The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Julián Castro releases part of new climate plan, with Jay Inslee's input
DES MOINES, Iowa — While climate-focused Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., may no longer be a presidential contender, remaining candidates are picking up the torch. Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro Tuesday released his policy proposal — created with input from Inslee's team — to address climate change, calling it “the greatest existential threat to our future.”
Castro plans to ultimately put out a five-part plan, with today’s release covering the first two components focused on “environmental justice and resiliency.” Castro references his experience as HUD secretary, where he saw two-thirds of the United States suffer a climate-sparked disaster, to point out the loss of jobs, damages to physical and social infrastructure, school closures, financial instability and risks to the elderly during these disasters.
Castro committed that, if elected, his first executive action would be rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and pushing the international community to work toward worldwide net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. His plan outlines a timeline to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, replace coal-generated electricity with zero-emission sources and all-electric power to be carbon neutral in the U.S.
The plan also calls for all vehicles to be zero-emission by 2030. Castro says this plan would put the U.S. on a timeline of clean, renewable electricity by 2035, and have the country reach net-zero emissions by 2045 “at the latest.” Castro also plans to create an “Economic Guarantee for Fossil Fuel Workers,” to support workers in the oil, gas, and fossil fuel industry who would be affected by the transition away from fossil fuels.
Additionally, Castro says he’d propose new civil rights legislation to address the “disparate impact of environmental discrimination and dismantle structures of environmental racism,” in his first 100 days, similar to Inslee's proposals. The plan notes that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to live near polluters, therefore breathing polluted air, and more than half of the 9 million people living near hazardous waste sites are people of color.
The 13-page proposal also outlines the creation of a national clean energy standard, in addition to a $200 billion “Green Infrastructure Fund” to promote clean, renewable buildings, maintenance and operations. And it calls for a renewed Clean Power Plan, the establishment of a National Climate Council and a system of “Carbon Equity Scoring” to measure the impact of federal spending on climate justice goals.
The lofty price tags would be funded by Castro’s proposed new carbon pollution fee, a reinstated Superfund Tax —designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances via consumers of petroleum and chemical products—and the pollution fee included in this plan. He’ll also pull from his inheritance tax and wealth inequality tax proposed in his “Working Families” Economic Plan.
Much of Castro's campaign has focused on immigration and refugee rights — to marry these goals, the plan creates a “Climate Refugee” category for people who have been displaced because of migration due to climate change, citing a World Bank report that estimates there could be as many as 200 million climate-change-driven migrants by 2050.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar also released a broad outline of her climate plan over the holiday weekend. Various candidates will be on stage this week discussing all things climate change during CNN’s Climate Forum.
Biden campaign launches new digital ads in Iowa
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Joe Biden's campaign is releasing a series of new digital ads Tuesday that will target Iowans watching videos on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Hulu in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
Two 15-second YouTube ads focus on the former vice president's commitment to health care by building off an ad his campaign released last week that features him recounting the traumatic death of his first wife and infant daughter and how difficult it would have been for him to pay for his injured son’s health care if he could not afford it.
"People have gone through what I've gone through without any of the kind of help that I had,” Biden told reporters in South Carolina last week when asked about the ad. “I can't imagine doing it without insurance and what I wanted to make clear was, it is personal to me.”
In one YouTube ad, titled “Train Home,” a narrator recounts how Biden took the Acela train home every day while serving in the Senate to take care of his sons even though they “had the health care they needed.”
“The phone call you never hope to get. The emergency room you never hoped to see. Joe Biden has been there,” the narrator says in another ad titled “Been There,” which aims to show that the former Vice President understands the struggle Americans face with the health care system.
The campaign also plans on promoting short six-second ads on Facebook and Instagram videos that highlight Biden’s commitment to expanding the Affordable Care Act, cutting prescription costs, and curing cancer.
The latest ads are part of its high six-figure ad buys across the state that follow the release of Biden’s first ad named “Bones” that aired in Iowa last month.
The campaign hopes the ads will “compliment the traditional TV spots and create ‘surround sound’” around the Vice President’s health care message.
Castro: I can 'supercharge' Obama coalition
WASHINGTON — Former HUD Sec. Julián Castro argued Sunday that Democrats "want a new generation of leadership, predicting that he would be able to mobilize voters who may have voted for former President Obama but skipped the 2016 election.
When asked about why the leading Democrats in the presidential race are among the oldest candidates in the field, Castro praised former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders as "very talented individuals with tremendous experience."
But he drew a distinction between himself and those names by referring to his candidacy as a "risk" that could pay off by motivating voters to turn out.
“If you take a look at the modern era of presidential campaigns, when Democrats have won, it's because they’ve taken a little bit of a risk, whether it was [John F.] Kennedy in 1960, or [Jimmy] Carter in 1976 or Barack Obama in 2008," he said on Sunday's "Meet the Press."
“We need to get people off the sidelines in 2020. I believe I can reassemble the Obama coalition and then supercharge that so that we can go back and win Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and then get the 29 electoral votes of Florida, the 11 electoral votes of Arizona and I believe even the 38 electoral votes of Texas.
This week's biggest campaign stories
WASHINGTON — Heading into Labor Day weekend, here are the biggest campaign stories from the week that was:
Longtime Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson announced he will resign at the end of the year due to health concerns. Georgia Republicans will now have to defend two Senate seats in 2020. Favored Democratic recruit Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her gubernatorial bid to now-Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018, took herself out of contention for both seats.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ended her presidential campaign on Wednesday after failing to meet either the polling or donor threshold for the September Democratic debate. Gillibrand is the first senator to end drop out of the 2020 contest.
Despite spending nearly $12 million on ads, Tom Steyer failed to meet the polling qualification to make the third Democratic debate in September — Steyer needed one more poll to show him at 2 percent or higher by the Wednesday deadline. Steyer spent six times more money than his closest Democratic competitor. It is possible that Steyer could make the debate stage in October. The October debate qualifications are the same as the September qualifications, with just more time to meet the polling and donor thresholds.
The third Democratic presidential debate will be a one-night-only affair with 10 candidates. Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang will appear on Sept. 12.
Former Vice President Joe Biden conflated facts from three events into one story about a Navy captain in Afghanistan who attempted to refuse a medal from the vice president, per The Washington Post. Biden told the story at an event in New Hampshire last week, and yesterday defended his description of the story saying, "the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said."
The Democratic National Committee will reject Iowa's Democratic Party plan to hold virtual caucuses to expand the number of people who are able to participate in the caucus. The DNC decided the virtual caucuses wouldn't be doable because the technology isn't sufficiently secure.
Kamala Harris out of running for progressive group's endorsement
WASHINGTON -- Kamala Harris is out of the running for the endorsement of a prominent progressive group after her campaign said she couldn't participate before its planned decision next month.
The labor union-backed Working Families Party has been conducting live-streamed Q&As with six candidates ahead of a planned mid-September vote by its grassroots members and national board to pick one.
That early endorsement will make the WFP one of the first left-leaning groups to weigh in on the crowded 2020 field.
The five other candidates under consideration — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Julian Castro and Bill de Blasio — have already completed their live-streamed Q&As, which were broadcast to local watch parties across the country.
Harris, who has tried to thread the needle between the left and right flanks of the 2020 primary, canceled on an announced Q&A with the group two days ahead of her event, which was scheduled for Aug. 22.
This week, the California senator's staff told the group she would not be available to reschedule her Q&A before the party holds its endorsement vote.
Harris spokesperson Ian Sams confirmed to NBC News that "we weren't able to make it work in time for their vote mid-September."
The group planned to ask Harris, a former prosecutor, about criminal justice issues, her support for labor unions, plans to deal with student debt, and to clarify her position on Medicare for All, according to a list of prepared questions.
"The one thing we asked of candidates who wanted to be considered by WFP members is that they had to be willing to take questions from us in a live Q&A," said Nelini Stamp, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the Working Families Party."We regret that Senator Harris did not agree to a time for an interview, and consequently is not moving forward in our process."
The Working Families Party, which started in New York City and now works to elect progressive candidates in more than a dozen states, endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. The Vermont senator and Warren have been favorites in some of the group's internal surveys so far.
Democrats look to flip Virginia state legislature narrowly controlled by Republicans
WASHINGTON — There's a big election just two months away in Virginia, where Democrats are hoping to flip both state legislative chambers that are currently controlled by Republicans with razor-thin margins.
Democrats need to win only two seats each in the state House and Senate on November 5 to win complete control of the former Capital of the Confederacy after making better-than-expected gains in the commonwealth's last odd-year election in 2017.
Democrats now control every statewide office, but the GOP-run legislature has stymied the party's agenda, as has a string of scandals by its leaders. So Democrats say they're now making a bigger investment earlier than they have in the past.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the party's official campaign arm for state races, has now completed sending $1 million in early money intended to help hire staff, recruit candidates, and build the party's infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the Michael Bloomberg-backed gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety has pledged to spend another $2.5 million after the Republican-controlled legislature abruptly canceled a special session on guns called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam after a mass shooting. Democratic groups Priorities USA and EMILY’s List also plan to spend $600,000 on a digital campaign.
“We made huge gains in 2017 and this November, we’re going to do whatever it takes to win both chambers in Richmond," DLCC President Jessica Post said in a statement, referring to Virginia's statewide elections two years ago and the 2018 midterms.
Democrats also noted that the top five or so donors in the state so far this year are mainly supporting Democrats, a change from years past.
Republicans are fighting back to maintain control, with the Republican State Leadership Committee spending at least $550,000 in the state so far, according to campaign finance disclosures. Much more money is sure to follow as the race gets closer, since its not uncommon for groups to hoard their cash until the last minute, when voters are paying closer attention.
The dollar figures are not large in the context of national politics, but can go a long way in smaller state races.
Democrats involved in state races have sounded the alarm that the presidential race is distracting donors and activists from these races, but the DLCC has touted its fundraising — it says it already raised $10 million this cycle, outpacing the RSLC for the first time — and work in Virginia to argue the party is prepared.
State races this year and next are especially critical since the lawmakers elected now will be the ones drawing the legislative and congressional maps for the next decade after the 2020 Census.
Darrell Issa launching exploratory committee for indicted Rep. Hunter's seat
WASHINGTON — Former California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is launching an exploratory committee for the congressional seat currently held by indicted Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter.
Issa's old campaign website now features a statement saying, "I have formally launched an exploratory committee for the 50th Congressional District in California."
"I have received such a tremendous outpouring of encouragement from supporters inside the district, and around the state and across the Nation. I’m truly grateful for the many encouraging phone calls, messages and letters that I have received," the statement continues.
Issa decided to retire ahead of his own 2018 election instead of run again. Democrat Mike Levin ultimately won the seat.
Before he left office, Issa was the wealthiest member of Congress according to Roll Call's analysis. While he didn't loan his campaign any substantial money during 2016 bid, when Issa won by less than 2,000 votes, he contributed $3 million of his personal wealth to his first bid in 2000. So between his deep pockets and his connections in Congress, he likely would be able to raise substantial money for his campaign.
Issa, who made his name as an antagonist of President Obama as head of the House Oversight Committee, could give Republicans an interesting plan B depending on how Hunter's trial goes. Hunter has been accused of misusing campaign funds for a variety of personal expenses — including to finance affairs — and his wife has since pleaded guilty on a related conspiracy charge.
Hunter won his 2018 congressional race even after that indictment, but by just 4 points in a district that President Trump won by 15 points in 2016.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who narrowly lost to Hunter in 2018, is running again. During that campaign, Hunter repeatedly drew criticism for his attacks on Campa-Najjar, including a television ad that accused him of trying to "infiltrate Congress" and called him a "security risk" because his deceased grandfather was involved in the 19720 terror attack on Jewish Olympians at the 1980 Munich Olympics.
Hunter has had some fundraising struggles since his indictment — he raised just $92,600 in the first quarter of 2019. But while he pulled in about $500,000 from April through June, his campaign ended June with less than $300,000 in the bank and $185,000 in loans.
If Issa decides to run, he wouldn't be the only notable Republican vying for the seat. Carl DeMaio, who narrowly lost a nearby congressional race in 2014, is running in the 50th district this cycle.
Poll: Trump approval on economy goes underwater
WASHINGTON — Amid concerns of a potential recession, a near-majority of voters said they disapproved of President Trump's handling of the economy in a new Quinnipiac University poll.
While the voters are virtually split on the issue (46 percent say they approve while 49 percent say they disapprove), Trump's approval rating on the economy is tied for the lowest mark in more than a year in Quinnipiac's data.
The new data shows economic trend-lines moving the wrong way--the 61 percent of registered voters rating the economy excellent or good was the lowest mark since April 2018; the 37 percent who said the economy is getting worse is the lowest since October 2011; and the 41 percent who said Trump's policies are hurting the economy is the highest since the poll started asking the question in November of 2017.
The sentiment comes weeks after a key economic indicator suggested that a recession could be on the table for the near future. President Trump has repeatedly denied that there would be a recession, accusing the news media of working against him by rooting for an economic downturn, but has also criticized the Federal Reserve for its handling of the economy.
Overall, 56 percent of voters say they disapprove of how Trump is handling the presidency compared to 38 percent who say they approve of his job.
In the presidential race, the Quinnipiac poll found Trump trailing all of the Democratic candidates tested—former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Burrigieg—by margins of at least 9 points.
And in the Democratic primary, Biden leads the field with 32 percent, followed by Warren's 19 percent and Sanders' 15 percent.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,422 people from Aug. 21 through Aug. 26 who self-identified as registered voters, a sample that included 648 Democratic voters and leaners. The whole sample has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, while the Democratic margin of error is 4.6 percentage points.
Efforts to elect Republican women get a boost, but not from the party apparatus
WASHINGTON — There are 102 women currently serving in the House of Representatives, only 13 of those women are Republicans. As Republican strategists consider how to add more women to the party without violating the National Republican Congressional Committee's primary-neutral stance, outside groups are leading the way.
Winning for Women, one of the groups working outside the party apparatus has a simple goal for next year's elections: "20 in 20" — increase the GOP's House female delegation to at least 20 women, and vocally, they have support from the party.
NRCC Communications Director Chris Pack told NBC News that the group's chairman, Rep. Tom Emmer, is "fully supportive of Winning for Women and shares their mission to elect more female Republicans to Congress."
But as Emmer told a group of reporters in July, that support doesn't mean preferential treatment from the NRCC.
“The NRCC should not be involved with primaries,” Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the NRCC, told reporters in July “That’s not our job. Other people are involved in primaries.”
That's where Winning for Women and other groups like Rep. Elise Stefanik’s, R-N.Y., E-PAC, which focuses on recruiting female Republicans to run, comes in.
One woman who's spoken with Winning for Women is Peggy Huang.
Huang is a deputy attorney general for California and an immigrant from Taiwan—she believes that she better represents the 45th district of California than first-term Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. But Huang is already facing five other primary challengers — four of whom are men.
When asked what her main campaign goals were, Huang told NBC News she wants to focus on issues like immigration, health care, affordable housing and tackling student loan debt.
“We have families that are struggling to deal with housing and these are young families, and they are coming out of school with high student loans,” Huang said. “I think those are the things that we need to address, we can’t just let it fester.”
Huang also realizes that her message may not mesh with someone else running in 2020: President Trump.
“In 2018 everyone kind of took it out on the incumbent, but come 2020, you can as a voter decide what you want to do about President Trump. I’m running on kitchen table issues that are important to our district,” Huang said.
Huang’s comments echoed what other hopefuls told NBC.
Like Huang, many Republican women are targeting seats that flipped blue in 2018. And the Winning for Women Action Fund hopes to help their candidates clear crowded primaries. In the Winning for Women Action Fund’s first six months of fundraising (from January 2019 to June 2019), the group brought in $1.475 million dollars. For a group hoping to become the EMILY's List on the right, there's a lot of room to grow. EMILY's List brought in upwards of $19 million between January and the end of July this year.
“The success that women on the left saw is really encouraging for Republican women because if they can do it, we can do it,” Winning for Women communications director Olivia Perez-Cubas said.
Tina Ramirez is running in Virginia’s 7th district, currently represented by Rep. Abigail Spanberger. She’s Hispanic, runs an international nonprofit and is a single mother — qualities she believes need to be better represented in today’s Republican elected class.
Out of four announced Republican candidates in the district, she’s the only woman.
“I think that the party needs more diversity so that it accurately reflects the people that exist in the party. People like me that happen to be Hispanic, female, single mother and have a lot of diverse global experience,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez is not running away from President Trump, and she believes her district which largely voted for the president in 2016 will do so again come 2020. And for Republicans like Ramirez, that may come from hope for increased Republican turnout in 2020. In 2018 Democratic voters outvoted Republicans by more than 4 million people. Republicans are hoping that with Trump on the ticket, their party will turn up.
But many of these women are running in suburban areas that President Trump hasn't been able to turn toward him. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the president's approval rating in the suburbs is underwater at 44 percent, and among suburban women it falls to 36 percent.
With those statistics against them, many of these women are trying to replicate what won Democrats the House in 2018: Talk about kitchen table issues, leave President Trump talk at the door and remind districts that there’s a reason they’ve long been Republican.
But without institutional support behind them, those candidates face a tougher road to just getting their party’s nomination, let alone winning a general election.
Yvette Herrell, a state legislature in New Mexico, is challenging Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico’s second congressional district, and is running a primary campaign against a Republican man as well. Herrell ran against Torres Small in 2018, and is hoping to give her district a reason to remember why it voted Republican in the past.
“President Trump won this district by double digits in 2016, and there is a great deal of support for him here,” Herrell said. “Looking at the president at the top of the ticket, I think that absolutely helps down-the-ballot candidates.”
Back in 2018, House Democratic hopefuls had a similar quandary: wrap themselves in leadership, or distance themselves. Pelosi went so far as to tell Democrats, “Just win, baby” when they had to come out against her.
“There are some districts where Trump will be super helpful, man or woman, and there are some districts where he’s not as helpful and that’s just a reality, and that’s going to be a case by case basis,” Perez-Cubas said.
Former Kansas Republican governor calls for primary challenge to incumbent Republican
WASHINGTON — Former Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer is calling on state Treasurer Jake LaTurner to end his Senate bid and primary sitting Republican Rep. Steve Watkins.
It's an unusual move to so openly call for a primary challenger against an incumbent in one's own party. But while Colyer did not reference Watkins by name, he made it clear that he feared Watkins would not be able to win reelection.
"Despite the fact that President Trump carried the 2nd Congressional District 56% — 37%, a 19 point margin, the current Representative squeaked by with a 2 point victory in 2018. The first eight months of his time in Congress have seen poor fundraising and a lack of coalition building," Colyer said.
"It's important that Republicans nominate a candidate that can win. The fact is we have too many candidates in the Senate race and need an improved candidate in the Second District."
It's been a rough summer recess for Watkins, who's faced local headlines like a recent one in the Topeka Capital-Journal reading "U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins ducks reporters amid speculation he could resign."
The paper said that while Republicans are calling for Watkins to step down for an unknown reason, the congressman's spokesman said he would not resign.
The Watkins campaign did not immediately return a request to comment on the former governor's statement.
LaTurner is currently running in the Senate race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. LaTurner is the highest-profile candidate outside of former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
But while a potential move by LaTurner to the second district primary would satisfy Colyer's concerns for that race, it would raise more questions for establishment Republicans who worry Kobach would be uniquely vulnerable in a general election after he lost last year's gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly.
Harris wins endorsement from Emerge America founder
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., received an endorsement Tuesday from Andrea Steele, founder of Emerge America, an organization that recruits and trains women running for office.
Steele, who is based in San Francisco, founded Emerge California in 2002, which later was re-named Emerge America. The organization helped to support 415 Democratic women who won elections across the country in 2018, including Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Oakland, Calif. Mayor Libby Schaaf and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).
But Steele got her start in recruiting women to run for office by helping one candidate launch her campaign for District Attorney in San Francisco: Kamala Harris.
As the now-presidential hopeful tells it, Harris turned to Steele for help when she decided to run for district attorney in 2003. The two sat in her living room designing and Xeroxing Harris’ first campaign flyers. On the campaign trail now, Harris often tells the story of how she would take the print-outs, a roll of tape and her ironing board to create a make-shift standing desk as she talked to voters.
After Harris won her race for district attorney, Steele was inspired to found Emerge.
“I'm supporting Kamala Harris because she's the best person for the job, and I know she can win,” Steele said in a statement, adding that Harris' earlier efforts helped inspire her to found Emerge and help women and women of color run for political office.
“I’ve seen her take on many tough challenges and come out on top, so I’m confident that she has the character, integrity, and toughness to beat Trump. It’s crucial that we kick this dangerous man out of the White House, and Kamala is the one to get it done."
“Andrea is a trailblazer in the fight for gender equality, and I couldn’t be more proud to earn her support. I would not be where I am today without Andrea’s support in my very first race and I know countless women across the country feel the same way,” Kamala Harris said, in a statement provided exclusively to NBC News.