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Former Republican congressman will run for Senate against Mark Warner
WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Scott Taylor, the Virginia Republican who lost his seat in the 2018 midterms, announced his decision Monday to run for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2020.
Taylor made his announcement on "Fox and Friends," arguing that "we need a fresh start in the Senate" and highlighting his support for term limits. Warner is finishing his second term in the Senate after a stint as governor.
In a video released Monday morning, Taylor reminisced about his small-town childhood and how his participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program helped turn him away from a life down the "wrong path" as well as highlighting his service as a Navy SEAL.
And he evoked the scandals surrounding Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring (Northam and Herring admitted to wearing blackface decades ago and Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault) to take a swipe at Democratic leadership in the state.
Earlier this year, Warner called on Fairfax to resign if the allegations made against him were true. He also called on Northam to resign and joined the Virginia congressional delegation in condemning Herring.
Taylor, who lost his congressional seat to Democrat Elaine Luria last year, immediately becomes the highest-profile potential challenger to Warner. But he faces an uphill battle in a Virginia that has been moving away from Republicans in recent years.
The GOP hasn't won a statewide race since the 2009 gubernatorial election; Warner typically polls well in the state and is a solid fundraiser; and Taylor could be dogged by an investigation into his campaign regarding fake petition signatures it submitted on behalf of a Democratic candidate.
One of Taylor's former staffers has since been indicted for election fraud.
O’Rourke to kick off New Hampshire swing with focus on immigration reform
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke will bring attention to the border crisis when he returns here Friday, with plans to highlight his plans for immigration reform by attending a Lights for Liberty vigil to end human detention camps. O’Rourke is the first Democratic presidential candidate to announce participation in one of more than 500 vigils planned worldwide on July 12, which highlight inhumane and unsafe conditions experienced by immigrant children and asylum-seekers at detention facilities throughout the U.S.
“He will join us in New Hampshire to share his vision for a humane immigration policy written in our own image and urge Granite Staters to stand up and take action,” said Mike Ollen, O’Rourke’s New Hampshire state director. “Beto knows that in a democracy, where the people are the government and the government is the people, these inhumane policies are on all of us, and it’s up to us to change them.”
The event in Peterborough will kick off O’Rourke’s fourth visit to New Hampshire since announcing his run for the presidency, having visited all 10 counties in the state within his first visit. It also follows a sweeping immigration reform plan that he rolled out in May, which plans to reverse President Trump’s positions and actions while also aiming to rebuild immigration and naturalization systems.
O’Rourke has also visited three separate facilities holding migrant children in the last two weeks, including Homestead in Florida during the first democratic primary debate.
During his visit to the Homestead facility in Florida last month, O’Rourke said his “top priority is to stop these practices” and “to reunify every family that has been separated, and to make sure that we truly living our values and living our promise to this country. America means something, and we are losing that meaning every day that this continues.”
O’Rourke is taking his ideas on immigration reform directly to voters here in the first-in-the-nation state, aiming to ease fears of deportation for hundreds of New Hampshire DREAMers, protect residents with Temporary Protected Status, reform asylum laws, increase visa caps, eliminate concerns about future funding diversions and prevent transfers of northern border CBP agents to the southern border.
Merkley addresses why he hasn't endorsed Sanders again for 2020
WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the only senator who endorsed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential bid, said Sunday he hasn't repeated that endorsement for 2020 yet because he's looking forward to a "robust debate" among his party's presidential hopefuls.
Appearing on "Meet the Press," Merkley specifically pointed to the fact that "Hillary Clinton is not a candidate" this time when asked why he hasn't endorsed any candidate this cycle.
"We have a lot of capable individuals who are running who do understand the kitchen table. And I'm really looking forward to them laying out that vision, getting America excited about returning to the fundamentals of taking on health care, and housing, and education, infrastructure, living-wage jobs, the things that have been incredibly neglected and set aside by this administration," he said.
"Hillary Clinton is not a candidate. So we have a different set of cards this time, and I'm looking forward to hearing from all of them," he added, comparing the 2020 election cycle to the 2016 one.
Trump's Fourth of July event isn't completely unprecedented
WASHINGTON — When President Trump makes his Fourth of July speech at the Lincoln Memorial, flanked by military tanks and complete with a flyover of military jets, he won’t be the first president to insert himself into the holiday.
In 1970, in the midst of the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon had a previously-recorded speech played on screens in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The event was marketed as nonpartisan, just like President Trump’s event is being advertised, but it was largely overshadowed by anti-war protesters who screamed at speakers and waived the Vietcong flag. You can read the Washington Post's look back at the event here.
Nixon’s Fourth of July celebration, even though he wasn’t actually present, seems to be the only modern parallel for the event President Trump is planning. However, presidents have often used the Fourth of July to make speeches, and attend rallies.
At the bicentennial in 1976, President Gerald Ford spoke to a crowd in Philadelphia. In 2002, the first Fourth of July celebration after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush spoke in West Virginia about the newly deployed soldiers in the War on Terror. Prior to Nixon’s televised speech in 1970, President Truman made a Fourth of July address on the National Mall at the Washington Monument in 1951.
For the most part, presidents have spent the holiday at the White House with military families, attending naturalization ceremonies, or visiting other states — Teddy Roosevelt often made a speech in Oyster Bay, New York at his summer home Sagamore Hill.
Biden raised $21.5 million in second quarter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden will report raising $21.5 million for his campaign in the second quarter of this year, reflecting a mix of traditional high-dollar fundraisers and small-dollar, online giving by his supporters.
The total lags behind at least two rivals who have also announced totals for the last three months, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, who raised $24.8 million and $18 million, respectively. But the Biden campaign notes that he did not enter the 2020 race until more than three weeks after the start of the fundraising period, arguing that total beats his rivals on a per-day basis.
Biden’s total offers the first complete picture of his fundraising strength as the putative frontrunner in the Democratic primary race. In the first 24 hours of his campaign in late April, his campaign said he raised $6.3 million from almost 97,000 donors, the most of any other Democratic candidate.
In an email to supporters, the campaign says 97 percent of its donations were from so-called grassroots supporters giving less than $200, and that the average donation was $49. The campaign says it received 436,000 total donations from 256,000 donors. All of the money raised was for the primary election.
Biden has held 27 high-dollar fundraisers since entering, according to an NBC News tally. Though he has been criticized by some opponents who have rejected attending high dollar events, he often thanks his donors for writing large checks that allow him to compete in ways that he has “never been able to before” as the frontrunner.
At a New York City fundraiser, Biden told the crowd that his donors are “essentially saying, ‘I respect this person. I think this person will do a good job.'”
The campaign also has said Biden had some of his best online fundraising periods since last week’s debate.
Buttigieg rolls out new public service plan
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg Wednesday unveiled a new public service initiative as he kicks off a trip to the first caucus state for the 4th of July holiday. His proposal, called “A New Call to Service,” aims to build a network of 1 million National Service Members by July 4, 2026 — the 250th anniversary of America’s independence.
The South Bend, Indiana mayor’s three-step plan includes increased funding for local and national service organizations and developing new service corps to tackle issues including climate change.
Buttigieg says it's based on his belief that national service enables Americans to form connections between “very different” kinds of people, a lesson he learned during his military service.
“I served alongside and trusted my life to people who held totally different political views,” he said in a statement to NBC News, “You shouldn’t have to go to war in order to have that kind of experience.”
Buttigieg says he plans to fund the Serve America Act to increase service opportunities from 75,000 to 250,000 in existing federal and AmeriCorps programs. His campaign said funding this plan would cost approximately $20 billion over 10 years.
In 2009, President Obama signed the original Serve America Act, allocating $5.7 billion dollars over five years to increase the size of AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 volunteers.
Currently programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps are competitive but acceptance rates remain low, at 13 percent and 25 percent respectively. AmeriCorps was incorporated into JFK’s VISTA program in 1993, while the Peace Corp also began under JFK’s initiative in 1961.
Buttigieg’s plan would target students in high school, community college, and vocational schools, in addition to those who attend historically black colleges and universities and youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working.
The next step in Buttigieg’s plan would be to create grant opportunities for local municipalities to create “service ecosystems” tailored to regional issues.
Buttigieg also hopes to create new service opportunities including a Climate Corps focused on resilience and conservation; a Community Health Corps to target mental health, addiction and substance abuse issues; and a Service Corps focused on mentorship and intergenerational service opportunities.
The policy would include consideration of public service in student debt forgiveness, vocational training, and hiring preference for service fellows.
The campaign has not yet released details on how much this proposal will cost or how they intend to pay for it. At least half the Democratic presidential field has talked about national service and a few have released their own policies on the issue.
Sanders pulls in $18 million from grassroots fundraising in second quarter
The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign on Tuesday announced it had raised $18 million in the second quarter of this year, which ended on June 30.
That figure is down slightly from the Vermont senator’s first quarter haul of $18.2 million, and far less than rival South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s $24.8 million second quarter haul. But Sanders is raising money entirely from grassroots contributors while Buttigieg is soliciting both grassroots donors and large individual contributors.
The Sanders campaign also transferred $6 million from Sanders’ Senate and political action committees and had $6 million left over from the first quarter, bringing its total amount of cash on hand to $30 million.
The campaign has received nearly one million individual donations, with 99.3 percent of the donations at $100 or less for the second quarter.
The average donation for the quarter was $18, the campaign said, with nearly half of donors under the age of 40.
Sanders has only held one fund raising event — a “grassroots fundraiser” at a bar in San Francisco on June 1 where a donation of $27 per attendee was requested. The campaign says $80,000 was raised at that event.
“We don’t have to raise the most money,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said. “Most people in this country know Bernie Sanders.”
Weaver told reporters on the call that the campaign believes they can do with a little less than other candidates. “We are much more efficient than the others,” he said.
Delaney announces opioid policy plan ahead of 100th New Hampshire state visit
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney Tuesday released a new policy to combat the opioid epidemic in the United States. In a statement announcing the new policy, the Democratic presidential candidate says he “would implement policies to not only address the scope of the ongoing epidemic, but support policies to prevent new cases of addiction.”
Delaney’s policy plan details four key ways that he intends to fight the opioid epidemic in his administration:
- Strengthening prevention efforts by setting new prescription and education requirements for physicians and administrators, expanding access to alternative pain management options, strengthening federal enforcement to reduce the supply of illicit opioids, and holding pharmaceutical executives responsible for fueling the epidemic.
- Ensuring access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment through maintaining funding to states for building out treatments, expanding mental health parity laws, expanding access to treatments in the criminal justice system, strengthening programs to help pregnant and post-partum women get access to treatment, and more.
- Investing in recovery programs to help those who enter stay in recovery through job training and placement services, including housing support and other social services.
- Funding for programs such as new block grants for states to implement a 2 cent tax on each milligram of an active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill.
Delaney will hold his 100th event in New Hampshire Tuesday, where local residents helped bring national attention to the worsening opioid crisis during the 2016 presidential election. It is a part of a three-day swing through the Granite State. New Hampshire ranks in the top five states with the highest rate of opioid-involved overdose deaths according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, with 420 related deaths last year. In the U.S., an average of 130 people die from drug overdoses involving opioids every day.
Going it alone: Booker proposes day-one immigration fixes that don’t need congress
DALLAS — As Democratic presidential candidates have struggled to explain how they would enact ambitious policy agendas over the opposition of a Senate that could still be controlled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Tuesday laid out a slate of immigration proposals that could be enacted entirely by executive order.
“When kids are being stripped away from their parents and held in cages, I will not wait for Congress to solve this crisis,” Booker said in a statement, announcing the proposals. “On day one of my presidency, I will take immediate steps to end this administration’s moral vandalism.”
Booker's proposals focus on unwinding most of President Trump’s executive actions on the border, including ending the so-called “remain in Mexico” policy and immediately restoring protections for Dreamers and those with other forms of temporary legal status, and reversing the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.
The plan also focuses heavily on ending detention of migrants, both by phasing out contracts with private, state and local prisons, and by raising standards and accountability requirements for federal facilities, forcing them to either greatly improve conditions, or close.
With the release of his slate of executive actions, Booker joins other top tier candidates including former Vice President Joseph Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former congressman Beto O’Rourke and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro in outlining comprehensive immigration reform plans.
Tim Ryan rolls out plans for public education reform
BOSTON — Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, is rolling out a new plan to treat education as a federal right by investing $50 billion into federal programs to transform all public schools into community schools that blend resources from both the school systems and the communities that they serve.
These public community schools would focus on four distinct goals: integrated student supports; expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities; collaborative leadership and practices, and active family and community engagement.
In his proposal, Ryan gives a shout out to LeBron James,’ citing the Ohio basketball legend’s "I Promise School" in his congressional district as a model example of community schools. “But you shouldn’t need a superstar to come from your community to fulfill the guarantee of a high-quality education in this country,” Ryan says in the text of the plan.
Ryan is set to unveil his plan Monday at the American School Counselor Association Annual Conference in Boston before making two campaign stops in New Hampshire. His policy announcement comes on the heels of his comments at the first Democratic debate, in which he emphasized the need for social and emotional learning in every school.
“We need to start playing offense,” said Ryan during the debate last Wednesday. “If our kids are so traumatized that they're getting a gun and going into our schools, we're doing something wrong, too, and we need reform a trauma-based care.”
Ryan’s approach includes implementing policies in four key categories:
- Well-prepared and supported teachers and leaders: Support a diverse and well-prepared teacher work force by supplying them with the tools and resources they need, as well as health and wellness support.
- Wraparound services: Provide students and their families the support they need to learn effectively through nutritional services, as well as mental, social, and physical health services.
- Social-emotional and academic learning: Teach students conflict resolution and how to set goals, make responsible decisions, and maintain positive relationships.
- 21st Century college and career-ready pathways: Provide students with programs to explore their futures, including “curricula and a continuum of high-quality work-based learning opportunities rooted in modern business and industry practices.”
Ryan also added that as president, he would work with Congress to pass the Rebuild America’s Schools Act to invest $100 billion into school infrastructure.
Harris highlights long backing of LGBTQ marriage rights at San Francisco pride
SAN FRANCISCO — After a Democratic debate performance for which she was widely lauded, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., returned to her home state Sunday to tout her history of defending LGBTQ rights, particularly her support for gay marriage.
Speaking in front of thousands from outside San Francisco City Hall, where she first officiated weddings after California began recognizing same-sex marriages in 2004, Harris said she was a supporter early on.
“As you know, 15 years ago, [there were] not a lot of Democrats who were on board with it," she said. "But we said, ‘no, civil unions [are] not good enough. We’re going to perform marriages.’ And that’s what we did here in 2004.’ Remember that,”
Harris spoke to the annual pride breakfast in San Francisco before riding a red Mustang through the streets of the city. She then spoke from outside City Hall, recalling her decision as the California attorney general to not defend Proposition 8, a measure approved by California voters in 2008 that would have statutorily written marriage in the state to be only between a man and a woman
After years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately kicked the measure back down to a lower federal court, which had previously nullified the gay marriage ban in California.
“I was so proud to come right back here to San Francisco City Hall and perform the first marriage of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier,” Harris said on Sunday.
Perry and Stier, the two plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case, spoke at a fundraiser for Harris on Saturday night.
“Your leadership frankly by not defending [Prop 8] lead the way to the Supreme Court striking it down,” Kris Perry, one of the plaintiffs, said, “You led us all in a giant exhale over the end of a hateful law.”
In an interview with NBC News from the parade route on Sunday, Harris rebuked the current White House administration’s policies impacting LGBTQ individuals.
“We have a current occupant in the White House who has been silent on so many issues that have included an increase in hate crime, [and] a policy that has been about excluding and kicking out transgender men and women from the military,” Harris said. “I think this is a moment where everyone knows we want to have champions for equality in our country, and we don’t currently have that in the White House.”
Castro on his immigration plan: 'Nobody's talking about open borders'
WASHINGTON — Former HUD Sec. Julián Castro defended his proposal to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings during an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday, arguing that America needs a more "humane" and "effective" approach to the border.
Castro's plan drew widespread attention this week when he challenged former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke on immigration.
When asked whether concerns about that part of his immigration plan could play into President Trump's criticism that Democrats are for "open borders," Castro swatted that characterization aside.
"Number one, the president is going to call Democrats as being for open borders no matter what we say. Nobody's talking about open borders," he said.
"We have 654 miles of fencing, we have thousands of personnel at the border, we have planes, we have helicopters, we have guns, we have boats, we have security cameras. States like Texas — my home state that I'm in right now — spent an extra $800 million on border security. That's just a right wing talking point."
He went onto argue that, on top of "maintaining a secure border," the American government should invest in Central and South American countries in order to improve the conditions so that less migrants try to come to America. He also pushed for an independent immigration court and an influx of more judges to help adjudicate immigration cases faster.
Harris campaign touts $2 million post-debate haul
MIAMI — Sen. Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign announced Saturday that it raised $2 million in the 24 hours following her participation in Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Miami, a haul that added up to the best single day of fundraising since the California Democrat launched her candidacy in January.
Harris spokesman Ian Sams said that 63,277 donors gave to the campaign in that 24-hour window, adding that 58 percent of those individuals were first-time donors. The average donation was $30.
By comparison, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro tweeted that more than 11,000 new donors contributed to his campaign in a similar time window while CNN reported that Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. brought in 4,000 new donors.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has yet to release comparative figures, though senior advisers touted “incredible” hauls that were the campaign’s best since its launch.
Biden already in mid-June hinted that he had raised $19 million for his campaign to date. The fundraising filing deadline for the second quarter for campaigns is on Sunday. He, as well as Harris, are attending fundraisers for their campaigns in California this weekend. Harris raised $12 million in the first two months of her campaign.
Granite State voters largely impressed with debate performances
MANCHESTER, N.H. — While the political pundits have weighed in on the first 2020 Democratic debates, it's going to be the voters in early primary states who will ultimately choose the party’s presidential nominee.
Voters who took in the debates at watch parties across New Hampshire shared their impressions with NBC News after the two-night debate featuring 20 candidates.
In the towns of Londonderry and Dover, several undecided voters said they thought Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., did notably well in the first debate Wednesday night while former HUD Sec. Julián Castro was a surprise standout, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke performed under expectations.
Zak Koehler and Rick Kincaid from Dover, NH, were among those who thought the first night's discussion was substantive.
“I actually liked how there was some back and forth between some of the candidates because you could see what they were actually feeling and what they wanted to talk about as a main issue in their candidacy,” said Koehler.
“It’s just nice to hear presidential candidates speak with full sentences and proper grammar and actually make a statement and back it up with a good argument,” Kincaid added.
Some attendees had hoped more New Hampshire-specific policies would have been addressed, including Jackie Wood, a senior citizen from Londonderry concerned about infrastructure.
“I'm in a rural town where my driveway is 300 feet straight up, and how am I going to go food shopping when I'm older?” said Wood. “I think we really [need] transportation, and that was not addressed at all."
On night two, voters at debate watch parties in Lebanon and Somersworth agreed that former Vice President Joe Biden underperformed while Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., stood out with strong moments, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stuck to his messages, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was specific in his answers.
“I was really impressed by the specific policy changes that Senator Sanders proposed and also Buttigieg,” said Weati Punni, a first time voter in Lebanon, NH. “I came in knowing that Bernie would [have] strong points but Buttigieg I was really surprised by.
“I think he really dropped the ball,” Punni also said of Biden. “Specifically with this challenge by Senator Harris on racial justice just wasn't really able to answer for his political past.”
“I think Kamala’s moment, when she said ‘that little girl was me,’ was a surprise to me and other people in the room that were watching,” said Crystal Paradis, an organizer from Somersworth, NH. “That was a really powerful way of bringing it back to a personal story."
Granite State voters will get to see more of the candidates in the coming weeks as ten contenders are set to visit — including Biden, Harris, Booker and Buttigieg.
Pete Buttigieg scores positive response from some South Bend debate-watchers
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A group of nearly 20 people gathered at the Greater St. Matthew Church in South Bend Thursday night to watch their mayor, Pete Buttigieg, on the presidential debate stage.
When Buttigieg was grilled about the police shooting that has roiled the city and the lack of racial diversity on the city's police force, the mostly black audience said they were pleased with his responses overall.
"For him to go on the stage and take ownership for what has happened in the city and what policies he's put in place that have failed, and taking that ownership and saying he's failed but he's working towards making something better? That meant a lot that showed that he's not just here to run, to be president," South Bend resident Edward Thomas said.
That "ownership" was in response to moderator Rachel Maddow asking Buttigieg why the South Bend police force under his leadership hasn't diversified. The city is 26 percent black, while the police force is only 6 percent black.
"I couldn't get it done," Buttigieg said Thursday night. He added, "I could walk you through all of the things that we have done as a community. All of the steps that we took from bias training to deescalation but it didn't save the life of Eric Logan."
However, some debate-watchers like Eli Cantu who has lived in South Bend for decades since moving from McAllen, Texas felt that the confidence Buttigieg exuded in his answers on the national stage is what was missing from the town hall the mayor held last week.
"I hate to say this, but I wish I would have seen that in the town hall. You know the way he was responding to some of these," Cantu said. Overall, though, Cantu was still impressed with Buttigieg. "He’s the one I was really looking at tonight. He made a good impact.”
Julián Castro's campaign says donations triple after debate
Julián Castro’s successful debate performance is turning into money for his campaign, which has some catching up to do in staff hiring in key primary states.
Castro’s campaign said it raised 3,266 percent more money Wednesday and Thursday — the nights of the Democratic debates — over what it had raised the two days prior to the debates.
Castro had his strongest fundraising day to date after Wednesday night's debate performance, the campaign said. The fundraising jump is nearly three times the amount raised over the previous best fundraising day and he nearly tripled donations, his campaign added.
The campaign would not release actual numbers just yet. The spike comes just in time as the books for this quarter close on June 30.
Castro’s campaign had raised just 1.1 million for the first quarter, putting him at the bottom of the pack in fundraising.
Although he qualified for the debates this week and on July 30 and 31 in Detroit, the campaign was uncertain whether he’d hit the required 130,000 unique contributions threshold for September’s debates.
“The new 130,000 donor debate threshold is designed to cut candidates like me from the running,” Castro said in a fundraising plea in early June.
RGA launches ad campaign against Andy Beshear in Kentucky governor's race
WASHINGTON — A Kentucky Republican organization supported by the Republican Governors Association is launching two new TV ads attacking state Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Democratic nominee for this November's election.
The two ads from Putting Kentucky First focus on Beshear’s support of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, and his record as Attorney General. The ads were launched the same day as the first round of the Democratic primary debates.
“As the Democratic presidential candidates prepare to take the debate stage and expose their party’s far-left, radical agenda for all Kentuckians to see, Andy Beshear’s record shows that he stands with liberal Democrats and against the vast majority of Kentucky voters,” said RGA Communications Director Amelia Chassé Alcivar.
Incumbent GOP Gov. Matt Bevin and Beshear both faced tough primaries to win their respective parties’ nominations. Bevin won just 52 percent of the vote in his primary, and Beshear won his primary with 38 percent of the vote.
Bevin won his first term for governor in 2015 against the state’s former Attorney General Democrat John Conway. Bevin became the second Republican governor elected in Kentucky in 40 years, replacing Andy Beshear’s father, then-Gov. Steve Beshear.
Trump campaign targets Latinos in new Miami ads
MIAMI — The Trump 2020 campaign has taken out two full-page ads in twin Miami publications on the first day of the Democratic debates here. The English-language version, which touts Hispanic support for the president, is set to run in the Miami Herald. A Spanish-language ad emphasizing the same points will appear in its sister paper: El Nuevo Herald.
“Millions have followed the law to come to America, new immigrants should too,” the large color advertisement reads, right above a directive to text “VAMOS” to a signup number to register for information.
This comes as the campaign officially rolled out “Latinos for Trump” with a coalition kickoff in Miami headlined by Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday.
The ad features two photos: one of President Trump clapping and the other of several red-MAGA-hat-wearing young men who may be Hispanic, one of whom is wearing a Trump 2016 lanyard.
A brightly-colored box also includes statistics on the economy and low Latino employment rates, as well as mentions of Cuba and Venezuela — both hot-button issues in Hispanic communities.
The ad buy, which also includes a digital component, is further evidence of how the Trump campaign intends to compete for the Hispanic vote in critical battleground Florida, as well as nationally.
The state is home to more than two million eligible Latino voters, who can deliver an important 29 Electoral College votes next year, all the more reason Republicans are hoping to erode the more reliably Democratic-leaning Hispanic vote there and beyond.
Biden preps at 'debate camp' ahead of Thursday's faceoff
MIAMI — Joe Biden has ramped up debate preparations to include marathon practice sessions with longtime advisers, and a familiar face who helped ready the former VP for his most high-profile faceoff a decade ago.
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has joined a dozen senior Biden confidants at a hotel in Wilmington to ready him for this week’s multi-candidate scrum in Miami.
It was not clear yet what role, or roles Granholm might be playing in the current practice sessions. The Thursday debate Biden headlines includes three female contenders — Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Marianne Williamson. But Granholm, who cannot endorse in the Democratic primary because of her role as chair of American Bridge, is familiar to the role having stood in as Sarah Palin during Biden’s 2008 vice presidential debate rehearsals.
Biden’s kitchen cabinet, including deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield, senior adviser Symone Sanders, policy adviser Stef Feldman as well as longtime advisers Steve Ricchetti, Bruce Reed, Mike Donilon and Ted Kaufman, spent nearly 11 hours with the former vice president in a windowless conference room Monday in the most intensive practice session to date.
The group only took occasional breaks including for lunch and dinner, which were delivered to the venue.
Until this week, Biden’s preparations largely centered around reading detailed policy briefings books assembled by his team, and informal discussions to sound out potential strategies.
Ron Klain, Biden’s first chief of staff as vice president and a veteran debate adviser who aided Hillary Clinton with her 2016 debate preparations in the primary and general election, has also returned to the fold.
Biden is expected to remain at what the team calls “debate camp” through Wednesday before traveling to Miami Thursday. Aides and the Democratic frontrunner himself have been downplaying expectations for a major substantive clash in the two-hour debate.
“It’s a little bit of exaggeration calling it a debate. I mean there’s not much time,” Biden told reporters earlier this month.
The format, with 1-minute answers and 30-second responses, “won’t allow for anything in-depth,” a Biden adviser said.
Advisers are also readying for his rivals to focus their attacks on Biden.
“We know candidates are looking for breakout moments in these debates. VP Biden doesn’t need a breakout moment,” the adviser said. “Any attacks from others during the debate will simply contrast with the vice president's positive message about his agenda and his emphasis on the extraordinary stakes of this election.”
Conservative judicial group launches million-dollar ad on Dems' 'secret' court list
WASHINGTON — The Judicial Crisis Network launched a $1.1 million ad campaign Tuesday morning calling on former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democratic presidential candidates to release the list of judges they’d choose from as potential Supreme Court nominees.
“President Trump was open and honest with the American people and has kept his promise. He released his list of judges, but Joe Biden and other Democrats running for president have yet to reveal theirs,” Judicial Crisis Network’s Chief Counsel and Policy Director Carrie Severino said.
President Trump promised to release a list of potential justices in March 2016. He released a partial list in May 2016 once he was the presumptive Republican nominee, and then added to the list in September 2016 after becoming the party’s nominee.
The Judicial Crisis Network’s ad says the Democrats running for president have built a “secret list” of judges they’d choose from.
“Democratic candidates and liberal groups are campaigning to pack the courts with liberal judges, while keeping their list secret. Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and all Democratic presidential candidates should stop hiding and release their list of potential Supreme Court nominees so the American people can judge for themselves,” Severino said.
President Trump’s potential Supreme Court nominee list was published after former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat in the spring of 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Garland, saying the vacancy should not be filled during an election year.
In an interview Monday with The Hill, President Trump said he would nominate someone for the Supreme Court if a vacancy occurred between now and the 2020 election.
Some 2020 Democrats start ad buys in key states ahead of first debate
WASHINGTON — Ahead of this week’s Democratic presidential debates, some hopefuls are launching their first television ads in key states.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., did not make the cut to be on the debate stage this week but he will be on television around them. Moulton for America Tuesday released 30-second ads that will play during or right before the first debate in key state markets in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
“I won’t be on the debate stage tonight, so I’m introducing myself here. I served four combat tours in Iraq, a war I spoke out against. I’m progressive, I’m practical and I can beat Donald Trump,” Moulton says in the ad.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has purchased ad time in four markets before, during and after the debate. Viewers in the Boston area, and several markets in Iowa and South Carolina will get to see Gabbard’s first ad which focuses on her military service.
“Meet Tulsi Gabbard, decorated war veteran who will end wasteful regime change wars and new cold war,” the ad’s narrator says.
Gabbard will be on the stage for the first night of this week's debates, Wednesday, June 26.
Here's how the RNC is preparing to counter the Democratic debates
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump may be flying to Japan on Wednesday for a global summit but his presence is sure to hover heavily over the Democratic debates in Miami this week.
While the president may weigh in on the proceedings via his Twitter feed, the Republican National Committee will be at full-throttle, wielding material it has been gathering on the opposition candidates since the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections.
Even so, Republicans face an unprecedented task in organizing research for the largest field of major Democratic presidential hopefuls in the modern era, who will spar over two nights of debates.
A team of about thirty staffers has pored over thousands of pages of public record requests and hundreds of hours of videos, ready to pounce the moment one of the contenders misspeaks or missteps in primetime.
Each Democrat has required a different approach to the research. Some like former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have been in public service for decades, making their opposition troves rich and deep. Others, such as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have thinner profiles.
The RNC has compiled long-term, in-depth investigative research on about half of the 20 candidates who qualified for Wednesday and Thursday’s events, according to a spokesman.
While the president will be halfway around the world at the G20 conference, Trump’s allies will be on offense, with resources deployed on the ground in Miami.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel will oversee the effort.
“This week, the crowded field of Democrat candidates will use the debate stage to paint a glamorous view of their socialist proposals. With the advantage of a fully equipped war room and rapid response team, our job is to fact-check Democrats’ bogus statements and expose the truth behind their radical agendas,” McDaniel said in a statement to NBC News.
During the debate, the RNC will have a full “war room” monitoring every network and clipping and emailing top moments to its massive email and donor lists in real time as well as blasting them out on social media.
There will be four-dozen surrogates available as well, with an emphasis on Spanish-speaking content in battleground states where Hispanics make up a key demographic.
Republicans have prepared fact-checks on everything from the Russia investigation to the economy and how various Democrats plan to pay for their individual policy proposals.
For its part, the Trump 2020 campaign is letting the party take the offensive lead on the debates this week, but Vice President Mike Pence will hold a “Latinos for Trump” coalition rollout in Miami Tuesday, hoping to deliver a prebuttal before the first crop of Democrats take the stage Wednesday night.
Maine Democratic House speaker to run against Susan Collins
WASHINGTON — Sara Gideon, the Democratic Speaker of the Maine House, has jumped into the race against Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
Gideon announced her bid in a video on social media where she recounted her political career, highlighting her work on health care, job training and drug addiction.
She also framed herself as a the bulwark against controversial former Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage in the state legislature, arguing that she'll be able to take the same approach in Washington
"Getting things done for Mainers is what we are elected to do, not falling in line behind the demands of someone else," she said.
"It doesn't matter if that person is Paul LePage, Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump."
Collins presents a unique opportunity and challenge for Democrats.
They see her as newly vulnerable after she voted for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination was roiled by allegations of sexual assault stemming from his teenage years.
But Collins is a mainstay in the state — she's been in the Senate since 1997 and has cruised to re-election since. And her Kavanaugh support could galvanize Republicans around her too.
Gideon speaks to that dynamic in her announcement video, arguing that Collins has lost her bipartisan streak.
Republicans panned Gideon's announcement, arguing that bipartisan streak will serve Collins well once again in 2020.
"Susan Collins is the most independent Senator in the country because of her ability to work across party lines to get things done for Maine,” said Nathan Brand, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Chosen by Schumer and Washington Democrats, Sara Gideon is an extreme partisan who will give away Maine’s voice to radical leftists like Pelosi and AOC.”
Inslee pledges to phase out fossil fuels
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Washington Governor Jay Inslee is proposing an aggressive plan to eliminate fossil fuel use in the U.S and transition the nation to 100% clean energy by taking on corporations and adding 8 million new jobs.
The “Freedom from Fossil Fuels” plan, being unveiled Monday, consists of 16 policy initiatives that include phasing out fracking and use of coal, creating a “climate test” for new infrastructure, introducing a climate pollution fee on corporations and establishing an office in the Department of Justice entirely focused on prosecuting environmental injustices.
"In order to build a more prosperous, just and inclusive clean energy future, our nation must confront the economic and environmental harm caused by corporate polluters," the campaign’s plan states.
The governor will officially announce his proposal from Everglades Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where there has been recent controversy over a real estate company trying to explore oil drilling in the wetlands.
Inslee has released three other plans has part of his “Climate Mission” including a plan on global action on climate change, a clean energy plan and an “Evergreen Economy” plan and is the only candidate who has made the environment the central focus of his campaign.
Biden previews immigration policy visions ahead of debate
WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden continued to ramp up his attacks on President Donald Trump Monday with harsh criticism of the administration’s hardline position on immigration, just days ahead of the first Democratic presidential debate in Southern Florida.
In a Miami Herald op-ed, Biden writes that Trump continues to threaten U.S. relations with Latin America by relying on campaign tactics of “vilifying immigrants to score political points.” He lists the administration’s latest threat to immediately deport thousands of undocumented immigrants, the decision to end aid to Central American countries and continued “horrifying scenes” of families detained at the border as examples to contrast the leadership he says would bring to the presidency as an experienced foreign policy expert.
“It’s clear Donald Trump is only interested in using his policies to assault the dignity of the Latino community and scare voters to turn out on election day, not addressing the real challenges facing our hemisphere,” he writes.
He adds, “at a time when the challenges we face demand a united, regional response, Trump repeatedly invokes racist invective to describe anyone south of the Rio Grande, including calling migrants ‘animals.’”
Biden says that Trump’s signature “build the wall” mantra is “a slogan divorced from reality.”
The “true solution” is to address the root causes of the migrant flow from Central America, Biden argues, calling for returning to a strategy he helped lead in the Obama administration to support economic and security initiatives in the Northern Triangle countries.
Biden calls for Congress to pass the DREAM Act to finally allow undocumented immigrants to come “out of the shadows through fair treatment, not ugly threats.” He also targets Trump’s “increasing belligerence” in handling the Venezuelan crisis and calls for granting temporary protected status to refugees from the South American country.
The broad immigration policy overview in the Miami Herald comes after Biden attacked what he called the “mindless” Trump approach to immigration in an interview Saturday with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton.
“Not only is that cruel, but imagine what it says to the rest of the world about who we are,” Biden said of children in detention centers. “This is absolutely mindless what he’s doing.”
Beto O'Rourke rolls out proposals to help veterans
TAMPA, Fla. — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is unveiling an expansive policy outline to address veterans issues on Monday, which includes revitalization of the VA and other improved veterans services and a proposed $1,000 new “war tax” on wealthy households that don’t include veterans or current servicemembers.
The former Texas congressman wants to pass on some responsibility of military service by imposing a $1,000 progressive tax on people making over $200,000 a year for every new authorized war the United States enters. That money would be funneled into what he calls a “Veterans Health Care Trust Fund,” which would support veterans’ medical services and other forms of care.
“It means that before we go to war again, after we’ve ended the wars that we’re already in, we’re gonna make sure that we understand the full cost and consequence of going to those wars,” O’Rourke told NBC News in an exclusive interview. “It’s not just deploying the women and men, the missiles and the bombs, it’s their care when they come back.”
O'Rourke has long called for bringing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a “responsible end,” and says he wants to invest half of the money being spent there — which he estimates is around $200 of $400 billion — into programs helping veterans.
The candidate is proposing to reshape the VA on several fronts, including implementing partnerships with research universities and standardizing electronic health care data. He wants to build upon existing “reverse boot camps” and work with federal agencies on various economic concerns for members of the military transitioning back to civilian life.
O’Rourke’s plan for veterans is the seventh major policy rollout of his campaign, but this is a topic that was at the forefront of his career prior to his vault into the mainstream public eye during the Texas Senate race last year. As a congressman, he held quarterly veterans town halls, served on both the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services committees, and worked on numerous pieces of veterans-focused legislation that became law.
Part of his proposal this week to address veteran suicide and mental health matters also includes allowing VA physicians to prescribe or recommend medical cannabis where it’s legal, while also ensuring VA providers communicate with veterans about safe and responsible gun storage.
He told NBC News Monday that his potential administration would “make suicide reduction our No. 1 clinical priority at the V.A.”
He also calls on Congress to increase funding to the National Institutes of Health to fight diseases prevalent with veterans, including doubling research into Alzheimer’s and other dementia's from $2.5 billion to $5 billion a year.
Bullock makes first trip to New Hampshire while the rest of the field is in South Carolina
MANCHESTER, N.H. — While nearly all the other 2020 Democratic candidates were in South Carolina this weekend, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock headed north to New Hampshire for his first campaign trip to the Granite State. With Bullock’s visit, every 2020 contender has now officially introduced themselves to first-in-the-nation primary voters.
All of the retail politics typical of a New Hampshire swing were on full display during Bullock's visit — he was escorted by influential state senators as he met voters at Concord’s Market Days Festival, held a brewery meet and greet, shook hands with diners at local Manchester haunts, and attended a Nashua house party hosted by a former New Hampshire attorney general.
Bullock entered the race five weeks ago. The house party was initially scheduled for March, but had to be postponed, along with Bullock’s announcement, due to working with the Montana state legislature to expand Medicaid.
“I only got into this formally a little bit over a month ago because I had a job to do,” Bullock said. “And if I had to choose between chasing 100,000 voters or providing health care for 100,000 people, easiest decision I’ll ever make.”
When asked why he chose to jump into such a crowded field rather than vie for a Montana Senate seat, Bullock told NBC News, “We need to win places we lost in addition to bringing out our base, we need to be able to make people believe that government works.”
“My whole life experience has been in the executive branch of things, I think I have something really meaningful to offer there, so that was the decision I made,” he said.
Bullock said New Hampshire is critical because at the end of the day, it’s the state that’s “going to sort out a lot of this.”
“Folks in New Hampshire, they take their role seriously, so they want to get to know the candidates,” he said. “As much as at times people try to nationalize elections, this really is a person to person effort.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has made the most trips to the first primary state, with ten N.H. campaign swings according to NBC News' tally. And in the latest CBS News/YouGov poll, only two percent of Granite Staters are so far considering supporting Bullock for the nomination.
NBC News' Amanda Golden contributed to this report.
Americans weigh in on how to improve democracy
WASHINGTON — In a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Americans were asked about potential changes that could occur within U.S. democracy. The most popular answers, below, are added up by those who said the changes would improve democracy "a lot" or "just some."
- Term limits for members of Congress: 71 percent.
- Non-partisan commissions drawing congressional/state legislative districts: 66 percent.
- Election Day as a national holiday: 66 percent.
- Automatic voter registration for every adult citizen: 65 percent.
- Term limits for Supreme Court justices: 60 percent.
- Eliminating the Electoral College to decide presidential elections: 56 percent.
- Federal funding of congressional campaigns: 54 percent.
- Eliminating the filibuster: 44 percent.
Of course, there are significant partisan differences on these fixes: 81 percent of Democratic respondents said abolishing the Electoral College would improve democracy a lot/somewhat, versus just 32 percent of Republicans who agreed.
But the one fix where there’s bipartisan support is congressional term limits, with 81 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats who think it would improve the U.S. democracy.
On World Refugee Day, one campaign staffer shares his journey
NEW HAMPSHIRE — Suraj Budathoki is a man of dates. March 5, 1990 is when he left Bhutan overnight at age nine as a political refugee with his family. February 24, 2009 is when he resettled in Atlanta, GA and began working two full-time jobs to support himself. December 5, 2009 is when he got to New Hampshire and soon after started taking classes at a community college, later earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and a masters’ degree in international relations.
And May 1, 2019 is when he started working for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign as his Constituency Director in New Hampshire.
Budathoki left Bhutan at a time when a sixth of the population was being evicted due to political persecution from an authoritarian government. But he says that when he finally got to America, he was unaware of how hard it would be to feel like he was succeeding.
Thursday was World Refugee Day, marked by the U.N. and Budathoki told NBC News that arriving in the U.S. was a shock. “When I came to the United States, I was unaware of the reality of America, the hardship, the recession,” he said. “I was unaware of all those things. And I was kind of traumatized.”
Budathoki says Sanders’ plans to address education and student debt, healthcare, income inequality and climate inspired him to get involved with the campaign.
"Suraj represents the promise of America and what this country can be,” Joe Caiazzo, Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire State Director, told NBC News. “He overcame enormous hardships and built a life for him and his family in New Hampshire. Suraj became an entrepreneur, a leader in his community, and a role model not just for new Americans, but for all of us. We're lucky to have him on our team as we build our grassroots campaign throughout New Hampshire."
Budathoki said while he and other refugees see America as a beacon of hope, the country isn’t addressing the underlying causes of refugee displacement — supporting authoritarian regimes, implementing imbalanced trade policies and tackling climate change. “We have a responsibility to answer these issues,” he said.
Budathoki says working on the Sanders campaign has been his “proudest moment.” To future refugees who want to get involved in the political process, Budathoki said, “Fight for your right. Speak up. No one has the right to dehumanize you.”
Marianne Williamson walks back skeptical comments about vaccinations
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson Thursday walked back comments expressing skepticism about government-mandated vaccinations.
Appearing on "The View,” Williamson was challenged on remarks she made at an art gallery reception in Manchester, N.H. on Wednesday evening. When asked by an attendee about her perspective on medical freedom and choice, Williamson responded with her views on government-mandated vaccinations. “To me," she said, "it’s no different than the abortion debate. The U.S. government doesn't tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.”
She added, “I have met very sincere, very smart people on both sides of the vaccine issue. I understand infectious diseases are no small deal, but I have to say I know as a mother, if you're telling me that I have to put a needle into the arm of my baby and I don't feel good about what's in that needle, I'm not sure about that.”
"I’ve seen too many mothers with just tears in their eyes," she added, "with real fear. And that’s too draconian to me, it’s just too Orwellian to me."
On Thursday, Williamson said that as president, she would have a commission of scientists, not paid by “big pharma,” to research vaccines and infectious diseases. "The days of blind faith in big pharma are over," she said.
Pressed by "The View" co-host Meghan McCain on calling mandatory vaccines “draconian” and “Orwellian,” Williamson responded, “I think I misspoke in that one sentence.”
She later added, “I understand that public safety must come first, but I also understand that we must have a balance between public safety and the issues of individual freedom. I do not trust the propaganda on either side,” telling co-host Whoopi Goldberg, “I support vaccines.”
The latest Monmouth University poll released on Thursday shows Williamson at one percent, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Republicans launch anti-Medicare for All ad campaign tied to Dem debate
WASHINGTON — As Democratic presidential candidates prepare to debate issues like health care next week in Miami, Republicans are preparing a major national ad campaign to try to turn public opinion against Medicare for All.
One Nation, a GOP group tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is launching a $4 million campaign on national broadcast and cable TV, as well as radio and digital platforms around the debate to highlight what it calls "horror-stories" from Canada's single-payer health care system.
A handful of prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Sen. Kamala Harris, are backing a Medicare-for-All approach to health care.
The ad focuses on long wait times patients have had to endure for procedures like heart surgery, with a narrator warning, "Medicare for All would eliminate private insurance for 180 million people — you and every American waiting in the same government-run plan."
“We’re going to make sure every American understands that Medicare for All means paying more for lower-quality care, longer wait times and restricted choice,” said One Nation President and CEO Steven Law. “If you’re a union worker, a family dependent on employer insurance, or a senior relying on traditional Medicare, so-called Medicare for All will turn your world upside down.”
While many presidential candidates have said they support "Medicare for All," the term can actually apply to a wide variety of plans to overhaul the health care system.
Most candidates actually support an idea to give Americans the option to buy into a government-run system like Medicare, while Sanders calls for a more sweeping reform that would replace private insurance with a Canadian-style single-payer system like the ones described in the One Name ad.
The concept is a fairly new one to most Americans, which gives partisans on both sides have an opportunity to try to define it. Polls show a majority of Americans favor the idea of universal health care, but are confused about specifics of "Medicare for All."
One recent survey by a Democratic group found Americans favor an optional buy-in scheme, but are more hostile towards a full-blown Canadian-style system that would eliminate private insurance, giving Republicans an incentive to try to conflate the two in voters' minds.
Mike Pence to headline pre-Democratic debate Miami event touting Hispanic support
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence will headline a speech on Tuesday in Miami to tout Hispanic support for the Trump-Pence 2020 ticket, just 24 hours before the first Democratic presidential debate there, according to two sources familiar with the plans.
The campaign is still finalizing the list of Latino leaders and business executives that Pence is expected to reveal in order to show support from a key demographic in the battleground state of Florida and beyond heading into next year’s election.
Tuesday’s speech will also mark the official rollout of the Trump campaign coalition and Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez will be announced as national co-chair of the campaign, these sources said.
While President Trump won’t be traveling for any specific campaign events or rallies next week, he will be gearing up for a trip to Osaka, Japan for the G20, and will likely be aboard Air Force One for the first night of debates.
On Wednesday night, the president told Sean Hannity he might live-tweet the back-to-back events, though initially he said he had not planned to and called a Wall Street Journal report that he might “fake news.” Moments later, Trump changed his tune and said “Maybe I will now.”
It would not be surprising for Trump to use his favorite social media platform to react to the Democratic candidates on stage in Miami but it’s unclear whether he will be able to watch the second night of debates in real time while he’s on the ground in Osaka.
Next week, the day before the debates, Trump is expected to speak at a closed press fundraiser in Washington D.C. The following morning, June 26, he will speak at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington. He’s expected to leave for Japan at some point after that.
Sanders’ staff expands in early states as Warren rises
CHICAGO — Sen. Bernie Sanders', I-Vt., presidential campaign has been expanding its field operation in early primary states, making dozens of hires as polls show his Democratic rivals surging.
His Iowa team has grown in recent days to include to 43 field organizers — a significant increase from just a few weeks ago. In New Hampshire, the campaign says it has more than doubled its staff and is planning new field office openings across the first in the nation primary state. Advisers say similar moves are taking place in South Carolina and Nevada.
While the increases reflect significant growth, Sanders' state staffing and field office levels still lag behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has been rising in the polls. On Wednesday, Warren announced seven Iowa and four New Hampshire office openings.
Sanders’ advisers say the larger staff footprint will be used to better organize and mobilize volunteers as part of the “next phase of its organizing strategy.”
“We are seeing a lot of energy in our volunteers,” Sanders Iowa state director Misty Rebik told NBC News. “They’re coming out, they’re showing up, not only at big events when the senator is here, they’re coming up when the senator is not here.”
While campaign manager Faiz Shakir told NBC News these changes simply reflect a planned “strategy to build up through the summer and the fall,” the growth comes as polls show the race shifting.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has maintained a clear first-place position since entering the race, however multiple recent state and national polls have shown Warren challenging Sanders for second place.
When asked whether Warren's growth is threatening his position in the race, Sanders focuses on results that show him ahead when taking on President Trump. “Some of the polls have me doing a lot better than Elizabeth Warren, depending on the poll,” Sanders said to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“If the American people are looking at the candidate who can defeat Trump, I’ll hope they’ll give serious consideration to our candidacy,” he said.
But Sanders has used his campaign to increasingly draw sharp contrasts with Biden, and most recently Warren. On Wednesday, Politico reported that "centrists" of the Democratic Party are warming to Warren.
Sanders retweeted a link to the story, saying, “the cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie.’”
2020 spotlight will shift to South Carolina this weekend
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina will take center stage in the 2020 race this weekend, as 22 presidential hopefuls shift their focus away from Iowa and New Hampshire to this critical early primary state.
Nearly the entire field of Democratic candidates — aside from Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska — are set to appear at House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s, D-S.C., annual fish fry, in what is likely to be the largest gathering of contenders before the first debate.
“This is going to be the biggest fish fry we’ve ever had,” Rep. Clyburn told NBC News, with a laugh. “I don’t know if they’re going to be able to produce enough fish for us.”
The fish fry, an event Rep. Clyburn started nearly three decades ago to say thank you to campaign workers, has become an important stop for Democrats seeking the nomination — offering the opportunity to woo voters, particularly those in the African American community.
While he could be a kingmaker in the state, Clyburn says he isn’t likely to endorse a candidate ahead of the primary, telling NBC News, “It would be a bit selfish for me to go out and please my political inclinations and threaten the foundation on which we are trying to build a new, vibrant South Carolina Democratic Party.”
Rep. Clyburn said he hopes candidates present specifics on how they intend to make the “greatnesses of our society accessible and affordable.”
“That's where we’re coming up short,” he said. “Why don't we connect with these people? … You can’t just can’t say, ‘I'm for you, but I can't come and hang out with you, I can’t come and be a part of the dreams and aspirations that you adhere to.’ That’s a big mistake we make.”
In addition to the fish fry, many of the candidates will also make appearances at the state party’s Blue Palmetto dinner, the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention and a Planned Parenthood Action Fund forum.
Some contenders — including Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.— have also scheduled meet and greets and other weekend events in the state.
Swing district Democrat Katie Porter announces support for impeachment proceedings
WASHINGTON — Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from a swing district, announced her support for an impeachment inquiry Monday, providing more fuel for a growing number of Democrats who support at least beginning such proceedings and further pressuring reluctant House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Porter, a first-term Democrat representing Orange County, California, said in a social media post that she came to the decision after “weeks of study, deliberation, and conversations” with voters.
“I didn’t come to Congress to impeach the President,” Porter said. “But when faced with a crisis of this magnitude, I cannot with a clean conscience ignore my duty to defend the Constitution. I can’t claim to be committed to rooting out corruption and putting people over politics and then not apply those same principles and standards in all of the work I do.”
While more than 65 Democrats have officially backed impeachment proceedings, the vast majority are from safe, solidly Democratic districts. Porter joins Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey as the only two lawmakers who barely won their election against Republican incumbents in the last election to endorse an impeachment inquiry. Porter won her race with 52 percent of the vote and Malinowski with 51.7 percent. Both are on Republicans' target list of seats to win in 2020.
During a town hall discussion with voters in Tustin, Calif., last month, she said that there had been “a turning point” on the issue of impeachment after special counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement and after the repeated defiance of Congressional subpoenas by the administration.
“The question is not whether a crisis is in our midst, but rather whether we choose to fight against it,” Porter said Monday. “I’ve reached a point of clarity in my decision. Congress must continue the work of Special Counsel Mueller.”
Pelosi has resisted calls to open an impeachment inquiry, saying just last week that the idea is “not even close” to having the support in the Congress to move forward. She maintains the position that it’s best to “investigate, legislate and litigate.” She points to the judiciary successfully ruling in Congress' favor in court challenges.
But if more members in districts like Porter’s come out in support for impeachment, it could be more difficult for Pelosi to resist.
An NBC News/WSJ poll released on Sunday found that a growing number of people are supportive of impeachment proceedings, an increase of 10 points — to 27 percent — in the past month. The number of Democrats who support impeachment hearings has risen from 30 percent to 48 percent.
Democrat Cunningham joins list of Tillis challengers for 2020 Senate race
WASHINGTON — North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis got another Democratic challenger for his 2020 re-election bid Monday when former North Carolina State Senator Cal Cunningham announced his decision to drop his campaign for run for lieutenant governor and seek the Senate seat instead.
Cunningham, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran, took direct aim at Tillis in his announcement video, saying the first-term incumbent is “part of the problem” and is standing in the way of progress for North Carolinians. He also said he’ll “go places that Democrats don’t always go” during his campaign. Cunningham ran for Senate once before in 2010, but finished second in the Democratic primary.
Cunningham’s announcement news follows leaked internal polling from President Trump’s 2020 campaign that showed him losing North Carolina to former Vice President Joe Biden by eight points — signaling North Carolina could become a state to watch up and down the ballot in 2020. Tillis won the Senate seat in 2014 when he defeated Democratic Sen. Kay Hagen by just 1.7 points. And both Trump and Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper won the state in 2016.
Tillis is facing entrepreneur Sandy Smith and businessman Garland Tucker III in the GOP primary. Cunningham joins Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and state senator Erica Smith in the Democratic race.
Buttigieg on concerns about sexuality and electability: Americans 'will not discriminate'
WASHINGTON — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg downplayed the possibility that voters might be concerned about his sexuality, arguing Sunday that being gay will not hurt his standing with socially conservative voters.
Some faith leaders have raised concerns about whether Buttigieg's sexuality could hurt his ability to gain traction, particularly among the more socially conservative black voters that make up a significant portion of the Democratic primary vote in the South.
But during a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Buttigieg noted that he won re-election by an overwhelming margin after he came out as gay in 2015 and said his experience combating "exclusion" helps him sympathize with a large swath of voters.
"We have an opportunity to reach into our own distinctive identities and use them to build bridges. To reach out to people different from us, knowing that anybody who has been on short end of an equation of exclusion has a way to sympathize with people who've had different experiences with exclusion in this country," he said.
"People, if you give them the chance, will evaluate you based on what you aim to do. What the results are, what the policies are. And I have every confidence that American voters, especially Democratic voters, will not discriminate when the opportunity comes up to choose the right leader for the future."
Watch the full interview from Buttigieg, who is running to be the first gay president in American history, in the video below.
Harris gets South Carolina grassroots support
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Richland County councilwoman Bernice Scott and her “Reckoning Crew” of community activists announced Thursday they are backing Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in the state’s presidential primary.
In 2016, the grassroots group of volunteers — largely comprised of African American women — worked to help propel Hillary Clinton to victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., in the state by going door-to-door, speaking to voters in the most rural parts of South Carolina.
Harris trails both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders in recent polling, and the endorsement could help the senator build momentum and secure the votes of African Americans, the largest group of Democratic primary voters in many southern states.
Scott is the grandmother of Jalisa Washington-Price, the Harris campaign’s South Carolina state director, but Scott said she and her “Reckoning Crew” made the decision after a careful process of elimination.
“Jalisa will tell you, ‘Meemaw’s got her own mind,’” Scott told NBC News. “My group is here to serve. And I saw that in her. I saw her ability to make you feel like you’ve known her all her life. And that’s a comfortable feeling.”
Harris has visited South Carolina seven times since launching her campaign—and has held more events in the state than any other 2020 candidate.
This weekend, four of her fellow contenders — Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke — will all make stops in Charleston to highlight their own economic policies specific to the African American community.
Activist Lawrence Lessig was once a presidential candidate, now he's interviewing them
WASHINGTON — Lawrence Lessig has a twinge of regret about not joining the massive field of candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, so he’s doing the next best thing — starting a podcast to interview and cajole them to support his agenda of political reforms.
The prominent Harvard Law School professor and political activist briefly ran for president in 2016, an experience that he describes as both “the worst of times” and “the coolest thing I've ever done.”
He didn't make the Democratic debate stage last time, but thinks he would this year under new Democratic National Committee rules that prioritize small donors. "I kind of regret that in February when they announced the rules, I wasn't in a position to spin it up and try to run," he said during an interview over iced tea in Washington this week.
So instead, he’s using his new podcast to go deep with candidates on campaign finance reform, voting rights, gerrymandering and more, and to push what he calls "POTUS 1” — a play on the name of a similar bill House Democrats’ passed this year called HR1.
Lessig argues a future Democratic president should prioritize political reform before health care, climate change, immigration, or anything else, “because it makes everything else easier.”
The first episode of his podcast, sponsored by his group Equal Citizens, launches this week with an interview with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., whom Lessig praised as “better than I was” for her “democracy dollars” idea to give every American $600 to donate to candidates they support.
He’s not too impressed yet with the details put forward by the rest of the field, including his former Harvard Law colleague Elizabeth Warren, nor does he have much sympathy for the longshot candidates in the race, even though he once was one.
"I look at some of these candidates and I’m wondering why they’re running,” he said, saying he ran to advance a clear set of policy ideas, while some candidates today seem in it for themselves. “It’s like a vanity show.”
Buttigieg calls for 'Douglass Plan' to boost economic prosperity for African Americans
WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg is calling for a “new Marshall Plan” to create economic prosperity for African Americans, as he seeks to address his biggest vulnerability in the 2020 race: his struggle appealing to black voters who play a critical role in the Democratic primary.
Naming it “the Douglass Plan” after abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, Buttigieg is calling for reducing the number of Americans incarcerated by half. He also says he would triple the number of entrepreneurs from underserved areas and particularly entrepreneurs of color within 10 years, which he says would create 3 million jobs and $660 billion in new wealth for black communities.
Buttigieg also wants to reform credit scoring in the U.S., increase access to credit, expand the number of successful small businesses in black communities and increase the rate of federal contracts that go to minority and women-owned firms from 5 percent to 25 percent.
“Replacing racist policies with neutral ones will not be enough to deliver equality. We must actively work to reverse these harm,” Buttigieg says in an op-ed laying out the plan in the Charleston Chronicle. Buttigieg will emphasize the plan during a visit this weekend to Charleston, South Carolina, for the Black Economic Alliance forum.
The plan, which Buttigieg says should rival in scope the Marshall Plan that invested in Europe after WWII, appears to represent his initial attempt at a proposal on reparations for slavery.
In recent days, Buttigieg has said he would create a commission to figure out the best way to do reparations, noting that he supports the idea of reparations, but not as a cash check. Rather, he supports a program to address long-term structural inequities that linger from the era of slavery.
Buttigieg is still struggling mightily to attract minorities to his campaign, and particularly in South Carolina, where a recent poll did not show him registering at all among black voters. His rallies and events remain very racially homogeneous, including a foreign policy speech in Bloomington, Indiana, on Tuesday that was attended mostly by white attendees.
Harris proposes executive actions to help Dreamers
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Wednesday released a new proposal to give Dreamers and other immigrants a pathway to citizenship through targeted executive action if elected president. Harris’ plan would break down the barriers Dreamers face in applying for permanent residency status and reinstate and expand DACA.
Harris’ executive actions would strike down obstacles such as the clause in current immigration law that bars Dreamers from applying for a Green Card if they have “accept[ed] unauthorized employment.” Instead, Harris’ Secretary of Homeland Security will grant work status authorization to DACA recipients retroactively. Another executive action would clarify that being brought to the U.S. as a child means Dreamers were not able to keep lawful status “through no fault of [their] own.”
The campaign estimates these executive actions would ease the pathway to citizenship for more than two million Dreamers.
“Every day in the life of a Dreamer who fears deportation is a long day. Dreamers cannot afford to sit around and wait for Congress to get its act together. Their lives are on the line,” Harris said in a statement. “These young people are just as American as I am, and they deserve a president who will fight for them from day one.”
Harris’ proposal would also go beyond DACA and create a deferred action program for the parents of citizens or green-card holders and other law-abiding immigrants with "strong ties to their communities." The program will be administered on a case-by-case basis but military service, time spent as a resident of the U.S. and whether the individual has family members who benefit from deferred action will be considered.
Bullock web ad highlights reason for his late entry into the presidential race
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Wednesday released a new digital ad highlighting his decision to not enter the race until after passing legislation to re-authorize Medicaid expansion in the state, a move that will likely help cost him a spot on the first debate stage in just two weeks.
Bullock has struggled to meet the criteria set by the Democratic National Committee to qualify for the debate, having entered the race just one month ago, on May 14, due to Montana’s legislative session.
“You won’t see Governor Steve Bullock at the first debate, and I’m the reason why,” says Montana resident Madison Johnson in the web ad, which campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said will be targeted at Iowa voters online.
In the ad, Johnson says Bullock’s signature on legislation that re-authorized Medicaid expansion in the state “saved her healthcare.” Bullock signed the legislation on May 9.
In an interview last week, Bullock told NBC News, “If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people healthcare, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
“I’m sorry Steve got started too late to make the first debate, but I’m asking for your help to get him on the stage this fall,” Johnson says in the ad.
The May 14 entry left him with less than a month to qualify for this month’s debate, which is hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
According to rules established by the DNC, candidates can qualify either by finishing with at least 1 percent in three sanctioned polls by different organizations or by the same organization of different geographic areas. They can also qualify through a secondary avenue requiring 65,000 unique donors, but a candidates’ polling average is more important since it serves as a tiebreaker and Bullock has struggled in that area during his campaign's first month. The second debate will follow the same requirements as the first.
Democratic presidential candidates to join striking workers in early nominating states
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg will join striking fast-food workers this week as they seek to support efforts to organize labor and raise the minimum wage to $15.
The three will join events organized by Fight for $15 and a Union, the group started by striking fast-food workers in 2012.
Harris will join striking workers in Las Vegas, while O’Rourke and Buttigieg head to Charleston, South Carolina. Both states hold early presidential nominating contests and their campaigns were eager to note their support.
"I have fought with organized labor throughout my career and I'm proud to stand in solidarity with the working women and men fighting for the wages and benefits they deserve here in Nevada,” Harris said in a statement to NBC News.
Buttigieg spokesperson Chris Meagher pointed to a campaign video the candidate made endorsing the movement, as well as the fact the campaign is paying its interns $15 per hour.
And the O’Rourke campaign said the candidate is "proud to stand with South Carolina's workers" and that "we need to confront that inequality today by ensuring that every workplace is free of sexual harassment and violence and that every worker can earn enough to support themselves and their families."
The trio is not the first group of Democratic presidential candidates to hit the picket lines with striking workers — New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Sen. Bernie Sanders have all done so in recent weeks. And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called into a strike line.
Virtually all of the Democratic presidential candidates support a minimum wage hike to $15. But Service Employees International Union International President Mary Kay Henry told NBC that no one candidate has separated themselves from the pack on labor issues in her view because most haven't fleshed out specific plans on how they'll support workers' rights.
Terrence Wise, a fast-food worker and organizer from Kansas City, Mo., said that the effort was an important chance for workers to keep the pressure up on politicians to stay committed to their issues.
“I’ve worked two, three jobs, and I’ve been homeless while I’ve had a job. It doesn’t make sense to live like that in the richest nation on Earth,” he said.
“I don’t think elected leaders on either side of the aisle are there yet, but we have to help them get there.”
Gillibrand campaign says it hit 65,000 donors after heavy Facebook push
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's, D-N.Y., campaign said Monday that it hit the 65,000 unique donor threshold to help her shore up her spot on this months' debate stage, a mark the campaign reached after spending heavily on Facebook ads this past week.
Gillibrand's campaign spent more than $200,000 on Facebook ads between June 2 and June 8, according to the platform's "Ad Library."
Many of those ads were explicit appeals asking donors to help her hit the threshold set to qualify for the Democratic National Committee's first round of debates, which will be hosted by NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo on June 26 and June 27.
Her campaign announced Monday that it hit the unique donor threshold in an email to supporters.
Debate participants can also qualify by averaging 1 percent in three sanctioned polls. But by hitting both thresholds, candidates can shore up their positioning in case more than 20 candidates qualify, because the party has said it will prioritize candidates who hit both thresholds.
In the last seven days, Gillibrand's campaign spent almost twice as much on Facebook advertising as Sen. Cory Boooker, D-N.J., whose campaign spent about $119,000 as the next largest advertiser.
Still,, Gillibrand's total was less than half that of President Trump's campaign, which spent more than $500,000 between its official campaign organization and its joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee.
Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign spent $110,000 over the same period, followed by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders' campaign, which spent $102,000.
New Hampshire takes center stage for candidates this week
MANCHESTER, N.H. — After a weekend of 2020 presidential politics dominated by candidate visits to Iowa, it's New Hampshire's turn to get the attention this week.
Seven Democratic contenders will make their way to the Granite State, kicking off with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., visiting Monday. On Tuesday, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, will be in the state, followed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday, entrepreneur Andrew Yang on Thursday and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Friday.
These candidates will make their pitches to New Hampshire voters at events like political forums, house parties, meet-and-greets and fundraisers (there will even be a celebrity appearance from actress Connie Britton as she joins Gillibrand for a fundraiser for young Democrats).
During the Politics & Eggs breakfast Monday morning at Saint Anselm’s Institute of Politics in Manchester, Klobuchar spoke at length about her ideas for the future and specifically how she planned to pay for them — including her plans related to infrastructure, broadband, education, pharmaceutical prices, healthcare and climate.
She also had criticism for President Trump on policy and for his rhetoric and demeanor. She also took five audience questions on tariffs, social security, climate, mental health, and tax reform.
At a Town Hall with Energysource employees in Manchester, Moulton spoke about his service in Iraq and how it applies directly to the kind of leadership called for as Commander in Chief. He took questions from attendees on subjects ranging from trade to how he tries to stand out in crowded Democratic field and Russia’s influence in American politics.
All of the candidates visiting this week except Warren and Klobuchar were at 1% or below in the most recent New Hampshire poll, which was taken over a month ago.
Democratic National Committee launches college fellowship program to train organizers for 2020
WASHINGTON —The Democratic National Committee is launching the first round of its "Organizing Corps," a multi-million dollar program it says will ultimately train 1,000 college juniors as organizers for the party's eventual nominee in key swing states.
There are 300 students in the first group across Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—all states Democrats lost in 2016 where they say they can win in 2020. After a week-long training session in Atlanta, which starts Monday, the students will embed with their respective state parties for another seven weeks.
The DNC's plan is to train 1,000 student organizers before the party chooses its presidential nominee, growing the crop of potential young talent within the party for the eventual nominee to call upon when staffing up.
"It could be a while until we know who the nominee is. Trying to ramp up from a staff of X to often 50X is often very difficult," DNC Chairman Tom Perez told NBC News.
"Having a universe of 1,000 people ready to go — that is lightning in a bottle."
More than three-quarters of the first wave of students are students of color, a reality that reflects the dual charge facing Democrats as they look to recover from an upset in 2016, when Census data shows black and Hispanic voting rates fell from 2012.
That cycle, Perez admitted, Democrats "weren't building those authentic relationships with voters."
Rachel Haltom-Irwin, Organizing Corps' executive director, highlighted that diversity, arguing that it will help organizers be more effective, especially since most of them either go to school or live in the states in which they're working.
Perez argued that the party's success in Wisconsin in 2018, flipping the governor's mansion and holding Sen. Tammy Baldwin's seat, was a function of an emphasis on learning the lessons from 2016 and focusing more on homegrown organizing that reflected communities better.
The fight for minority voters is hardly taking place in a vacuum — President Trump's allies have pointed to low minority unemployment rates and the White House's role in the criminal justice reform bill that passed last year as proof points of their ability to connect with black voters.
Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, recently told RealClearPolitics that their own data show educating black voters on the White House's support for the recent, bipartisan criminal justice reform law significantly increased their support for Trump during 1,200 recent door-knocks.
Perez panned team Trump's attempts to woo minority voters, accusing the "far right" of using a "classic voter suppression tactic" when promoting the push to have minorities "#WalkAway" from the Democratic Party.
"They will try to obfuscate, they will try to peddle fake news," Perez said of Republicans.
"We want to make sure they hear directly from us who is fighting for them, who has their back, and who has the knife in their back."
2020 hopefuls juggle their day jobs with their White House hopes
More than a million people are expected to line the streets of Manhattan on Sunday for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, but the mayor of New York City won’t be there.
Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor and a 2020 presidential hopeful, is skipping the famous New York City event to campaign in Iowa.
The mayor’s decision to miss the parade in favor of the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame dinner hasn’t gone over well with some of his hometown critics, but he defended his decision during a weekly public radio interview with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.
“Every presidential candidate is going to be amongst the Democrats and it was important to be there. But my respect, my commitment to the Puerto Rican community is very, very well known in the community and it will continue deeply,” he said on the program. “When you're running for President of the United States, this is always a challenge to try and balance the schedules.”
The rigorous demands of a presidential campaign can be hard to juggle with a day job. Sixteen of the current Democratic hopefuls hold public office, and several have been forced to miss campaign events to attend to their elected positions.
In May, Sen. Kamala Harris nixed a trip to Iowa because of expected votes on a disaster funding bill that included relief for her home state of California. In January, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand rescheduled her campaign’s first news conference to accommodate a vote on Russian sanctions.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has said his commitments at the governor’s mansion will likely keep him from qualifying for the first Democratic presidential debate. Bullock chose not to enter 2020 race until the close of his state’s legislature in mid-May, leaving little time to meet the qualifications necessary to earn a spot on the debate stage.
“I’ve been penalized for making sure people have health care, for making sure that even in a rural Republican state that we can get good things done,” Bullock said in an interview with NBC News on Thursday.
“If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people health care, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
Vaughn Hillyard contributed reporting.
Bullock says he's being 'penalized' out of debate for doing his job
WASHINGTON — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Thursday that he should be allowed to participate in the first Democratic presidential debate later this month despite the possibility he won’t qualify for the event.
Bullock did not enter the race until the close of his state’s legislature in mid-May. He repeatedly argued throughout the winter and early spring that he needed to focus on shepherding through the Republican legislature’s reauthorization of Medicaid expansion in the state.
But the May 14 entry left him with less than a month to qualify for this month’s debate, which is hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. And a methodological clarification communicated to the media by the Democratic National Committee Thursday made it clear he’s on the outside looking in ahead of Wednesday's deadline.
“I’ve been penalized for making sure people have healthcare, for making sure that even in a rural Republican state that we can get good things done,” Bullock said in an interview with NBC News.
“If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people healthcare, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
According to rules established by the DNC, candidates can qualify either by finishing with at least 1 percent in three sanctioned polls by different organizations or by the same organization of different geographic areas.
They can also qualify through a secondary avenue requiring 65,000 unique donors, but a candidates’ polling average is more important since it serves as a tiebreaker.
But Bullock has struggled in the polls during his campaign's first month.
His campaign had hoped a poll from the Washington Post and ABC News, in which he registered 1 percent, would count because the news outlets are on the DNC's list of approved polling outfits.
But the poll asked an open-ended question about preference for the Democratic presidential nomination, which solicited responses including politicians like President Trump and former first lady Michelle Obama.
The DNC clarified to reporters Thursday that the Washington Post/ABC poll would not count toward qualifying for the debate, and DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told NBC News that the DNC “notified the Bullock team in March” of that decision.
Without that poll, Bullock has until Wednesday to hit 1 percent in one more poll and qualify. But even then, he wouldn’t be a lock because the party is capping the number of candidates at 20, and prioritizing the final spots based on polling average.
Bullock argued that the decision to limit debate participants shouldn't be made so far out from when voting begins.
When asked by NBC News if he will stay in the race if he is not given a spot on the debate stage, Bullock responded, “Absolutely.”
John James announces bid to take on Gary Peters in Michigan Senate race
Republicans got the Senate recruit they wanted for Michigan in 2020.
Republican John James, an African-American Army veteran and businessman, is officially in the race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Gary Peters.
He was a newcomer last cycle when he ran a stronger-than-expected race against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, losing 46 percent to 52 percent. Republicans haven’t won a Senate seat in Michigan since 1994.
James said in his announcement: “I think that we are heading in the wrong direction as a country and I do not see the energetic, experienced and passionate leadership representing Michigan willing or able to unite our state toward a better and brighter future. I believe I can help lead Michigan toward a brighter, better future, and that’s why I am running for US Senate.”
The Cook Political Report rates this seat as “Likely D” for now, but notes that the race could get competitive. And Republicans hope that a strong statewide run by James could help get the president’s 2020 campaign over the finish line again in the swing state
O'Rourke, Buttigieg to meet with Stacey Abrams
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidates Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg will both meet privately with former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams this week, three people with knowledge of the meetings tell NBC News.
The meetings will happen on the sidelines of the Democratic National Committee's African American Leadership Summit in Atlanta.
O'Rourke’s meeting is in addition to a town hall he's doing Wednesday night co-hosted by the independent voting reform group Abrams founded, the New Georgia Project Action Fund. The former Texas congressman has just released a comprehensive voting rights reform plan.
Buttigieg has made expanding his so-far-limited appeal to black voters his top priority for the last several weeks. The South Bend, Ind. mayor hired several African Americans for top campaign roles and has backed creating a commission to study the right way to do reparations.
Buttigieg and O'Rourke will both speak Thursday at the DNC event, along with Joe Biden and Cory Booker.
The meetings come after Abrams' unsuccessful for governor last year in Georgia put a spotlight on concerns about voter suppression, particularly as it relates to black voters. She has not ruled out a bid for president herself in 2020 after that campaign raised her national profile within the party.
CNN earlier reported Abrams' meetings with the Democrats.