In response, a McCarthy spokesperson told NBC News that "Congressman King’s past comments cannot be exonerated." But the spokesperson added that "committee assignments are determined by the steering committee and he will have the opportunity to make his case."

Former NRCC Chairman and Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, a current member of the Republican Steering Committee that controls the House GOP committee selection, wrote on social media Wednesday that he opposes restoring King to House committees. 

"As long as I am a member of the Steering Committee, I will not allow that type of person or that type of ideology to influence the legislation passed by Congress. He will not be serving on any committee. Steve King does more to hurt Republican and conservative caucuses than help.”

 

King criticized Stivers in a statement to NBC News, calling him "only one vote on Steering" and a "Never-Trumper."

King is facing a competitive primary in Iowa on June 2nd following his controversial comments. His opponents are running ads pointing to his absence from committees, arguing that means he can't properly serve the district. 

928d ago / 3:21 PM UTC

Michigan's Peters drops TV spot touting tough-on-China approach

WASHINGTON — Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is up with two new TV ads that highlight the unique position he's in as one of the few Democratic incumbents facing a tough challenge this cycle.

The first spot emphasizes Peters’ call for increased testing, employment protection and a focus on American manufacturing as he plans to get “Michigan back to work.” It's a message that's right in line with how Democrats are framing their priorities for a pathway forward as states push to re-open. 

But the second is focused entirely on China.

In it, Peters calls for a reopening that “puts Michigan first.” And he goes on to tick through how he’s “always been tough on the Chinese government, supporting the China travel ban, demanding the truth about the spread of COVI-19” as well as a push to move drug manufacturing from China to America.

That kind of messaging stands out amid the GOP's push to shift criticism surrounding the crisis toward China and away from President Trump. Peters' spot doesn't mention the president's name or litigate the debate over his response to the crisis, but it still highlights areas where they agree, all while embracing the "tough-on-China" approach. 

The new ads come days after Peters' likely Republican challenger, John James, released a bio ad of his own.

The seat is considered "lean Democrat" by the non-partisan election handicappers the Cook Political Report, the most competitive race featuring an incumbent Democrat outside of Alabama, where Sen. Doug Jones is trying to win reelection in very-Republican Alabama. 

There's already been a boatload of television spending in the state as both sides gear up for the fall, with Democrats having already spent almost $7.7 million on TV and radio to the GOP's $2.7 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

929d ago / 12:18 AM UTC

Democrats lay the groundwork for possible virtual convention

WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee moved Tuesday to allow for a virtual 2020 convention if the party determines that to be necessary as the coronavirus continues to claim American lives.

A resolution approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee lets delegates vote and “participate in the Convention in person or by means that allow for appropriate social distancing.”

DNC Chairman Tom Perez said he still expects and hopes to see a full convention in Milwaukee, and that a “precise format” has not been decided.

“This will give the convention team the tools necessary to adapt and plan in order to ensure that every delegate is able to accomplish their official business without putting their own health at risk – whether that be participating in person or by other means to allow for social distancing,” he said.

The Milwaukee convention had already been pushed from July to the week of August 17.

Also on Tuesday, the DNC panel approved waivers by states seeking to move their primary dates as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

929d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

Nebraska Democratic House primary pits Medicare-for-All candidate against one calling for more 'realistic' plan

WASHINGTON — Voters are voting Tuesday (or, in many cases, have already sent in their mail-in ballots) in special elections in California and Wisconsin, but also in an interesting primary in Nebraska. 

That state's 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary features two top candidates who both have a history in the district. 

Ann Ashford is the wife of Brad Ashford, the former congressman who flipped the seat for Democrats in a 2014 midterm election year that was otherwise tough for the party. Brad Ashford served for just one term before losing to Republican Don Bacon in 2016, who still holds the seat to this day. 

The former congressman tried to win the seat back in 2018, but lost to Democrat Kara Eastman in the primary — and Eastman went onto narrowly lose to Bacon that fall. 

So this Tuesday's Democratic primary pits Eastman against Ann Ashford, who despite considering a run in 2018 has never run for federal office before. 

Eastman and Ashford represent two different wings of the Democratic Party.

Eastman supports Medicare-for-All and has the backing of prominent progressive Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and both co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan and Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal. 

And she's running an ad arguing she's not "afraid of a fight." 

Ashford's endorsements include two former Nebraska Democratic Senators, Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey. And she's been running ads attacking Eastman both for her loss in 2018, arguing Eastman's loss proves she can't win. And Ashford has criticized Eastman's health-care stance as unrealistic (Ashford supports expanding coverage through a public option but not universal government coverage). 

929d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

Trump slightly outraises Biden in April, maintains large cash on hand

WASHINGTON — President Trump, apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the umbrella of party organizations backing them raised over $60 million in April, according to the two campaigns. The Trump team reported a $61.7 million cash haul, while the Biden camp brought in just slightly less with $60.5 million. 

On top of money raised by their campaigns, the pro-Trump effort includes fundraising from the Republican National Committee as well as other groups affiliated with his re-election effort. And Biden's effort includes the Democratic National Committee as well.

This is the first monthly filing period in which both teams are reporting their fundraising from their joint fundraising committees. April is also the first month in which Biden was the sole Democratic candidate for the majority of the reporting period. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the primary race on April 8. 

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President Donald Trump arrives on May 5, 2020 at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport during his first trip since lockdowns went into effect.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

While Biden and the Democratic National Committee have not released their cash on hand numbers, the president's campaign says it has over $255 million in the bank — and that juggernaut may be Biden's greatest financial weakness. The last officially reported numbers, filed for March, showed Biden and the DNC with just over $62 million on hand. 

The two campaigns have had to shift their fundraising appeals due to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden and his surrogates have been holding virtual fundraisers — one held by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar brought in $1.5 million in one night. And according to Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale, since shifting to virtual efforts, "Trump Victory, the joint field effort between the RNC and the campaign, has added over 300,000 new volunteers and made over 20 million voter contacts." 

Both campaigns will report their full fundraising filing for April on May 20. 

930d ago / 7:25 PM UTC

First competitive special House elections in coronavirus age set for Tuesday

WASHINGTON — With the coronavirus pandemic forcing candidates off of the traditional campaign trail, the 2020 election season gears up Tuesday when the first competitive House special elections since the start of the crisis will take place and produce two new members of Congress representing Wisconsin and California.

Facing off in California’s now-empty 25th House District, where the GOP hopes to reclaim the seat won by Democratic Rep. Katie Hill in 2018, are Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith and former Navy pilot, Republican Mike Garcia.

In Wisconsin's 7th House District, a historically Republican district that President Trump won by 20 points in 2016, Democrat Tricia Zunker and Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany are vying for the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Sean Duffy.

For more about the two races and what they could could mean for effectively campaigning and winning elections in the coronavirus era, read the breakdown from NBC News' political unit here.

Also check out the First Read analysis of how the scandal surrounding former congresswoman Katie Hill could increase Republican chances of taking back the district by looking at the history of scandal-induced special elections.

931d ago / 3:10 PM UTC

Lamar Alexander: DOJ argument to repeal Obamacare 'flimsy'

WASHINGTON — Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said Sunday he was disappointed with President Trump's decision to move forward with a lawsuit aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. 

Last week, Trump reiterated his administration's support for a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the landmark health-care law. The federal government has joined a group of states arguing that Congress rendered the entire legislation unconstitutional in 2017 when the GOP-led Congress effectively removed the "individual mandate" that taxed anyone who did not have health insurance. 

"I thought the Justice Department argument was really flimsy," Alexander said when asked about the case.

"What they're arguing is that when we voted to get rid of the individual mandate we voted to get rid of Obamacare. I don't know one single senator that thought that."

The Supreme Court has said it would hear the case in its fall term, which begins in October. 

933d ago / 8:25 PM UTC

Debate over reopening gets heated in a key 2020 county

WASHINGTON — The debate over how quickly to reopen businesses without accelerating the spread of coronavirus is happening in every part of America — and it’s gotten heated in one of the key places where the 2020 election could be decided: Beaver County, Pennsylvania. 

The county, which sits northwest of Pittsburgh and borders Ohio, is one of five that NBC’s "Meet the Press" is tracking as part of its County-to-County project. There, President Trump’s reelection campaign will aim to turn out the high share of blue-collar voters who charged to the polls for him in 2016, lifting him to a 19 point victory in a county Mitt Romney only won by 8 points in 2016. 

According to new guidance from the state’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, Beaver County will remain in a locked-down “red” phase next week despite neighboring counties being moved to a less stringent “yellow” classification. In the red phase, only “life-sustaining businesses” can remain open and stay-at-home orders remain in place.

But local officials are bristling at the decision, with the county’s district attorney saying Friday that his office will not prosecute businesses that reopen despite the governor’s order. And County Commissioner Daniel Camp called the governor's move “unwarranted and irrational.”  

As of Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 479 confirmed cases in the county and 78 deaths. But local officials argue that the governor’s office is unfairly targeting the entire county based on nursing home outbreaks, where the lion’s share of those cases are. 

In Beaver County, where the median income was significantly lower and unemployment has already been higher than national numbers, anger at a Democratic governor over the economy may prove difficult for Joe Biden to navigate as Trump touts his party’s efforts to reopen the country quickly. 

“From Day One, nursing homes across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were set up to fail by this administration and its Department of Health,” Camp said Friday. “Because of these failures, Beaver County residents, workers and businesses are being sucker-punched — and being sentenced to economic punishment — not for anything done by the great people of this county.”

Dante Chinni contributed. 

933d ago / 7:43 PM UTC

How Michigan could affect the 2020 battle for the Senate

WASHINGTON — In some of the most competitive Senate races across the country, Democratic candidates — both incumbents and challengers — have outraised their Republican opponents, often by significant margins. 

But one exception is in Michigan, where GOP challenger John James has raked in more money in the past three fundraising quarters than incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. 

In the first quarter of 2020, from January to March, James raised $4.8 million to Peters' $4.1 million – both campaigns including committee transfers. However, Peters has slightly more in the bank: $8.8 million to $8.6 million. 

Republicans face a difficult election map this cycle as they cling to their three-seat Senate majority. Plus, most of the competitive races in the 2020 Senate fight have a Republican incumbent. 

However, Democrats have to hold on to their most vulnerable Senate incumbents like Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones and win in battlegrounds like Michigan if they want to take control of Congress' upper chamber. And as of now, Peters may be able to hold on to his Democratic seat in Michigan. 

Image: John James
John James campaigns at the Johnstone Supply Picnic at Adison Oaks County Park on Aug. 5, 2018 in Leonard, Mich.Bill Pugliano / Getty Images file

An April Fox News poll found Peters ahead of James by 10 points (46 percent to 36 percent), and that's up from a February Quinnipiac University poll which showed Peters with a 6-point lead: 45-39 percent. And the Cook Political Report dubbed the race a "lean" Democratic contest. 

But Republicans see James — an army veteran who, if elected, would become the second African-American Republican in the Senate — as a star candidate.

James first stepped into politics in 2018, when he ran to unseat Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. He lost to the Democratic incumbent by 6 points, but it was Stabenow's closest margin since she first won her seat in 2000.  

“Without question, this is a competitive race,” said James' campaign spokesperson Abby Walls. “John has outraised the incumbent three quarters in a row.”

“It’s obvious that Democrats are worried,” Walls added.

However, Peters' campaign is pointing to the senator's track record of winning tough elections to show he's able to pull off another win. In 2014, Peters was the only non-incumbent Democrat to win his seat while the party lost its Senate majority.

“Gary Peters has a clear record of delivering results for Michigan, and working in a bipartisan manner to get the job done,” Dan Farough, Peters' campaign manager, said in a statement. 

Of course, a major factor in this race, that Stabenow didn't contend with against James in 2018, is the President Trump's name at the top of the ticket — Trump won Michigan in 2016, but recent polling shows former Vice President Joe Biden ahead. In 2018, aside from keeping their Senate seats blue, Democrats picked up two House seats in Michigan and won the governorship. 

933d ago / 2:10 PM UTC

Democratic super PAC, Trump campaign launch new ad campaigns

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WASHINGTON — Unite the Country, a super PAC that supports apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and President Trump's campaign are spending big money ahead of the parties' conventions this summer.

Unite the Country's $10 million ad campaign launched Friday and will last until the Democratic convention. Their first ad of this campaign, entitled "Deserve", focuses on rebuilding the economy and Biden retelling his family's story of leaving Pennsylvania for work opportunities during the 2012 Democratic convention.  

“A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity, it’s about respect, it’s about your place in the community," Biden said in 2012. 

Unite the Country was formed by Biden allies in October to support his candidacy during the Democratic primaries. Now, it is one of several super PACs working to boost Biden in the general election. While this ad signals a positive message, another prominent super PAC, Priorities USA, has been spending heavily on Biden’s behalf with spots strongly critical of President Trump and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the Trump campaign came out with its own 60-second ad attacking the former vice president on China. Like past ads the campaign and PACs supporting the president have run against Biden, the ad alleges Biden would be soft on China. 

The new ad, which is a part of an expected $10 million comprehensive ad buy, focuses on past Biden remarks where he called the Chinese "not bad folks", and footage of Biden meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping when he was vice president. 

933d ago / 9:00 AM UTC

Harris, Sanders, Markey push $2,000 monthly payments during coronavirus

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WASHINGTON — Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., rolled out legislation Friday that would provide monthly payments of up to $2,000 for U.S. residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill also includes an extra $2,000 per child on top of the initial monthly payment and would begin to phase out for individuals who make more than $100,000 and married couples earning $200,000, according to the 10-page text reviewed by NBC News. The payments would zero out for individuals making at least $120,000 or couples making twice that. 

The payments would be retroactive from March. Recipients would not require Social Security numbers, making undocumented people and certain legal residents eligible after they were excluded from the one-time payments of up to $1,200 in the CARES Act, which passed in late March.

The legislation comes as the Senate returns to Washington and considers the next phase of coronavirus relief. While it faces long odds in the Republican-controlled chamber, the bill carries political undertones, as two of its sponsors ran for president against the apparent Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. Harris is a potential running mate, and Sanders has been nudging him in a progressive direction.

"The CARES Act gave Americans an important one-time payment, but it's clear that wasn't nearly enough to meet the needs of this historic crisis," Harris said in a statement. "Bills will continue to come in every single month during the pandemic and so should help from government."

recent CNBC poll shows that a majority of voters in presidential battleground states support "sustained" direct payments from the federal government while the pandemic continues to affect the economy.

934d ago / 6:54 PM UTC

RNC adds public health expert to convention team

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee added Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge to its convention team as a "senior advisor for health and safety planning.” The addition comes as the Republican Party has promised an in-person convention in Charlotte, N.C. this summer, but as the RNC has begun to consider alternative plans. 

“We are committed to hosting a safe and successful 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, and Dr. Runge’s background and expertise will be instrumental as we continue to map out our plans that ensure the health safety of all convention participants and the Charlotte community,” said RNC convention president and CEO Marcia Lee Kelly.

Image: Delegates hold signs at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.
Delegates hold signs at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images file

Last month, the RNC said was it moving "full steam ahead" in planning their August convention, but some involved in the planning now say the convention may look drastically different than past conventions. Some alternative considerations include only having delegates and alternate delegates attend the convention and to have less parties and gatherings on the sidelines of the convention. 

934d ago / 1:05 PM UTC

Republican Jewish Coalition backs Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King's primary opponent

WASHINGTON — The Republican Jewish Coalition is endorsing Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King's primary opponent, Randy Feenstra, NBC News has learned, a rare rebuke from an organization that almost never gets involved in intra-party races.

"Rep. Steve King's record includes inflammatory rhetoric condoning white supremacists and anti-Semites. He has also met with and endorsed extremist foreign leaders," RJC’s executive director Matt Brooks said, calling King’s record “egregious” enough to warrant the unusual move.

The RJC’s political action committee has cut a $5,000 check to Feenstra and plans to fundraise for him, according to Brooks.

The organization contributed more than half a million dollars to help Republicans in the 2018 elections, according to the nonpartisan Center For Responsive Politics.

King, a congressman since 2003 who’s known for his crusade against illegal immigration, was removed from House committees last year after he questioned whether “white supremacist” was an offensive term. 

King has said he was treated unfairly by a "political lynch mob" and told NBC News last year: "I reject white nationalism. I reject white supremacy. It's not part of any of my ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology."

Other GOP groups have come out to back Feenstra, a state senator, including the Republican Main Street Partnership. Feenstra has argued that King's diminished stature in Congress makes him an ineffective representative for the district. 

935d ago / 1:51 PM UTC

Biden appeals to progressive groups to unite party

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden's campaign is making inroads with key progressive groups in an effort to keep the former vice president's pledge and unite the factions of the Democratic Party. The campaign hopes that finding common ground on policy with these groups will strengthen their ability to defeat President Trump in November.

Biden earned notable endorsements from grassroots to legacy organizations in recent weeks, like Let America Vote and End Citizens United. Some of the groups backed Biden after the campaign engaged them to discuss policy interests and how to best utilize their vast networks to efficiently turnout voters in the general election.  

On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Biden on the eighth anniversary of Biden pre-empting President Barack Obama and announcing his support for legalized gay marriage on “Meet the Press.” The group cited his career-long commitment to fight for LGBTQ rights, and his promise to pass the Equality Act in the first 100 days of his presidency.  

“Joe Biden has said publicly and to us directly that the Equality Act will be a priority in his administration,” HRC president Alphonso David said on MSNBC on Wednesday. He added that Biden also promised to address the high violence rates faced by the transgender community.

Biden also earned the backing of the Progressive Turnout Project on Wednesday after pledging to support nationwide same-day registration and restoring voting rights to those previously incarcerated. 

Earlier this week, the progressive group "Indivisible" endorsed Biden after the apparent nominee incorporated policies championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The group is still working with the Biden campaign to adopt policies like D.C. statehood and country-wide vote by mail. 

While it isn't rare for organizations to coalesce around their party's apparent nominee, the Biden campaign's added effort to win over these groups shows a commitment to energizing supporters of Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — key constituencies of young and diverse voters who may remain hesitant to embracing his candidacy.

Two senior campaign advisers, Symone Sanders and Cristóbal Alex, and Biden’s policy director Stef Feldman continue working to engage groups that haven't endorsed Biden yet like Sunrise Movement.   

Lucas Acosta, a spokesperson for HRC told NBC News that their group's nationally recognized brand and community of 3.3 million members will allow them to promote Biden’s candidacy not just through social media activism, but in battleground states where they have already placed field organizing teams for the election.

“The campaign has made the strongest commitment to the community of any nominee in history and so we’re very confident in Joe Biden as an ally and are ready to start knocking on doors to make sure that we defeat Donald Trump,” Acosta said.

936d ago / 6:31 PM UTC

Biden campaign launches digital letter series

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign has launched a new digital feature "Sincerely, Joe" which feature letters he has sent to Americans struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In the first installation of “Sincerely, Joe,” Biden wrote to Susan Sahai, a food safety distribution manager from Ridgewood, N.J., who chronicled the numerous essential workers who are working overtime to ensure that the short supply of food is kept safe for consumption in the New York Metropolitan Area and for hospital workers.

Biden responded to her saying he hoped the pandemic will make the public realize the work she and many other essential workers do to keep food on their tables.

“I’ve said from day one of this campaign and throughout my career, American workers are the heart and soul of this nation and too often, we take them and the work they do for granted,” Biden wrote. “We have to not only acknowledge and thank you for your sacrifice, but also fight for your safety and economic security.”

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 10, 2019.Scott Morgan / Reuters file

The new digital series will highlight a sample of the “hundreds” of letters the Biden campaign says the former vice president receives on a weekly basis. The campaign also asked supporters to write their own submissions to share their “own stories during this time of uncertainty,” as Sahai noted in her letter.

The Bidens have privately reached out to frontline workers since self-isolating in their home in Delaware. The campaign is using what they describe as a “traditional format of communication” to highlight online the conversations between Biden and Americans who “are longing for empathetic leadership and a president who listens to and understands their problems.”

The letter series is the newest example of the digital campaign the apparent Democratic frontrunner is launching while working from home. To reach voters outside of virtual events and TV appearances, Biden has also launched a podcast, a weekly newsletter and is holding "virtual rope lines." Plus, the campaign hopes to build the series — and their digital content — by posting video exchanges or phone calls of these conversations on a regular basis.

936d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

Never-Trump group's 'mourning' ad gets presidential reaction

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took to Twitter overnight to attack the Lincoln Project — a PAC consisting of Never-Trump Republicans including George Conway, the husband of high-ranking White House advisor Kellyanne Conway — for their latest ad criticizing the president’s coronavirus response.

The group’s one-minute ad, titled “Mourning in America,” plays on President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 hopeful re-election campaign ad. In contrast with Reagan’s “Morning in America,” the new spot released Monday takes on a negative tone, pointing to the over 60,000 Americans who “have died from a deadly virus Donald Trump ignored” and the more than 26 million Americans who have lost their jobs amid the pandemic.

“Under the leadership of Donald Trump, our county is weaker, and sicker and poorer,” the ad goes on, adding that Americans are now asking if America will exist if Trump wins reelection this fall.

In response, Trump tweeted: “A group of RINO Republicans who failed badly 12 years ago, then again 8 years ago, and then got BADLY beaten by me, a political first timer, 4 years ago, have copied (no imagination) the concept of an ad from Ronald Reagan.”

The president continued in the thread that the anti-Trump group doesn’t care about GOP causes like tax cuts or the protection of gun rights.

“I didn’t use any of them because they don’t know how to win, and their so-called Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe,” Trump noted.

Trump called out several of the Lincoln Project’s members by name, including George Conway, who has been a vocal opponent of the president despite his wife’s work in the administration. Trump also singled out long-time Republican advisers John Weaver, Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt, Reed Galen and Jennifer Horn, some of whom have worked for GOP administrations or lawmakers.

The Lincoln Project has spent less than $37,000 on TV ads so far this cycle, according to Advertising Analytics, and another $36,000 is booked through the end of the month.

The group recently announced their endorsement of former Vice President and apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president despite their Republican backgrounds. 

936d ago / 3:53 PM UTC

New Montana poll shows Bullock ahead and Biden inching forward

WASHINGTON — A new online poll from Montana State University shows Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock leading incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines in Montana’s competitive Senate contest, 46 percent to 39 percent. However, that thin lead falls within the poll's 3.6-point margin of error.  

The poll, which was conducted between April 10 and 27, shows a closer-than-expected presidential race. President Trump leads apparent Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden 45-40 percent. 

Montana Governor Steve Bullock talks to patrons of the Ten Mile Brewery as he launches 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Helena, Montana
Montana Governor Steve Bullock talks to patrons of the Ten Mile Brewery as he launches 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Helena, Mont., on May 14, 2019.Jim Urquhart / Reuters file

Bullock's lead in the Senate race, and Biden's good showing in the poll, might track with how Montanans are viewing the parties' coronavirus responses. While 53 percent of Montanans approve of the president's coronavirus response, 70 percent of Montanans approve of Bullock's handling of the crisis. 

When that focused flipped to the incumbent senator, just 48 percent of those polled said they approved of Daines' response to the pandemic while 28 percent said they didn't know. And if those views stay in place, the race could help decide which party controls the Senate.

Democrats need to pick up a net of three Senate seats (plus the White House) in November to retake control of Congress' upper chamber, and a Montana win would put them on track to do just that. 

937d ago / 9:05 PM UTC

Biden calls for immediate $13 minimum wage increase for frontline workers

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden Monday called for an immediate $13 minimum wage increase for essential workers and criticized President Trump for viewing these front-liners as “disposable” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a virtual town hall with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the apparent Democratic nominee proposed giving employees required to work through the public health crisis — many of whom are minorities and are working in a “war zone” — a $13 minimum wage increase on top of their current salaries to ensure that they can sustain their families, especially if they were to get sick on the job.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the LULAC National Convention in 2018.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the LULAC National Convention in 2018.LULAC

Biden already supports a $15 minimum wage for federal workers, but is calling for this extra amount just for essential employees working in virus hotspots like meatpacking plants and hospitals while the crisis continues. He said that Congress is considering adding a policy like his latest proposal in the new CARES Act.

During the town hall, the former vice president praised those on the frontlines, saying that the nation “would not survive” without their sacrifices. He stressed the need for essential employees to receive better pay, free coronavirus treatment regardless of their immigration status or health insurance, and paid sick leave during the outbreak.

“We can afford to do that,” Biden said.

Pre-empting the availability of a vaccine, Biden said the country must prepare now to ensure that all vaccines are free and accessible to everyone.

The candidate repeatedly swiped at President Trump and his administration for not empathizing with these workers, some of whom have died from exposure to the virus on the job. 

“They designate them as essential workers, then treat them as disposable,” Biden said. “It’s quite frankly inhumane and downright immoral because these workers are essential to our society. Not just in times of crisis, but always.”

At one point in the town hall, Biden dared Trump to “look one of these essential workers in the eye — the meat packers, delivery drivers, health care workers, grocery store clerks and tell them they don't deserve a livable wage, paid sick leave.”

As he’s often said throughout his virtual campaign, the former vice president emphasized that the teachable moment from this pandemic is that the country is recognizing how much it relies on minority workers. He hopes that this realization will lead to structural reforms in the system that reflects the dignity of their work.

—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed

937d ago / 1:39 PM UTC

New Trump coronavirus ad hits critics, argues America writing the 'the greatest comeback story'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's re-election campaign is out with its new coronavirus television ad aimed at coming to the president's defense on his handling of the virus. 

The new, 60-second spot blends optimism with Trumpian attacks.

It begins by recounting the spat over Nancy Pelosi's decision to rip up a copy of Trump's State of the Union and goes on to take swipes at both former Vice President Joe Biden as well as the media. 

"No matter how hard they try to stop us, they can't," Trump is quoted saying in the ad. 

Then the ad shifts to telling the story of the attempt at recovery, touting the resilience of the American economy, cheering first responders and highlighting praise of the federal response by blue-state governors. 

The campaign says the new spot will run as part of a seven-figure ad buy. 

But as we explored last week on the MTP Blog, the pro-Trump effort has already been significantly outspent by Democratic groups that frame the Trump administration as asleep at the wheel.

And recent polling, including from last month's NBC/WSJ poll, found a clear plurality of registered voters believe he has not taken the threat seriously and also the president lagging Biden on the question of who would handle the virus better. 

So it’s with messaging like this that the Trump administration hopes to turn those numbers around. 

941d ago / 10:26 PM UTC

Trump says Biden “should respond” to sexual assault allegation

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump Thursday said he thinks former Vice President Joe Biden should respond to the claim from a former staffer that the then-Delaware senator sexually assaulted her in the spring of 1993 even as he cast doubt on the veracity of the allegation.

“I don't know anything about it,” Trump said when asked by reporters Thursday evening about the allegation. “I don't know exactly. I think he should respond. It could be false allegations, I know all about false accusations. I’ve been falsely charged numerous times. There’s such a thing.”

More than a dozen women have alleged that Trump sexually harassed or assaulted them. The president denies their accounts. 

A former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, told NBC News that Biden — who at the time headed the Senate Judiciary Committee — penetrated her with his fingers under his skirt when she brought him a gym bag. She was a staff assistant in his office on Capitol Hill at the time.

Biden has not responded himself to Reade’s claims, but through his campaign has denied Reade’s account.

On Friday, Biden will conduct his first national news interview in two weeks with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

He has remained off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware since mid-March, as Reade’s allegation has slowly gained attention and scrutiny. Prominent Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several possible Biden vice presidential selections, have been asked about Reade’s claim, with most defending Biden.

“I have great sympathy for any woman who brings forth allegations. I do support Joe Biden,” Pelosi said in a CNN interview this week.

941d ago / 8:57 PM UTC

Tweet the Press: NBC's Kerry Sanders discusses coronavirus impacts in Florida, meat processing plants

WASHINGTON — On this week's Tweet the Press, we spoke with NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders about the coronavirus' impact in Florida and in meat processing plants. 

President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to force meat processing plants to stay open amid the pandemic. Sanders told us that the concern for workers at this time is the virus is highly contagious and "workers were working elbow-to-elbow. There is now social distancing at plants but there is distrust between employees and employers." So despite the DPA, workers are reluctant to go to work.

Click here to read the full conversation. 

941d ago / 3:39 PM UTC

Trump campaign to hit airwaves with seven-figure coronavirus ad buy

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WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign is preparing to spend seven figures on a national advertising buy that will tout the president’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, according to a senior campaign official. 

A new, 60-second television ad will start airing on Sunday and run for one week. This would mark the re-elect’s first major TV ad blitz of the general election, with just about six months to go.

“It’s an inspirational message about the unyielding resolve of Americans. It heralds the great American comeback,” the Trump campaign official said.

The announcement comes one day after the Trump campaign released a digital ad that includes Democratic governors praising portions of the administration's response to the pandemic. 

But the unified anti-Trump effort has already spent millions on attacking the Trump administration's handling of the virus, or praising former Vice President Joe Biden on the issue. 

Since March 1, the Democratic groups Priorities USA, American Bridge and Unite the Country have spent at least a combined $5 million on TV ads on broadcast and national cable that take on Trump or promote Biden on coronavirus, according to Advertising Analytics. 

On the GOP side, the pro-Trump America First Action has spent at least $1.2 million on broadcast and national cable spots over that same time period, with their ads largely attacking Biden through the lens of  China and the spread of coronavirus.

Amid the ad wars, recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling shows Biden with a 9-point edge over Trump on the questions of who would be better at responding to the coronavirus, or at handling a crisis.

A plurality of voters, 45 percent, say Trump "did not take the [coronavirus] threat seriously enough at the beginning and is still not handling it well."  Twenty percent say he didn't take it seriously to start but is handling it well now, and 30 percent say Trump took the threat posed by the virus seriously and "continues to handle it well." 

Thirty six percent of registered voters said they trust what Trump has said on the coronavirus, compared to 52 percent who do not. 

But the plurality of registered voters, 42 percent, say they aren't aware or have no opinion of what Biden has said on the issue. Twenty-six percent say they trust Biden's comments on the virus and 29 percent say they do not. 

The poll was conducted between April 13 through 15 with 900 registered voters and has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 3.27 percent.

941d ago / 2:36 PM UTC

Amash's possible bid raises concerns about November implications

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WASHINGTON — When Independent Michigan Rep. Justin Amash announced on Tuesday that he’s seeking the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, he joined a list of third-party candidates who aimed to provide a choice to voters outside of the two major parties. Amash, a frequent critic of President Trump, left the Republican Party in 2019 and supported Trump's impeachment. 

Although no third-party candidate has gone on to win the presidency, these candidates can impact elections and have been accused of spoiling the election for one of the two major party nominees.

In an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday, Amash said it’s a “factual issue” to assume his candidacy affects how Americans would have voted come November if he weren't in the race.

“We don't know who people will vote for. It's impossible to say whether more people will vote for Biden or Trump if I'm in the race or not in the race. So I think there's a big, factual issue there,” Amash said. 

But electoral history tells a different story. Take Ralph Nader in the 2000 election. 

Nader’s Green Party run in 2000 is largely seen as one of the major reasons former Vice President Al Gore lost the general election. While the close 2000 election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, Florida’s valuable electoral votes could have been carried by Gore had Nader’s name not been on the ballot.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Bush carried 2,912,790 votes in Florida and Gore carried just slightly less with 2,912,253  — only a 537 vote difference. Nader held the significant balance of 97,488 votes. 

Bush’s win, perhaps with help from a more liberal third-party candidate, followed another Bush’s loss helped by Texas billionaire Ross Perot in 1992. Perot’s Independent run for the White House focused on utilizing cable TV — he announced his bid on the Larry King Live show — and used infomercials to sell his message. He ended up with about 19 percent of the vote in 1992 — and then-Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton won the election against President George H.W. Bush by just six points. 

Like Gore supporters in 2000, Democrats last election argued that Green Party candidate Jill Stein detracted votes from their nominee, resulting in Republican victories in key states. Stein received more votes than Trump’s margin of victory over 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. 

According to the Michigan Department of State, Stein garnered over 50,000 votes in Michigan  while Trump won just about 10,000 more votes than Clinton in the state. Official results from the Wisconsin Elections Commission show Trump beat out Clinton by just 23,000 votes — Stein received over 31,000 votes. And in Pennsylvania, where Clinton fell nearly 45,000 votes short of her Republican rival, Stein carried 49,941 votes per the Pennsylvania Department of State

It’s plausible that had the majority of Stein’s votes gone to Clinton, she would have carried those three once-Democratic strongholds. 

Perhaps unlike third-party spoilers in the past, Amash’s run has an opportunity to take votes from both parties’ nominees. On some issues, Amash may be able to run to the right of the president and pick up conservative votes. 

And in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he may be able to hinder moderates and Independents from coalescing around Biden.

941d ago / 11:29 AM UTC

Biden campaign announces vice presidential search committee

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WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has named a former Senate colleague, a trusted longtime aide, and two political allies to head up his vice presidential search committee, his campaign announced Thursday. 

Former Sen. Chris Dodd, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Cynthia Hogan, a former counsel to Biden in the Senate and the White House, will lead the effort meant to advise Biden as he makes what is likely his most consequential political decision. The campaign says the four will “conduct conversations across the party” to inform the selection.

The inclusion of Garcetti, who is part Mexican, and Rochester, Delaware’s first black congresswoman, provides the kind of racial diversity on the panel that Democrats hope Biden will also consider as he rounds out the ticket.

Image: Joe Biden, Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Holds South Carolina Town Hall
Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at a town hall event at Clinton College in Rock Hill, South Carolina on Aug. 29, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images file

Biden announced during his final primary debate against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in March that he would choose a woman as his running mate, considerably narrowing the field of possible choices. But he’s under some pressure from key Democrats to go further and select a woman of color in a bid to potentially energize the party’s base in the fall.

Separately, Biden campaign general counsel Dana Remus, former White House counsel Bob Bauer and former Obama administration Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco will oversee the rigorous background vetting process for all potential selections.

“Selecting a vice presidential candidate is one of the most important decisions in a presidential campaign and no one knows this more than Joe Biden,” campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement making the announcement. "These four co-chairs reflect the strength and diversity of our party, and will provide tremendous insight and expertise to what will be a rigorous selection and vetting process.  We are grateful for their service to the campaign and for their leadership.”

Biden advisers have suggested that Thursday’s announcement will be the most they will say publicly about the process until the day the former vice president introduces the woman he hopes will be the next one. 

But Biden himself has talked often about the characteristics he is looking for most in a potential White House partner, including someone who is largely aligned with him ideologically, who could take on significant policy assignments, and with whom he enjoys significant trust. He’s also said that, as someone who would assume the presidency at 78 years old, he needs a vice presidential candidate that the country could accept as experienced enough to serve in the Oval Office themselves.

Biden has personally spoken with former President Barack Obama and some of the officials who helped guide his 2008 VP search committee — which, of course, ended with Biden on the ticket. That committee included Obama’s future attorney general, Eric Holder, and Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president.

Biden told donors at a virtual fundraiser Wednesday that he hoped to have the vetting process completed in July. He’s previously said his campaign is discussing whether to announce his choice well before the Democratic National Convention in August. Obama announced his choice of Biden the weekend before the 2008 convention in late August; Hillary Clinton also announced her choice of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine just before the 2016 Democratic convention in July.

942d ago / 4:23 PM UTC

Top Senate campaign groups announce biggest early investment in North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa

WASHINGTON — Senate campaign committees and top super PACs are making their biggest investments on the airwaves in North Carolina, Arizona and Iowa, three states where Republican incumbents are looking to fend off Democratic attempts to win back the Senate in November. 

Now that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has released the breakdown of its initial round of television and digital investments, all four top committees in the battle for the Senate have sketched out early buy information — the DSCC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Leadership Fund (the Republican super PAC) and Senate Majority PAC (the Democratic super PAC). 

North Carolina is far and away the top target of that initial investment — $66.4 million between the four groups, $37.3 million from the blue team and $29.1 from the red team. There, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis will face off against Democrat Cal Cunningham (with the Democrat leading by 5 points in a March NBC/WSJ poll, just inside the margin of error). 

That comes as North Carolina has seen the most television and radio spending already so far — $20.6 million, according to Advertising Analytics, with Maine a close second at $20.5 million. 

President Trump Holds Keep America Great Rally
Sen. Thom Tillis speaks during a rally for President Donald Trump in Charlotte, N.C. on March 2, 2020.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Then comes Arizona and Iowa in the second tier of spending, with $37 million and $35.6 million respectively between the four groups. The Democratic effort has the spending edge of these investments in both states — Democrats have booked $22.1 million in Arizona and $20.4 million in Iowa, with Republicans booking $14.9 million in Arizona and $15.2 million in Iowa. 

Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally is expected to face off against Democrat Mark Kelly in that state, while a handful of Democrats are facing off to win the right to run against Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (with Democrat Theresa Greenfield the best-funded of those options). 

Then there's Maine and Colorado bunched closely together — two states where those Republican groups are booking more initial advertising. Republicans are booking $12.3 million of the $21.9 million in initial reservations in Maine, and $11.9 million of the $17.1 million in Colorado. 

In those states, Democrats are looking to dethrone Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. 

In Montana, home to the clash between GOP Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, Democrats are booking $5.2 million compared to Republicans' $2.8 million. 

Then there are two states where only those Republican groups have decided to make initial investments in — SLF is putting $10.8 million into Kentucky, defending Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while the NRSC is spending $2.7 million in Michigan, where it hopes to knock off Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. 

The initial spending plans are just one piece of the puzzle — these groups are all expected to dump more money into the map; there are other outside groups either already running ads or that will in the coming months; and the candidates themselves will hit the airwaves depending on how much money they are able to raise. 

But now that the four big groups have released their initial plans, we can see where they believe their early money may go the furthest. 

943d ago / 6:26 PM UTC

Trump campaign touts virtual engagement as coronavirus turns campaign digital

WASHINGTON — Since starting nightly online broadcasts one month ago, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign says the virtual events have attracted nearly 300 million views across its social media platforms.

The large number could be an indication of voter interest while the re-elect effort continues to convert its traditional operation into a fully digital one with the coronavirus pandemic dramatically transforming the presidential race.

Last week alone, the Trump campaign told NBC it had more than 66 million views for their series of online discussions, which often feature top surrogates and staffers on a variety of topics, from veterans issues to women empowerment.

In the month of April so far, they’ve been watched more than 298 million times. 

“Team Trump’s unique, 7-nights-a-week online broadcasts are successful with dynamic guests, timely topics, and are a great way to stay involved in our 100% virtual campaign to re-elect President Trump,” deputy communications director Erin Perrine told NBC News in a statement. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office on April 28, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

Many of April’s cyber panels were slated to take place right after the president wrapped up his daily coronavirus press conferences. Perrine argued that the double-feature aspect is attractive to many Trump supporters who are craving more voter interaction directly from the president and the campaign.

 “Just like President Trump, these broadcasts are bold and hold back no punches on the fake news or Democrat attempts to spread lies about the president. They highlight the strong and growing enthusiasm for President Trump’s America First success," she said. 

Though they stream on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and the main campaign website as well, Facebook attracts the most eyeballs, according to a senior campaign official.

The president, who is eager to get back on the campaign trail before November, has yet to participate in one of these livestreams.

And as millions of Americans have been confined to their homes, the Trump team and Republican National Committee say they’ve seen a surge of volunteers. More than 300,000 new people have raised their hands virtually since March 13 the day the campaign went all-virtual.

Since then, Trump Victory – the joint effort between the campaign and RNC – has made 20 million voter contacts, per this official. On particular target dates, Trump supporters have made as many as 4 million calls in one day to Americans nationwide, urging them to visit the CDC’s website and follow social distancing guidelines, while also touting the president’s accomplishments and pushing online voter registration.

Last week’s release of the new Trump 2020 mobile app has also allowed supporters across the country sign up for “Trump Talk,” which allows them to make recruiting calls from the comfort of their own homes.

The Trump and Biden campaigns haven’t held large in-person events since early March. Since then, former Vice President Joe Biden has been appearing from a studio in his Delaware home. 

In that time, the Biden campaign says more than 63 million people have engaged with their online content, including livestreams, speeches, press briefings and interviews. The apparent Democratic nominee has done 42 virtual events and appearances since entering self-isolation. 

Last Saturday, the Biden team hosted a “SOUL of the Nation” digital rally, which it says attracted 340,000 live views across their platforms.

The Trump campaign notes that while Biden and his digital operation use the three-time presidential hopeful’s Twitter account to reach supporters for their live programming, so far, the president hasn’t promoted his team’s online broadcasts with his more than 78 million followers. 

943d ago / 5:45 PM UTC

Hillary Clinton endorses Biden during women's virtual town hall

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WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton, the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination, first teased her endorsement of Joe Biden for president Tuesday in a tweet where she revealed herself as the apparent Democratic nominee’s special guest at a virtual town hall on the impact of the coronavirus on women.

Then she made it official during the event Tuesday afternoon, saying she was "thrilled" to be a part of Biden's campaign.

"I am thrilled to be part of your campaign. To not only endorse you but to help highlight a lot of the issues that are at stake during in this presidential election," Clinton said. 

The endorsement comes as Biden’s campaign has worked over the past month to project the party as fully — and to many, surprisingly — unified heading into the general election fight against President Donald Trump. Former vice president and 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore endorsed Biden last week at an Earth Day event; President Barack Obama and former 2020 rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren backed Biden the week before.

Biden retweeted Clinton's announcement and commented, "I'm with her." 

Biden and Clinton’s relationship spans decades. As a senior Democrat on key committees in the 1990s, Biden worked closely with President Bill Clinton’s administration on legislative priorities including the 1994 crime bill and both of his Supreme Court nominations. 

In 2001, Clinton joined Biden in the Senate, where they remained through 2008 as they faced off in that year’s Democratic presidential primary before both joining Barack Obama’s administration in 2009, him as vice president and her as secretary of State.

Biden and Clinton appeared on a potential collision course again in the 2016 campaign. Just after Obama’s reelection in 2012, Biden raised eyebrows at a key Iowa Democratic party function the following summer by praising John Kerry, Clinton’s successor at State, as “one of the best secretaries of State” in history.

Clinton met with Biden in early 2015 as she was set to formally declare her candidacy, as Biden’s own deliberations were on hold as his son battled brain cancer. Biden ultimately passed on the race that fall, and threw his support behind Clinton the following year, joining her in their shared hometown of Scranton.

Biden went on to hold dozens of campaign events for Clinton in the fall. After many Democrats were stunned at her loss to Trump, Biden said in an interview shortly after that he was not because the party had lost sight of the type of working class voters that had long been their base of support.

Biden often praised Clinton as he ran in the 2020 primaries, saying often she would have made a great president. But he often noted how close the final margin was against Trump in key battlegrounds, places he felt he could win back if the party was fully united.

“I'm confident we will win those states, not because I’m better than Hillary, but because the time is different,”  he said at one party fundraiser last fall.

Brad Parscale, President Trump's campaign manager, issued a statement on the endorsement Tuesday.

“There is no greater concentration of Democrat establishment than Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton together," it reads. "Both of them carry the baggage of decades in the Washington swamp and both of them schemed to keep the Democrat nomination from Bernie Sanders. President Trump beat her once and now he’ll beat her chosen candidate.”

Marianna Sotomayor contributed

943d ago / 4:10 PM UTC

New ad blasts Kobach as GOP Senate primary heats up in Kansas

WASHINGTON — A new ad attacking Kansas Republican Kris Kobach hit the airwaves Tuesday as the state's GOP Senate primary continues to heat up. 

The new spot from the Keep Kansas Great PAC focuses on Kobach's 2018 loss as the Republican gubernatorial candidate, arguing "Kris Kobach will lose again, and the liberal radicals will be back in charge."  

And it tries to hit Kobach with guilt-by-association by attacking the conservative Club for Growth, which is running ads attacking Kobach's top Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall. 

That attack revisits the Club's 2016 decision to run ads against President Trump, a move that sparked a feud with the future president. In 2015 comments repeated in the ad, Trump called the group backing Kobach "a fraud" and "crooked." 

But the Club has emerged during the Trump administration as an ally of Trump's — Club for Growth President David McIntosh told "Meet the Press" last August that the group's attacks came during the heat of the GOP presidential primary, when it was supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and that it is happy with how Trump has governed as a "free-market conservative." 

The heated spot is just the latest example of the contentious nature of the GOP primary as the party gears up to likely face the well-funded Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier, the Democratic front-runner. 

Last week, the Kansas City Star broke the news that the state Republican Party asked two other candidates — state Sen. President Susan Wagle and former Johnson County Commissioner Dave Lindstrom — to drop out.

Kansas Republican chair Mike Kuckelman said in a radio interview on KMCO that he made the "difficult decision" because he felt he "had to act" to keep the seat in Republican hands and that neither candidate had a path to victory. 

"We've learned from other elections that having names on the ballot that can't win the race, they can affect the outcome of it," he said. 

Kobach responded to the news by blasting "party elites" for trying to put their thumb on the scale. 

And after Kobach wrote a letter asking Marshall to repudiate the state party's move, Marshall responded with a letter of his own that warned that "We've seen the consequences of a Democrat administration at the state level when we nominated a person who can't win (2018)," a clear reference to Kobach's failed 2018 gubernatorial bid. 

As of now, the primary isn't scheduled until August.

944d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

Bloomberg to pay laid-off staffers' health care through November amid lawsuits, public pressure

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Mike Bloomberg is agreeing to pay for health care through November for the more than 2,000 campaign staffers he laid off after suspending his presidential bid as he faces public pressure and multiple lawsuits over allegations he let go of workers he’d promised to keep employed through the 2020 election.

The human resources department for Bloomberg’s now-defunct campaign notified former staffers of the decision in an email Monday that was obtained by NBC News. The email says it’s a “difficult and stressful time” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image: Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks  during a rally held at the Bricktown Events Center
Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a rally held at the Bricktown Events Center on Feb. 27, 2020 in Oklahoma City.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

“Given these extraordinary circumstances, the campaign will cover the cost of COBRA through November, 2020. This is aimed at supporting those who have not already secured replacement healthcare coverage,” the email reads.

The former staffers were set to lose their health care at the end of April, about a month after they got their last paychecks.

Asked to comment, a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said the insurance costs would be covered for former staffers “who haven't secured other coverage."

There are multiple lawsuits pending against Bloomberg’s campaign by old staffers alleging the campaign fraudulently promised jobs through November, then laid everyone off after he dropped out of the race in March. One lawsuit that has more than 100 plaintiffs is seeking certification as a class action for allegations under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The lead attorney on that case, Sally Abrahamson, called the health care decision “a great development.”

“We think this is likely the result of the work of our over 100 brave clients who came forward and spoke up about what was happening. Our case still moves forward to recover promised wages and unpaid overtime,” Abrahamson said.

Bloomberg abruptly abandoned his promise to form a super PAC to absorb his presidential campaign and help elect the ultimate Democratic nominee, letting go of his staff of more than 2,400 people at the start of the coronavirus crisis. Laid-off staff were invited to enter a competitive hiring process for a job at the DNC, which received an $18 million transfer from Bloomberg in lieu of his own effort.

944d ago / 5:51 PM UTC

Sanders' bid to collect delegates takes blow as New York cancels its Democratic presidential primary

The New York State Board of Elections is removing Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' name from its June presidential primary ballot in a decision that effectively cancels the contest over protests from Sanders, whose campaign argued it should be able to stay on the ballot and accumulate delegates despite his recent decision to drop out and endorse former Vice President Joe Biden. 

While Sanders suspended his campaign on April 8, Sanders' campaign lawyers sent a letter, obtained by NBC News, to the state board this past weekend asking the party to keep his name on the state's primary ballot. 

In the letter, the Sanders legal team's argued that the move only amounted to a "limited suspension of his presidential campaign" because he "intended to remain on the ballot in upcoming primaries, gather delegates, and attend the Democratic National Convention, with an eye to influencing the party's platform." 

The campaign's lawyers had been specifically concerned about a new provision of New York's election law, enacted five days after Sanders dropped out, which gives the state election board the power to omit a candidate who has dropped out of a race from the ballot. 

The Sanders campaign, through its legal team, requested that the state board either decide the law doesn't apply to Sanders because he dropped out before the measure was signed into law, or exercise its discretion to keep Sanders on the primary ballot in the interest of what the Sanders camp calls "party unification.”

“Senator Sanders has collaborated with state parties, the national party and the Biden campaign, to strengthen the Democrats by aligning the party’s progressive and moderate wings,” said attorney Malcolm Seymour, who works for the New York City-based firm Foster Garvey and represents the Sanders campaign. 

“His removal from the ballot would hamper those efforts, to the detriment of the party in the general election.”

But ultimately, the state board disagreed and canceled the presidential primary. But other down ballot primaries will still go on as scheduled.  

Senior Sanders advisor Jeff Weaver blasted the decision in a statement as "an outrage," adding that the state should be stripped of its convention delegates if "this is not remedied." 

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for a campaign rally in Chicago on March 7, 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for a campaign rally in Chicago on March 7, 2020.Scott Olson / Getty Images

It's the latest example of the Sanders campaign pressing to allow the senator to continue to accumulate ballots despite dropping out. 

In California, campaign co-chair Rep. Ro Khanna is urging the governor and Democratic leaders to let Sanders keep delegates he earned during his win on Super Tuesday.

“Stripping him of his delegates is an affront to the primary process and the policies he is fighting for,” Khanna wrote in a tweet

At issue is a party rule that could cost Sanders a portion of his delegates. Candidates earn pledged delegates in a handful of ways, including those allocated based on primary results in a certain congressional district or based on the statewide results. 

But party rules say any presidential candidate who drops out before delegates are selected at a statewide convention loses those statewide delegates (they can keep the delegates allocated to them based on congressional district results).

That could frustrate Sanders' attempt to accumulate enough delegates to have sway at the convention, since convention rules give him more power if he wins 25 percent of the delegates.

What Khanna is arguing is that, despite Sanders' decision to drop out, he should still be able to retain the delegates he won in California's March primary. 

Ben Kamisar contributed

944d ago / 11:46 AM UTC

Pelosi becomes highest ranking elected Democrat to endorse Biden

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Monday became the highest ranking elected Democrat to endorse Joe Biden's presidential bid, calling him “a leader who is the personification of hope and courage, values, authenticity, and integrity.“

“He will be an extraordinary president. He knows how to get the job done,” she says in a new video.

Pelosi talks about her work as speaker with the former vice president and apparent nominee on a number of issues, including his work overseeing implementation of the Recover Act. She says he was a “partner in progress” when the House worked to pass the ACA, and “has been with us every step of the day” to protect the health law against Trump administration.

Biden thanked Pelosi for her support in a tweet of his own.

945d ago / 3:39 PM UTC

Stacey Abrams: Biden choosing a woman VP of color would promote 'trust' with black community

WASHINGTON — Former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, a possible running-mate pick for former Vice President Joe Biden, pitched herself on "Meet the Press" as a truth-teller that can help Biden "lift up marginalized communities." 

When asked why she's been so open about her interest in serving as Biden's vice president — Abrams and a handful of other potential picks have made their interest clear, a departure from the typical demurring from politicians in previous cycles — the Georgian said that she wanted to be honest. 

"He’s made it clear that he wants someone that he is compatible with, someone with the skills and the capacity to help him lead and help us recover from four years of the incompetence and chaos," she said. 

"I am the daughter of two ministers, I was raised to tell the truth. And so when I am asked a question I answer it as directly and honestly as I can. And as a young black girl growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if I didn’t speak up for myself, no one else would."

Biden has pledged to pick a woman as his running mate.

Abrams added that picking a running mate who is a woman of color would be helpful to Biden as he seeks to mobilize the coalition that elected President Obama and Biden in 2008 and 2012. And she pointed to representation as especially acute considering the effect coronavirus has had on minority Americans. 

"A President Biden will do what he has always done, which is respect and value communities of color. I think he understands that black communities and people of color are vital to the success of the Democratic Party, and I think he's going to pick the right person" Abrams said. 

"I, of course, think that a woman of color can bring certain attributes. We have to lift up marginalized communities, communities that do not trust that they will be served because they've been the hardest hit by this pandemic. In the state of Georgia alone, while we're only 32 percent of the population, African Americans comprise 54 percent of the deaths."

"And so, yes, having a woman of color on the ticket will help promote not only diversity, but trust. But I trust Joe Biden to pick the person he thinks is the right running mate for him.

947d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

Biden campaign signs joint fundraising agreement with DNC

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WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign has signed a joint fundraising agreement with the Democratic National Committee. The agreement will allow the apparent nominee to exert more influence over the party's fundraising, which has lagged President Donald Trump in building a war chest for the fall campaign, the party confirmed to NBC News.

The agreement will dramatically raise the maximum donors can contribute to $360,600 per person, and that number will go up as state parties join the "Biden Victory Fund." The vast majority of that money will go to the party, which has struggled with fundraising for years, since federal law caps donations to campaigns at $5,600.

The DNC will also replace its current CEO, Seema Nanda, with Mary Beth Cahill — a veteran Democratic operative who ran John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign and has been serving as a senior adviser to DNC Chair Tom Perez, as first reported by The New York Times.

"Mary Beth will bring her decades of experience and strategy to ensure that Joe Biden becomes the President of the United States and Democrats win at every level," Perez said in a statement. 

Cahill, in a statement, said the joint fundraising agreement will help "ensure that we put Joe Biden in the best position possible to beat Donald Trump."

Image: Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Campaigns Ahead Of Primary In South Carolina
Joe Biden addresses a crowd during a campaign event at Wofford University Feb. 28, 2020 in Spartanburg, S.C.Sean Rayford / Getty Images file

Presidential nominees typically take over the party apparatus after the primary process in preparation for the general election. Even though Biden hasn't amassed the amount of delegates yet to be the official nominee, he's been able to move more quickly in this process because every other major candidate in the 2020 Democratic race has dropped out and endorsed him.

Biden recently assigned his former campaign manager, Greg Schultz, to coordinate between the campaign, the DNC, and state parties. John Morgan, a top Biden donor who has worked extensively with Schultz, said Biden told him Schultz’s role working with the DNC would be especially 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,” Morgan said, referring to an $18 million donation the former New York City mayor made to the DNC. “I just think it shows the trust that Joe Biden has in Greg.”

Biden and the DNC are starting far behind Trump and the Republican National Committee's war chest — the affiliated fundraising committees for the president ended March with $244 million in the bank, while the DNC and Biden had only about $57 million (when the DNC's $5 million in debt is subtracted).

And the coronavirus crisis has complicated fundraising since in-person events are not possible.

"It’s really hard to raise money without that photograph line. People want to meet him in person, they want to get that picture, they want to be with other people who are like them," Morgan said. "I just think that makes the DNC position so much more important for money. You can get bigger checks from wealthier people."

But Morgan said donors are more likely to open their wallets as it becomes clearer Biden is likely to be the party's nominee and possibly the country's next president.

"The inevitability of Joe Biden’s candidacy will translate into money from everywhere," he added.

948d ago / 9:48 PM UTC

Trump's coronavirus approval rating underwater in key states, surveys find

WASHINGTON — New surveys out Thursday show President Donald Trump’s approval rating for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic is underwater among voters in four critical states this election while state governors receive high marks for their responses to the virus. By and large, these key voters also oppose protests against stay-at-home orders and efforts to relax social distancing measures. 

The polling, conducted by the progressive firm, Public Policy Polling, on behalf of Protect Our Care — a left-of-center health care advocacy group — finds that 45 percent of voters in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin approve of Trump’s management of the crisis while 50 percent disapprove on average. The governors of those states, in contrast, receive a net approval rating for their handling of the pandemic that’s 32 percentage points higher than the president’s with 58 percent approving and 31 percent disapproving. 

Image: Wisconsin
A woman casts her ballot in a Democratic presidential primary election at the Hamilton High School in Milwaukee, Wis., on April 7, 2020.Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP - Getty Images

Asked about who they trust more in general, governors on average held about a 20 point advantage over Trump among those surveyed in the swing states — 57 percent versus 36 percent. Governors also beat Trump by an approximate two-to-one margin with respect to who these key voters trust to reopen their state economies. 61 percent of those surveyed say they trust their state’s executive to take charge compared with 33 percent who place their faith in the president. 

And despite the fact that several battleground states have recently been home to protests urging the immediate reopening of the country, the surveys show that an average of 67 percent of participants hold a negative view of these protests. A majority also believes that social distancing practices must remain in place. 

Less than one-fifth — 19 percent — of participants on average say social distancing measures should be relaxed. A majority — 54 percent — report that the policies in place are sufficient while just 26 percent say more aggressive efforts should be instituted.

Notably, a state by state breakdown reveals that over half of Michiganders — 57 percent — believe that their state is currently doing the right thing when it comes to social distancing. The governor there, Gretchen Whitmer, has come under fire for instituting particularly strict practices yet out of all states polled, Michigan voters approve of their state’s measures at the highest rate.

The president’s supporters in the crucial states also favor the status quo or more aggressive efforts amid the coronavirus on average. Nearly two-thirds of Trump voters approve of the current or an even stricter social distancing approach versus 34 percent who say that it should be eased.

With respect to concerns about health and the economy, an average of 56 percent of voters report that they’re more concerned about getting the virus or someone in their family getting sick than the economic impact of the pandemic. 20 points behind, 36 percent of those surveyed worry more about the personal financial fallout.

Trump won Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in 2016 but now appears to be behind the apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden in all four states according to the surveys’ findings, although Biden’s lead is within the margin of error in two states. In Michigan and North Carolina, Biden holds a seven point lead over the president — both 51 percent versus 44 percent. In North Carolina and Wisconsin, Biden is up by 3 points and 5 points respectively, within the margin of error.

The results of the latest surveys are similar to those of other recent polling, which found Trump’s approval rate for handling the coronavirus trailing behind governors in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Other surveys also show Biden winning head-to-heads with the president in those states.

Public Policy Polling conducted half of the polling for Protect Our Care by calls to landlines and the other half via texts to cell phones in the battleground states April 20-21 or just April 20. The average margin of error for the surveys in every state is plus-minus 2.7 percent. 

948d ago / 3:34 PM UTC

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.

Image: President Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Wildwood, New Jersey
President Donald Trump speaks at an evening Keep America Great Rally on Jan. 28, 2020 in Wildwood, N.J.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

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. 

948d ago / 3:09 PM UTC

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

949d ago / 8:58 PM UTC

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.”

949d ago / 3:00 PM UTC

Warren endorses down-ballot women candidates for the fall

Senator Elizabeth Warren is announcing endorsements of 20 candidates in federal, state and local races across the country on Wednesday morning. All of those she's endorsing are women.

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.”

Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to supporters after casting her vote in Cambridge, Mass., on March 3, 2020.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to supporters in Cambridge, Mass., on March 3, 2020.Scott Eisen / Getty Images file

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.

949d ago / 2:04 PM UTC

Jay Inslee endorses Biden for president

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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. 

Image: Jay Inslee
Jay Inslee smiles as he takes questions during a news conference Monday, April 13, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.Ted S. Warren / AP

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. 

950d ago / 2:33 PM UTC

RNC says "full steam ahead" with convention plans, Biden remains unsure for DNC

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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. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C., on March 2, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP file

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." 

Image: Joe Biden Campaigns In Kansas City Ahead Of Tuesday's Primary
Joe Biden speaks to a full crowd during the Joe Biden Campaign Rally at the National World War I Museum and Memorial on March 7, 2020 in Kansas City, Mo.Kyle Rivas / Getty Images

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.