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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Breaking down the 2020 2nd quarter numbers

WASHINGTON — Yesterday was the official second quarter filing deadline for 2020 candidates and with all the reports in, here's a look at where the candidates stand on the most important fundraising metrics: 

Total contributions (includes only donations from individuals — not from the candidates themselves or transfers from other accounts):

  • Pete Buttigieg: $24.9 million (was $7.1 million last quarter)
  • Joe Biden: $22 million
  • Elizabeth Warren: $19.1 million (was $6 million)
  • Bernie Sanders: $18 million (was $18.2 million)
  • Kamala Harris: $11.8 million (was $12 million)
  • Cory Booker: $4.5 million (was $5 million)
  • Amy Klobuchar: $3.9 million (was $5 million)
  • Beto O’Rourke: $3.6 million (was $9.4 million)
  • Jay Inslee: $3.0 million (was $2.3 million)
  • Andrew Yang: $2.8 million (was $1.8 million)
  • Julián Castro: $2.8 million (was $1.1 million)
  • Michael Bennet: $2.8 million
  • Kirsten Gillibrand: $2.3 million (was $3 million)
  • Steve Bullock: $2.0 million
  • Tulsi Gabbard: $1.6 million (was $2 million)
  • Marianne Williamson: $1.5 million (was $1.5 million)
  • John Hickenlooper: $1.1 million (was $2 million)
  • Bill de Blasio: $1.1 million
  • Tim Ryan: $865,000
  • John Delaney: $284,000 (doesn’t include $7.75 million transfer)

Cash on hand:

  • Sanders: $27.3 million
  • Buttigieg: $22.7 million
  • Warren: $19.8 million
  • Harris: $13.3 million
  • Biden: $10.9 million
  • Gillibrand: $8.2 million
  • Klobuchar: $6.7 million
  • O’Rourke: $5.2 million

Burn rate (total spent divided by total receipts):

  • Gillibrand: 184 percent
  • O’Rourke: 146 percent
  • Hickenlooper: 143 percent
  • Gabbard: 122 percent
  • Booker: 117 percent
  • Inslee: 107 percent
  • Klobuchar: 107 percent
  • Harris: 64 percent
  • Warren: 55 percent
  • Sanders: 55 percent
  • Biden: 51 percent

Chinese diplomat deletes tweet about black Americans

WASHINGTON — A senior Chinese diplomat has deleted a tweet that was widely condemned as racist and asserted that white residents of Washington refuse to live in black communities. 

The comments from Lijan Zhao, the deputy chief of mission for the China’s embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, came as he sought to defend Beijing after 22 countries issued a joint statement criticizing China for the mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang Province. The deputy chief of mission is typically the second-ranking diplomat in an embassy. 

“If you're in Washington, D.C., you know the white never go to the SW area, because it's an area for the black & Latin,” Zhao wrote on Twitter. “There's a saying ‘black in & white out’, which means that as long as a black family enters, white people will quit, & price of the apartment will fall sharply.” 

The tweet triggered outrage on social media, including from former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who served as President Obama’s national security adviser and called Zhao a “racist disgrace” and “shockingly ignorant. She urged China’s ambassador in the U.S., Cui Tiankai, to “do the right thing and send him home.” 

Zhao, who lived previously in Washington, later clarified that he was referring to the Southeast quadrant of the U.S. capital, not the Southwest quadrant, and tweeted a link to a news article detailing racial segregation in Washington. After tweeting back to Rice that she was “such a disgrace, too,” Zhao eventually deleted his initial tweet.

Asked for its response to Zhao’s comments about black Washingtonians, the White House declined to comment. The State Department also had no specific comment about Zhao’s tweet. 

The controversy over Zhao’s tweet came as Trump himself was facing a barrage of criticism over his attacks on Twitter and elsewhere against four Democratic congresswomen of color whom he says “hate our country” and “can leave.” 

The Trump administration’s silence on Zhao’s tweets also stands in contrast to the president’s outspoken attacks on British diplomat Kim Darroch, who resigned last week after leaked diplomatic cables showed he’d described Trump and his administration as “clumsy and inept.” Trump publicly took issue with Darroch’s private comments, calling him a “pompous fool” and declaring that the White House would no longer engage with him. 

The White House has also frequently called out what it deemed to be problematic comments by foreign diplomats in the past, such as those from Iranian envoys. 

So far, the congressional committees that oversee U.S. foreign policy have not called out the comments publicly. But the office of Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he had raised the issue with the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Zhao remains in his post or has been disciplined.

Abigail Williams contributed to this report.

Harris announces plan to combat prescription drug costs

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., announced a new plan Tuesday to put “people over profit,” pledging to take on pharmaceutical companies and sky-rocketing drug prices through fines and potential executive action.

Harris previewed the plan at a town hall in Somersworth, New Hampshire on Sunday, telling voters there that “the pharmaceutical companies have been jacking up prices hand over fist, year after year."

"Their business model, it seems, is purely about profit and not about public health,” she said.

Harris’ plan would allow the federal government to establish a “fair price” for what pharmaceutical companies can charge for prescription drugs, which will be based on the average price of comparable drugs from countries like the UK, France, Australia and Japan. If companies sell drugs above the set fair price, their profits from selling the at the higher cost will be taxed at a rate of 100% and that money will go back to consumers through a mail-in rebate.

She also lays out possible executive action steps if Congress doesn’t act within 100 days, including plans to investigate pharmaceutical companies that have overpriced drugs, allow a direct importation of lower-cost drugs from foreign countries and make investigating pharmaceutical companies a priority at her Department of Justice. For the worst offenders of high-priced drugs, Harris proposes to “license a company’s patent to lower the cost” through “march-in” rights under existing law.

On average, Americans spend $1,208 on drugs every year, according to data from the OECD.

Harris, who is in Davenport, Iowa today, is expected to talk more on her plan at the AARP Forum this afternoon.

 

O'Rourke's fundraising sputters in second quarter

MANNING, IOWA— Beto O’Rourke’s fundraising machine stalled in the second quarter.

The Texan presidential candidate, who entered the presidential race with great fanfare in March, announcing on Monday night he’d raised just $3.6 million dollars in the race’s last three months, lagging far behind the field’s top tier.

That number is roughly one third of his first quarter fundraising total of $9.4 million; a quarter in which O’Rourke was only a declared candidate for 18 days. In his first 24 hours as a candidate last quarter, O'Rourke raised more than $6 million. 

By comparison, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren all raised at least $19 million in the second fundraising quarter, according to their campaigns. 

In a memo accompanying the release of the fundraising numbers, O’Rourke’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillion urged supporters not to panic.

"When you look at our fundraising in aggregate, we’re in a great position. I won’t sugar coat it: we have work to do, but we have the resources we need to execute our strategy,” O’Malley Dillon wrote.

O’Rourke’s campaign has been rapidly staffing up in the early states, and nationally. The campaign announced 11 new Iowa field offices on Monday and a national finance director and national press secretary started work in El Paso just this month. His campaign spent more than $5.3 million last quarter, more than it brought in in donations. 

O’Malley Dillon urged supporters to give to the campaign if they can, to volunteer, and generally to have faith – pointing out that O’Rourke’s fundraising in his senate race in Texas, in which he shattered fundraising records, also started slowly.

The campaign said in its release that the average donation received was just $30, and more than 200,000 people gave – meaning O’Rourke has met the Democratic National Committee's donor qualification for the fall debates.

Bill de Blasio raised $1.1 million after late-entry in second quarter

WASHINGTON — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's presidential campaign raised $1.1 million from the time he entered the 2020 Democratic primary in mid-May to the end of June and hired several new staffers, according to his campaign. 

A well-received performance in the first debate helped him raise a significant chunk of that — $630,000 — in the four days following the NBC News-sponsored debate in Miami. De Blasio's campaign says he has about $728,000 cash on hand, meaning he spent only about 30 percent of what he raised. 

As one of the last candidates to enter the race, De Blasio had less time to fundraise than other candidates in the second quarter of the year — about 45 days out of the quarter's 91 days — meaning he raised roughly $24,000 per day. 

Monday is the deadline for all candidates to submit their fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission for the second three months of the year.

Meanwhile, his campaign announced several new staffers, in addition those already announced.

Jaclyn Rothenberg will serve as national press secretary while Will Baskin-Gerwitz was named communications advisor. Jess Moore Matthews is the campaign's digital director. The campaign tapped former South Carolina Democratic Party executive director Lachlan McIntosh as its senior adviser in the first-in-the-South primary state, while Lance Jones will serve as state director there and Bre Spaulding as political director. In Iowa, de Blasio hired Cameron Macaw-Hennick to be his field director.

“These hires are a direct result of the fundraising success we’ve had in just a few short weeks, and our growth is a sign of what’s to come moving forward,” said de Blasio senior adviser Jon Paul Lupo. “We’re grateful to every supporter who chipped in because they share Mayor de Blasio’s message of putting working people first and we’re going to continue spreading that message to voters across the country.”

What's in, and out, of Biden's health care plan

DES MOINES, Iowa — Call Vice President Joe Biden’s healthcare plan Affordable Care Act 2.0.

In his new plan released on Monday, Biden proposes adding a “Medicare-like” public option that would serve as an option for consumers to receive health insurance. Americans would also be able to choose their own private insurance and would now only spend a lower income rate to obtain it.  

Biden campaign officials say the health care plan serves as a transitional piece of legislation that could pave the path to a Medicare-for-All single payer system in the future. 

Here's a quick look at some of what is in — and not in — Biden's plan: 

What's in: The individual mandate

President Donald Trump got rid of the individual mandate when he signed the GOP tax bill into law in 2017. Biden would bring back the penalty for not being covered under health insurance under his plan.

Since the individual mandate currently is not federal law, a Biden campaign official said that he would use a combination of executive orders to undo the changes and use his “longstanding history of getting stuff done in Congress to get legislation to build on the Affordable Care Act.”

What's out: Spending rate

Biden’s plan allows for consumers to buy into the individual marketplace and choose their health care provider of choice. In an effort to expand access even on that front, the plan will only allow consumers to spend 8.5 percent of their income on insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers could spend almost 10 percent of their income when paying for insurance.

What's in: Lowering prescription drug pricing

In an effort to lower the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, Biden’s plan would repeal existing law that currently bans Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug manufacturers. He would also limit price increases “for all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs” and launch prices for drugs that do not have competition, according to a Biden campaign official.

Consumers would also be able to buy cheaper priced prescription drugs from other countries, which could help mobilize competition. And Biden would terminate their advertising tax break in an effort to also help lower costs.

What's in: Undocumented immigrants can buy in

Biden’s plan would also allow undocumented immigrants to buy into the public option, but it would not be subsidized. Considering undocumented immigrants in his health care plan shows just how progressive the Democratic Party has come on the issue in just a decade. The Affordable Care Act, for example, did not allow undocumented immigrants from buying into the system.

Study finds 19 percent of U.S. adult Twitter users follow @realDonaldTrump

WASHINGTON —The president of the United States regularly uses his Twitter feed to single out political foes, amplify existing controversies, and muse on everything from cable news ratings to the performance of professional athletes.  

But how many people are actually following along?

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that only about one in five adult Twitter users in the U.S. follow the president’s personal account— but those who do are far more likely to approve of his job performance than those who don’t.

The analysis finds that about 19 percent of adult Twitter users follow @realDonaldTrump. But of those who follow Trump on the platform, 54 percent approved of the job he’s doing as president as of late 2018. That’s compared with an approval rating of just 24 percent among adult Twitter users who DON’T follow the president.

While Trump is perhaps the most prolific Tweeter among high-profile American politicians, a higher percentage of Twitter users — 26 percent —follow Trump’s predecessor, former president Barack Obama.

But just 14 percent follow one or more of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who participated in the first set of primary debates last month.

Pew found in an earlier study that Twitter users tend to be younger and more Democratic-leaning than the general public. And, overall, only about 22 percent of Americans use the platform at all.

Biden health care plan would build on Obamacare

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled his anticipated health care plan on Monday, framing it as a more achievable way to expand coverage than those proposed by some of his progressive rivals by building on what he has called the “crown jewel” of the Obama administration —  the Affordable Care Act.

Americans would have the option of buying into a “Medicare-like” plan or keeping their private insurance under the Biden plan, which would also aim to reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to undercut the law. People living in Republican-led states that failed to expand Medicaid would be given premium free access to Medicaid.

The Biden plan would change provisions in the Affordable Care Act to improve access to health care by eliminating the 400 percent income cap on tax credit eligibility, base tax credits on gold plans rather than silver ones and ensure that those buying insurance in the individual marketplace spend 8.5 percent of their income on insurance, which is down from the previous 9.86 percent cap.

The total cost of the Biden plan is estimated to be $750 billion over the next 10 years, which would mostly be paid for by repealing President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy and returning the top tax rate to 39.6 percent. 

A Biden campaign official added that as president, Biden would use a combination of executive orders to undo the changes the Trump administration has done to weaken existing health care law.

Biden’s plan also calls for the end of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that prevents federal funding for abortions unless a child is conceived through rape or incest or the mother’s health is in jeopardy. 

Biden’s health care plan rollout coincides with the increase of critiques he has recently launched against his Democratic opponents who support scraping the Affordable Care Act and transitioning to a primarily government-run system like Medicare-for-All. 

“On health care, I admire the rest of the field from Bernie to Elizabeth to Kamala who want Medicare-for-All. But let me tell you, I think one of the most significant things we've done is pass the Affordable Care Act,” Biden told supporters at a house party in Atkinson, NH Saturday.

Biden has repeatedly said since the Democratic debate that he would oppose any Republican or Democrat who wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.

Biden plans to unveil his health care plan publicly at several stops in Iowa this week, starting at the AARP forum on Monday and holding a billed “rural health care event” Tuesday. 

Rapinoe: The U.S. women’s soccer team ‘has managed to make people proud again’

WASHINGTON — U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe said Sunday that the national pride for the team after its recent World Cup championship is giving players like her an opportunity to channel that enthusiasm toward activism.

“The opportunity is in everyone’s exhaustion with the fighting and the negative. Our team has managed to make people proud again, to capture people’s interest, to make them want to do something,” she said during an exclusive interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“People are asking the question: how can we rally around this team? And in that really, (is) what the team stands for, whether it’s equal pay, or racial equality, or LGBTQ rights. I think we’ve just managed to give people hope, and with that, now we need to do the next step.”

Players have pointed to the pay disparity between the national men’s and women’s soccer teams as both a real issue in the sport, considering the women’s team’s historic success, as well as indicative of the larger debate over equal pay in the country. Rapinoe said Sunday that her team’s sponsors could “do a lot more” to help narrow the pay gap that exists in the sport and called on companies to “get comfortable” throwing their “weight” around to promote equal pay.

Rapinoe has also been openly critical of President Trump and has said she would not visit the White House as a World Cup champion.

When asked Sunday what she would say to fans who support Trump and want the team to join the president at the White House in a show of unity, Rapinoe said she would try to “share our message” with those fans.

“Do you believe all people are created equal? Do you believe that equal pay should be mandated? Do you believe that everyone should have health care? Do you believe we should treat everyone with respect? I think those are the basics of what we are talking about.”

“I understand people feel upset or uncomfortable, there are some feelings of disrespect about the anthem protest or things I’ve said in the past. But ultimately, I am here, open and honest. I’ve admitted mistakes, I will continue to do that. I will continue to be vulnerable and be honest and be open and want to have that conversation because I think Trump‘s message excludes people that look like me and are me, of course, but it excludes a lot of people in his base as well. I think he’s trying to divide so he can conquer, not unite so we can all conquer.”

Progress Iowa's Corn Feed preview: #ReadySetCorn

DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa summer wouldn’t be complete without presidential candidates and corn in an election year. Progress Iowa’s Corn Feed event in Cedar Rapids this weekend, the fifth annual event hosted by the Democratic issue-based advocacy group, will feature twelve presidential hopefuls.

“We imagine this is one of the bigger events with presidential candidates that’s free and open to the public,” Progress Iowa executive director Matt Sinovic told NBC News, “We want it to be as accessible as possible, and don’t want to price anyone out.”

The lineup: Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former HUD Sec. Julián Castro; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Rep. John Delaney; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio and author Marianne Williamson.

Candidates will be given ten-minutes on stage to address the crowd. Sinovic calls the event a “good opportunity for grassroots activism” and told NBC News he hopes candidates will emphasize what they each stand for, encourage voters to get involved in issues that they may care about, and inspire attendees to “fight for the things that they believe in.”

The contenders will also have access to more than 1,000 voters who will mingle with candidates among photo booths, corn hole and other carnival games - Gov. Hickenlooper’s booth will reportedly have a giant Jenga game. Live music will supplement the outdoor ambiance as attendees mingle and visit informational booths set-up by community organizations as well as local and national campaigns.

Several campaigns that do not have candidates present to speak, like Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will have booths on-site that are staffed by organizers.

Tickets are available for any of the seven vendors at the Newbo City Market, where each menu will feature at least one corn item. Sinovic estimates the event will bring in anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 in fundraising for Progress Iowa.

Klobuchar introduces senior care plan

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., unveiled a plan Friday for senior citizens aimed at tackling Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, enhancing health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs. 

She is the first 2020 presidential candidate to roll out a policy specifically targeting the elderly population. This proposal is personal for the Minnesota senator, whose 91-year-old father resides in an assisted living facility for memory care.

"Everywhere I go, I meet seniors who tell me about their struggles to afford everyday costs like prescription drugs or health care," Klobuchar said. "I meet family members who face challenges caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and urgent action is needed to take on these problems. I believe we owe it to our seniors to make sure they have the care and support they need as they get older, and as President I will prioritize tackling Alzheimer’s, strengthening health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs.”

Key highlights of her campaign’s senior plan include:

  1. Tackling Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions by supporting caregivers, strengthening the  National Institutes of Health and investing in research for chronic conditions, improving mental health care for seniors, expanding dementia training and implementing a law to help locate missing people with dementia or developmental disabilities.
  2. Ensuring a secure retirement by protecting social security and making it fair by lifting the payroll cap, expanding retirement savings by creating “Up Accounts” with minimum employer contributions, and defending pensions.
  3. Improving health care for seniors and lowering prescription drug costs by taking immediate and aggressive action to negotiate better drug prices, allow personal importation from countries like Canada, crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements, expand tele-health and rural health services, and strengthen Medicare and expand its coverage to dental, vision, and hearing.
  4. Investing in long-term care by working with Congress to create a refundable tax credit to offset long-term care costs, reducing costs of long-term care insurance and increase access, providing financial relief to caregivers through a tax credit of up to $6,000 per year, ensuring paid family leave for all Americans, and supporting a world class long-term care workforce.
  5. Reducing costs and preventing fraud by fighting elder abuse, helping seniors afford energy costs, and improving seniors’ access to affordable housing, transit, nutrition and workforce opportunities. 

In order to pay for the policies outlined in her senior-focused proposal, Klobuchar would “close the trust fund loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on inherited wealth.” 

Her campaign’s plan is modeled after the Saving for the Future Act, which Klobuchar and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced in Congress in April.