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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

First on NBC: Klobuchar meets donor threshold, clinching spot in next Dem debate

WASHINGTON — Senator Amy Klobuchar has met the donor threshold to compete in September's third Democratic debate, her campaign said early Friday morning.

In an email to supporters less than forty-eight hours after debating in Detroit, Klobuchar announced more than 130,000 donors catapulting her into the fall phase of the Democratic primary. "Now onward and upward," the supporter email — first reported by NBC — read.

Klobuchar's campaign previously said she'd met the polling qualification of at least two percent in four major surveys for the ABC-hosted debate in Houston, Texas. But meeting the donor threshold makes her the eighth of 24 candidates to check both qualifying boxes. 

Higher qualifying thresholds could halve the large field of Democrats vying for the nomination.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have also qualified for the next debate stage.

Klobuchar's Detroit debate performance stood out perhaps because of what she didn't do Tuesday night: attack her opponents by name for "making promises just to get elected" when asked by the moderator. 

Thursday night on MSNBC, the Minnesota senator reasoned that Democrats "gotta use these debates as a moment to take it to Donald Trump" and putting out a progressive blueprint for the country.

"If you spend the whole time just cutting down your opponent just to get that viral moment, then what have we done? We don't win and we don't do better for this country," she said. That may mean Klobuchar won't earn "that viral moment," but she said she won't be looking "for it by going after my opponents, by saying mean things."

Biden says he's 'proud' of Obama record and 'surprised' at Democratic attacks on it

DETROIT — Joe Biden said Thursday he was “surprised” to hear so many of his fellow Democrats criticizing President Obama’s eight year record in the White House, saying there wasn’t “anything he has to apologize for.”

“I’m proud of having served with him, proud of the job he did,” Biden told reporters after stopping at a local restaurant the morning after his combative face-off with fellow Democrats. "I hope the next debate we can talk about … our answers to fix the things Trump has broken not how Barack Obama made all of these mistakes. He didn’t.”

Biden said he hoped the next debate would give all the candidates more time to fully discuss their vision for the future. And he said he would continue to defend his record.

“This going back 10, 20, 30 years is just a game, that's a game to make sure that we hand Republicans an election,” he said. "There's a lot of things everybody has done in their past and votes that no longer have a context today. They're taken out of context. And I just wanted to make the point that some of these assertions being made were absolutely — how can I say it nicely — not true.”

Biden, who was joined at the Coney Island Restaurant by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, said he continues to believe that he falls on the ideological spectrum where “the vast majority” of Democrats are, and he vowed that he would win not only Michigan but key battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania that President Trump had carried in 2016.

He also continued to defend his healthcare plan, saying there was “nothing moderate” about the Affordable Care Act and his plan to improve upon it.

“I will get it done,” he said. 

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell 'disappointed' in the second Democratic debate

WASHINGTON — Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Thursday that she was looking for more out of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who took part in this week's debates in her home state, contending that simply being anti-Trump won't be enough to defeat the president in 2020.  

Dingell said that the candidates focused too much on taking jabs at each other, and not enough on issues that would matter to Michigan constituents like hers.

"We had too much practicing of lines to take jabs at people and not enough talking about issues that matter to working men and women. You know, you're in Michigan, trade is a big issue. I quite frankly strongly believe that it's an issue that helped get President Trump elected," Dingell said. 

The race to make the third round of debates is on

With the first two rounds of Democratic debates in the books, attention will begin turning to which candidates will make the DNC's cut for the third round in early September. 

The thresholds for qualifying for the next debate will increase, per DNC rules. Candidates must register at least 2 percent in four separate polls (from different media sponsors or different regions with the same media sponsor) and reach a minimum of 130,000 unique donors to their campaigns. The donor threshold is self-reported by the campaigns themselves for now and the DNC does not confirm who has made it until the end of the qualifying period.

That donor threshold is one reason so many candidates touted their websites during the debates. Under the DNC rules, here's where the 20 candidates on stage this week currently stand, according to our count:

Candidates who have reached both thresholds:

Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren

Candidates who have reached the polling but not the donor threshold:

Amy Klobuchar

Candidates who have reached the donor but not the polling threshold:

Julián Castro, Andrew Yang

Candidates who have not reached either threshold:

Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson

Biden campaign takes aim at rivals on health care ahead of debate

DETROIT — Vice President Joe Biden was not even mentioned on the debate stage last night by his opponents, but that did not hold his campaign back from debuting a sharper and direct attack against those who have gone after him in the past month.

In a new mash-up video published this morning on “Team Joe” Twitter account, the Biden campaign starts off by highlighting Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris’ inability to answer questions about their healthcare plans and how much they would cost.

It also features  Medicare-for-All architect Sen. Bernie Sanders stating that he would raise taxes for Americans to pay for the program and Sen. Elizabeth Warren agreeing with Sanders’ approach.

The video focuses mostly on Harris, who went right at Biden during last month's debate, attacking his past civil rights record.

Biden last week criticized candidates who say that they don't need to raise middle class taxes to fund Medicare for All as "a fantasy world." And his top campaign advisor echoed that sentiment in an on-the-record statement slamming Harris' health care plan last week. 

Harris unveiled a plan last week that calls for a transition to Medicare for All within 10 years but would give private insurers the ability to offer competing and supplemental plans, as long as they met the government standards. She added that she would not need to raise taxes on households making under $100,000 a year, and would instead tax stock trades and tax shelters to pay for her plan

Biden has repeatedly stressed the importance of expanding healthcare coverage in an affordable and timely manner, which is why he has loosened up a bit and directly attacked his candidate’s records on the issue throughout the past month.

We’ll see if he can deliver the strong lines of attack he’s delivered at campaign rallies and with reporters tonight on the debate stage.

Iowa voters talk Steve King, President Trump and racial divide

NORTHWEST IOWA — A brand-new Quinnipiac poll asks a straightforward question: Do you think President Trump is racist? Fifty-one percent of all voters say yes, while 45 percent say no. The same poll also found that 45 percent of voters say Trump is more to blame for the lack of civility in American politics, over 34 percent who think Democrats are responsible. 

In conservative northwest Iowa, a mostly white area, some voters told NBC News they’re growing increasingly concerned with both the President and their congressman Steve King’s rhetoric when it comes to race, as they consider potential Democratic candidates in 2020.

Jan Tillotson, of Sioux Center, thinks Americans should embrace differences; “different people, different colors.” 

 “I love our little community but when I realized how racist it is, it made me wonder, ‘do I really want to live here?,” Tillotson told NBC News, “I don’t wanna be uncomfortable in my own community and right now I am.”

Tillotson and her husband, Tim, live in Rep. Steve King’s district and are both Democrats. King was stripped of his committee assignments following racist comments in early 2019. When NBC News visited his district in January, voters were still split on his support. Now, Tim Tillotson says he’s more concerned about “developing and exposed racism, and white supremacy“ looking ahead to 2020. 

However, Republican voter Bob Henderson, from Sioux City, didn’t consider the President’s tweets about the four congresswomen of color to be racist. 

“I don't think [Trump] intended it at all to be racist,” Henderson said. “I think he intended it to be what I have heard a thousand times on the campaign trail: ‘Well if you don’t like this place, then leave.’”

As for lack of civility, voter Diane Sorenson feels uncomfortable attending Democratic events due to fear of Trump supporter protests. 

“Sometimes when you go to events, there are Trump supporters that are protesting, yelling at you all sorts of profanities,” Sorenson told NBC News, “Sometimes my girlfriends and I get scared going by ourselves.”

Trump campaign cuts ad to air during Democratic debates

President Trump's campaign says it will air a new television ad on cable news during the second round of the Democratic presidential debates, arguing that Democrats are too liberal for the American electorate. 

The ad begins with footage from the first round of debates in June, where candidates raised their hands to signify their government health care plans would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants. 

It's the latest example of the president trying to paint Democrats as radicals, a strategy being amplified by GOP campaign arms and outside groups. 

The spot will run on CNN, MSNBC and Fox on Tuesday and Wednesday, the two nights of the Democratic Party's latest presidential debates. 

Warren snags endorsement from former Sanders backer

WASHINGTON —Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has a notable new backer in corner with an endorsement that also marks a big win over her progressive rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The Warren campaign announced Tuesday that Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., is endorsing her bid. Grivalja was Sanders' first congressional endorsement in the 2016 cycle. 

“I’ve worked closely with Elizabeth and have seen up close her passion for working people and those who’ve been left behind,” Grijalva said in a statement released by the Warren camp. 

“She is a formidable champion of progressive values, ideas and principles who will lead us towards becoming a country that doesn’t kowtow to corporations and special interests, but a nation that will bring real power to workers, women, immigrants and all of those most vulnerable and marginalized. She is a bold, persistent, visionary leader who cares about working families - and because of this, she's won my endorsement.”

The endorsement is notable because of Grijalva's past support for Sanders.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus member served as a key surrogate for the Sanders campaign during the senator's last presidential bid. And Grijalva was not just the first member of Congress to back Sanders, he was one of only a handful to pick him over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Along with Grijalva's endorsement, the Warren campaign also announced backing from Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Katherine Clark and Jim McGovern, as well as New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, and Michigan Rep. Andy Levin.

Bullock to make first debate stage appearance Tuesday night

WASHINGTON — Most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls on tonight’s debate stage will be at least familiar to those who watched the first rounds in June, but one candidate will be getting his first crack at national exposure: Montana Governor Steve Bullock.

Bullock entered the presidential race later than most of the other candidates, saying that he had to stay in Montana to help shepherd the state's Medicaid expansion through the GOP-majority state legislature. 

He ultimately waited until mid-May to announce his bid, and wasn't able to hit the fundraising or polling threshold to qualify for the first round of debates. 

Now, Bullock will look to separate himself from the pack tonight by focusing on his record of having won two gubernatorial races in a state that President Trump carried by over 20 points. 

Throughout the first Democratic debate, Bullock tweeted about the Democratic field lacking a voice that got Republicans to vote for a Democrat. 

Look for a similar message on the stage today. 

Bullock will also be looking to contrast himself to two of the most progressive candidates in the race: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Bullock’s campaign has focused on a more moderate agenda that would see him competing directly with voters who may be looking for an alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden.  

Like Biden, Bullock does not support Medicare for All, but would rather create a public option for those without private insurance. He also differs from the progressive win of the party on his stance on undocumented immigrants receiving government health care. Bullock sides with former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., D-Rhode Island, and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, in saying undocumented immigrants shouldn't be covered by a government-run health plan. 

Bullock has not hit the September debate threshold yet, and it's unclear whether he'll be able to meet the DNC's higher threshold for that contest. 

 

51% in new poll say Trump is racist

A brand new Quinnipiac poll asks a straightforward question: Do you think President Trump is racist?

About half — 51 percent — of all voters say yes, while 45 percent say no.

Some of the breakdowns:

  • African Americans: 80 percent yes, 11 percent no
  • Latinos: 55 percent yes, 44 percent no
  • Whites: 46 percent yes, 50 percent no
  • Democrats: 86 percent yes, 9 percent no
  • Independents: 56 percent yes, 38 percent no
  • Republicans: 8 percent yes, 91 percent no

Also in the poll: A plurality of voters say Trump is more to blame for the lack of civility in American politics (45 percent) than Democrats are (34 percent). 

Also, only 32 percent say Congress should begin the process to impeach Trump.

But 56 percent say the Mueller report did NOT clear Trump of any wrongdoing, and 52 percent say Trump attempted to obstruct or derail the Russia investigation.

The poll was conducted July 25-28 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent. 

New Warren trade plan calls for labor, environmental standards

DETROIT — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is out with the third pillar of her “economic patriotism” plan, this time tackling trade after previously releasing plans on manufacturing and regulating Wall Street.

In a proposal released Monday — twenty four hours before she takes the stage for the second Democratic debate here — Warren seeks to upend the way American trade deals are negotiated and passed through Congress, establish a set of standards that countries must meet in order to enter into trade agreements with the United States, and keep countries and companies in line with labor and environmental standards.  

The Massachusetts senator is the first 2020 candidate to put forth an extensive plan specifically on trade. She’s expected to highlight the policy in Toledo, Ohio Monday evening.

Some top lines include:

  • Requiring trade negotiations be public and more closely scrutinized by trade groups labor groups before being approved by Congress
  • Codifying a set of standards — including upholding human rights, abiding by core labor rights of the International Labor Organization, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies — that foreign countries must abide by in order to enter into trade deals with the U.S. Already existing trade deals would also be renegotiated to make sure all countries are in line with these standards.
  • Imposing a carbon tax against companies that move production overseas to avoid environmental regulations to “equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules”
  • Bringing down the cost of prescription drugs by supports efforts to put price controls on pharmaceuticals and reducing exclusivity periods in already-existing trade deals
  • Creating a new division under the U.S. Trade Representative to enforce environmental and labor rules