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Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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Joe Biden launches first Iowa TV ad

DES MOINES, Iowa — Joe Biden's presidential campaign launched its first television advertisements across the state of Iowa Tuesday morning, coinciding with former vice president's sixth visit to the first-in-the-nation-caucus state since announcing his candidacy for president.

The one-minute ad titled “Bones,” opens by quickly showing faces of Americans diverse in age and race as the narrator says “We all know in our bones this election is different.”

As the narrator points out that the “stakes are higher” and “threats more serious” than ever before, the ad quickly turns to show white supremacists carrying torches the night before the 2017 Unite the Right clashes in Charlottesville, Va., a flashpoint that Biden repeatedly mentions as a moment that heavily influenced his run for president.

“We have to beat Donald Trump,” the narrator says before Biden appears on the screen. “And all the polls agree Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job. No one is more qualified.”

Biden, who frequently references his close personal and working relationship with President Barack Obama, is shown alongside his former boss in the ad as the narrator reminds the audience of landmark legislation and progress both men achieved as partners in the administration.

“Now, Joe Biden is running for president with a plan for America’s future. To build on Obamacare, not scrap it. To make a record investment in America’s schools, to lead the world on climate, to rebuild our alliances.”

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden delivers a 20-minute campaign speech at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Aug. 8, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The narrator then adds that Biden would “restore the soul of the nation battered by an erratic, vicious, bullying president.”

In what could be a glimpse into a possible campaign slogan, the ad ends with a quick description of Biden’s political strengths: “Strong. Steady. Stable Leadership. Biden. President.”

The ad will target voters living in the largest media markets of the state for several weeks, according to the campaign, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities and Sioux City.

According to ad spending data from Advertising Analytics,  Biden's campaign has reserved about $500,000 in television time in Iowa from Aug. 20 to Sept. 9, with the bulk of the money being spent in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

Ben Kamisar contributed.

Tom Steyer pauses campaign for jury duty

NEW YORK — In the United States, one civic duty calls upon candidates and constituents alike: jury duty. 

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer announced he would step off the campaign trail this week to report for jury duty in San Francisco. The billionaire businessman will be on standby for the weeklong summons, and will report to the courthouse for selection if called. 

Image: Tom Steyer Meet The Press
Tom Steyer speaks with Chuck Todd on Meet The Press.NBC News

Steyer was a late addition to the 2020 race for president, announcing his candidacy in July.  Despite that later entry, the candidate said in a tweet it was important that he take time off the trail to fulfill his “civic obligation.” 

“I believe I could have postponed it, but I believe that it’s every American’s civic duty to serve on a jury,” Steyer said in an interview with NBC News. “It’s a choice about values. Do you believe that you’re above the responsibilities of everyday citizens or not.”

Steyer told NBC News that he thinks jury duty, like voting, is an essential and positive aspect of democracy that makes “this country strong.”

Earlier this summer, another 2020 hopeful took time away from the campaign. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., reported for jury duty in July.  Booker tweeted a video from the Newark courthouse declaring it “the best jury room in all of America.” 

Former Presidents Obama and Bush have also been summoned for post-Oval Office jury duty in recent years.

Elizabeth Warren tells Native American forum she's 'sorry' for ancestry flap

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Sen. Elizabeth Warren led off her much-anticipated appearance at the Frank LaMere Native American Forum by saying “I’m sorry.”

Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is escorted on stage by Donna Brandis and Marcella LeBeau
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is escorted on stage by Donna Brandis, left, and Marcella LeBeau at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum on Aug. 19, 2019 in Sioux City, Iowa.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

“Like anyone who's been honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes,” she said, alluding to the year-ago dust up over her DNA test and Native American ancestry that loomed over the early weeks of her 2020 presidential campaign.

“I am sorry for a harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned a lot and I am grateful for the many conversations that we've had together. It is a great honor to be able to partner with Indian Country and that's what I've tried to do as a senator and that's what I promise I will do as President of the United States of America.”

In bringing the issue up herself, Warren was able to handle it on her own terms, while then pivoting to the thing she’s now known best for: talking about her various plans.

Tribal leaders and event organizers told NBC News before the event that the DNA flap didn’t give them pause about Warren’s candidacy.  But her apology Monday highlighted a difference between Warren and President Donald Trump, who rarely, if ever, apologizes.

Biden, Warren and Sanders see popularity wane amid 2020 presidential campaign

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., all have seen their popularity slide over the past 20 months, a drop that coincides with their entry into the Democratic presidential primary. 

Between the January 2018 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and the new poll released Sunday, all three have seen their popularity slide to varying degrees.

All ended up underwater, with negative sentiment higher than positive sentiment among American adults.

Image:
Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts embrace after the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit on July 30, 2019.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

Biden has fallen the furthest — he's seen a net 32 percentage-point rating (54 percent positive and 22 percent negative) slide to a net rating of negative 4 percentage points (34 percent view him positively now while 38 percent view him negatively). 

Sanders' net-popularity also dropped by double digits (17 points), from 44 percent positive and 30 percent negative in 2017 to 37 percent positive, 40 percent negative now.

Warren's popularity hardly moved by comparison, but a once-slightly positive rating now sits in negative territory. In 2018, 30 percent of adults viewed her positively and 28 percent viewed her negatively. Now, those numbers are at 31 percent positive and 32 percent negative. 

The phenomenon of politicians seeing their public image slide when they run for higher office is far from new—while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoyed strong support while at the State Department, her ratings crashed down to Earth when she decided to run for president in 2016. 

All three Democratic candidates have better net ratings than the man they hope to run against in 2020. The new poll found President Donald Trump with a 39 percent positive rating and a 53 percent negative rating.

The president and those three Democrats were the only candidates included in the poll. 

A deeper look at the numbers reinforce the significant demographic differences between the Trump base and that of the Democratic candidates. 

Trump has a booming, net-positive rating from white, non-college men of 45 points and a net 4-point positive rating from white, non-college women. But he's underwater with white, college-educated men by 7 points, and with white, college-educated women by a whopping 46 points. 

Among white voters, the Democrats are most popular among white, college-educated women and least popular with white, non-college educated men. 

All three Democrats sport double-digit, net-positive popularity ratings among non-white voters, compared to a dismal negative 55 percentage point net rating for Trump. Biden, Sanders and Warren all score virtually the same with African-American voters despite that voting bloc's heavy preference for Biden in Democratic primary horse-race polls. 

In the pivotal Rust Belt — home to key general election states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio (as well as Indiana) — Trump's rating sits 12 points underwater. Warren is 5 points underwater while Biden's rating is even and Sanders' is positive by 2 points. 

The poll also tested two interest groups that have been in the news lately — Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association.

Fifty-two percent of adults have a positive view of Planned Parenthood, compared to the 27 percent who have a negative view of the group. 

By comparison, 40 percent view the NRA positively, while 41 percent view it negatively. 

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Aug. 10-14 of 1,000 adults – more than half reached by cell phone – and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

Elizabeth Warren's heritage flap re-emerges ahead of native American forum

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Time may really heal all wounds — even those that are self-inflicted and political in nature. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., controversial rollout of a DNA test regarding her Native American ancestry marred the early weeks of her presidential campaign. But more than half a year later, Warren is now surging in the polls, known not for the early error but instead as the candidate "with a plan for that." 

It's those plans that Warren will be pushing ahead of a Monday appearance in Sioux Falls, Iowa for a candidate forum focused on Native American issues. Several tribal leaders invited to the forum told NBC News they are unfazed about the DNA test dust-up, while acknowledging it probably could have been handled more deftly.

Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to the crowd at a town hall event in Aiken, S.C., on Aug. 17, 2019.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to the crowd at a town hall event in Aiken, S.C., on Aug. 17, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images

But even as Warren has worked to quell concerns about her ability to face off (and win) against President Donald Trump, the Native American forum and the mere suggestion of the issue shows that the controversy can swiftly come back the fore. And that's even without President Donald Trump hyping the issue.

Still, asked if the moment gave pause about Warren's candidacy, Aaron Payment, the chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians, said "absolutely not." Payment — who says he has met with Warren both as a candidate, most recently when she attended a gathering of tribal leaders in Detroit, and in the years preceding her 2020 campaign — pointed to the fact that she never claimed to be a member of a tribe.

"Unfortunately, she allowed herself to get sucked in when the president started disparaging her and demeaning American Indians in general," Payment said. "Hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe there might've been a different way to" go at Trump on the issue.

W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chair of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, lamented the politicization of Warren's heritage but said the Massachusetts senator may have "made a mistake of over-defending her heritage." 

Noting that "fighting back" is in Warren's nature, Allen then brought up Trump: "When Trump does his thing, just shut up. Don't give him any energy because he feeds off that stuff."

President Trump's "thing" with Warren has long been to attack her with the slur Pocahontas; something he and his surrogates continue to do on Twitter and in other forums.

Warren was born in Oklahoma and has said that stories of her Native American ancestry were part of family lore. She identified as Native American on some official forms — something political foes have weaponized against her in the past — but a 2018 Boston Globe review found that it did not play a role in her professional advancement.

At Democratic campaign events across the country most voters seem to have put the DNA test to the back of their minds — or at least found other, more positive hallmarks of Warren's candidacy to focus on. At Warren's events, she is rarely pressed on the heritage issue. During a town hall in Jefferson, Iowa last week, a Native American woman of the Rosebud Sioux tribe prefaced her question to Warren by telling the candidate "you are all native to me!"

But, in a crowded field of candidates, voters are also taking note of potential negative attributes.

"They do all have something that has made me go ‘oh, my gosh,'" 39-year-old Jessica Wiederspan told NBC News in Oskaloosa, Iowa. "With Elizabeth, it was the Native American issue."

"It’s a concern for me about something Trump can use against her," Wiederspan said, "to distract from the bigger issues and from all of his problems and all of her good ideas. I also don’t think it was handled very sensitively, you know, but what I’ve seen is nobody’s perfect."

To other voters, Trump will be Trump — regardless of who the Democratic nominee is.

At a Warren event in Franconia, New Hampshire voter Nancy Strand said the president will find a way to disparage any eventual nominee.

"Whoever wins this Democratic nomination, [Trump] is going to slur," she concluded. "If he picks that for her, I don't think most of us care. He's going to do it no matter what."

It's not just Trump, though.

While the issue has been largely out of the conversation with voters on the campaign trail, it has reared its head in other places. Like during a tense May interview on "The Breakfast Club" podcast, where co-host Charlamagne The God said Warren was "kind of like the original Rachel Dolezal," a white woman who claimed to be black. 

"This is what I learned from my family," Warren responded about her claims of heritage. In the interview, she also said "I'm not a person of color. I'm not a citizen of a tribe. And tribal citizenship is an important distinction -- and not something I am."

Based on nearly half a dozen conversations with tribal leaders and event organizers, Monday's forum is expected to hinge on the issues. A Warren aide told NBC the senator looked forward to talking policy Monday in Iowa — and that's what tribal leaders told NBC they wanted to hear about from Warren, and the other candidates attending.

As for the controversy?

"Everybody I've talked to, I haven’t seen any concern," event organizer OJ Semans of Four Directions, Inc. told NBC in the days leading up to the forum. "Sure, there's gonna be somebody somewhere that has a problem but that's just the way it is. I look at what she's done for Indian country. That’s the most important part for me”

Priscilla Thompson and Benjamin Pu contributed.

Beto O'Rourke: 'I'm going to be that candidate that shows up for everyone in America'

WASHINGTON — Former Texas Democratic congressman turned presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke defended his campaign's reboot on Sunday, arguing that he plans to travel the country to "call out the existential threat" of a second term for President Trump.

O'Rourke returned to the campaign trail last week after the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, which authorities say may have been racially motivated, calling the shooter's alleged anti-immigration rhetoric the "real consequence and cost of Donald Trump." 

"Democrats have to address those issues and deliver on those issues," he said about kitchen-table issues like health care and the economy.

"But we also have to call out the existential threat, to use the word that you just employed, that Donald Trump represents right now. Not only are we going to lose more lives, I'm confident that we will lose this country and our democracy, the longer he stays in office. So that is the urgency behind what I'm talking about."

That's why he says he wants to focus on taking his message outside of the early-voting states to voters across the country.

"If everyone counts, we can't just say that. We have to demonstrate that. And I don't think, at a time that this campaign, this selection for who will be the nominee, has become nationalized, that that will be lost on the people of Iowa," he said.

"I also know what it feels like when someone finally shows up. And I'm going to be that candidate that shows up for everyone in America."

Sanford says Trump doesn't deserve re-election, but would still support him over Democrat

WASHINGTON — Former South Carolina Republican Governor and Congressman Mark Sanford, who is considering a potential primary bid against President Trump, said Sunday that the president does not deserve to be re-elected

But he added that if faced with choosing between Trump and any Democratic candidate, Sanford would still vote for Trump because he believes Democratic policies will "exacerbate the problems on spending and the debt and the deficit." 

Sanford spent much of his interview laying out a contrast with Trump on issues like trade and government spending, arguing that the administration's "lack of stability" isn't giving business confidence to invest in America. 

When asked whether Trump deserved to be re-elected, Sanford replied that he doesn't. But when faced with a scenario of choosing between Trump and a Democrat, Sanford said he'd pull the lever for Trump. 

"Everything is relative in politics," he said, before evoking Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

"With all due respect to Warren, the policies that she laid out will exacerbate the problems on spending and the debt and the deficit." 

Image: Mark Sanford speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Aug. 18, 2019.
Mark Sanford speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Aug. 18, 2019.William B. Plowman / NBC News

He added that he wouldn't feel much more comfortable voting for former Vice President Joe Biden either.

"I have not seen him not embrace a lot of what she's talking about," Sanford said of Biden. 

"The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is leading the charge right now — You can see it in the polls of late. And so, I'm not seeing a great differentiation there, but I may be missing it." 

Beto O'Rourke stumps in locations hit by immigration raids

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — After relaunching his campaign in the still grieving community of El Paso, Texas following the mass shooting there earlier this month, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke continued to console Hispanic communities across the South who are living in fear of discrimination and deportation.

Image: O'Rourke Visits Mississippi After ICE raids
Beto O'Rourke visits the Tiendita Anita, a Mexican grocery store, on Aug. 16, 2019, his first day back on the campaign trail after the El Paso mass shootings.Suzi Altman / Zuma Press

Stopping by Tiendita Anita Grocery Store & Distribution Center on Friday in Canton, Miss., O’Rourke embarked on a listening tour of the community where almost one hundred workers were swept up by ICE agents at the Peco Foods poultry processing plant last week. The Canton raid was part of a sweep that detained almost 700 undocumented immigrants in one day and O'Rourke is the only Democratic presidential candidate to visit since the raids.

Anita, the owner of the store, told O’Rourke in Spanish that the raid served as a tipping point in a community that lives in fear of crossing ICE-labeled trucks. She told a story about a woman who refused to cash a check after seeing an ICE vehicle at the bank, and another about a 26-year-old man who hid in a restaurant freezer for nine hours when he spotted ICE agents coming into his workplace. 

The close encounters with agents have left many residents afraid to leave their homes. Some, she said, are considering going back to their home countries because they are exasperated by the fear of possibly knowing what it’s like to be separated from their families in the United States.

“It’s sad. It’s so, so sad,” Anita told O’Rourke in Spanish about how life has been sucked out of the community. “People are shaking in fear.”

Continuing his listening tour Saturday with Hispanic immigrants at a townhall inside Del Campo A La Ciudad, a Mexican owned restaurant and grocery store in Little Rock, O’Rourke passionately spoke out against President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric and the damage the Democrat says he has caused.

“'Predators,' that is a word that the President of the United States used to describe human beings. 'Animals,' that's the word that the president the United States used to describe human beings. 'Infestations,' which is what we call cockroaches. That's what the President of United States use to describe human beings,” he said.

O’Rourke promised to fight for a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States and legalizing DREAMers, stressing that families like the ones he met in Mississippi, should not fear the consequences of family separation.

He warned that if Trump is not defeated in 2020, the United States will “lose any idea of America and the ideal of America forever, we will continue to lose more lives in our lives and we cannot stand for that.”

Bernie Sanders, Cardi B discuss police brutality, 'Medicare for All' in new interview

WASHINGTON — Though she says in one of her more popular songs, "Cardi don't need more press," she's about to get it.

In a wide-ranging interview released by the Bernie Sanders campaign Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Grammy Award-winning rapper Cardi B spoke about issues of police brutality, "Medicare for All," immigration and student debt. 

“This was an unfiltered and unscripted talk about real issues,” said Sarah Ford, Deputy Communications Director of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign. “Like Bernie Sanders, Cardi B authentically engages with an audience of young and working-class people who have often been left out of the traditional political process.”

Image: Bernie Sanders Cardi B
Bernie Sanders and Cardi B met to discuss "the future of America".Bernie Sanders via Twitter

Sen. Sanders was asked about police brutality, and told Cardi B, "If a police officer kills somebody, that killing must be investigated by the United States Department of Justice."

Cardi B got visibly excited when Sanders was talking about his immigration plans with DACA recipients. "They once again would have those protections and I think we’re going to expand that program to their parents as well," Sanders said. "Yeah!" she said, as she danced in her seat. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders asked Cardi B if she could imagine someone today earning nine dollars an hour for the work that they do. "It don't make no sense," Cardi B said. 

“Cardi and her supporters understand the urgency needed to fix our broken health care and criminal justice systems, raise the minimum wage to a living wage and address climate change,” Ford said. 

When it came to the topic of getting involved in the political process, Cardi B told her followers, "please, let’s put our focus on this term’s elections, because I don’t think people understand how serious this is." Sanders replied, "Trump does not want people of color to be participating in the political process." "Participate in the political process!"

After discussing the New Deal, Cardi B explained that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is her favorite president. "It just amazed me that he came up with all of those things plus personal problems, like you know, he had Polio and everything," Cardi B said. "I love him. He’s my favorite."

Sanders shot back, jokingly: "Well I want to be your favorite after I’m elected but we’ll see, alright?" Cardi B did not go as far as to explicitly endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. She did, however, say "Let's feel the Bern!" at the very end of the video, before laughing.

The 77-year-old self-described Democratic socialist and 26-year old rapper filmed the nearly 12-minute conversation at The TEN Nail Bar, a Black women-owned nail salon in Detroit, Michigan. According to the Sanders campaign, the co-founders started the business in an area of the city where woman-owned businesses lack a large presence. 

Elizabeth Warren releases plan to aid Native American communities

NEW YORK — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a new plan Friday designed to benefit the Native American community, including a call to revoke the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline permits.

In a Medium post titled “Honoring and Empowering Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples,” Warren blasted historical mistreatment of Native Americans and vowed legislation to fix systemic inequality and said that “Washington owes Native communities a fighting chance to build stronger communities and a brighter future.”

Image: 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to voters at a campaign house party in Wolfeboro
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaks to voters at a campaign house party in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, on Aug. 14, 2019.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters

 

Warren vowed to revoke the construction permits of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, saying that the they were built despite the protests of Native Americans. She also said that Tribal Nations should get veto power over any decision that impacts tribal sovereignty. “Tribal Nations have deep connections to land now controlled by the federal government but are often denied access and consultation about its use,” Warren wrote.

To address issues of criminal justice and violence against Native American women, Warren rolled out plans to strengthen tribal law enforcement. Warren called for Congress to pass legislation to reverse Oliphant v. Suquamish, the 1978 Supreme Court ruling that decided that tribal governments could not prosecute non-Natives who had committed a crime, even if the crime was committed on Native land. She also proposed a nationwide “Missing Indigenous Woman Alert System,” which she says will be modeled after the Amber Alert system.

Warren said that she and Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., will be introducing a bill called “Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act.” The legislation calls for a variety of increased federal commitments to Indian country, including improving access to clean drinking water, increasing funding to expand the electrical grids in rural areas, and providing full funding to Indian Health Service.

This legislation is not yet finalized, as Warren says there will be a public comment phase where “tribal governments, citizens, experts, other stakeholders, and the public to offer input and suggestions in advance of the introduction of a final product in Congress.”

Warren’s plan comes before her appearance at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum on Monday in Sioux City, Iowa. Rep. Haaland, who endorsed Warren earlier this summer, is one of only two Native American members of Congress.

Hickenlooper long lagged other presidential hopefuls in fundraising

WASHINGTON— With Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announcing the end of his Democratic presidential bid on Thursday, it's worth noting how precarious his campaign's financial situation appeared at the end of June (the last time campaigns had to file fundraising reports). 

Hickenlooper had raised just $3.2 million for his bid in the first six months of 2019, behind more than a dozen other Democratic candidates. Last quarter, he spent significantly more money than he raised overall, a troublesome sign for a candidate languishing toward the back of the pack.

He ended that quarter with about $836,000 in the bank — only New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and author Marianne Williamson closed June with less cash on hand than Hickenlooper. 

Image: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to reporters ahead of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to reporters ahead of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami on June 26, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Despite all that spending, Hickenlooper was almost certain to miss the Democratic National Committee's qualifying thresholds for the next round of debates.

Candidates have to raise money from 130,000 unique donors and hit 2 percent in four qualifying polls—as of Thursday, he hasn't scored 2 percent or more in any qualifying poll and FEC records show that through June, Hickenlooper had just one-tenth of that unique donor threshold.

But Hickenlooper may not be sitting on the sidelines for long.

The former Colorado governor said Thursday he's considering the state's Senate race, where Democrats hope to defeat Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. And some Coloradans are trying to woo Hickenlooper into the race with polling showing he'd be the odds-on favorite in the crowded Democratic primary field.

The good news for Hickenlooper if he decides to run in the Senate race is that he'll be able to transfer over a significant chunk of the money he raised for his presidential primary bid to his Senate race.

The former governor can transfer donations made to his presidential primary over to a new Senate account. All he'd have to do is keep tabs on whose donations he's transferring to ensure none of his donors break federal election law that limits a person to donate $2,800 to a candidate per election cycle (primary and general elections count as two separate cycles). 

Transferring the small chunk of cash he raised for the general presidential election will be slightly more difficult. Under federal election law, he'd have to reach out to those donors specifically to get their permission to re-designate that money to a Senate primary campaign. 

But even if he struggled to compete in the presidential election, his possible Senate campaign would get an early financial boost because of his attempt to win the White House. 

Beto O'Rourke vows to confront Trump directly in return to campaign trail

EL PASO, Texas — Beto O’Rourke marked his return to the presidential campaign trail Thursday with a promise to confront President Trump more directly, shaking up his campaign strategy and warning Americans: “if we do not wake up to this threat, then we as a country will die in our sleep.”

O’Rourke’s speech marks the end of an emotional twelve-day period for the candidate in his home town, where he returned August 3rd in the wake of a shooting here that killed 22 people. O’Rourke told a small audience of invited guests and reporters that the shooting crystalized his thinking about the urgency of removing President Trump.

"We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem. That person who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment of peril and that is Donald Trump,” O’Rourke said. "I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now and that we do not have. 

O’Rourke’s return to the campaign trail will, at least in some measure, eschew traditional campaign stops like the Iowa state fair. He said he will instead focus his energy on lifting up those targeted by the administration’s policies. He’ll head next to Mississippi to join families of those affected by ICE raids there last week. 

O’Rourke also introduced one new policy plank in his remarks, calling for a mandatory buy-back of all assault weapons in the United States. He had previously supported banning the sale of “weapons of war,” but after visiting shooting victims in El Paso hospitals, said he now believes the country needs to go farther in getting such weapons off the streets. 

The return to the trail comes as O’Rourke has gained renewed national attention in the wake of the shooting. But his poll numbers remain largely flat — garnering 1-to-2 percent support in most early states, with a larger following in Texas and in some recent national surveys. 

O’Rourke on Thursday again rejected calls to quit the presidential race and pursue Texas’ Republican-held Senate seat.   

"There have even been some who have suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate. But that would not be good enough for this community. That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country,” O’Rourke said. 

2020 Democrats prepare counter-programming in New Hampshire for Trump visit

MANCHESTER, N.H. — As President Trump prepares to touch down in the first-in-the-nation primary state for a campaign rally Thursday, the Democratic presidential campaigns here are taking advantage of the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the incumbent they're aiming to unseat. 

Then-candidate Trump won the New Hampshire primary in 2016 with  just over a third of the Republican vote. However, he narrowly lost the state to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the general election. This is President Trump's first visit to New Hampshire since the 2016 election. 

Image: Donald Trump greets supporters at a polling station in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 9, 2016.
Donald Trump greets supporters at a polling station in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 9, 2016.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

Here's how some 2020 Democrats are responding to Trump's visit: 

Biden: Biden’s NH team is organizing a rally response that will take place at Portland Pie Company just down the street from the arena where Trump will appear “to stand up against the  divisive rhetoric and hatred that we are seeing from the White House,” according to a campaign statement. They are welcoming Granite Staters to join their campaign staff to send a message to President Trump, and the campaign will be signing folks up to volunteer, collecting Commit to Vote cards and talking to voters about “why Vice President Joe Biden is uniquely qualified to restore the soul of our nation, rebuild the backbone of our country, and unify America.”

Buttigieg: During Donald Trump's rally Buttigieg’s NH staff, volunteers and organizers will be gathering in Concord, New Hampshire to host a “change the channel”  phone banking in support of common-sense gun safety measures.

Gillibrand:  Gillibrand’s New Hampshire team will perform acts of community service to address Trump’s broken promises he made to voters and help those affected by the opioid epidemic. Today the team will hold a food drive, collecting non-perishable items at Gillibrand's Manchester Headquarters to donate to shelters across the city that help those suffering from  Substance Use Disorder. On Friday they will participate in the Old Sol’s 4th Annual Summer Servathon, packaging food to be delivered to Families in Transition/New Horizons, which help local families experiencing food insecurity.

Harris: This week leading up to Trump’s New Hampshire rally, Harris’s campaign has been holding “Dude Gotta Go” phone banks in cities and towns across the Granite State.

O’Rourke: Beto for New Hampshire released a 53-second video in which Beto narrates the rhetoric President Trump has used “to incite violence and mass shootings, calling him out for white supremacist rhetoric and changing the character of this country.” The team is also pushing a “hate not welcome”  social media campaign. “Hate is not welcome here in New Hampshire, and it’s on all of us to call it out and combat it. Donald Trump and his campaign continue to stoke division, racism, and white supremacy — and it doesn’t just offend our sensibilities, it is resulting in violence across the country,” said Beto for New Hampshire State Director Mike Ollen.

Kamala Harris announces plan to require background checks for online gun sales

WASHINGTON — In the week of the two-year anniversary of Charlottesville and the aftermath of mass shootings in El Paso, Kamala Harris Wednesday announced a new executive action she would take as president to require background checks for online gun sales as part of an effort to combat domestic terrorism

Image: US-POLITICS-VOTE-IOWA
2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa on Aug. 12, 2019.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images

This is the second time Harris has laid out proposed executive actions on gun control. In April, the California senator said she would give Congress 100 days after she is elected to pass comprehensive gun reform and if they did not, she would take steps to require background checks, close the so-called "boyfriend loophole"  and renew the assault weapons ban. This most recent executive action would fall under the same deadline. 

The plan, announced Wednesday afternoon, also includes steps to take on the rise of domestic and white nationalist terrorism. Harris says she would support laws to empower courts to use “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Orders,” to allow law enforcement and family members to petition a federal court to “temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns if they exhibit clear evidence of dangerousness.” 

Harris would also expand the National Counterterrorism Center’s purview to include handling domestic terrorism cases and direct more resources to analyzing and preventing white nationalist terrorism. She would seek Congress’ authority in order to do this. 

Harris’ plan also includes directing the FBI to take “more vigilant steps” in monitoring online platforms where white nationalist rhetoric grows. She says the increased monitoring would put pressure on sites to more closely follow their terms and conditions. 

While Harris does not mention specific websites in her plan, it is worth noting that sites such as 8chan, which have been gathering points for the shooters in recent attacks, are designed in a way so that there are no terms and conditions to begin with. The content is free-flowing and not censored, so it is unclear how Harris plans to take on sites like this in particular. 

Harris also says she would commit $2 billion over ten years to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism cases. Her plan does not specify where the funding will come from.

Joe Biden holds 19-point lead in latest South Carolina primary poll

WASHINGTON — The most recent Democratic primary poll in South Carolina is clear on one thing: unless your name is Joe Biden, you have some work to do. 

Biden leads the latest Post and Courier/Change Research poll with 36 percent of likely Democratic voters choosing him as their first choice. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is second to Biden with only 17 percent of the vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., follows closely behind with 16 percent, and then California Sen. Kamala Harris trails him with 12 percent. 

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question from Crystal Gadsden White about the importance he places on unions during a town hall on July 7, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question from Crystal Gadsden White about the importance he places on unions during a town hall on July 7, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.Meg Kinnard / AP file

Biden’s strength in South Carolina isn’t new. Prior to the first Democratic debate in June, Biden led the same poll with 37 percent of the vote. In that poll, Warren was also in second place with 17 percent. While Biden’s lead in the first southern state primary contest hasn’t changed, it comes despite some notable exchanges on race. 

In the first Democratic debate, Biden and Harris sparred about his vote against federally mandated busing — a policy Harris said was the reason she was able to be bused to school as a child in California. Biden has also been forced to defend the 1994 crime bill which led Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. to label Biden as the “proud architect of a failed system.” 

During his recent Iowa swing, Biden delivered a speech in which he said that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” then quickly added, “wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids” — remarks widely described as a gaffe.

Despite the scrutiny on Biden’s record on race, voters in South Carolina don’t seem to be moving towards another candidate, and according to a July Monmouth University poll, 51 percent of South Carolina Democratic black voters prefer Biden as their top choice candidate. 

Of course, a lot can happen before the South Carolina primary in February, most notably the Iowa caucuses. After all, then-Sen. Barack Obama wasn’t primed to win South Carolina until he carried Iowa.

Beto O'Rourke to deliver campaign reset speech Thursday

DALLAS — Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke plans to deliver his first major, written address on Thursday, offering a reset of his presidential campaign, a new focus and a fresh strategy for going forward in the wake of a mass shooting in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso that killed 22 people last week. 

O’Rourke will recommit to holding President Trump accountable for the state of the country — and focus on the stakes of removing a president from office whom he has explicitly linked to the deaths of fellow El Pasoans, according to a senior campaign official.  

He’ll focus heavily on three key issues: racism, white supremacy and guns — and plans to propose what the campaign calls “new, bold solutions."

Image: Beto O'Rourke hugs a woman at a memorial honoring the victims of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 7, 2019.
Beto O'Rourke hugs a woman at a memorial honoring the victims of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 7, 2019.Mario Tama / Getty Images

 

O’Rourke also plans to call on other candidates, elected officials and members of the media to keep the stakes of this race in mind. The former congressman's frustration at the political media’s coverage of Trump boiled over last week, in a moment that went viral and drew praise from many Democrats for his raw, emotional response.  

Back in El Paso since last Saturday’s shooting, the speech will mark O’Rourke’s return to the presidential campaign trail — but don’t expect him to race immediately back to early states, the campaign official said. O’Rourke will lay out a plan to take him to more places typically written off by presidential candidates, and less to “traditional” events — “reflecting the gravity of the situation we’re in, even if that means doing things differently," the official said.

O’Rourke’s campaign hopes the speech and subsequent return to campaigning can propel the candidate back into the top tier. His polling numbers hover between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent of those surveyed in most early states, with a much stronger base of support in Texas, where voters cast ballots on Super Tuesday. 

O’Rourke’s team remains adamant that despite his strong polling and fundraising base in Texas he will not — now or at any time — withdraw from the presidential contest to instead run for Senate against Republican incumbent John Cornyn. 

While stopping short of endorsing one candidate outright in what has become an increasingly crowded Democratic primary in that race, O’Rourke has regularly praised combat veteran and former House candidate MJ Hegar, and predicted she will defeat Cornyn should she become the nominee. 

Trump tweet praises prospect of House bid by controversial Curt Schilling

WASHINGTON — Days after former Major League Baseball All-Star Curt Schilling floated the prospect of running for Congress, President Trump boosted the controversial pitcher on Twitter by hailing the news as "terrific." 

Over the weekend, Schilling told news outlets that he's considering a run in Arizona, where he lived for a stretch as a child as well as while playing for the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks.

On Monday, he pegged that potential bid to his views on immigration policy in a statement to The Arizona Republic, accusing the federal government of spending taxpayer money on drug and child smugglers. 

"The state is not the state I grew up in. Making Arizona citizens of EVERY Race, religion and sexual orientation 2nd class citizens to illegal immigrants is about as anti-American as it gets," he said. 

"When you have homeless veterans, children, and you're spending tax dollars on people smuggling drugs and children across our border someone in charge needs their ass kicked."

Schilling, who is conservative and an outspoken Trump supporter, is no stranger to flirtations for public office. Last cycle, he said he would run against Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren but eventually decided not to run.

He hasn't specified the district in which he might run. But if he decides to, he'll have to reckon with a bevy of controversies that have followed him throughout his career as a broadcaster and pundit. 

ESPN fired Schilling in 2016 after sharing an anti-transgender meme on Facebook. He's previously faced criticism for sharing a litany of controversial statements and social media posts, including posting a meme about Nazis and Muslims (which he denied on his blog was racist) and arguing on a radio show that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should be "buried under a jail somewhere" if she disclosed classified information on her private email server. 

Trump's saddling up to Schilling comes as he continues to defend himself from criticism that his rhetoric on immigration has contributed to violence against Hispanics, and from Democrats who have called him a white supremacist. Trump has denied those charges, arguing "they call anybody a racist when they run out of cards."  

President Trump's GOP challenger has quiet visit to Iowa State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa — Democratic candidates descended on the Iowa State Fair during its opening weekend, flipping pork chops, riding bumper cars and pitching their plans to voters from atop the fair’s famous soapbox.

But Bill Weld, the race’s only current Republican challenger to President Donald Trump, had a decidedly quieter fair visit. Beneath a rainy, Sunday morning sky, the former Massachusetts governor used his time on the soapbox to answer questions from a poncho-clad crowd of attendees. He advocated for fiscal responsibility in government and criticized President Trump’s divisiveness.

Image: Bill Weld
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld walks down the grand course with John Olsen, of Ankeny, Iowa, right, during a visit to the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall / AP

“The current incumbent likes having one-word platforms: wall, hoax,” Weld said. “It means he doesn’t really have to argue the issues.”

With little fanfare, Weld spent the next two hours wandering the fairgrounds, munching on a turkey leg, going largely unnoticed. After doing several media interviews, the former Massachusetts governor went to cast his kernel at the corn poll. The booth worker mistakenly greeted him as Governor John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.

It’s not Weld’s first foray into presidential politics, and not his first race against Trump. In 2016, he was the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential pick on the ticket led by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Weld said Sunday he would not launch a third-party run if he lost the Republican nomination. 

When asked by NBC News how he plans to win in 2020, Weld said he would start by targeting New England states and spoke of “not-yet-ready-to-be-activated governor networks” he could tap for support.  

“The main thing is speaking the truth, not lying, not being ignoble, not trying to set people against each other,” he said. “I think the truth about what Mr. Trump is now doing and has been doing is going to set in. It's going to sink in sooner or later, and that will be the turning point in the election.”

Castro targets Trump's vacation in Bedminster with small, Fox News ad buy about El Paso shooting

DES MOINES, IOWA — Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro's presidential campaign is running an ad for an audience of one on Wednesday, booking a small ad buy that will run on Fox & Friends during President Trump's vacation. 

The new ad will run on Wednesday in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump is staying the week at his private golf club. The new spot connects Trump's rhetoric on immigrants to the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which was the largest targeted attack on Latinos in modern American history.

Castro, who needs to register at 2 percent or higher in one more poll to qualify for the September debates, may be hoping for an exponential return on the tiny ad buy of less than $3,000. 

The ad is set in an empty warehouse, with Castro speaking direct to camera, “President Trump: You referred to countries as shitholes. You urged American Congresswomen to ‘go back’ to where they came from. You called immigrants rapists. As we saw in El Paso, Americans were killed because you stoked the fire of racists. Innocent people were shot down because they look different from you. Because they look like me. They look like my family.” 

It comes after Trump attacked Castro's brother, Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, for releasing names of San Antonio donors on Twitter who had maxed out donations to the President. 

Read more on NBCNews.com here

Kamala Harris scores endorsement from Iowa's Asian-Latino Coalition

DES MOINES, Iowa — After a just-finished five-day bus tour through the state, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., rolled away with one of the biggest endorsements in the Iowa caucus to date Monday from the state's Asian-Latino Coalition.  

The decision to endorse Harris was “contentious” and not unanimous among the coalition's board members, according to the group's chairperson, Prakash Kopparapu, who said that, in the end, “her message is what works best for everyone, it’s balanced really well. And she’s convinced all the members that she has the strength and the personality to beat Donald Trump.” 

“I am honored,” Harris said in a statement, adding that the coalition's "mission and values of equality and justice are the same values I am fighting for in this campaign. I am thankful I will have the coalition’s organization strength in my corner as we head toward February.” 

The group boasts 400 members of diverse backgrounds, in addition to a large membership of caucasian voters who regularly attend candidate events, which have become a key stop for presidential hopefuls early in their campaigns.

Fourteen candidates spoke at Asian-Latino Coalition events during various Iowa swings, with Harris, Klobuchar, and Yang making multiple stops. Notably, neither Elizabeth Warren nor Bernie Sanders visited with the group, and therefore were not eligible for the endorsement. 

Amidst dancing to Sister Sledge and the Cupid Shuffle, members had the chance to cast their paper ballots for the endorsement, picking up to four candidates. After Harris, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Min., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. clinched the top four spots. The board of directors deliberated for about half an hour before settling on Harris. 

“When elections are close, the Asian and Latino vote makes a difference,” former Iowa state legislator Swati Dandekar told NBC News, “We saw that in 2018 and we are going to see that in 2020.” 

Dandekar personally endorsed Klobuchar earlier Monday, and credited growing excitement in the coalition to members who have recently become citizens and are preparing to vote for the first time. The demographics of the coalition make up a small sliver of Iowa’s population, with Latino voters representing 6 percent, and Asian Americans at 2.6 percent, according to the Iowa state data center. 

Iveth Mehta, an immigrant from Panama, voted for Harris as one of her four choices Friday evening. She said the California Democrat would match up well against President Donald Trump.

“With her background, being an attorney,” Iveth told NBC News, “I think she really can make a really good run against Donald Trump.”

Her husband, Nadir Mahta — an immigrant from Pakistan — also chose Harris as one of his top four, mentioning his desire to see everyone to be treated equally in the United States. 

“We need to find somebody who will be able to win in 2020. That’s the main thing. I have been a citizen for 35 years and I have to look over my shoulder because you never know. Look what happened in El Paso, what happened in Dayton, Ohio.” Nadir said.

“We just want to be treated like everybody else, like we’re a part of this community” Iveth added. 

Mark Sanford heads to New Hampshire, warns of “big storm” in newly released video

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former South Carolina Republican congressman and Gov. Mark Sanford revealed Monday that he is headed to New Hampshire as he ponders a primary challenge to President Donald Trump while also releasing a new video warning of a “big storm coming.”

Sanford, who said last month that he is considering running for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination, told the Charleston Post and Courier that he would be “quietly having meetings” in New Hampshire with several people in that first-in-the-nation primary state.

In the new video, Sanford talks about the country’s “precarious financial position,” saying it could “crush our economy … even destroy our Republic.” 

“The really amazing part is that seemingly no one in Washington is talking about it,” Sanford says, before calling out Democrats’ “political promises that we can’t afford” and Trump’s actions that “drive our debt and spending.”

In an earlier video, released on July 17, Sanford said he would be using the coming weeks to explore launching an official campaign — laying out a 30-day timeline for an announcement.  

GOP ad ties Kentucky Democrat to Warren, Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez

WASHINGTON — A new TV ad from the Republican Governors Association ties Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andy Beshear to “liberal radicals,” evoking images of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“Liberal radicals across the country want to derail President Trump’s agenda and turn America into a socialist country,” the ad goes, showing images of Sanders, Warren, Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez.

It continues, “Andy Beshear stood with Hillary Clinton. After she lost, Beshear joined the radical resistance, suing to stop Trump’s agenda.”

Beshear, the state’s current attorney general, faces incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in November, and Trump won the state by 30 points in 2016.

The Republican Governors Association has been the biggest advertiser so far in this gubernatorial race, spending more than $2.5 million over the airwaves, according to data from Advertising Analytics. Kentuckians will choose their next governor Nov. 5. 

Tom Steyer spends big in race to make debate stage

WASHINGTON — Billionaire Tom Steyer may have jumped into the race far later than his Democratic presidential rivals, but he's making up for it with a flurry of spending. 

Last week alone (from August 4 through August 10), Steyer spent $1.2 million on Facebook ads — more than the amount spent by South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.a and Elizabeth Waren, D-Mass., combined.

That's according to Facebook's ad archive report.  

And when cable and broadcast buys are included, Steyer has spent more than any other Democratic candidate on media overall with more than $10 million, data from Advertising Analytics shows. 

That massive spending shows why Steyer could be a wildcard in this race — he has the ability to flood the early states with money at a drop of a hat, an advantage that gives him a leg up as the Democratic National Committee's debate threshold begins to get harder to reach. 

Virtually all of Steyer's Facebook ads are aimed at accruing the 130,000 unique donors he needs in order to have a shot at making the next Democratic debate stage. 

And the healthy amount of television spending can help increase his poll numbers both nationally and in early states as he seeks to hit the DNC's polling threshold too (candidates need to hit both the unique donor threshold as well as hit 2 percent in four qualifying polls — Steyer needs to hit 2 percent in just one more poll to reach that). 

Presidential hopefuls descend on Iowa State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa — Five 2020 Democratic hopefuls ascended the Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Friday, where they made their presidential pitches and fielded questions from voters encouraged to shout them out. 

Former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julian Castro was asked why he was campaigning in Iowa instead of traveling to El Paso, Texas in the wake of the recent mass shooting — since fellow Texan Beto O'Rourke had canceled his Iowa speech to remain in his hometown of El Paso.

Castro said that because he wasn't a native of the city, “I don't think what they need is more presidential candidates over there." "They need action. They need Congress and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell to get the Senate back in session and to pass common-sense gun safety legislation."

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang drew a large crowd of supporters who seemed familiar which his usual routine of asking  audiences which state gives residents a typical dividend of $1,000 to $2,000 a year, paid out of the state's vast oil reserves. "And what state is that?" he asked. The audience responded, "Alaska!" 

In true Soapbox form, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland faced a heckler after his speech, who wanted him to identify President Donald Trump as a white supremacist. Delaney stopped short of doing so, but said that Trump “engages with white supremacists.” When pushed by reporters on the difference between being a white supremacist and engaging with them, Delaney responded, “I actually don't think there is any difference. I think it's awful." He added, "People who enable it are no different than those who practice it.”

Author and long-shot candidate Marianne Williamson, meanwhile, pitched herself as the underdog. "I heard that I'm dangerous, I've heard that I’m crazy, I've heard that I'm a grifter,” Williamson said to applause. “Please know that there are powerful forces that do not want me to be in the third debate.” 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, closed out the day of speeches. She greeted the crowd with a hearty, “Aloha,” and recognized all the military service members in the room. Like others, Gabbard focused on the need to unite Americans. “We are facing great divisiveness and unfortunately we face self-serving politicians and people in positions of power who are seeking to tear us apart and to divide us for their own selfish gain,” she said.

Nearly two dozen candidates will take the stage over the course of the 10-day Iowa State Fair.

Democratic presidential nominees historically younger than Republican nominees

WASHINGTON —The field of Democrats running for president in 2020 is the party’s most diverse ever, and that diversity includes age, too.

The youngest Democratic hopeful is Pete Buttigieg (37 years old), while the oldest is Bernie Sanders (who’s 77 and will turn 78 in September).

In between are current Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden (76), Elizabeth Warren (70), 

 And the eventual winner will face the 73-year-old Trump.

Historically, Democrats have nominated younger candidates — with 49 being the average age of past winners of the Democratic nomination since 1952.

Past Democratic Nominees since 1952:

  • Adali Stevenson, 52 years-old in 1952 and 56 years-old in 1956
  • John F. Kennedy, 43 years-old, 1960
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, 56 years-old, 1964
  • Hubert Humphrey, 67 years-old, 1968
  • George McGovern, 50 years-old, 1972
  • Jimmy Carter, 52 years-old in 1976 and 56 years-old in 1980
  • Walter Mondale, 56 years-old, 1984
  • Michael Dukakis, 55 years-old, 1988
  • Bill Clinton, 46 years-old in 1992 and 50 years-old in 1996
  • Al Gore, 52 years-old, 2000
  • John Kerry, 61 years-old, 2004
  • Barack Obama, 47 years-old 2008 in and 51 years-old in 2012
  • Hilliary Clinton, 69 years-old, 2016

By comparison, the average age for Republican winners of the presidential nomination has been 63.

Past Republican Nominees since 1952:

  • Dwight Eisenhower, 62 years-old in 1952 and 66 years-old in 1956
  • Richard Nixon, 47 years-old, 1960
  • Barry Goldwater, 55 years-old, 1964
  • Richard Nixon, 55 years-old in 1968 and 59 years-old in 1972
  • Gerald Ford, 63 years-old, 1976
  • Ronald Reagan, 69 years-old in 1980 and 73 years-old in1984
  • George H.W. Bush, 64 years-old in 1988 and 68 years-old in 1992
  • Bob Dole, 73 years-old, 1996
  • George W. Bush, 54 years-old in 2000 and 58 years-old in 2004
  • John McCain, 72 years-old, 2008
  • Mitt Romney, 65 years-old, 2012
  • Donald Trump, 70 years-old, 2016 

And since 1950, the oldest Democratic nominee to win the general election was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 -- at age 56.

And the average age of the past Democratic presidents at their inauguration is 49.

Democratic Presidents since 1952:

  • John F. Kennedy, 43 years-old
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, 56 years-old
  • Jimmy Carter, 52 years-old
  • Bill Clinton, 46 years-old for his first inauguration and 50 years-old for his second
  • Barack Obama, 47 years-old for his first inauguration and 51 years-old for his second

That’s compared with an average age of 63 for Republican presidents since 1952.

 Republican Presidents since 1952:

  • Dwight Eisenhower, 62 years-old for his first inauguration and 66 years-old for hsi second 
  • Richard Nixon, 55 years-old for his first inauguration and 59 years-old for his second
  • Gerald Ford, 63 years-old
  • Ronald Reagan, 69 years-old for his first inauguration and 73 years-old for his second
  • George H.W. Bush, 64 years-old
  • George W. Bush, 54 years-old for his first inauguration and 58-years old for his second
  • Donald Trump, 70 years-old 

Buttigieg unveils rural health plan as he starts Iowa swing

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is unveiling a plan to boost health outcomes for rural Americans as he opens a week-long swing through Iowa.

The plan illustrates how Buttigieg is working to cast himself as uniquely qualified in the Democratic primary field to address issues important to rural voters and those in the Midwest, including many who voted in 2016 for President Donald Trump.

Buttigieg's plan focuses on expanding student loan forgiveness to include people who work in rural medicine in a bid to encourage medical providers to seek out jobs in those communities. He also wants to offer more visa waivers to immigrant doctors to stay in the U.S. to work in underserved areas.

The Buttigieg plan would also boost telehealth initiatives by investing another half-billion in federal dollars and expanding the telehealth services covered by insurance. Other parts of the proposal focus on tribal communities and veterans.

On health care more broadly, Buttigieg has proposed a public option for health insurance that he argues would eventually attract more and more Americans into that system.

The new plan comes as Buttigieg heads Friday to Iowa for nearly a week of campaigning, including a stop Tuesday at the Iowa State Fair. Buttigieg will spend most of the coming week in rural areas.

Biden maintains lead in new Iowa poll as Warren surges

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden maintains his clear lead in a new Iowa poll of the Democratic presidential field, but Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is storming toward the front of the pack. 

Biden leads Monmouth's new poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers with 28 percent, a score virtually unchanged from Monmouth's April poll. But Warren is now in second, with 19 percent, a major increase from her 7 percent in April.

Sen. Kamala Harris, Calif., is in third place with 11 percent, followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in fourth with 9 percent. 

Behind him is South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 8 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 3 percent, billionaire Tom Steyer with 3 percent, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand with 2 percent and businessman Andrew Yang with 2 percent. 

The rest of the field polled at 1 percent or below. 

The boost comes amid a spate of good news for Warren—she's seen an uptick at the polls in recent weeks, and raised more during the second fundraising quarter than all but two candidates. 

In the Monmouth poll, Warren's 76 percent favorable rating among Democrats is the highest of the 11 candidates tested, with a 14 percent unfavorable rating lower than all but Buttigieg and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro.

Warren is also the only candidate whose unfavorable rating went down from the April poll (New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's 16 percent unfavorable rating stayed the same over the four-month period). And she's the second choice of the most respondents in the poll, with 19 percent. 

The poll also shows a decline for Sanders, down to 9 percent from 16 percent in April. Sanders also has the highest unfavorable rating of those tested, with 33 percent. Fifty-eight percent view him favorably. 

And it's the fourth poll where Yang finishes with at least 2 percent, which means he's now qualified for the next round of debates in September and October. 

The likely caucusgoers overwhelmingly identified health care as one of the top-two most important issues in deciding who to support. 

Fifty-six percent of caucusgoers said that on the issue of health care, they wanted a public option, the ability for people to either keep their private health care or opt-in to Medicare. Twenty-one percent say they want to scrap private insurance entirely for Medicare-for-All. 

Monmouth polled 401 likely caucusgoers from Aug. 1 to Aug. 4. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percent. 

Harris to air her first Iowa television ad

DES MOINES, IOWA — California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris is releasing her first television ad Thursday in Iowa, pegged to the senator's five-day bus tour throughout the state. 

The campaign has reserved at least $192,000 worth of advertising dollars for the spot, according to figures from media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. The ad will run across the state and is the first Iowa ad from a presidential candidate polling toward the top of the field. 

The ad, titled “Me, Maya, and Mom,” starts with a picture of Harris and her younger sister Maya standing alongside their mom as kids. Harris says her mom would stay up late sitting at the kitchen table “trying to figure out how to make it all work.”

The ad ties into Harris’ theme of tackling issues that keep people up at night, part of what she calls her “3 a.m. agenda.” In the ad, Harris specifically mentions her plan for a middle-class tax cut, her health care plan and her plan to tackle equal pay. 

“Instead of ideological or theoretical debates, Senator Harris is focused on an action plan to directly improve the lives of American families… her agenda directly addresses the issues that keep people up at night,” press secretary Ian Sams said in a statement provided by the campaign. 

Harris’ ad will run from August 8 until August 14. 

Booker talks gun violence at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Sen. Cory Booker delivered a speech Wednesday morning at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.—addressing gun violence and the “hatred and white nationalism in America.”

Booker’s remarks come just more than four years since the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel in June of 2015—when 21-year-old Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans during a bible study, including senior pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pinckney—and on the heels of two recent mass shootings last weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

During the speech, Booker highlighted ways in which “we can act to legislate safety even if we cannot legislate love” by pointing to five specific policy proposals:

  • “Legislation to close the loophole that enabled one man to take nine souls from this very congregation."
  • “Banning assault weapons once and for all.”
  • “[Requiring] federal licensing for guns in America.”
  • “[Requiring] that the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and FBI conduct assessments of the domestic terrorism threats posed by white supremacists.”
  • “[Requiring] the FBI to dramatically change and improve reporting of hate crimes and work with local law enforcement to establish policies to focus on training, to focus on how to identify and investigate and report those crimes that threaten our security and safety with chilling regularity.”

In recent days, Booker has assailed President Trump’s rhetoric toward immigrants, arguing on Sunday’s broadcast of “Meet the Press” that the president is “sowing the seeds of hatred in our country.” Authorities believe that the El Paso shooter wrote an anti-immigrant and anti-government manifesto posted online before the shooting.

While he didn’t mention Trump by name, he waved at that criticism, saying, “As a political strategy, weaponizing hatred can be effective because it seems easy. … Generations of politicians have used fear of the other for political gain, and that is certainly the case today.”

Facing his own criticism that the speech was an attempt to make political gain in a crowded field of 2020 contenders, Booker addressed his motivations for his appearance at Mother Emanuel.

“This is not a political moment,” Booker said. “I am not here today to ask for a vote. I am here today to ask if we again as a nation have the collective resolve to change the reality we live in.”

Biden campaign launches digital ad highlighting assault weapons ban in '94 crime bill

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign is launching a small digital media buy in Iowa and New Hampshire highlighting the former vice president's role in passing a ban on assault weapons in the 1994 crime bill, a senior Biden campaign official told NBC News. 

While the buy is relatively small, just four figures, the ad is an example of Biden embracing a part of the crime bill that's often criticized by the left. 

Throughout the primary campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden's opponents have often hit Biden on his role in passing the crime bill citing that it led to the mass incarceration of many African Americans for minor offenses.

However, a popular part of the legislation was the assault weapons ban. The ban prohibited the manufacture for civilian use of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines. The law featured a 10-year sunset provision and Congress did not renew the ban in September 2004. 

In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll in July, 57% of all Americans said a ban of the sale of semi-automatic assault guns such as AK-47s and AR-15s was a "good idea". That included 83% of Democrats, 29% of Republicans and 55% of Independents. 

Warren rolls out plans for rural health care and farm economy ahead of Iowa swing

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is outlining how she'd invest in rural America and focus on U.S. farmers Wednesday as she embarks on a multi-day swing through Iowa. 

The roll-out is of two plans in one, building on some of Warren's previously released plans on immigration, economic patriotism, and closing the race gap in entrepreneurship.

The rural investments include expanding health care access as well as broadband internet access to areas that are currently underserved. And her farm economy plan echoes Warren’s previous concerns with corporate consolidation and a call for “a complete overhaul of our failed approach to the farm economy.”

Here's a further breakdown of her proposal: 

Investing in rural America

  • Protect rural hospitals. Warren’s plan blocks all future hospital mergers unless the companies can show they’ll maintain or improve access to care. It also creates a new designation to reimburse rural hospitals at a higher rate, increases Community Health Center funding and establishes a $25B capital fund to improving health care access.
  • Bring more medical professionals into rural areas. Warren wants to woo medical talent to rural areas through apprenticeships, lifting caps on residents and repaying loans for those who work five years in rural and Native American communities. 
  • Expand access to broadband in rural areas. Warren’s plan creates an Office of Broadband Access within the Dept. of Economic Development that will manage an $85 billion grant program for rural-broadband infrastructure. The government will pay 90 cents on the dollar for construction done under these grants, and applicants will have to offer public broadband to every home in their area, with at least one plan for low-income customers.
  • Restore net neutrality

Building a new farm economy

  • Replace traditional farm subsidies with loans. Warren's proposal would end most farming subsidies and replace them with a supply management loan program, while still maintaining some subsidies as an insurance plan for weather-related catastrophes and disease. The plan also calls for the government to purchase the goods that the farmers aren’t able to sell. Warren argues that nixing the current subsidy system would end up saving taxpayers billions of dollars. 

  • Conservation programs. The USDA would offer farmers the option of enrolling in conservation programs that provide landowners with an alternative revenue stream.
  • Provide more money for farmer grant programs to fight climate change.
  • Break up large agricultural conglomerates through reversing anti-competitive mergers.
  • Expand federal purchasing of local produce.
  • Combat “systematic dispossession of land in communities of color” by expanding government programs to help farmers of color and Native Americans buy more land.

CORRECTION (Aug. 8, 2019, 6:20 p.m.): A previous version of this article contained two errors about Warren's farm policy. Her plan would end traditional farm subsidies and replace them with loans, while maintaining some subsidies as insurance for natural catastrophes like weather; Warren would not end farm subsidies. The article also incorrectly stated that under the plan, the USDA would purchase farm land to be repurposed for conservation programs. Warren's plan would allow the USDA to offer farmers the option of enrolling in conservation programs that provide them a revenue stream, but the USDA would not purchase land outright.

Ahead of Iowa tour, Klobuchar releases rural and agriculture plan

WASHINGTON — If it’s the Iowa State Fair, candidates are putting out Iowa-centric policies. This is Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s: a plan that she hopes will benefit farmers, drive job growth, and focus on rural America. Klobuchar will pitch this plan across 20 of Iowa’s 99 counties, starting Wednesday at a family farm in Ankeny.

  • Review all international tariffs and create a national rural export strategy. All tariffs in place as of 2021 will be reviewed and in her first 100 days in office. Klobuchar will restart the President’s Export Council — bringing together leaders from business, agriculture, and labor to get on the same page about the U.S.’s export and trade strategy.
  • Connect “every household and business in America” to high-speech broadband by 2022. Stemming from her previously-released $1 trillion infrastructure plan, Klobuchar will push for investment in rural areas, as well as money towards repairing bridges, highways and airports. She’ll also look to “revitalize” freight and passenger rail travel.
  • Expand support systems for family-owned farms — including federal crop insurance programs, addressing the dairy crisis thru a commission, and fully fund permanent disaster programs.
  • Up farmers’ and ranchers’ access to land and capital by increasing the maximum loan amount they can receive from the Farm Service Agency. She’ll also increase the size of the FSA’s loan portfolio to make sure more farmers can access it, and offer a new tax credit to farmers that help beginning farmers get in business – be it by selling land or equipment to them.
  • Preserve rural hospitals with the creation of a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare, to help maintain an ER and provide outpatient services. 
  • Expand assistance for rural childcare, by upping funding for Child Care and Development Block Grants. She’d also seek to pass a “landmark childcare proposal” that limits childcare payments to seven percent of a family’s income.  
  • Promote the future of the ag industry while also promoting conservation efforts. This includes investments in homegrown energy, like strengthening the Renewable Fuel Standard, and extending biodiesel and second generation biofuels tax credits. Additionally, she’ll invest in wind, solar and rural energy programs.
  • Ensure rural vets and seniors get proper healthcare, housing, and transportation.
  • Fight discrimination in communities of color, as well as partner with Native American tribes in rural areas.

Asked by NBC News about how much this plan would cost, Klobuchar’s campaign did not release an estimate.

Mike Gravel endorses Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON — Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel ended his quasi-presidential campaign this morning and endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Gravel's campaign was mainly run by a small group of teenagers, and the campaign's focus was to make the debate stage. Gravel did not make either the first or second Democratic debate and was not on track to qualify for the September debate. 

 

 

Mississippi voters head to polls in gubernatorial race

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... voters are voting! Republicans could be headed for a primary runoff after today’s three-way primary contest in the Mississippi gubernatorial race.

The GOP contest pits Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves against former state Supreme Court chief justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep Robert Foster. (Foster recently made headlines for refusing to allow a female reporter to accompany him on the campaign trail without a male colleague present).

Reeves, who has been considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, has the backing of incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and he has outspent his opponents on TV by more than 3-1. But a recent Mason-Dixon primary poll pegged him at 41 percent, a 10-point lead over Waller but short of the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a runoff. 

If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote today, they'll head to a runoff on August 27. 

The winner will likely face Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood in November. Hood faces seven comparatively unknown Democratic contenders in his primary today.

Regardless of who wins, polling suggests the general election could be competitive. An NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll from last month found Reeves leading Hood by 9 points and Waller leading Hood by 12 points. 

Democrat J.D. Scholten joins pack trying to oust controversial Rep. Steve King

SIOUX CITY, IA — More than 60 supporters spent a humid Monday evening in Sioux City cheering on Democrat J.D. Scholten as he officially kicked off his second bid to oust controversial GOP Rep. Steve King, who narrowly won their first face-off in 2018.

“Last time we hoped to win. And this time we expect to win. It’s that simple,” Scholten told reporters while standing in front of his branded “Scholten for Congress” RV, more affectionately known on the trail as “Sioux City Sue.”

The stakes in the district have grown since the 2018 elections, especially after King was stripped of his committee assignments by GOP leaders in the wake of inflammatory comments he made about white supremacy. 

In 2018, Scholten worked his way through the district’s 39 counties, showing up in places in King wasn’t and focusing on rural communities with talk about tariffs and broadband internet access. He is planning to do the same ahead of 2020 while also honing in on the consequences Steve King’s racist rhetoric has had on the district. 

Scholten took direct aim at King, and seemingly at President Trump, saying, “this hateful rhetoric that we’ve consistently seen from our congressman — these words have consequences, and the hatred and the racism has become too commonplace in this country. It does fuel violence. It labels us, it divides us, it drives us apart. That’s not what we’re about.” 

It was a point that hit home for Sioux City resident Linda Smoley. “Being represented by Steve King drives me absolutely insane because the whole country knows about the 4th district [and] the things [King] says, the racism, the bigotry,” Smoley told NBC News. “It is so so embarrassing and devastating and now dangerous. J.D. is so caring and compassionate and really he is the exact opposite of a Steve King.”

David Elder, of Sioux City said he is ready for the change that Scholten promotes, especially when it comes to the rhetoric.

“One of the things that I really like is just the fact that he isn't Steve King. Steve King just absolutely does not represent the values that I think we should have as Americans,” Elder told NBC News, “He’s said so many things that are just blatantly racist and even though northwest Iowa is a fairly homogenous place, it's changed a lot over the years.”

A rematch still might not happen, however. King has drawn at least three viable Republican challengers, prompting the question whether Scholten would be able to carry the GOP-heavy district if King were defeated in the primary. 

Sioux City resident Jackie Stellish doesn't think Democrats can count on King losing the GOP primary.  “I don’t see a possibility of these other candidates,” Stellish said, “They don't have the support and they don't have the money. King has name recognition but, you know what, J.D. does too. King is going to get that nomination, and we are going to send Steve King back to where he belongs.”

A massive shift afoot in the Texas GOP congressional delegation

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant announced his decision to retire Monday, making him the fourth Texas GOP congressman to spring for the exit this year. 

Within the past few weeks, Republican Reps. Mike Conaway, Will Hurd and Pete Olson have announced they'll too retire after next year.

Those are some big names in the delegation — Marchant is on the Ways and Means Committee and the ranking member of the Ethics Committee; Conaway is the top Republican on the Agriculture Committee and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence; Hurd is also an Intelligence Committee member who has held onto his district despite constantly difficult re-election battles; and Olson is a former fighter pilot who served as one of the more conservative voices in the caucus. 

Once they retire, they'll take with them more than a half-century of seniority.  

But those retirements are part of a larger picture, one of a Texas delegation that's been going through a massive shift in the past two election cycles. And that shift has been at the direct expense of House Republicans. 

The Texas Republican delegation lost five members to retirement last cycle — Reps. Ted Poe, Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling, Joe Barton and Lamar Smith. That list includes former chairmen of the Ways and Means, Financial Services, Energy and Commerce, and Science, Space and Technology Committees, all with more than a century of service in the House combined.  

And the GOP lost two more high-profile Republican lawmakers at the ballot box in 2018 — Reps. John Culberson and Pete Sessions. Culberson had represented the Houston area since 2001 and had been an appropriations "cardinal." And Sessions joined Congress in 1997, ultimately rising to chair the powerful Rules Committee. 

Those losses come as Democrats have made a bigger push for suburban areas around Texas' largest cities, which are also rapidly diversifying. And Democrats are targeting seats like Hurd's in 2020. 

Even if every other Republican lawmaker holds their seat in 2020, the Texas GOP will have lost more than 200 combined years in seniority over a span of four years. That's a major blow to a powerful delegation.

Recent polls show most American agree with background checks, semi-automatic bans

WASHINGTON — Recent polls show that a majority of Americans agree with background checks for gun purchases and banning semi-automatic assault guns. 

From an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted July 15-July 17 (margin of error for all adults: +/- 3.5 percentage points):

Do you think background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales is a good idea or a bad idea?

Among all Americans: 89% good idea, 9% bad idea

  • Democrats: 96% good idea/ 4% bad idea
  • Republicans: 84% good idea/ 14% bad idea
  • Independents: 89% good idea/ 10% bad idea

Do you think a ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault guns such as the AK-47 or the AR-15, is a good idea or a bad idea?

Among all Americans: 57% good idea, 41% bad idea

  • Democrats: 83% good idea/ 17% bad idea
  • Republicans: 29% good idea/ 67% bad idea
  • Independents: 55% good idea/ 43% bad idea

Data dump unearths new nuggets about presidential fundraising

WASHINGTON — While most of the political world was watching the Democratic presidential debates last week, the Federal Election Commission released a treasure trove of fundraising data that sheds new light on how the candidates have raised their money.  

The gigantic data dump (in the form of a 25 million-line-plus spreadsheet) includes every donation handled by ActBlue, the donation-processing company that handles virtually all of the Democratic Party's online donations. 

The data is especially important because while quarterly reports from the candidates themselves don't have to include donors who give less than $200, the ActBlue reports must detail every donation it processed for a candidate. 

There's already been some deep analysis of the data from 30,000 feet by outlets like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. But here are some more interesting nuggets from last week's release, combined with data already available (note: the data spans from Jan. 1 through June 30 of this year):

There's a clear top tier in the early primary states 

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina still dominate the early calendar, helping to decide the nominee and winnow down the field. And as far as fundraising goes, there's a clear top-tier. 

Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris aren't just at the top of the polls right now, they're also raising more money from the early primary states than anyone else. 

Sanders is the clear fundraising leader in Iowa and New Hampshire; Biden holds a significant edge in Nevada; and Biden, Sanders and Buttigieg are virtually tied at the top of the money race in South Carolina. 

The first debate bump 

Strong first debate performances changed the trajectory of some campaigns' fundraising. 

Julian Castro is a perfect example. The day before he took the debate stage in Miami on June 26, Castro raised under $20,000. But the day of the debate, where he won praise after a heated back-and-forth with Beto O'Rourke on immigration, Castro pulled in $84,000. And the day after the debate, he raised almost $330,000. 

Harris also saw a big bump after her first debate, where she tangled with Biden over racial issues. Raising just $68,000 the day before the debate, Harris raked in $574,000 on the day of her debate (June 27) and $1.8 million the next day (June 28). 

The moment Buttigieg's candidacy took off

Much of Pete Buttigieg's success has been attributed to a strategy of flooding the zone with media appearances. And the ActBlue data shows just how important that strategy has been to his campaign's bottom-line. 

Unlike most candidates that raked in fistfuls of cash on their announcement day, Buttigieg barely raised a dime when he announced his exploratory committee on Jan 23. But his fortunes changed dramatically on March 10, when he pulled in $201,000, and the following day, when he raised $456,000. The impetus? March 10 was Buttigieg's breakout performance during a nationally-televised CNN town hall. 

The Hooiser hasn't looked back since — there have only been a handful of days since when he raised less than six-figures. 

Buttigieg campaign parts ways with N.H. state director

MANCHESTER, N.H. — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign and its New Hampshire state director Michael Ceraso have parted ways, the campaign tells NBC News. In a statement from Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl, the campaign says it is appreciative to Ceraso for getting their ground game in New Hampshire started.

"We are grateful to Michael for setting up our New Hampshire operation and helping us scale up to nearly 40 staffers in just a few months,” the statement from Schmuhl said. “Our New Hampshire team will continue to grow as we execute our plan to compete in the state. We will soon be announcing additional staff who will continue to help spread Pete’s message that he is the one who can tackle our country’s most pressing challenges with real solutions.”

There was no explanation immediately provided for the staffing departure.

Jess O’Connell, who is a senior adviser to the campaign who has been focused on early strategy in primary states, has already been on the ground in N.H. working with the team, a Buttigieg aide said.

The campaign stresses that they continue to have a strategy and a plan, and now are executing that plan to win the state. The aide also told NBC News that there will be more announcements and an expanded capacity of organizers, as well as a wave of field office openings, ahead of next month’s Democratic Party state convention.

During the 2016 campaign, Ceraso served as state director in New Hampshire and California for Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign. The Sanders campaign parted ways with Ceraso 27 days before the California primary.

Longtime New Hampshire operative endorses Gillibrand

CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., nabbed a notable endorsement Friday from longtime New Hampshire Democratic operative Judy Reardon.

Reardon is the former legal counsel for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., serving her in both the governor’s office and in the U.S. Senate.  She is also a longtime committee member of the state party, a former New Hampshire House Democratic whip and has served as senior adviser to several presidential campaigns. Reardon endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 cycle.

In a phone interview with NBC News, Reardon said that she attended the Detroit debate and spent additional time with Gillibrand and her team in their hotel during the visit. 

Reardon said that she saw Gillibrand during her first trip to New Hampshire and was especially struck by her ebullience and energy.  

“I know she’s an underdog but I still think she can surprise people,” Reardon said. “In February I thought the pundits were all making a mistake in writing off Elizabeth Warren, and I think they’re making the same mistake now with Kirsten Gillibrand. She has a lot of grit.” 

When asked if she had other candidates she was considering endorsing, and potentially would throw her support behind if Gillibrand doesn’t go far in the process, Reardon pointed to other female Senators seeking the presidency. 

“I came into this cycle saying all things being equal I want to vote for someone younger than I am,” Reardon said. “Baby boomers have had their chance at being president and I think it’s time to move on. I’d also, all things being equal, would like to vote for a woman, so I like all of the female senators.” 

Asked why she decided to announce this early in the cycle, and throwing her support behind a candidate who still hasn’t qualified for the third round of debates in September, Reardon said it’s part of the “privilege of being in New Hampshire.” 

“I think it would be a waste of that privilege to not get involved,” she said. 

According to the most recent New Hampshire poll from UNH/CNN last month, Gillibrand is polling at 1% in the state.

Booker endorsement demonstrates tough balancing act for candidates

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Cory Booker’s New Hampshire campaign on Thursday announced an endorsement from Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, the longest current serving mayor in the state — a political boost that also demonstrates the complicated balance candidates face when tying to amass support while staying true to their stated principles.  

Outside of his position as an elected official, Bouley is also a registered and active lobbyist in New Hampshire. Among the clients his firm represents is 3M, the large manufacturing company that is currently involved in three separate lawsuits over accusations that the company’s products have led to the PFAS contamination of drinking water, suits filed in both New Hampshire and Booker’s home state of New Jersey

Booker is one of several Democratic presidential candidates who have tried to keep distance between themselves and special interest money and support. Among other things, the Booker campaign has said it would refuse contributions from federal lobbyists (Bouley is a state lobbyist). 

In an interview with NBC News, Bouley said that the Booker campaign did not ask him to disclose his lobbying ties ahead of his endorsement. He also said that it is “absolutely true” that 3M is dealing with multiple lawsuits over the allegations of contamination but stressed that he does not “represent 3M on that issue.” 

Booker has embraced political and financial support from other local New Hampshire lobbyists including informal campaign adviser operative Jim Demers. Demers, a longtime Democratic political operative in the state who served as the co-chair of President Barack Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire campaign, has donated $2,450 to Booker’s presidential effort, per FEC filings. 

The Booker campaign declined to comment on the record on Bouley’s lobbying ties.

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

Kamala Harris' 'Medicare-for-All' plan is the latest in evolution on private insurance

WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris has put forward a health-care plan that would move all Americans into a “Medicare for All” system within 10 years — but it would also allow private insurers to offer competing plans, as long as they meet the standards of the government plan.

It's just the latest evolution for Harris on the subject of private insurance. Here's a look at how her positions have advanced:

In January, she said during a CNN town hall that she favored ending private insurance: “Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”

"The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require," Harris said. "Who of us has not had that situation, where you've got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, well, I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this? Let's eliminate all of that.

Then, in May, she walked that back in an interview with CNN, saying her statement about eliminating “all of that” referred to bureaucracy, not private insurance.

"I support Medicare for All,"  she said, "but I really do need to clear up what happened on that stage."

"It was in the context of saying, let's get rid of all the bureaucracy. Let's get all of the waste."  Asked whether she was talking about insurance companies, Harris said: "No. That's not what I meant. I know it was interpreted that way. If you watch the tape, I think you'll see that there are obviously many interpretations of what I said. What I meant is, let's get rid of the bureaucracy."

Then, at the June NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo debate, she raised her hand responding to the question about who favored abolishing private health insurance. 

Then, she later said she misheard/didn’t understand Lester’s question.

"No," Harris told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if she'd work to abolish private health insurance in favor of "Medicare for All" if elected president. "The question was, would you give up your private insurance for that option, and I said yes."

Inslee's new energy plan aims puts focus on low-income communities

DETROIT — Washington Governor Jay Inslee will announce the newest policy addition to his climate change agenda Monday, unveiling a “Community Climate Justice” plan to address environmental justice and racism and to highlight how climate change and pollution is disproportionately harming low-income Americans and minorities.

Inslee will formally unveil his plan in Detroit in the 48217 zip-code area, the most polluted neighborhood in the state of Michigan with the Marathon Oil refinery nearby.

His proposal, which is the fifth installment in Inslee’s extensive agenda to combat climate change, puts issues of justice at center.

Inslee proposes to establish the country’s first-ever equity mapping and screening process, which would track environmental injustices and “pollution hotspots” and use the data to determine which communities need more investing and aid.

His plan would also create a Universal Clean Energy Service Fund, based on the model of the existing Universal Service Fund, which expanded telecom services to low income communities, to reduce the cost of energy bills.

Inslee would also turn the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality into the Council on Environmental Justice, a move he says will stress the importance of justice in all climate policy decisions.

“We have had a lot of racial disparity in our criminal justice system and economic system but we also have it in our environmental system,” Inslee told NBC News in a phone interview, “The goal here is to recognize these two things are intertwined, both in cause and in solution.”

Inslee will spend the days before the upcoming debate in Detroit as well as Flint, Michigan to discuss the city’s water crisis. He also says he plans on discussing this specific climate change proposal on the debate stage on July 31, even if it means breaking the rules on speaking time.

“If rules become those who speak louder speak, I’m going to speak," he said. "We can’t allow the world to burn while other candidates are talking about their items. We gotta have this debate.”

Harris proposes her version of 'Medicare for All'

DETROIT — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., put forward a healthcare proposal on Monday ahead of the second Democratic presidential debate that would move every American into a 'Medicare-for-All' system within ten years, while allowing private insurers to offer competing plans, as well as supplemental insurance options — provided that the commercial plans meet the care standards of the government plan.

“This plan will reduce our country’s health care costs and lower Americans’ out-of-pocket costs, all while extending health insurance coverage to every American,” Harris wrote in a Medium post outlining her proposal. 

Harris’ plan would provide “all medically necessary services, including emergency room visits, doctor visits, vision, dental, hearing aids, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and comprehensive reproductive health care services.”

Presently, Americans 65 years older and older are eligible for Medicare. Harris’ plan would immediately enroll newborns and uninsured Americans onto the government-run option while transitioning the rest of the population onto a Medicare plan — one either run by the government or a private insurer — within ten years of the passage of her proposed legislation.

Since launching her presidential bid in January, the Democratic presidential candidate has faced questions about the role that private insurance companies would play in her plan.

Harris’ plan would allow private insurance companies to offer “Medicare plans” that “adhere to strict Medicare requirements on costs and benefits.” It would also allow the companies to sell “supplemental insurance” to cover care, like cosmetic surgery, that her proposed Medicare plans would not cover.

“I think what she’s saying is if the private sector can add value, then power to them,” said Andy Slavitt, who served as acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Obama Administration. “She’s leaving room for innovation, but she’s also saying there ought to be a pretty high bar.”

The package of services guaranteed to Americans under Harris’ plan, however, is more expansive than the current offerings under Medicare today.

In a statement sent to reporters by the Harris campaign, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who worked with Harris’s campaign staff during the formation of the plan, said: “This plan builds on the progress we made in the Affordable Care Act and expands upon its promise of universal coverage through a sensible expansion of the popular Medicare system.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders has long backed a similar Medicare for All proposal, which Harris has co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate, but Harris said her plan would establish a 10-year phase-in period for individuals currently enrolled in other plans, like employer-based care, the exchanges built under the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, to “transition” to the new Medicare plans. Sanders has pressed for a four-year timetable. 

The senator, in her written post on Monday, also outlined her proposal for covering the cost of the expanded healthcare coverage. She said would not increase taxes on households that make less than $100,000 a year. Sanders, alternatively, has suggested a “4-percent income-based premium” on families of four making more than $29,000 a year would be included in his legislation.

Harris also proposed a tax on stock trades and called for an end to foreign tax shelters as part of her plan to pay for the proposal.

First Read Sunday: Rick Scott responds to Trump feud with Cummings

WASHINGTON — If It’s Sunday, the tweets are sparking outcry again.   

President Trump opened up yet another feud this weekend with a Democratic member of Congress when he attacked House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

The president called Cummings' Baltimore-area district "a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess," and he criticized the Democrat for criticizing Homeland Security’s treatment of migrants on the southern border.

The context for Trump's attacks is key—Cummings’ committee has broad jurisdiction and is investigating a litany of issues including the administration’s handling of the crisis at the southern border and security clearances, as well as questions surrounding Trump’s business interests.

So those investigations might have something to do with Trump's decision to make things personal.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott demurred when asked about the president's tone in an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, saying, "you can ask him why he did the tweet."  But like Trump, Scott trained his fire on Cummings, arguing that the congressman did border patrol agents a disservice by criticizing their conduct.

“I didn't do the tweets, Chuck. I can't talk about why he did what he did. But I'm very disappointed in the people, like Congressman Cummings, who is attacking Border Patrol agents that are trying to do their job, when the Democrats won't give them the resources to do it," he said. 

"Congressman Cummings has sat there and attacked our Border Patrol agents, all right? This reminds me of what happened to soldiers coming back from Vietnam,” he said.

For more on the president's feud with Cummings, and for more news and analysis from "Meet the Press," be sure to sign up for the daily First Read newsletter here

Booker: Biden attacks are 'ridiculous'

CARTER LAKE, Iowa — NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake spoke with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., about his criticisms of former Vice President Joe Biden and support for Booker in the African American community. Booker said it will be important for the Democratic nominee to have an “authentic connection” with African American voters. Watch: 

New Buttigieg plan aims to expand and strengthen unions

DES MOINES, Iowa — Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled his latest presidential campaign policy proposal Friday, an economic plan focused on strengthening and expanding unions and workers' rights.

“Our economy is changing, and too many Americans are working full time, some working two or even three jobs, and still finding it impossible to make ends meet,” Buttigieg said.

The plan calls for an expansion of unionization to include gig economy workers, fast food employees, and contract laborers. In addition to cracking down on employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors, in an effort to avoid paying overtime or being held to the standard of civil rights protections required by law. 

In addition, Buttigieg hopes to strengthen collective bargaining rights in places where unions already exist. His plan would allow unionized workers from different companies, but in the same line of work, the option to bargain all together. The plan would also give domestic and home health care workers the ability to bargain across employers and expand protections for farm workers. 

The 13-page plan hopes to tackle the gender wage gap through greater pay transparency, banning employers from using an employee’s salary history to determine wages, and passing anti-harassment and gender nondiscrimination laws. 

Buttigieg’s proposal would give preference in government contract bids to companies that are unionized and offer good pay and benefits to all of their workers. 

“Let’s make sure that in this coming era, the tide continues to rise — and truly lifts all boats,” Buttigieg said. 

The plan also calls for a $15 minimum wage and ensuring paid sick leave and family leave for all Americans, which much of the democratic field supports.  The campaign said Buttigieg would implement these policies through both administrative action and legislation.

The mayor will unveil the policy at a town hall in Ankeny, Iowa later today.

Castro releases first plan for indigenous communities

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ahead of a visit to the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama, Iowa Friday, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro released his “People First Indigenous Communities Policy,” the first comprehensive plan among 2020 Democratic candidates specifically focusing on the relationship between tribal nations and the federal government. 

This plan intersects with his established positions on housing grants, veteran homelessness, healthcare, investment in education, and his plan for a 21st Century Marshall Plan.  

“We cannot erase the history of how our nation has treated Indigenous peoples,” Castro said in a tweet Thursday, “But we can respect their sovereignty, honor our treaty commitments & make progress to ensure that all native communities thrive.”

Castro seeks to strengthen tribal sovereignty by establishing a White House Council on Indigenous Community Affairs to ensure representation in Washington D.C. The plan also will protect Native Americans’ equal access to all forms of voting and will combat efforts to “disenfranchise" those communities. 

Castro’s plan prioritizes the “crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women” and human trafficking of native women by creating a task force of tribal leaders, public health officials and law enforcement. According to Dept. of Justice data, some reservations’ murder rates of Native American women are ten times higher than the national average. The plan also proposes to end tribal veteran homelessness by 2025 and to invest an additional $2.5billion over ten years to fund the various Native American housing block grant programs. 

It also calls for the end of leasing of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction in order to protect sacred tribal lands, in addition to supporting the STOP Act, to prosecute the illegal export of tribal cultural heritage and organize the return of these items from foreign countries. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s newly released “Moonshot” climate change plan includes a short section on indigenous communities, promising to direct federal agencies to seek and obtain approval from tribal governments before traversing or disrupting tribal lands. 

Tom Steyer: I’ll declare a national emergency to tackle climate change

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, the newest entry into the 2020 contest, released an environmental plan on Thursday that includes a promise to declare a “national emergency” over climate change immediately upon taking office.

“We’ve got to stop talking about this, we have to turn the page to action and we should do it Day One by calling it a state of emergency,” Steyer told NBC News in an interview.

“That’s where we are. That’s where the people of America have got to go together.”  

He is the first candidate to follow President Trump’s own invocation of emergency powers to finance a border wall with a direct pledge to take similar steps to confront climate change.  

According to Steyer, he would “give Congress 100 days to pass a Green New Deal” before using executive authority impose new energy efficiency standards on  and redirect federal funding to climate projects. 

Steyer’s broader proposal sets a goal of net-zero emissions associated with climate change by 2045.

Planks of the plan include a $2 trillion investment in clean energy infrastructure, hiring 1 million workers into a new civil service program dedicated to combating climate change, and tripling funding for scientific research.

It also includes a $50 billion fund to help transition workers tied to the fossil fuel industry to new jobs, which Steyer said would be distributed in consultation with affected communities.   “We want to make sure we explicitly take those workers’ interests into account,” he said.   

A leading Democratic donor, Steyer has invested millions in climate activism over the years through groups like NextGen America, which he founded. 

Booker and Biden lower the temperature of spat at National Urban League

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., kept recent tensions between them low at the National Urban League conference, with both candidates stressing to the audience their individual commitments to the black community instead of attacking each other’s records on civil rights.

Still, Booker, who was the first candidate to criticize Biden’s criminal justice plan earlier this week, suggested throughout his remarks that the African American should base their support for a candidate on their career long commitment to civil rights and their chances to beat President Donald Trump.

“It is easy to call Donald Trump a racist now — you get no great badge of courage for that. The question is what were you doing to address structural inequality and institutional racism throughout your life?” he said.

Booker then added it was “a problem” that when people ask about electability “they’re not asking about the African-American voters who make up the most reliable constituency of the Democratic Party.”

The New Jersey senator never uttered Biden’s name during his speech Thursday, but his comments came after Booker questioned whether Biden is the appropriate leader for the black community because he was the “architect of mass incarceration” for passing the 1994 crime bill. Biden responded to that attack yesterday stating simply that “Cory knows better.”

Following Booker’s electability remark, Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for Biden’s campaign, tweeted that the campaign “couldn’t agree more” with his point. She then pointed to the almost 40 percentage point difference between Booker and Biden in a new CBS poll where 44 percent of African Americans said they would vote for Biden over 4 percent who support Booker.

Biden avoided even making suggestions about his opponents position on the issue while speaking at the conference, but he did stress that he would do everything possible to win over African American voters saying, “I promise I’ll work hard for your support. And if I get elected, I’m with you.”

Many of Biden's opponents have lodged complaints against Biden's assumption that he will easily win the African American community. 

Biden leads Dem primary field in South Carolina by 27 points

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has a wide lead in Monmouth University's new South Carolina Democratic primary poll, with just two other candidates registering double-digit support. 

Biden's 39 percent puts him in a league of his own, while his next closest competitors are stuck in a logjam far behind him. 

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has support from 12 percent of the likely primary voters, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 10 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at 9 percent. 

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 5 percent in the poll, followed by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and billionaire Tom Steyer, who both sit at 2 percent. 

The rest of the field hit 1 percent or lower. 

Biden continues to draw his support from black voters, which typically make up a majority of the South Carolina primary electorate. More than half (51 percent) of black voters say Biden is their first choice. 

Monmouth is one of the pollsters that the Democratic National Committee is using to decide who makes its debate stage in September. But the poll had little effect on the field, outside putting Steyer closer to qualifying for the debate. 

Candidates have to hit both a 130,000 unique donor threshold as well as finish with 2 percent or above in four qualifying polls. Six candidates both have hit the poll threshold and say they've hit that unique donor threshold. With this poll, Steyer has hit the 2 percent mark in two polls. 

Gillibrand unveils 'moonshot' plan to combat climate change

CHICAGO — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., unveiled a $10 trillion comprehensive climate change plan Thursday, that she says will "save our planet." 

“We must aggressively combat climate change not because it is easy, but because it is hard," Gillibrand said evoking the words of former President John F. Kennedy in a statement announcing her climate "moonshot."

"Our race for a green economy will be a measure of our excellence, innovation, and entrepreneurialism as a nation, and I know we’re up for the challenge,” she continued. 

Her six point plan includes many elements of the Green New Deal, a resolution outlined by freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now embraced by much of the 2020 Democratic primary field.  

The six points, each containing specific goals, initiatives and commitments are:

  1. Get to net-zero carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and phase out fossil fuels.
  2. Put a price on carbon and hold polluters accountable.
  3. Build a green jobs economy.
  4. Prioritize rural advancement, frontline communities, and marginalized voices.
  5. Lead a 21st-century clean energy international “space race.”
  6. Protect clean air, clean water, and public lands.

Climate change has been a top issue area for the Democratic party base, reflected by the priority several of the candidates have placed on detailing large-scale plans to combat the issue. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is making climate change the central issue of his candidacy, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's first policy proposal was a $5 trillion climate plan and former Vice President Joe Biden's plan, announced in early June, totaled $1.7 trillion.

In a nod to workers potentially displaced by a shift to a green energy economy, Gillibrand promises to "establish a 'green jobs recovery fund' to help affected communities build new opportunities." 

Her plan includes a commitment to "ensure wage and benefit replacements are guaranteed for displaced workers, and make it easier for workers who are near the end of their career to find paths to retirement." 

The Gillibrand campaign says her proposals would be partially funded by a combination of a climate mitigation excise tax, carbon tax and ending fossil fuel subsidies.  

Democrats don’t see momentum for impeachment right now

WASHINGTON — Robert Mueller’s testimony is unlikely to reverse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to launch immediate  impeachment proceedings against President Trump, instead lending momentum towards calls for more congressional investigations, Democratic lawmakers and top aides told NBC News.

“He was clear about the things that counted, that he did not exonerate the president, that there were multiple instances of obstruction of justice” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn., told NBC News. "We absolutely have to” call in more witnesses, she said.

“I think it’s a very important first day,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Penn, said. “Some people are saying this is the last day. This is the beginning.”

Senior Democratic Intelligence Committee officials who briefed reporters after their hearing said Mueller’s articulation of national security risks that can come from foreign contacts, among other issues, "raises a lot more questions” to pursue. 

In a press conference after the hearings, Pelosi was asked by NBC News whether her views had changed on impeachment. "My position has always been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts," she said. "It's about the Congress, the Constitution, and the courts. And we are fighting the president in the courts."

Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Wednesday evening that the president has engaged in wrongdoing.

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said that Pelosi told members that they can come out for impeachment if that’s what they thought was right based on the testimony. “She was more clear today about” telling members to support impeachment if they want than she has been in the last, Demings said. 

Still, Democrats close to the speaker cautioned that the proceedings are unlikely to change her go-slow approach. 

Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general under Bill Clinton who is close to Pelosi’s office and has been advising House and Senate Judiciary members, said “if someone was hoping that this would be the surge toward a tipping point, that wasn’t the case.”

“The ground did not shift (on impeachment),” Raben told NBC. “Pelosi’s strategy of investigate, legislate and litigate will remain intact,” he said.  

Three Democratic aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the hearings won't cause Pelosi to reverse course.

“The question is how many (Democratic) members come out for it and what’s the threshold that makes it uncomfortable and unsustainable for her” to resist impeachment. Prior to the hearings, there were 88 Democrats who’ve publicly called for an impeachment inquiry. 

“If we get into triple digits and 45-50% it might be harder for her” to resist, the aide said.

Alex Moe contributed

Booker and Biden spar over criminal justice

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former Vice President Joe Biden took aim at each other's records on criminal justice in what could be a preview of next week's presidential debate stage. 

Booker has spent the past few days criticizing Biden's support for the 1994 crime bill decried by many progressive criminal justice reform activists for being too harsh on issues like mandatory sentencing.

Biden pushed back Wednesday, pointing to  a federal investigation into the Newark Police Department that found that officers "engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, use of excessive force and theft."

The discussion heated up on Tuesday after Biden released his new criminal justice plan, which includes policies like pushing states to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes and reducing criminal penalties for drug crimes. 

In response, Booker called Biden the "proud architect of a failed system."

Booker expanded on that criticism on Wednesday during a Detroit NAACP forum that included 10 presidential candidates, including Biden. There, he argued that "we've seen devastating impact of legislation" like the crime bill" to "destroy communities, that has turned and put mass incarceration on steroids," Booker said. 

During his remarks Wednesday, Biden defended his involvement with the 1994 crime bill, arguing it was "overwhelmingly supported" in his community. But he said there should be a shift from "incarceration to rehabilitation" to address the "systemic problem of too many African Americans in jail."

Pressed on Booker's claim, Biden pointed to the Justice Department investigation into the Newark Police Department which found a "pattern or practice of constitutional violations," as well as "policing that results in disproportionate stops and arrests of Newark’s black residents." Booker was the mayor of Newark for a portion of that time.

"If he wants to go back and talk about records, I am happy to do that. But I'd rather talk about the future," Biden added.

Booker addressed that investigation Sunday on CNN.

"Most folks who know New Jersey know I inherited a police department that had decades of challenges with accountability, challenges along racial lines," he said. 

"And we actually stepped up to deal with the problem, not only working with the DOJ, but working with the ACLU to put forward what was a national standard-setting level of accountability.

Michigan GOP Rep. says he won't run again in 2020

WASHINGTON — A Republican member of Congress from Michigan says he won’t run for re-election, lamenting that “rhetoric overwhelms policy, and politics consumes much of the oxygen in this city.”

Rep. Paul Mitchell, who was first elected to Michigan’s 10th district in the Detroit exurbs in 2016, said he’ll retire at the end of his term, also in part to spend more time with a young son with special needs.

Mitchell’s district is heavily conservative, but it’s experienced a significant swing in the past decade. Trump won it by 32 percentage points in 2016, and Mitchell won by more than 25 points in both his congressional elections.

That’s a significant shift from 2008, when Barack Obama kept John McCain’s margin of victory there to just two points.

Poll: Majority of Republicans now say they're confident that Mueller probe was fair

WASHINGTON — When former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on Wednesday, he’ll have a unique distinction that most lawmakers in Congress can only stand back and envy: Both Republicans and Democrats are pretty confident in his work.

New data from the Pew Research Center finds that — for the first time — a majority of Republicans say they’re confident that Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election was fair.

Six-in-ten Republicans express that confidence, with 71 percent of Democrats saying the same thing.

Overall, 65 percent of Americans adults say they have faith in the fairness of Mueller’s probe, with 36 percent saying they’re “very” confident.

Republicans’ enthusiasm for Mueller is up sharply since January, when only 39 percent expressed confidence in Mueller’s work.

Since the publication of his findings this spring, President Donald Trump has pointed to the report as vindication to his claims of “no collusion,” even as he continues to ding Mueller as personally “conflicted.”

Mueller’s report said that while it did not find evidence the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” it did conclude “the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

And while Mueller did not find that Trump committed obstruction of justice, he wrote that “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Dem group Priorities USA launches round of weekly, six-figure digital buys

WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, a top Democratic super PAC aimed at defeating President Trump in 2020, is launching a new round of digital ads aimed chipping away at Trump's economic message. 

The ads, which started this week, sound a similar message: "Let's be honest: Trump's economy isn't working for us." 

Guy Cecil, the group's chairman, told reporters Tuesday that they will ramp up spending in the next few weeks and will ultimately be spending  $350,000 to $400,000 per week on the ads in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. He added the campaign will last for the "foreseeable future" with "no end date."

The focus on the economy, Cecil said, is for a variety of reasons. First, he said the news of the day (think: impeachment, the Mueller report, and more recently, Trump's attacks on the four minority freshmen Democratic members) continues to dominate in the headlines at the expense of economic issues that voters say matter to them.

And he argued that while some broad metrics, like the stock market and the unemployment rate may be favorable for Trump at the macro-level, that there's ample room for Democrats to make a more personal argument. 

"Americans are experiencing Donald Trump's economy in a way that is fundamentally different from most of the headlines," he said. 

"Most Americans describe the economy as being good, but most Americans also describe their personal economic situation as being incredibly tenuous." 

Along with the roll-out of the new ads, Cecil also shared a glimpse of the super PAC's internal projections for 2020.

Priorities USA believes that if the election were held today, a Democrat would defeat Trump with 278 electoral votes to Trump's 260. But Cecil cautioned that the lead is not a projection for what the map will look like by next November, only the map as it stands now.

And he described the Democratic lead as slim — if turnout by voters of color drops 2 percentage points or Democratic support from the white working class drops 1 percentage point from Priorities' projections, Democrats would lose, their analysis shows. 

"The reality is that we are dealing with an incredibly close election and it requires Democrats, it requires progressives, it requires us to be focused on both things," Cecil said of the argument over whether Democrats should target the white working class or minority voters. 

"Choosing one or the other is choosing to lose." 

Biden releases criminal justice reform plan

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has unveiled a criminal justice plan that aims to curb the high rate of incarceration after critics have targeted his past support for legislation they say led to high levels of unjust incarcerations. 

Biden’s Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice calls for eliminating mandatory minimum for non-violent crimes, a federal provision passed under the 1994 Crime Bill passed while Biden served as Senate Judiciary Chairman. 

It redirects incarcerated drug users to drug courts and ends the disparity between crack and powder cocaine in an effort to lessen the number of incarcerated people. It would decriminalize cannabis and automatically expunge prior convictions for those jailed for using marijuana. Biden would not federally decriminalize marijuana, saying that is a decision for states. 

Biden’s plan also lays out numerous ways to prevent those with a higher risk of facing jail in their lifetime by investing and improving foster care, education and literacy, and it explains how his administration would invest $1billion towards juvenile justice reform. 

“He believes in opportunity. He believes in fairness. He believes that folks that who have served their time should be able to reintegrate into society and and participate fully, as citizens,” a senior Biden campaign official said. 

His proposal comes at a time when his criminal justice and civil rights record is questioned by opponents and critics for lacking understanding of the issues. Biden has defended his decades long records on the issues, saying that he entered and remained in politics to defend civil rights. 

He recently admitted that though his record on the 1994 crime bill has been “grossly misrepresented,” he acknowledged that it was far from perfect. 

“It worked, it worked in some areas. But it failed in others. Like every major change, you go back and you make it better,” he said at an in Sumter, S.C. earlier this month. 

A campaign official stressed that the timing of the release was not a result of Biden debating the two African Americans candidates in the race, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., at next week’s debate and said he’s prepared to face criticism of his record. 

Kamala Harris teams up with Jerry Nadler on marijuana bill

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. is sponsoring new legislation with Congressman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. to decriminalize marijuana, tax its production, and use the funds to aid neighborhoods and individuals especially impacted by prior enforcement of drug laws. 

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” Harris said in a statement. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives.”

The bill, known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, will likely have more opportunity to advance through the Democratic-majority House, where Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee. 

The bill would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and impose a 5 percent excise tax, which would go to a series of programs to help “communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs” benefit from the new industry, according to Harris. They would include a grant program to help local governments work with residents with marijuana-related convictions to help them with job training, legal aid, and substance abuse treatment. Another program would assist prospective new marijuana entrepreneurs from “socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the costs of the excise tax to business owners would be dwarfed by the benefits of being able to do business in the open. Companies involved in cannabis currently face significant tax and banking barriers in states that have legalized marijuana thanks to the federal prohibition. 

“It’s going to be a much lower tax burden on the industry,” Strekal said. 

The issue has become a rallying point for Democrats in recent years. The entire Democratic field supports ending the federal prohibition on marijuana and Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., has made his own legalization bill a central part of his campaign.

Tom Steyer led presidential pack in Facebook spending last week

WASHINGTON — Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer is already dropping big dollars on his presidential bid, a reflection of how the new candidate's deep pockets are having an impact on the race. 

Steyer has already booked well more than $1 million in television advertising time, and his spots are already up on the air in early primary states.

And new Facebook data shows that Steyer spent more on Facebook ads than any other presidential candidate over the past week, $284,960 from July 14 through July 20

The Democrat's ads hit a variety of notes — some flaunt his work starting the "Need to Impeach" grassroots group aimed at pushing Congress to impeach President Trump; some argue "we need an outsider to fix our broken politics;" others argue that Steyer will put climate change "front and center;" and others argue that Steyer is the best candidate to buck the power that big corporations have in politics. 

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spent $195,772 during that time period with ads including some that criticize Trump's "contempt for women and anyone who threatens this president's fragile ego." She also ran ads promoting her record on abortion and calling on supporters to help her reach the September Democratic debate's 130,000 unique donor threshold. 

President Trump's "Make America Great Again Committee" spent $160,581 last week, making it the third-highest spending campaign of the week. Trump's messages included accusations that conservatives are being censored on social media and in the news, a direction to take the campaign's "Official Corrupt Media Censorship Survey," and various messages from the "Women for Trump" team about how the president's economic and border security plans will help women. 

Democrat Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker were the only other presidential hopefuls who spent at least $100,000 on Facebook last week. 

Warren warns of coming economic crisis — and how to avert it

WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is sounding the alarm with her latest plan, cautioning Monday — as she did before the 2008 crash — of new “warning signs” in the U.S. economy.

"Warning lights are flashing,” she writes in a Medium post. “Whether it’s this year or next year, the odds of another economic downturn are high — and growing. Congress and regulators should act immediately to tamp down these threats before it’s too late."

In the years before the 2008 crash, Warren saw red flags in subprime lending, rising household debt, and rising foreclosure rates/mortgage-backed securities. Today, it’s in a recession in the manufacturing sector, plus rising household and corporate debt and an uncertain economic backdrop.

And Warren writes that she has a plan to stop it. Here are some highlights:

  • Reduce household debt by raising wages ($15 min wage) and bring down household costs. Those cost reductions include several already-released Warren plans, like her student loan debt cancellation plan, universal childcare/pre-k, free college tuition, and housing (lowering the cost of rent).
  • Increase oversight over corporate lending, specifically through the already-existing Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) better addressing risks of leveraged lending and enforcing current leverage guidance. Trump’s FSOC, Warren writes, “is falling down on the job.” 
  • Reverse manufacturing job losses through Warren’s previously released Green Manufacturing Plan, which puts $2 trillion towards green research, manufacturing, and exporting, creating an estimated 1 million-plus new jobs while also addressing climate change.
  • Limit potential shocks to the economy — like planning for what will happen in the case of a no-deal Brexit, finding an ally-driven approach to dealing with China’s trade tactics (not “trade-war-by-tweet”), and eliminating the debt ceiling or automatically raising it to accommodate spending decisions approved by Congress.

Top Democrat on tax committee faces left-wing primary challenge

WASHINGTON — Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, announced Monday that he will mount a primary challenge against Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee who has been criticized by progressives for not pushing harder for the release of President Donald Trump's tax returns.

Neal is a relatively low-profile moderate who has for three decades represented a district that encompasses most of Western Massachusetts, a rural but deeply Democratic area. 

Morse, whose parents grew up in public housing, became his hometown's youngest mayor ever and its first openly gay one when he was elected at 22 years old in 2011, just six months after graduating from Brown University. 

In a statement announcing his candidacy, Morse said Neal has not been aggressive enough in using his seat to push progressive ideas.

“There's an urgency to this moment in Massachusetts’ First District and our country, and that urgency is not matched by our current representative in Congress,” Morse said in a video announcing his candidacy. "We need new leadership that understands that we can no longer settle for small, incremental, and compromising progress. We need to be on offense. We need to be fighting for something, not just against."

In addition to Trump's tax returns, The incumbent has also been dinged by progressives for opposing impeachment proceedings against the president, expressing skepticism about Medicare for All, and accepting campaign contributions from corporate PACs.

Since Massachusetts is run almost entirely by Democrats, it has a history of ousting longtime incumbent Democrats who face high-profile challengers, such as Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who is now running for president after wining a primary in 2014, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., a member of the so-called "squad," who was elected last year after a blockbuster primary in Boston. 

Trump team will monitor Mueller hearing but no plans to counter — yet

WASHINGTON — The White House and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign plan to tune in Wednesday to watch former special counsel Robert Mueller's congressional testimony without a coordinated plan to counter the appearance ahead of time, according to multiple officials involved in those discussions.

The president himself is expected to monitor the hearings from the White House as Mueller answers questions about the Russia investigation, according to campaign aides, much like he has done with similar events in the past. His schedule for that day only includes a routine lunch with the vice president, and aides point to his morning “executive time” as a natural window for Trump to take in snippets of the coverage.

But when asked directly by reporters last week if he intended to tune in, the president claimed he “won’t be watching.” 

Then, speaking to reporters on Monday, the president said, "I'm not going to be watching. Probably. Maybe I'll see a little bit of it. I'm not going to be watching Mueller because you can't take all those bites out of the apple. We had no collusion. No obstruction. We had no nothing."

Later Wednesday, Trump is expected to travel to Wheeling, West Virginia for a big-dollar fundraiser behind closed doors, a rescheduled event from earlier in the summer — offering a possible opportunity for him to respond to the man he once called “honorable” and now disparages regularly.

When the Mueller hearing was originally announced for July 17, the Trump re-election team decided to hold a signature “Make America Great Again” rally in Greenville, North Carolina for that night.  But just days before the long-awaited testimony, lawmakers delayed the timing one week, in exchange for more questioning time. The rally, as well-documented, went on.

Now, Mueller is expected to appear before the Judiciary Committee for three hours, followed by two hours before the House Intelligence Committee.

White House officials, and Trump himself, expect Mueller to largely echo the contents of his 448-page report, which many Democrats say contain multiple instances of criminal obstruction even though he was not ultimately charged.

In a rare press availability in May, Mueller previewed what he might say if called to testify before Congress.  "The report is my testimony," he said, "I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.” 

So far, Trump’s legal team is waiting to see what happens on Wednesday before drafting any formal statements, according to attorney Jay Sekulow, who said they would “respond as appropriate.”

As usual, the president’s first response to Mueller’s testimony may come in the form of tweets. Campaign officials indicated Trump’s rapid response teams would also be monitoring the hearing, ready to pounce on anything that will continue to reinforce their claims that the president he been “totally and completely exonerated.”

The president’s next rally is set for August 1 in Cincinnati, Ohio and campaign officials confirmed to NBC News there are no major events scheduled prior to that event.

Carol E. Lee contributed to this report.

Moulton wins endorsement from former general McChrystal

WASHINGTON — Retired General Stanley McChrystal, who helmed the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, is endorsing Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton's presidential bid. 

McChrystal praised Moulton on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" Thursday, pointing to the need for a leader with "character" and "competence." 

"I think he'd be the best president for our nation, from where we are now and where I think we need to go," he said. 

Moulton did not make the second round of Democratic debates, falling short of the polling and unique-donor thresholds. The congressman downplayed that reality on Thursday, arguing: "I don't think the summer debates are going to decide the election." 

House GOP campaign chairman: There's 'no place' in party for 'send her back' chants at Trump rally

WASHINGTON ¬– Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, condemned the “send her back” chants by rallygoers at President Trump’s North Carolina rally Wednesday night aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

“There’s no place for that kind of talk,” Emmer told reporters at The Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday morning.

The chants by Trump supporters were evocative of Trump's tweet from earlier this week, where he said the minority congresswoman could "go back" to their home countries. House Democrats voted to condemn those comments as racist. 

Emmer defended Trump amid the firestorm over his comments, arguing that “There’s not a racist bone in the president’s body. What he was trying to say, he said wrong," he added. 

During the wide-ranging conversation in Washington D.C., Emmer went on to say that he doesn’t believe that there will be a major uproar in the 2020 election about race.

Some Republicans have voiced criticism of the NRCC's messaging, particularly in how it describes Democratic members of Congress. The NRCC has taken a new hardline approach to its communications strategy under Emmer’s leadership, which has included posting images of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in clown makeup and sending blast messages to reporters calling Democratic members “deranged”.

Emmer responded to questions about the NRCC messaging by saying it’s the organization’s job to get Republicans elected, which is different than an individual’s conduct.

“What we’re trying to do with the NRCC, our job, that’s an organization by the way, that’s not a member. That’s an organization whose job is to define who they are to make it clear to the American public this is who we have in the office,” Emmer said.

A focal point the public can expect from the NRCC in 2020 will be “socialism” in the Democratic Party and the so-called “squad” of more progressive Democratic congresswomen, who Trump attacked on Twitter earlier this week and has sought to elevate as a foil on the left.

“If you want to call them ‘the squad,’ you should call them the leadership squad, since they are the speaker in fact, and the rest of their conference you can call the new red army of socialists,” Emmer said.

When asked if there is a specific policy agenda Emmer would like to see Republican candidates run on, he told NBC News he would defer to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

“We do have a whole list of things that we can put out when it comes to health care,” Emmer said. “I have to defer to our leader, Kevin McCarthy. That’s his job to develop that with Liz Cheney and then give us the details that they want us to use.”

Warren targets Wall Street in new economic plan

SIOUX CITY, IA — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is focusing her sights on Wall Street and private equity firms, an area of the economy that has long been one of her targets for regulation

Warren released a series of new proposals as part of her "economic patriotism" plan on Thursday in a Medium post, targeting private equity firms, calling for new banking regulations, expanding banking at the post office and pushing new regulations on corporations.

Image:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts speaks during the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Miami on June 26, 2019.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

Private equity firms took a fair share of criticism from Warren—she decried the practice of buying companies to slash jobs and turn profits as "legalized looting." Her solution is to support legislation that would make it harder for private equity firms to destroy companies after purchasing them.

“These changes would shrink the sector and push the remaining private equity firms to make investments that help companies rather than stripping them down for parts,” her campaign wrote.

“Firms that make bad investments would be held accountable instead of walking away from the wreckage with millions in fees and payouts.”

Warren will be hosting several events in Sioux City on Thursday and Friday, where she'll almost certainly address her policy proposals.  

Take a look at some of the other top-lines of her plan below: 

  • Reintroduce Glass-Steagall (a bank regulation law passed during the Great Depression and ultimately repealed in 1999) and introduce new banking regulations to discourage speculative investing
  • Expand low-cost postal banking through USPS and speed up money transfers through the federal reserve
  • Pass bill that requires corporations to focus on long-term financial interests of stakeholders and workers rather than short term financial gain

Trump heads to MAGA rally with a focus on the 'squad'

GREENVILLE, N.C. — President Trump is expected to continue his attacks on the “squad” of Democratic House members at his campaign rally here tonight, according to two senior campaign officials, a preview of a 2020 strategy that is, so far, resonating with his base.

Supporters outside the Williams Arena here said they did not find the president’s attacks on four congresswomen of color to be “racist,” and said they hope Trump continues this approach as an effective tool heading into next year’s election. 

The campaign would not preview exactly of what the president will say tonight and he is known to improvise, but they say they have advised Trump to spend considerable time on the “squad” and continue to paint them as the face of today’s Democratic Party. The president hinted as much in a tweet earlier today when he said he would be talking about “people who love, and hate, our Country (mostly love)!”

The president enjoys having a clear foil for his rallies and tonight's event and enemy and this is just the latest example of that. Special counsel Robert Mueller was originally scheduled to testify before two House committees today but that appearance was postponed until next week.  Now, there's a new message for him to deliver, one that he is promoting ahead of the event:

Granite State voters are taking their time before picking a candidate

MANCHESTER, N.H. — A new CNN/UNH poll of likely New Hampshire voters has former Vice President Joe Biden leading with 24 percent, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on his heels with 19 percent each, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 10 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at 9 percent and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke each at two percent. The DNC qualifying poll is our first snapshot of where candidates stand in the first-in-the-nation primary state since April.   

But while no other candidate passed one percent support, only 16 percent of voters say they are “definitely” decided six months out from voting day, leaving 84 percent of Granite State voters up for grabs, a number reflective of what voters in the state have been telling NBC News. 

Since the first Democratic candidate primary debates, 12 candidates have campaigned in N.H. The majority of voters NBC News has spoken with at campaign events share a common sentiment — it is still early.  

Candidates attract dozens, and in some cases, hundreds of potential voters to come out in person. But the most common attendees at these events are still considering multiple candidates.

"Still shopping,” said Peterborough locals Jamie Harrison and Kathy George while waiting  in line to see Warren on July 8. 

Traci Joy, from Nashua, saw Warren and Cory Booker in the same week. Joy liked their messages, but says she also really likes newcomer Buttigieg and Sanders, one of her favorites since 2015. 

Similarly, at Buttigieg’s town hall in Dover, curious locals came to hear from the South Bend mayor, but are still open-minded. Kathleen Dinan, an elderly woman, is considering Buttigieg, Harris, Warren and Booker but “the important thing is we nominate someone who can beat Trump.” 

Millennial mother of two Jenn Macdonald was a “big Berner” last election cycle, but is intrigued by Tulsi Gabbard and Harris this time around. 

“I’m really looking at more so what they’re standing for and less about who they are at this point because there are so many out there now that it’s really about who’s going to do the whole big picture for us,” she said. 

As voters accustomed to the state’s first-in-the-nation role, residents here tend to be kinds of voters that want to see and meet a candidate in person multiple times in their backyards before pledging their utmost exclusive support. 

For the 18 candidates who aren’t topping the latest poll, it’s evidence that the electorate here remains highly engaged — and largely undecided on who they like the most.

Sanders celebrity buzz muted in crowded field

WASHINGTON — In 2016, Vampire Weekend opened for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines; director Spike Lee told South Carolina Democrats to “do the right thing,” by supporting the Vermont senator’s presidential bid; comedian George Lopez told Latino voters he was “Feeling the Bern.” 

Four years later, Sanders is seeing his support shrink in a crowded field for the Democratic presidential nomination.

And his celebrity appeal is less pronounced as well, though there have been a few exceptions. Tony! Toni! Tone! opened a California rally in San Francisco during his campaign rollout tour. Actor Danny Glover is still a surrogate and has become somewhat of a regular on the campaign trail, especially at events in the South. In Pasadena, actor Danny DeVito surprised supporters at a rally, briefly speaking on stage to express his appreciation for the senator.  

Sanders also got somewhat of an endorsement Tuesday from New York rapper Cardi B, and campaign officials say the two sides have regular conversations about a potential appearance on the trail.

 

However, the regular sightings of bold-faced names, and rallies drawing thousands at a time have so far been muted during this campaign run. Sanders' team says what has been seen already is not reflective of what is planned for the senator, which includes possible music festival appearances. "There's still a cultural hallmark on this campaign for sure," one official told NBC News. 

Spike Lee cut videos for Sanders and spoke at a 20-thousand plus rally in the Bronx, NY, in 2016 but has been publicly silent about the current race. His daughter, Satchel Lee introduced Sen. Kamala Harris at a Brooklyn fundraiser earlier this month. 

Comedian Sarah Silverman, who initially supported Sanders in 2016, donated to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg according to FEC filings. Silverman still talks favorably of the senator but also shows an affinity for many of the other candidates, tweeting “Love Cory Love Bernie love Elizabeth love Beto — great options and I’m rooting for all!”  

The New York indie rock band Vampire Weekend, on tour with a new album, performed a full set at a Sanders Iowa event in 2016. This march, the band's singer Ezra Koenig told The Times of London that his band may be up for another political swing for Sanders. "If we can help out, sure." And then added:  "but it's hard to be as excited as I was in 2016." 

And there's Rosario Dawson, the actress who stumped for Sanders on a cold New York night in 2016 and described him as someone “I’ve adored and loved for so long.” Dawson is now the the girlfriend of one of Sanders' challengers for the Democratic nomination, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Gary Grumbach contributed to this report.

The Cardi B and Bernie Sanders relationship, explained

WASHINGTON—With rapper Cardi B. tweeting praise for Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders Tuesday morning, it's worth taking a look back at their history. 

While many of Cardi B’s most popular songs are about her newfound excessive wealth since making it big as a rapper, (see: “Bodak Yellow”) there’s a long relationship here, albeit only publicly on social media at this point, between the democratic socialist and the 26-year-old rapper.

Cardi B has been vocal about her political views online for years, consistently very supportive of the Vermont senator. In a now-deleted (and not safe for work) video posted on Instagram in the summer of 2016, Cardi B told her supporters to "Vote for Daddy Bernie."

And she's shown interest in politics before—talking with GQ last year about her interest in and appreciation for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Sanders regularly evokes FDR an influence for democratic socialism). 

Here's an excerpt from that interview

"…First of all," continues Cardi B, "he helped us get over the Depression, all while he was in a wheelchair. Like, this man was suffering from polio at the time of his presidency, and yet all he was worried about was trying to make America great—make America great again for real. He's the real 'Make America Great Again,' because if it wasn't for him, old people wouldn't even get Social Security."

Sen. Bernie Sanders responded to her comments on social security in this GQ article by saying Cardi B is right. 

Cardi B voiced her support for Sen. Bernie Sanders again in April of 2019, but stopped short of a full endorsement during a red carpet interview with Variety:

VARIETY: Who are you supporting in 2020?

CARDI B: Um, I don’t know. I’ma always go with ‪Bernie.

VARIETY: Yeah? Why?

CARDI B: Because there’s the thing, right, Bernie don't say things to be cool. Like, there's pictures of him being an activist from a very, very, very long time. As a matter of fact I was watching the news and I saw like this guy named Tim Ryan. And his, his speech was very convincing to me. He really wants to give the United States free health care. So that’s a big plus. We need health care. So. I don’t know. We’ll see.

A deeper dive into the second quarter fundraising numbers

WASHINGTON — Monday's second-quarter fundraising filings shed some important light on the financial health of the Democratic presidential field. 

The top-lines are clear: South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former President Joe Biden, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris have separated themselves from the pack as far as fundraising. 

But there are tons of important nuggets in the trove of information turned over by the campaigns Monday night. 

Here are two next-level data-points worth noting from the reports. 

Staff size 

Different candidates have different theories of how to win the Democratic nomination. And many of them are at different points in their presidential bid. So there's no one-size-fits-all approach to staffing. 

All of the top-fundraising candidates have more than 100 salaried staff-members, but their staff totals reflect different strategies. 

Warren's group of 304 salaried staff members is the largest operation in the field. That big investment in staffing is especially important for Warren because she's made the decision to skip the big-dollar fundraising circuit.

Sanders' organization is close behind, with 282 staff members, while Biden has about 194 salaried staff.  

Buttigieg, the second-quarter fundraising leader, is relying on a leaner staff of about 137 salaried positions (his campaign, like many others also relies on staff being paid as consultants too). 

All of those candidates have the deep pockets right now to support such large staffs, while candidates at the bottom of the polls only have a few dozen staff members. 

But the one big outlier is New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker—he has slightly more salaried staff (176) than Buttigieg despite raising one-fifth of the money that Buttigieg raised. Booker is making a similar bet as Warren, one that relies on a big staff. But the question is, can he sustain it?

Campaigns in the red

One way to think about a presidential campaign is to treat it like a unique business. Instead of maximizing profits, it has to maximize votes. And while there may be reasons to spend a business into the red, it's usually not a good sign to do it. 

Along with Booker, John Delaney, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang all spent more than they brought in last quarter. 

Many of those candidates were cutting big checks in the hopes of qualifying for the first round of Democratic debates (which they all did). But burning through cash like this is a risky strategy, with a slimmer margin of error. 

Biden on Trump: 'I won't get down in the dirt with him'

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday he'd have no problem taking on President Trump on the debate stage, arguing that his experience on the world stage has prepared him to stand up to adversaries.

During an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Biden defended his performance at last month's Democratic debates, where California Sen. Kamala Harris forcefully attacked his record on opposing federally-mandated busing to promote integration. And he said that despite that exchange, he'd be ready to take on Trump if they debated in the general election. 

"I realize that some have  concluded because I didn't respond very tough back to her that, how can I take on Trump? I have never had any trouble taking on anyone from Trump to Putin to Xi Jinping or anyone else," he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Chinese president. 

"I would say come on Donald, come on, man. How many push-ups do you want to do here, pal? I mean, jokingly. Come on, run with me man."

"I won't get down in the dirt with him," he added. 

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. 

Biden warns of international damage if Trump is given a second term

Former Vice President Joe Biden laid out his “forward looking” foreign policy vision to warn Americans about the colossal and irreversible damage that will be done if President Donald Trump is reelected next year.

“If we give Donald Trump four more years, we will have a great deal of difficulty of ever being able to recover America's standing in the world and our capacity to bring nations together, which is desperately needed,” he said. 

Biden contrasted his decades-long career in foreign policy to that of the presidents, who he says genuinely does not understand the intricacies of maintaining relationships with allies given his fascination with authoritarian dictators. 

“As President of the United States, I would remind the world that we are the United States of America and we do not coddle dictators. United States of America gives hate no safe harbor,” he said at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York Thursday. “There will be no more Charlottesvilles, no more Helsinkis.”

Biden offered some specific policy proposals — many about returning to Obama administration priorities like the Iran deal and bringing back daily press briefings at the White House.

He did not address his 2002 vote to authorize military action in Iraq, but promised to end “forever wars” in the Middle East including the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. But his larger message without necessarily cataloging his own resume was to tell Democrats that no other candidate was as prepared as him to act on the world stage more quickly and effectively as him, and that there was only “one opportunity” to reset the U.S. democracy.

Tom Steyer proposes national referendum, term limits on Congress

WASHINGTON — Liberal billionaire and newly declared Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer on Thursday said that as president he would let voters make laws directly through regular national referenda. 

It's part of Steyer's new structural reform plan, which also proposes fairly novel ideas like 12-year term limits on members of Congress, a national vote-by-mail system, public campaign financing, giving the Federal Elections Commission more teeth and different composition, and imposing independent redistricting commissions to tackle gerrymandering.

It also includes more standard Democratic fare like overturning the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and the ethics and elections reform package House Democrats put forward this year in their bill dubbed H.R. 1. 

A national referendum, where voters can change laws at the ballot box, would tip the U.S. more towards direct democracy and away from the representative government envisioned by the Founders.

That and other of Steyer's ideas would likely face constitutional and legal challenges, let alone political ones in Congress, since the Constitution gives states, not the federal government, most of the power to govern elections. 

National referenda would make the U.S. look more like Steyer's California, which has a robust history and culture of citizen-initiated ballot measures. Critics say California ballot measure campaigns are often pushed by wealthy individuals or special interests in the guise of populism, while proponents say they restore power to the people.

In a video touting his new plan, Steyer touts his work in California — and the millions he spent there — to advance ballot measures that led to higher taxes on cigarettes to fund health care, an oil extraction tax, and the closing of "corporate loopholes" in the tax code. 

"Here's the difference between me and the other candidates: I don't think we can fix our democracy from the inside," Steyer says in the video. "I trust the people. And as president, I will give you tools we need to fix our democracy." 

Elizabeth Warren releases new immigration plan

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has released a new plan on immigration ahead of her speech at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Thursday. Here are some of the key aspects of her plan include:

  • Decriminalize immigration and focus enforcement on serious criminal offenses and make it a civil offense.
  • Stop cops from serving as immigration enforcement agents.
  • Promises to investigate Trump admin for abuses “perpetrated during the Trump era.”
  • End detention unless necessary and private detention facilities, expand use of parole.
  • Establish independent immigration courts.
  • Cancel Trump admin travel ban, raise refugee allowances, strengthen asylum protections.
  • Expand legal immigration, ease the naturalization process, reinstate DACA program and provide pathway to citizenship.
  • Create an “Office of New Americans” to help immigrants transition and assimilate.
  • Commits $1.5B annually for foreign aid to Western hemisphere.

Warren's proposals come amid growing reports of the mistreatment of migrants being detained at the border, congressional investigations into the administration's policies and reports that previously planned ICE deportation raids that were postponed three weeks ago are now scheduled to begin on Sunday. President Donald Trump is also expected to announce plans to use executive action to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census during a news conference Thursday afternoon. 

Buttigieg: Citizenship question is racially motivated census manipulation

WASHINGTON — Mayor Pete Buttigieg is accusing President Donald Trump of “racially and politically motivated manipulation of the census” as the president works to add a citizenship question to the census despite being rebuked by the courts.

In an interview with NBC News’ Craig Melvin, Buttigieg predicts that asking about citizenship will lead to under-representation on the 2020 census, making “the whole country worse off.” 

“There’s a reason why the courts ruled that this is wrong,” Buttigieg say. “I’ll let other scholars talk about why the president’s actions may be unconstitutional, but it’s very clear that it’s wrong.”

Buttigieg spoke hours before Trump was expected to use an afternoon news conference to announce he’s attempting to add the citizenship question to the census using executive action after the Supreme Court blocked the administration from including the question based on the rationale initially put forward.

Buttigieg’s remarks come as he puts a laser focus on increasing his appeal to African Americans and Hispanics who have been slow to warm to his campaign. His struggles in appealing to a broad cross-section of the Democratic primary electorate have raised growing questions about his continued viability in the primary. 

The South Bend mayor also rebuked Trump over his administration’s planned immigration raids across the country, saying they are designed to “strike fear into people at a moment when fear is something we have got way too much of in this country.” 

“If rumors start going around about raids — let alone if it starts actually happening — it immediately makes the community less safe, it makes people  less likely to participate in the economy, less likely to talk to law enforcement when they need help dealing with something that really is a matter of danger,” Buttigieg said.

As he works to show black voters in particular that he’s the best candidate to improve their lives, Buttigieg earlier Thursday released an 18-page proposal dubbed the “Douglass Plan” that his campaign hopes will stand out as the most comprehensive of any put forward by a 2020 Democratic candidate.

Buttigieg said he’s been working on the plan “for months” as way to better answer black voters’ inquiries on the campaign trail about how he is best positioned to improve their lives.

“But this isn’t just aimed at black voters,” Buttigieg says. “Frankly, there needs to be a conversation with white America, with white audiences about how none of us can or should be willing to live in a system where these kinds of systemic racist dimensions persist.”

Amy McGrath repeatedly changes mind on Kavanaugh question

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath, the party's top candidate in the race to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, changed her tune about whether she would have voted for Justice Brett Kavanaugh twice in a matter of hours — just a day after she launched her candidacy. 

In an interview with Louisville's The Courier-Journal, McGrath said that she was "very concerned" about Kavanaugh's "far-right stances" and that she believed Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that he sexually-assaulted her while both were teenagers was "credible." 

But she told the paper that "there was nothing in his record that I think would disqualify him in any way" and that "with Judge Kavanaugh, yeah, I probably would have voted for him." 

That answer surprised some Democrats following the bitter fight over Kavanaugh's confirmation last year. 

Later Wednesday evening, McGrath tweeted that "upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no," adding that "I know I disappointed many today with my initial answer on how I would have voted on Brett Kavanaugh." 

The reversal put McGrath closer to how she addressed Kavanaugh's confirmation during her 2018 run for the House. Last July, she posted unconditional criticism on Facebook about the judge and accused him of being "against women's reproductive rights, workers' rights [and] consumer protections."

McGrath made a big splash when she jumped into the race this week against the Republican leader, raising $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign. But McConnell's team has been aggressive in trying to tar McGrath as too liberal for the state, and has taken particular joy in her reversal on Kavanaugh.

Sanders campaign adds more staffers to New Hampshire operation

MANCHESTER, NH — Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign is expanding its ground operation in New Hampshire with an announcement Thursday of five field office openings and an expanded staff focused on community organizing.

The Sanders campaign will now have 45 staffers working across its Manchester-based headquarters and Greater Nashua field office, with new offices set to open in West Lebanon, Manchester, Dover and Portsmouth. 

“We’re taking nothing for granted,” Sanders’ New Hampshire State Director Joe Caiazzo told NBC News. “We’re going to work hard to bring the Senator’s economic populous message across the state to the doors of every voter.”

After carrying the N.H. primary against Hillary Clinton in 2016 with 60.4 percent of the vote, the Sanders campaign recognizes the new challenges of the 2020 race.

“It’s about reigniting our volunteer network and going and expanding our base, too,” Caiazzo said. “I think it’s a completely different race from last time with such a big field. I think many candidates in the race need to show really strong in a number of the early contests, so I think a lot of people are in the same boat.”

The campaign’s increased field presence reflects a strategic emphasis on door-to-door canvassing and phone banks, rather than launching television or radio ads. 

“I’d venture to say that our volunteer network is larger than anyone else in the field,” Caiazzo said, adding, “We’re using staff to support the large volunteers to then go out there and talk to voters.” 

Biden to lay out foreign policy vision aimed at putting the U.S. 'back at the head of the table'

Joe Biden on Thursday will argue that President Trump’s foreign policy has emboldened authoritarian states while diminishing America’s role leading the free world, and warn that the U.S. Has “one chance to get it right” after he leaves office.

The former vice president will outline the three pillars of his vision for America’s global leadership in what his campaign is billing as a “forward-looking” address, designed to highlight both a policy area Biden has considered one of his strengths and return the focus on the battle with the Republican incumbent. 

Biden will vow to convene a summit of democratic states in the first year of his presidency and place a premium on acting in concert with U.S. allies, a senior campaign official said Wednesday in previewing the address. But the official would not say if Biden would address his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq, another part of his Senate resume that rivals have seized on.

“There's probably a greater premium than there's ever been on working with allies and partners to deal with the greatest threats to the American people,” the official said. “No one nation acting alone can solve them and there's also no wall tall enough or strong enough to contain them. And yet, the president's 'America First' policy has actually turned into America alone.”

Biden’s three pillars would be to “repair and reinvigorate” America’s own democracy; pursue a global economy for the middle class; and putting the U.S. “back at the head of the table” in mobilizing allies to address global threats, from climate change, nuclear proliferation, cyber warfare to transnational terrorism. 

"I think from the vice president's perspective, the world does not govern itself,” the official said. "If the United States is not playing a lead role in setting rules, shaping the norms and the institutions and govern relations in nations, either someone else will do it … or, just as bad, no one does it and then you have chaos."

In South Carolina on Saturday, Biden argued there wasn’t “anyone in this race more prepared to lead the world than me.”

"That sounds like I'm bragging," he continued, "but that's what I truly believe because I've been engaged with it my entire career.” 

He acknowledged in that speech voting to “give authority to Bush” in 2002, but said that vote "didn't stop President Obama from within the first month turning me … to handle Iraq once we took office, giving me the responsibility to coordinate all the agencies, to bring home 150,000 combat troops including my son.”

The Biden campaign also previewed his attacks against Trump in a newly released digital video, which paints the president as embracing dictators, threatening war, leaving international agreements, launching trade wars and embarrassing the United States.

Buttigieg releases 18-page plan to help African Americans

WASHINGTON — Working to prove himself to African American voters, Pete Buttigieg is releasing an 18-page plan Thursday to improve conditions and opportunity for black Americans on everything from the health care, education and criminal justice systems to entrepreneurship and access to credit.

The wide-ranging plan constitutes Buttigieg’s initial version of a proposal for reparations for slavery. His campaign says it views it as a “complement” to H.R. 40, legislation working its way through the House to create a commission to craft a national reparations proposal. The legislation is widely supported by the 2020 Democratic candidates including Buttigieg, and Sen. Cory Booker has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

“We have lived in the shadow of systemic racism for too long,” Buttigieg said in a statement announcing the plan, citing “a rise in white nationalism” and disparate educational and health outcomes for white and black Americans. “That should make us all wonder how the richest country on earth can allow this to happen under our noses.”

Buttigieg’s plan would:

  • Seek to boost educational opportunities by offering free tuition at public schools for low-income students; canceling debts from underperforming for-profit colleges; and spending more on Title I schools.
  • Combat the wealth gap by directing 25 percent of federal contracting dollars to small business owners from “underserved communities;” forgiving college debt for entrepreneurs who start and maintain small businesses that employ at least 3 people; and boosting investment in minority-owned banks.
  • Address a criminal justice system Buttigieg calls “fundamentally racist” by ending mandatory minimums and incarceration for drug possession; cutting other sentences; legalizing marijuana; giving all former felons their voting rights back immediately; and creating a clemency commission independent from the Justice Department.
  • Create “Health Equity Zones” in areas of the U.S. with health disparities to identify the causes in those areas and invest funding conditional on progress in narrowing those gaps.
  • Combat voter suppression by creating automatic voter registration; normalizing online and same-day registration; making Election Day a holiday; giving Washington, D.C., full representation; and getting rid of the Electoral College.

Although Buttigieg has floated some of the individual proposals before, his presidential campaign is putting a spotlight on the comprehensive plan this week as he works to address growing concerns that his difficulty appealing to black voters may be too significant an obstacle for his upstart campaign to overcome.

Buttigieg had already been struggling to expand his support to include African Americans and other minorities when a crisis erupted last month over race and policing in South Bend, Indiana, where Buttigieg is mayor. After a white officer shot and killed a black man, Buttigieg was confronted by anger, mistrust and frustration from many black constituents who held him responsible. He eventually conceded failure during the first presidential debates in diversifying the police force and executing a body camera policy for police.

Greg Murphy wins GOP runoff in North Carolina's 3rd district

WASHINGTON — State Rep. Greg Murphy, a House Freedom Caucus-backed candidate in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, handily defeated pediatrician Joan Perry in the GOP primary runoff Tuesday, taking nearly 60 percent of the vote to Perry's 40 percent.

The North Carolina race caught national attention after the conservative women's group, Winning for Women, launched it’s “20 in 20” action plan to elect 20 Republican women to the House in 2020.  The group was backing Perry after Republican women in the House saw their ranks slashed from 23 to 13 members in the 2018 midterm elections.

“Joan ran a great campaign and we’re proud to have supported her from day one. We took a political outsider with no name recognition and helped elevate her through a field of 17 candidates into a two-person runoff. Primary support is critical to electing more women,” Winning for Women Executive Director Rebecca Schuller said in a statement. “This race is exactly why we are needed more than ever. We’re not stopping here, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to get more women in the House in 2020.”

While other big-name supporters rallied around Perry’s candidacy in North Carolina, like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, it wasn’t enough to push Perry over the finish line. 

Murphy will face-off against Democrat Allen Thomas in the district’s general election on Sept. 10.

McGrath raises a record $2.5 million on first day of Senate campaign

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath raised more than $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign against Mitch McConnell — over $1 million of it coming in just the first five and a half hours after she announced, according to her campaign.

McGrath campaign manager Mark Nickolas said it’s the most ever raised in the first 24 hours of a Senate campaign. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says the next closest was former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who raised $1 million in his first day of his campaign in Arizona.

The haul is a sign of just how deep Democratic antipathy toward McConnell, the Senate majority leader, runs in the Trump era.

All of the $2.5 million came in online donations with an average donation of $36.15, her campaign manager said. The $2.5 million total doesn’t include any additional traditional fundraising money that may have been raised in the form of checks or promised campaign contributions.

McGrath’s race against McConnell promises to be one of the most expensive Senate races of the 2020 election cycle. McConnell, as the Senate majority leader, has a formidable fundraising machine — in 2014, he raised and spent over $30 million in his race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. 

Harris, Ocasio-Cortez to introduce 'fair chance' housing bill

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., plan to introduce legislation Wednesday aimed at reforming eviction and screening policies for federal housing assistance for people with criminal records.

The Fair Chance at Housing Act would make it more difficult for individuals and their families to be evicted for minor crimes as well as ban “1-strike” policies that allow for eviction after a single incident of criminal activity regardless of severity. The bill would also raise the standards of evidence used by public housing authorities when making screening or eviction determinations. 

Additionally, the bill provides $10 million in bonus funding for homeless service providers and would increase administrative funding to help house ex-offenders. 

“Too many people become involved in our criminal justice system and serve their time only to return home to face additional barriers to employment, education, and housing,” Harris said in a statement. “By requiring a higher standard of evidence and a more holistic review process, we are taking a significant step toward giving Americans a fair chance to succeed.”

The bill is Harris’ latest move to beef up her policy bona fides, especially as she looks to compete more directly with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in the 2020 Democratic primary. 

Housing barriers targeted at formerly incarcerated individuals disproportionately affect minorities and can increase a person’s chance of ending up back in prison, according to a study by the Prison Policy Initiative, a criminal justice non-profit think tank. 

“The NAACP is pleased and proud to support this much-needed legislation by Senator Harris,” said Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “This legislation represents an essential step toward reducing recidivism by helping ex-offenders find stable housing upon exiting a jail or prison and by keeping their family free from punishment by association.” 

Senate Democrats renew call for results of internal Acosta investigation

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are renewing a demand that the Department of Justice disclose the full results of an investigation into whether U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is guilty of "professional misconduct" in light of  “shocking developments” regarding a sex crime prosecution he handled over a decade ago.

In a letter obtained by NBC News, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., who have been pressing the department since April for information about its investigation into Acosta's previous handling of charges against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, said “it is more important than ever” to provide an update on its probe and pledge to publicly release its findings.

Epstein is being charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in a newly unsealed indictment accusing the multimillionaire financier of exploiting a “vast network” of underage girls for sex.

Acosta was U.S. attorney for South Florida in 2007, when federal prosecutors struck a plea agreement allowing the wealthy financier and philanthropist to plead guilty to lesser charges in state court rather than face federal sex trafficking charges.

In its bail memorandum, the federal attorneys “cite discussions between Epstein’s lawyers and the Florida DOJ lawyers that demonstrate DOJ knew at the time about issues of obstruction, harassment, and witness tampering,” the senators wrote.  Yet “Acosta subsequently did not bring charges for these offenses, once again illustrating the inequities in our justice system in favor of the rich and powerful,” they wrote.

Since the investigation began in February, “we have heard nothing since that time regarding its progress or anticipated time of conclusion,” the senators wrote in the letter to Corey Amundson, director of the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Kaine and Murray say that the DOJ had earlier indicated it would share its results “as appropriate” and “consistent with past practices,” while not committing to sharing a full version with the public. And while they have acknowledged DOJ policies that “substantially restrict” public disclosure of its records in general, they contend that standard should not apply to Acosta.

“Americans are right to expect a thorough, unbiased, and transparent investigation pursued with all possible expediency. These needs are only enhanced by the involvement of a sitting Cabinet official in this alleged misconduct,” the senators wrote.

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Social-emotional and academic learning: Teach students conflict resolution and how to set goals, make responsible decisions, and maintain positive relationships.
  4. 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.”