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Tom Steyer reserves $1 million in TV ads on first day of presidential campaign
WASHINGTON — Newly declared Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has already reserved about $1 million in TV ads in first four primary and caucus states, according to data provided to NBC News by ad tracker Advertising Analytics.
The California billionaire, who announced his candidacy Tuesday, has pledged to spend $100 million of his own money on his 2020 campaign and didn't waste any time at it.
On his first day in the race, he bought at least $1.05 million worth of broadcast ads in the biggest cities in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina and Boston (which cover New Hampshire) — the four states that host the earliest contests in the Democratic nominating calendar.
So far, other candidates in the massive 2020 field have spent only minuscule amounts of money on TV commercials, preferring to devote their limited funds to hiring staff, opening field offices, and running cheaper digital ads.
McGrath to run against McConnell in Kentucky
WASHINGTON—Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath is throwing her hat into the ring against Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, a decision that gives Democrats a top candidate in the long-shot fight to dethrone the Senate Majority Leader.
McGrath revealed her decision in a Tuesday interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," evoking her past as a fighter pilot and her failed 2018 bid for the House where she raised tons of money but fell just short in dethroning GOP Rep. Andy Barr.
Many Democrats have been hoping McGrath would jump into the race against McConnell on the heels of a strong challenge to Barr in 2018, when she raised $8.6 million and brought significant national attention and endorsements to that race.
But while McGrath was able to close the gap in the red-leaning district to 3 points, she couldn't get over the hump. And there's only one other congressional district in the state more favorable to Democrats than the one she just lost in.
During her "Morning Joe" interview, McGrath sought to distance herself from the national Democratic Party ahead of her bid in a state President Trump won by 30 points in 2016.
Recalling the recent presidential debates, she said that she and her husband thought some candidates were "pulling a bit too far left."
And she attacked McConnell with a unique message not typically employed on the Democratic side—that McConnell is blocking President Trump from achieving his campaign promises.
"Trump promised to bring back jobs, he promised to lower drug prices for so many Kentuckians. And that is very important," she said.
"Who stops the president from doing these things? Well, Mitch McConnell. I think that's really important, that's really going to be my message—the things that Kentuckians voted for Trump for are not being done, he's not able to get it done because of Sen. McConnell."
McConnell's political team immediately sought to push back on that frame. In a video posted on Twitter, the campaign quotes McGrath describing herself as "more progressive than anybody in the state of Kentucky," criticizing Trump's signature border wall and arguing that Trump's election made her feel like "somebody had sucker-punched me."
Kirsten Gillibrand launches her first 2020 ad
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Tuesday released the first TV ad of her 2020 presidential campaign, targeting President Donald Trump for what she characterizes as his "broken" promises.
The ad features President Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 promising to fix infrastructure, lower drug prices and keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
According to the Gillibrand campaign, the 30-second ad is targeted to Obama-Trump voters and will be airing in key media markets in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan — pointedly three of the four formerly blue wall states that helped President Trump to victory in 2016.
It's the first TV ad by a Democratic presidential candidate to focus exclusively on the president's record. The Gillibrand campaign would not disclose how much they were spending on the ad but did say the cost is in the "five-figure" range for cable and digital buys over two days.
“Democrats are assessing this primary based on who is tough and smart enough to beat Donald Trump — and the only way to do that is by both exciting the base with a bold vision for the country and earning back the trust of voters who still feel left behind in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan,” said Gillbrand communications director Meredith Kelly.
Gillibrand will be traveling to Pittsburgh, Mahoning Valley and Cleveland, Ohio and then Oakland County, Flint and Lansing, Mich. on Thursday and Friday.
Warren flexes grassroots muscle, raises $19.1 million in Q2
PETERBOROUGH, NH- Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign on Monday announced it had raised $19.1 million in the second quarter of 2019, which spanned April to June.
The fundraising total, which more than tripled the campaign’s first quarter results, was the latest indication of a notable surge in support for the Massachusetts senator in recent months.
The fundraising total placed Warren in third place among Democrats who have reported their second quarter fundraising numbers, behind South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who reported raising $24.8 million, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who brought in $21.5 million. But Warren’s haul eclipsed that of progressive rival Bernie Sanders, who brought in $18.1 million during the same period.
Another top-tier Democratic rival, Kamala Harris, reported raising $12 million in the second quarter.
Warren announced early in her campaign that she would eschew traditional fundraising events altogether and focus her efforts on grassroots and online donations. Most other 2020 contenders have spent significant time on the traditional campaign finance circuit, with the exception of Sanders who is also relying on grassroots efforts.
The campaign says they now have 384,000 donors, with an average gift of just $28.
“You’re making it possible to build a presidential campaign without catering to wealthy donors— with no closed-door fundraisers, no Super PACs, and no money from Washington lobbyists, corporate PACs, or, for that matter, PACs of any kind,” Campaign Manager Roger Lau said in an email to supporters.
The Warren campaign finished the quarter with $19.7 million cash on hand. It had transferred $10.4 million from Warren’s Senate account earlier this year.
The Warren campaign has significant overhead, with a much larger paid staff in both Iowa and New Hampshire than her 2020 rivals. The campaign boasts over 300 staffers across the country, with 60% of those in the four first primary and caucusing states. Her relatively paltry $6 million fundraising total in the first quarter had some supporters concerned about paying for the ground game her campaign envisioned.
Warren has experienced a surge in support in recent polling, in early states and nationally, landing her in a close third or fourth place in most surveys. She was widely seen to have been among the top performers in the first round of debates. The campaign declined to share how much fundraising came from a post-debate bump.
Kris Kobach files for Kansas Senate race
WASHINGTON — Kris Kobach, the former secretary of state of Kansas who lost his bid for governor last year, has filed for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
Kobach is popular on the right for his hard-line immigration record and relationship with President Trump. He leveraged that support into a narrow GOP primary victory in 2018 where he dethroned then-Gov. Jeff Colyer.
But Kobach then lost the red-state governor's race to Democrat Laura Kelly, a defeat that has made some national Republicans nervous that the conservative Kobach could imperil the party’s chances of holding on to this Senate seat if he’s the nominee in 2020.
“Just last year Kris Kobach ran and lost to a Democrat. Now, he wants to do the same and simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and Senate Majority at risk,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said. “We know Kansans won’t let that happen and we look forward to watching the Republican candidate they do choose win next fall.”
For those keeping track, this isn’t the first time the NRSC has come out against a Republican running for Senate. Just last month the NSRC cautioned against Roy Moore’s Senate run in Alabama.
There’s another announced GOP candidate in the Kansas race — state Treasurer Jake LaTurner. And don’t be surprised with Kobach’s filing if we might hear more “Mike Pompeo for Senate” talk.
Kobach is expected to hold a speech in Kansas later this afternoon.
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.