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Buttigieg to fundraise in DC with help from bundlers for Obama, Clinton

Major bundlers who raised money for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns are throwing their efforts behind South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who will come to Washington next month for a fundraiser.

An invitation to the May 21 event obtained by NBC News from two sources shows that Steve Elmendorf and Barry Karas are among the hosts. The invite says it will be Buttigieg’s first visit to the nation’s capital since entering the race.

Elmendorf is a lobbyist and former John Kerry campaign official who bundled more than $100,000 in the last election for Clinton. He announced his support for Buttigieg on Sunday, just as the Democrat officially launched his campaign.

Karas raised at least half a million dollars for Obama in 2012 and was later appointed by Obama to the Kennedy Center’s advisory board.

The fundraiser comes as Buttigieg is increasingly attracting interest and enlisting help from major Democratic bundlers, with more than two dozen of the party’s top fundraisers now supporting him, CNBC has reported. Buttigieg has said his campaign isn’t taking corporate PAC money or dollars from the fossil fuel industry.

The invitation says tickets for the Washington fundraiser range between $250 for young professionals and $5,600 for event co-hosts. That’s the legal maximum a person can contribute to a candidate for both the primary and general election.

CNBC’s Brian Schwartz contributed.

Two vulnerable Democratic House candidates return donations from Ilhan Omar

WASHINGTON—Two Democratic House candidates—one a freshman member of Congress— have declined to accept donations from Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has faced criticism from Republicans and some members of her own party over comments regarding the American relationship with Israel. 

Dan McCready, the Democrat running in a special election in North Carolina that was called thanks to allegations of fraud in last year's election in the district, took to Twitter  on Wednesday evening to explain why he decided to return Omar's donation. 

"I did this weeks ago because I vigorously disagree with any anti-semitic comments. Since this time, dangerous and hateful attacks have started against her," he wrote. 

"I condemn in the strongest terms the hateful rhetoric against her, the Muslim community and people of color. Too many have been hurt by our broken politics. We must end hate speech against all people and groups."

Omar donated $2,000 to McCready's campaign last year, and his campaign issued the Omar campaign a refund on March 30. The refund was reported on McCready's first quarter fundraising disclosure, which was filed on Monday. 

Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath's campaign told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution it also declined a $2,000 donation from the congresswoman. She narrowly defeated GOP Rep. Karen Handel in November in her suburban Atlanta district. 

Omar has faced criticism for her comments about the Israel lobby, which Democratic leadership panned as trafficking in "anti-Semitic tropes." She apologized for those comments earlier this year.  

The GOP continues to hammer Democrats over her comments, accusing the party of not adequately condemning anti-Semitism. And President Trump has blasted her in recent days by pointing to comments she made about 9/11

Omar's defenders have argued the condemnation is in bad faith—that her comments about the Israel lobby were only meant to critique the power of money in the political system, while her comments on 9/11 were taken out of context and the criticism has led to threats on her life. 

But the decision by these two candidates to distance themselves from Omar and return her donations ahead of two likely contentious elections shows that at least some purple-district politicians see an association with her as a possible political risk. 

2020 roundup: Terry McAuliffe won't run for president

WASHINGTON—The ever-expanding field of Democratic presidential hopefuls will not include former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who announced Wednesday that he'll skip a White House bid. 

McAuliffe told CNN that while he could have beaten President Trump "like a rented Mule" he instead wanted to focus on helping Democrats in Virginia, where the two of the top three statewide officials admitted to appearing years ago in blackface and another is accused of sexual assault. 

The decision comes after months of speculation that the former governor and longtime Democratic fundraiser would jump in, sparked by his criticism of the party's embrace of "ideological populism." 

There are still a handful of other Democrats eyeing bids, most notably former Vice President Joe Biden, who would occupy the same moderate lane in which McAuliffe would have run. 

But with so many Democrats deciding to jump in, it's notable when one decides to sit on the sidelines. 

Keep reading on for more headlines from the 2020 trail you may have missed. 

  • Democratic candidates spent last month pushing for a release of the full Mueller report, so expect those calls to continue today as the redacted version is finally released. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand panned the attorney general's press conference as "propaganda," New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker accused Barr of trying to "spin" the Mueller report before its release and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that "it's a disgrace to see an attorney general acting as if he's the personal attorney and publicist for the president."
  • California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris expressed "regret" over the "unintended consequences" of the truancy program she oversaw as state attorney general in a new interview with Pod Save America
  • South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday about the Mueller report, his decision to come out as gay, and how his campaign is going to boost support from minority voters. 
  • After Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders drew the attention of both the Democratic field and President Trump with his Fox News town hall this week, Politico reports Amy Klobuchar has booked a town hall with the network. NBC is also reporting that Buttigieg is in talks with Fox for a town hall as well. 
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, the only Republican running against President Trump, tweeted that it is "essential" that Robert Mueller testifies in front of Congress about his report on Russian election interference.
Monica Alba

Trump campaign response strategy after Mueller report: “Vindication” over “exoneration”

WASHINGTON — With the highly-anticipated release of the Mueller report expected Thursday, the Trump campaign is ready to capitalize on the contents and has already determined a rebuttal strategy: a focus on “vindication” above all else. 

In the days following the release of Attorney General Bill Barr’s four-page summary, the president repeatedly touted “complete and total exoneration” — and his 2020 team followed suit with slick videos, tailored fundraising appeals and even new merchandise

Of the $30 million directly raised by the Trump campaign in the first three months of the year, $8.2 million came from contributions (of $200 or more) during the week after the Barr letter was released, which happened to coincide with the end of the fundraising quarter. 

But a strong indication the response may be a little different once more Mueller material is made public comes directly from their pre-emptive messaging. 

"We know that President Trump will — once again — be vindicated: no collusion and no obstruction," communications director Tim Murtaugh told NBC News, emphasizing vindication ahead of Thursday’s expected publication. "The tables should turn now, as it is time to investigate the liars who instigated the sham investigation in the first place."

The second part of that statement is also a preview of where the campaign plans to keep shifting the conversation to: the origins of the Russia probe itself, rather than the contents of the nearly 400-page document. 

Campaign officials acknowledge it is quite difficult to predict and execute a coordinated reaction before knowing the extent of the findings. But over the last week, as Trump allies brace for previously unknown and potentially unflattering details in the report, the president has not used the word “exonerate” once and instead has seized on “no collusion” and "no obstruction!"

It’s unclear whether or not Trump has actually been advised to highlight vindication as a more accurate description now that the two-year investigation, which he deemed a “witch hunt hoax,” has wrapped up.

In his summary, Barr cited the special counsel's work, saying it explicitly concluded that there was no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russians to influence the 2016 election. But he was far less definitive on the question of obstruction.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller writes in his report, according to a quote in Barr’s letter. 

2020 roundup: Gillibrand supports challenger to anti-abortion rights House Dem

WASHINGTON—New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is backing the Illinois Democrat who is running once again to dethrone one of the party's last remaining anti-abortion rights lawmakers. 

After an event in Chicago on Tuesday, Gillibrand and Democrat Marie Newman took to Twitter to give each other mutual endorsements. 

Newman fell short in her 2018 challenge against Lipinski by just a few thousand votes in the first high-profile primary fight of the calendar.

A slew of prominent progressive activists and politicians rallied around Newman during that race because of her support for abortion rights, in contrast to Lipinski's views on the issue. But House Democratic leaders rallied behind the incumbent, and a super PAC with ties to the centrist 'No Labels' spent heavily to boost Lipinski. 

So with an early endorsement of Newman, Gillibrand is looking to send a message about her support for abortion rights and willingness to take on an entrenched politician over the issue. 

There's a lot more news coming out of the 2020 trail, so click here for more from the campaign world. 

  • Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, the newly-minted presidential candidate, told CNN on Wednesday that he supports Medicare for All as an "aspirational goal."  But he added that "I would not take anybody's private insurance away."
  • President Trump is handicapping the Democratic presidential primary, tweeting that he thinks it'll come down to "Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden."
  • South Bend Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg downplayed the hecklers that have interrupted his recent campaign events, arguing that it's a "barometer of success." 
  • While FEC deadline day was Monday, there's still a whole lot of interesting information buried in fundraising reports. Check out yesterday's blog post that focuses on the durability of the Democratic candidates' donor base for more. 
  • After releasing his tax returns this week, former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke defended his charitable giving by arguing he donated more than he specifically itemized on his returns. 
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath's campaign refused to accept a contribution from Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has been the recent target of criticism from the president after controversial remarks about America's relationship with Israel drew a rebuke from leaders of her own party. 

A deeper dive into the health of Democratic candidates' donor bases

WASHINGTON—Topline fundraising numbers have dominated the discussion about the Democratic presidential candidates' first-quarter fundraising haul. 

You can read more about those top-lines in today's First Read

But some deeper digging sheds important light on the durability of the candidates' donor bases. 

Small-dollar hauls

Small-dollar donors are the new must-have campaign accessory for Democrats after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (and President Trump) changed the game in 2016. 

These donors are important because they can be repeatedly tapped throughout the campaign, allowing a candidate to raise quick cash without working to expand its donor base. 

Unsurprisingly, Sanders led the pack of major Democratic candidates with this metric by raising more than $15 million in donations under $200. That accounted for about 84 percent of his total haul.  

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has sworn off high-dollar fundraisers, raised about 70 percent of her total from small-donors too. 

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke also raised about 60 percent of their first-quarter hauls from small donations. 

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker raised about 15 percent of their donations from those small contributions. And former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper raised just nine percent from small donations. 

Maxed-out donors

The flip side of the small-dollar coin are maxed-out donors — those who donate the federal maximum donation of $2,800 a cycle (primaries and general elections count as separate cycles). 

The wealthiest donors are a great way to infuse cash into a campaign. But they can't donate again. 

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Hickenlooper both raised a majority of their money from maxed-out donors (Delaney largely self-funded his campaign).

But Warren raised about two percent of her money from maxed-out donors, a sign that she'll be able to dip back into the well repeatedly. 

Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Buttigieg also raised less than 20 percent of their dollars from max-out donors. That's a big deal, especially because they finished the quarter in first, second and fourth respectively in total contributions.

General election money

Some candidates are already raising a significant amount of general election money that they can't use unless they win the primary, but that they're including in their top-line numbers already.

About 10 percent of the money that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former HUD Sec. Julián Castro raised from donors this past cycle was earmarked for the general election. Klobuchar raised more than any other candidate with about $570,000. 

'Performance is better than promise' — Biden eulogizes South Carolina's Hollings

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden made his first 2020 cycle trip to an early voting state Tuesday, eulogizing late South Carolina Sen. Fritz Hollings for his deep commitment to the state and advocacy for its neediest citizens.

Biden, who served alongside Hollings for most of his 36 years in the Senate, recalled that Palmetto State icon was chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign committee when he launched a long-shot bid against a popular Republican incumbent in Delaware in 1972.

"He ended up taking a chance on me," Biden said. "He saw something in me that I wasn't sure existed. But he believed in me. I can say without fear of contradiction that that made me believe more in myself."

Biden praised Hollings' bridge-building political style, both as a governor and then as a senator. "He knew how to get things done," Biden said. "He knew how to build coalitions. He even knew how to get along with Strom when he needed to."

Strom Thurmond was a Dixiecrat-turned-Republican senator from South Carolina and the oldest living senator until his retirement at the age of 100. Biden also delivered his eulogy in 2003, something that already has drawn attention as approaches the Democratic primary contest.

Biden focused his remarks Tuesday on Hollings, especially praising him for seeking to address systemic poverty and hunger in rural areas. He also quoted Hollings in a potential allusion to his future candidacy.

"What a man will do in public office is best told by what he’s done. Performance is better than promise," he said.

Yang leads Democratic presidential candidates in Facebook spending for past week

WASHINGTON — Entrepreneur Andrew Yang led the field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in money spent on Facebook advertisements for the second week in a row.

Yang spent $154,840 on ads from April 7 to April 13, trailing only President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, which spent $161,285.

Yang spent $157,230  the previous week, the most of any presidential candidate of either party, according to Facebook’s publicly available political ad archive.

Many of Yang’s recent ads were used to promote events he was holding in cities such as Boston and Atlanta last week. The ads often mentioned Venture for America, the nonprofit Yang started.

Yang’s ads also highlighted his support for a universal basic income as a response to the threat of artificial intelligence.

Following Yang in last week’s spending was Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and housing secretary under President Obama, who spent $137,162. Castro's ads focused primarily on fundraising to secure a spot in the Democratic debates, saying “my spot on that stage isn’t guaranteed unless I reach 65,000 donors.”

One way candidates can qualify for the debate is if they raise money from 65,000 unique donors as well as from 200 unique donors in at least 20 states. 

Rounding out the top five Democratic spenders were Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($67,275), Marianne Williamson ($64,634), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar ($48,379).

President Trump has dominated Facebook spending this year, buying ads through both his official campaign committee, Donald J. Trump for President Inc., and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint effort of the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Many of Trump’s ads last week focused on themes such as the Mueller Report, the southern border wall, and the news media. There were often requests for donations with phrases such as “DONATE NOW to show you want to FINISH THE WALL!”

Facebook started the political ad archive in May 2018 to increase transparency and “to help prevent abuse, especially during elections.”

All election-related and issues ads must now be labeled with who paid for the ad. Facebook users can see how much a campaign spent on an ad and how many people saw it.

Inslee on immigration: 'We are not afraid of diversity'

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee criticized President Trump's suggestion of sending detained immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities, accusing Trump of trying to promote "bombastic chaos."

Inslee told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the plan won't work because those in sanctuary cities, which are typically Democratic-leaning areas, will be ready with open arms. 

"You can’t threaten somebody with something they aren’t afraid of and we are not afraid of diversity in the state of Washington.”

"We relish it, it is the basis of our economic and cultural success," he said, adding that the state has a long history of accepting refugees. 

Biden and Sanders sitting atop Iowa, New Hampshire polls as Buttigieg vaults to third

WASHINGTON —Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders are in first and second place respectively in two new polls of Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats, with South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg riding his newfound notoriety into third place in both states. 

In Saint Anselm University's New Hampshire poll, Biden leads with 23 percent, followed by Sanders' 16 percent and Buttigieg's 11 percent.

No other candidate hits double digits, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in fourth place with 8.7 percent and California Sen. Kamala Harris and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke with 6.8 and 6.4 percent respectively.

In Monmouth University's Iowa poll, Biden has 27 percent support, followed by Sanders' 16 percent, Buttigieg's 9 percent and then Harris and Warren, who are tied at 7 percent. 

The polls show Biden and Sanders as the only candidates with universal name identification in both states, with Warren sporting near-perfect name identification in her neighboring state of New Hampshire. 

While Biden's favorable rating dipped almost 10 percent in New Hampshire since St. Anselm's February poll, he's still sporting the best net-favorable rating in both polls. 

Sanders is viewed favorably by two-thirds of likely voters in both the New Hampshire and Iowa polls. But he has the highest unfavorable rating, 26 percent, in the Iowa poll, and trails Warren for the highest unfavorable rating in the New Hampshire poll. 

The Vermont senator finished second behind Democrat Hillary Clinton by a razor-thin margin in the 2016 Iowa caucuses, while he won the 2016 New Hampshire primary by more than 22 points. 

Monmouth's poll also found that 49 percent of likely caucus-goers feel it's "very important" that their party's nominee supports "Medicare for All," while 31 percent feel the same way about support for the Green New Deal. 

That poll is also the third poll considered under the Democratic National Committee's debate qualifications where former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and entrepreneur Andrew Yang reached at least 1 percent. Candidates can either qualify by hitting the 1 percent mark in three qualifying polls or hitting a grassroots fundraising threshold.

But since the party will use tiebreakers to winnow down the debate participants if more than 20 candidates qualify, they are not assured to be on stage for the party's first debate in June. 

Monmouth polled 351 likely caucusgoers between April 4 and April 9 and its poll has a margin-of-error of 5.2 percent. Saint Anselm polled 326 likely voters between April 3 and April 8 and the poll has a error margin of 5.4 percent. 

How smart is the American electorate? Your answer might depend on your party

WASHINGTON — When most politicians ask for your vote, they often say something about how they put their faith in the wisdom of the American people.  

But most American voters … don’t.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that six-in-ten Americans say they don’t have much faith in the public to make wise decisions when it comes to politics.

That’s not exactly new. A Pew poll in March of 2018 found a similar number, and confidence in the political wisdom of the public has mostly been on the decline since the mid-1990s. The last time the survey found a majority of Americans feeling upbeat about the decision-making of their fellow voters was in January of 2007, after Democrats walloped the party of a deeply unpopular George W. Bush in the 2006 midterm elections.

But what might be most surprising is how the two parties have shifted since the 2016 election.

While Republicans and Democrats were generally aligned in their declining faith in the public’s political savvy between 1997 and March of 2016, Trump’s election prompted a skyrocketing of confidence in the public from GOP voters, who witnessed the stunning victory of their once-dismissed nominee.

Between March 2016 and March 2018, Republicans who said they had confidence in the public’s political smarts jumped from 35 percent to 54 percent.

Democrats, interestingly, didn’t see a dramatic corresponding decline in confidence over the same period of time.

The latest poll out today from Pew, though, finds that the GOP’s newfound enthusiasm for the prudence of America’s voters has waned since the 2018 midterms. In the wake of an election that gave House Democrats their biggest victory since Watergate, Republicans’ faith in their fellow voters fell back to Earth — at 43 percent.

 

Graphic via Pew Research Center

Trump tweets inaccurate Fox Business graphic on his approval rating

WASHINGTON — In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump screenshotted a poll graphic from the Fox Business Network that appeared to show his “soaring approval,” with his overall approval rating — it said — at 55 percent and his approval on the economy at 58 percent.

The problem? The graphic was half wrong.  

The Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Poll cited in the graphic did, in fact, find his approval rating on the ECONOMY at 58 percent.

But his overall approval rating in the poll was just 43 percent. His disapproval rating stands at 52 percent.

Fifty-five percent was actually Trump’s UNFAVORABLE rating in a separate question.

You can see the full Georgetown poll here.

** UPDATE: Fox Business Network issued a correction for the erroneous graphic on air after the president's tweet. 

What was said on air: "It’s been a quite start to the day for President Trump, though he did send out a tweet this morning from the Lou Dobbs show last night on Fox Business. That tweet featured a poll that was not entirely accurate, which Fox Business would like to correct.  According to a poll from Georgetown University, 58 percent of respondents approved of the president’s handling of the economy. That portion of the graphic was right. However, the graphic also showed that 55 percent of the respondents approve of the president, that number is not correct. The 55 percent number was those who have an unfavorable impression of President Trump.”

Here's the original tweet from Trump that contains the error: 

Warren and Booker impress at union conference

WASHINGTON — A pair of northeastern senators appeared to leave the strongest impression among union leaders at national conference here today at which nine declared-and-possible presidential candidates appeared.   

Interviews with union leaders from Seattle to New York City showed enthusiasm for most of the Democrats who spoke to the North American Building Trades Unions, but none more so than Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren.

Union members gave Warren, who received standing ovations for her calls to protect pensions, fight right-to-work laws, and combat the opioid crisis, credit for her longtime solidarity with organized labor.  “She’s been with us for years," said Dennis Fleming, a sprinkler-fitter from Chicago. “We do recognize all that she’s done and stood behind us.”

Booker’s impassioned remarks, covering everything from trade policy, to his college football days at Stanford drew plaudits.  “Being from the Northeast, I enjoyed hearing Cory Booker," said Michael Halpin, a national coordinator with the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund. "But all of them were very impressive. It’s really, really early in the game."

Attendees said they were looking for candidates to specifically focus on prevailing wages, proactive labor agreements, protecting the right to organize, and anything that could advance union density across the country. 

But the slew of Democratic candidates also have challenges in winning back many of these workers who voted for President Trump in the 2016 election after years of loyalty to their party. The crowd at the conference was largely made up of white men, a demographic that has tended more and more away from Democrats, especially in industrial areas.

“It’s going to take a special niche to beat the current president," said Vance Ayres, who works as the governmental affairs director for the International Union of Elevator Constructors. "He ran on an agenda where he got elected because he wasn’t a career politician and the country is tired of politics and career politicians."

"You’re going to have to have somebody that’s dynamic enough if they’ve spent some time in politics to get elected to beat the current president," Ayres added. "You’re going to have to elect a real person."

Other 2020 Democrats who spoke at the conference include: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and  California Eric Swalwell. 

Warren brings in $6 million in first fundraising quarter

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren raised $6 million in 2019's first quarter, her campaign announced Wednesday, helping to ease concerns that her grassroots fundraising capabilities were lagging behind her counterparts in the 2020 field.

The fundraising haul is competitive with her fellow 2020 Democratic hopefuls. But Warren stands out in the field for her decision to forego high-dollar fundraisers and donor dialing, a decision that prompted worries about her ability to fundraise competitively. 

"Grassroots donations are the only reason Elizabeth can keep setting the tone for this race with substance and determination for big structural change," her campaign manager, Roger Lau, wrote in an email sent Wednesday afternoon.

In that same email from her campaign, Lau cautions looking "at the number of grassroots donors — and donations — other candidates report" — a subtle dig at the rest of the field, and a reminder that Warren is not just talking the talk on forsaking donors or corporate PAC money, but living her principles.

Warren boasted a $28 overall donation average from 135,000 grassroots donors making more than 213,000 donations. According to the campaign, ninety-nine percent of donations were less than $200. She heads into the next phase of the 2020 race with $11.2 million cash on hand, with a large amount of that transferred over from her Senate account. 

That cash-on-hand number suggests she spent more than $5 million this cycle. 

The full accounting of candidates’ first quarter fundraising will be available by April 15, when the campaigns have to file reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Monica Alba

Trump’s Twitter account runs into controversy again

WASHINGTON — A dramatic, movie-trailer style Twitter video shared Tuesday by President Trump is the latest example of social media habits that have, at times, backfired for the White House.

The two-minute highlight reel, now disabled due to a claim of copyright infringement, featured Trump prevailing over a montage of his favorite “villains” (including Barack Obama, the Clintons, mainstream media and Hollywood stars), set to the sweeping score from Christopher Nolan’s 2012 film, “The Dark Knight Rises.” Warner Brothers said Tuesday that the use of the score was “unauthorized.”

Neither the re-elect team nor the White House had any hand in making the video, according to two campaign officials. Instead, it was made by one of the president’s most ardent fans. “We like to share content from diehard supporters, and this is just another example of how hard Trump supporters fight for the president,” a campaign aide said.   

It’s not the first time Trump has shared a promotional video made by one of his online admirers. Just last week, the @realDonaldTrump tweeted a doctored video of former Vice President Joe Biden from his explanation video posted after allegations of inappropriate violation of personal space.

That video originated from a Twitter user who creates memes “in support of Donald Trump,” according to his bio. White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino had tweeted and linked to it from his personal account, prior to the president blasting it to nearly 60 million people.

Both the Biden and the 2020 videos lacked any kind of attribution or explanation of provenance when sent from the president’s profile. On other occasions, Trump has retweeted questionable and controversial content that was later linked to largely conspiratorial and white nationalist accounts.

In the hours before Tuesday’s video was disabled by Twitter, it had already been viewed 1.8 million times.

The Trump re-elect team expressed displeasure with the decision to pull the video “made by an every day American in good fun.” Campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted Wednesday morning: “AT&T now owns CNN and is positioning themselves as a weapon of the left.”

Trump's meetings with Kim Jong Un and Jair Bolsonaro are highlighted in the ad, as well as Justice Brett Kavanaugh and presidential daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump. Cabinet secretaries, like Wilbur Ross and recently departed Kirstjen Nielsen, even make an appearance.

But one person notably missing from the promo previewing the 2020 fight? Vice President Mike Pence. 

2020 roundup: Biden leads Harris in California

WASHINGTON —Joe Biden leads the pack of Democratic White House hopefuls in a new Qunnipiac University poll of California Democrats that puts the former vice president ahead of Oakland-born California Sen. Kamala Harris. 

Biden wins over 26 percent of California Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters in the new poll, with Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Harris close behind at 18 and 17 percent respectively. 

Sanders' lead over Harris is well within the 4.1 percent margin of error. But the poll shows how Biden and Sanders continue to have a decent hold on Democratic voters, even in a state where Harris has strong name ID. 

The new poll is also one of the first major surveys to take the temperature of Democrats responding to allegations Biden has made women uncomfortable by touching them over the years. 

Two thirds of the Democrats and Democratic-leaners say the issue is not serious, and that margin is virtually the same among female registered voters of any party identification. Younger voters or more likely to view the issue as serious, but a majority of those still do not find the issue serious. 

Click here for more on the poll, and read on for more from the 2020 beat. 

  • Sanders is releasing his latest Medicare for All bill in the Senate, with the backing of fellow 2020 Democrats like Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have co-signed the legislation.
  • Former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday at a trade union conference in Washington D.C. that he will make a decision on whether to run for president "in a couple of weeks." 
  • Warren, who had previously released tax returns from 2008-2017, released her 2018 returns on Wednesday. The documents show that she and her husband had a combined income of about $900,000 and paid an effective tax rate of about 27 percent. 

Poll: 58 percent of voters approve of President Trump's handling of the economy

WASHINGTON — Voters’ attitudes about the economy will be the driving force in the next presidential election, according to the first Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service “Battleground Poll” of the 2020 cycle.

The national bipartisan survey of registered voters, released Tuesday, found that 59 percent of voters say they are very or somewhat worried about an economic downturn. 

While President Trump’s overall unfavorable rating has remained steady at 55 percent since he announced his candidacy in 2015, 58 percent of voters approve of the job he has done on the economy.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners said the Democratic Party will need to focus on the economy or “it will find itself in serious jeopardy for the 2020 election.”

Lake has conducted the “Battleground Poll” since 1991 with Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group.

In his analysis, Goeas sees the economy as a way for Trump “to win over voters who might be put off by his sometimes abrasive personal style.”

Another key takeaway from the survey is that voters are already highly engaged, with 82 percent saying they are extremely likely to vote. But there is a deep partisan divide when it comes to whether the country is on the right track.

While 57 percent of voters overall say the country is on the wrong track, 74 percent of Republicans think the country is going in the right direction.

That's compared to 92 percent of Democrats who say the country is on the wrong track.

Gender will play a role in 2020, with men saying they'll vote Republican by a 9-point margin while women say they'll vote Democratic by an 18-point margin on a generic Congressional ballot.

This gender gap has been mainly caused by a decline in support for Republicans among married white women and white women overall. On the issue of the economy, however, President Trump still has a 58 percent approval from white women and a 63 percent approval from married white women.

The "Battleground Poll" surveyed 1,000 registered voters considered "likely" to vote in 2020 between March 31 and April 4. The margin of error is 3.1 percent. 

 

Pence and GOP push back on Buttigieg's criticism

WASHINGTON — Mike Pence’s office and Republicans are pushing back after Democrat Pete Buttigieg starting invoking the vice president on the campaign trail as a bogeyman to call out the GOP for hostility to same-sex marriage and other gay rights policies.

Buttigieg’s condemnation of Pence’s record on gay rights has resonated particularly strongly with Democrats because of their longstanding personal experience working together. Pence was governor of Indiana when Buttigieg came out as gay and then sought and won re-election as mayor of South Bend.

Buttigieg starting ramping up the line of attack on Pence over the weekend, when he said he wishes “the Mike Pences of the world would understand that if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” He also said his same-sex marriage “has made me a better man, and yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.”

Today, Republicans started hitting back, pointing out that Pence has actually praised Buttigieg in the past — including the day after Buttigieg came out as gay in 2015.

The vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, tweeted out a link to Pence saying he held the South Bend mayor “in the highest personal regard. I see him as a dedicated public servant and a patriot.” And the Indiana Republican Party blasted out reminders of times when Pence complimented Buttigieg’s work as mayor and deployment to Afghanistan in 2014.

“Now that Buttigieg is spending more time in Washington, D.C., Iowa and New Hampshire and neglecting his day job in South Bend, it seems that some of his recent statements have become detached from reality — especially when it comes to Vice President Mike Pence,” says Kyle Hupfer, the Indiana GOP chairman.

Even the vice president’s wife, Karen Pence, took issue with Buttigieg’s critiques, telling Fox News Radio on Tuesday that Buttigieg was attacking her husband “to get some notoriety.” She said Buttigieg and Pence “really have always had a great relationship.” 

“I think in our country we need to understand you shouldn’t be attacked for what your religious beliefs are,” Karen Pence said.

Buttigieg pushed back on Twitter today, writing that “People will often be polite to you in person, while advancing policies that harm you and your family. You will be polite to them in turn, but you need not stand for such harms. Instead, you push back, honestly and emphatically.”

In the past, Buttigieg has also described Pence as having “fanatical” views about homosexuality and said that “it chills a lot of us, especially in the LGBTQ community, to see that somebody like that can be in that kind of position of power.”

North Carolina Democrat banks $1.6 million in three months ahead of special election

WASHINGTON — North Carolina Democratic House hopeful Dan McCready says he raised $1.6 million in the first three months of 2019 as he gears up for the special election triggered by allegations of absentee-ballot fraud during his congressional race last year. 

McCready's haul is significant, particularly for an off-year. And it almost matches the $1.65 million McCready raised in the final fundraising quarter before his 2018 matchup with Republican Mark Harris. 

The Democrat's campaign added in a statement that it closed the quarter with $1.46 million in cash on hand. A full accounting of McCready’s fundraising in the first fundraising quarter will be filed with the Federal Election Commission by April 15. 

While Harris appeared to have emerged victorious in the 9th District race last November with a narrow, 905 vote lead, state officials never certified the result because of allegations of fraud. 

Further investigation by prosecutors and the state Board of Elections unearthed allegations that an operative working with the Harris' campaign was involved in a scheme that improperly handled absentee ballots.

The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was indicted for his alleged role in the scheme. And the state board ordered that the district hold another election because the 2018 results had been tainted. 

McCready is expected to win the Democratic primary for the fall's special election, but there's more uncertainty on the other side. In 2018, Harris edged out Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger in the GOP primary, but has said he would not run again in the special election, citing health concerns.

2020 roundup: Sanders again promises to make tax returns public

MALCOM, IA — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders promised to release his tax returns "very very shortly," but did not specify exactly when in an interview with NBC News. 

"April 15th is coming and we’re gonna do our taxes for this year and that will be the tenth year," Sanders said. In February, the senator promised to release them "sooner than later" during a televised town hall on CNN. 

Asked by NBC why he won't release what he has so far, he said "We are, [just] not right this minute," before joking "you think I have them in my back pocket?"

Other Democratic candidates have already released their tax returns, in the hopes of putting pressure on both their intra-party rivals as well as President Trump, who has repeatedly refused to release his returns. 

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee have all released their returns for this year. And Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren released 10 years of returns last year. 

There's far more brewing on the 2020 trail than just this story—read on for a roundup of what you may have missed. 

  • New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker's campaign announced it raised $5 million in the first fundraising quarter and has $6.1 million on hand. There are still some question marks—including how much the campaign transferred from Booker's Senate account, how much it spent and how many individual donors gave to the campaign—that will be answered once candidates officially file by April 15. 
  • Politico reports that a top aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving over to the mayor's political action committee as de Blasio weighs a run for president. De Blasio was in Nevada this past weekend for an event. 
  • NBC's Morgan Radford and Aaron Franco profile the "Breakfast Club" radio show, which is turning into an important stop for 2020 Democratic hopefuls looking to reach out to minority listeners.