The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Stacey Abrams sends 2020 'playbook' to every presidential campaign
WASHINGTON — Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a rising star in the Democratic Party likely to end up on any nominee's vice presidential shortlist, sent a "playbook" Monday to every presidential campaign with her recommendation for how to win Georgia and the country in 2020.
The 16-page document warns that "any less than full investment in Georgia would amount to strategic malpractice" and urges Democrats to replicate nationally what she did in Georgia by focusing on "expanding the electorate" with people who don't often vote, rather than trying to persuade the "relatively small" number of swing voters.
"Our unprecedented campaign received more votes than any Democratic candidate for any office in Georgia history, fueled by record-breaking support from white voters and presidential-level turnout and support from the diverse communities of color in our state," Abrams wrote.
"However, I am not the only candidate who can create a coalition and a strategy to win this state, and Georgia is not the only state poised to take advantage of demographic changes."
Georgia has not been major battleground state in the past. But it could be one next year at both the presidential and congressional levels, thanks to it having an unusual two Senate seats on the ballot after the impending retirement of Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson.
That means a lot of money from Washington and beyond is likely to flow into the state.
But in their playbook, which was also sent to major party committees that oversee races for the likes of the Senate and House, Abrams and her team take a relatively dim view of the Democratic Party's conventional wisdom and argue for a new approach.
"Traditionally, Democratic committees, consultants and the media do not factor unlikely voters into their polling, strategy and prognostications, effectively making their analyses by relitigating the prior election as if nothing had changed in the electorate since," wrote Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams' former Campaign Manager. "Our unique approach caused a raft of skepticism and consternation, such as unexpected visits from Washington, D.C. operatives to question our unorthodox approach."
But Groh-Wargo said they were proven right when the race ended up being too close to call on Election Night and they had turned out an unprecedented number of voters and helped candidates win down-ballot races.
"In Georgia, the unthinkable happened: more Democratic voters turned out in a midterm gubernatorial election than did in the presidential election preceding it. More Georgians voted for Stacey Abrams than for Hillary Clinton," Groh-Wargo wrote.
Abrams, who has met with or spoken to about a dozen presidential candidates, recently announced she was joining the boards of the party's biggest super PAC, Priorities USA, and its prominent think tank, the Center for American Progres, despite narrowly losing her race last year.
Last month, she announced she would not run for Senate to fill the seat being vacated by Isakson.
Hagerty jumps into Tennessee Senate race with Trump's blessing
WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty is running for Senate as a Republican in Tennessee, where he jumps in as the frontrunner with President Trump's backing.
Trump tweeted this past summer lending his endorsement to Hagerty. But at the time, Hagerty was still serving as ambassador — he resigned a few days later amid speculation he would run to replace the retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.
On Monday, Hagerty made it official in a two-minute video where he painted himself as a potential bulwark against liberal policies gaining steam in Washington.
"Serving in President Trump's administration was the honor of a lifetime, but when I saw the threat to Tennessee and to our country form the Democrat socialist agenda, I felt called to act," he said before showing video of Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
"We must stand up to radical liberals like The Squad, and their socialist agenda that would deeply damage the America we know and love. Their aim is to deliver more government, more crippling debt and less freedom for my children and yours."
Hagerty instantly becomes the frontrunner both on the Republican side and for the seat itself.
He'll have to contend with surgeon Manny Sethi, country artist Stokes Nielson, and doctor Josh Gapp on the GOP side. Army veteran James Mackler, who ran for Senate in 2018 before stepping aside when former Gov. Phil Bredesen jumped into the Democratic primary, is the top candidate on the Democratic side.
On the airwaves, NC special election sounds a lot like 2018
WASHINGTON — The special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District comes to a close Tuesday. And while the calendar is quickly turning towards 2020, the flurry of political ads that have inundated district is more reminiscent of the party's messages from the 2018 cycle.
As Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop square off after election fraud allegations invalidated last year’s results, Democrats have a slim ad-spending advantage over the GOP.
And the party is cribbing from the same playbook Democrats used in the midterms, where candidates distanced themselves from the national party and sunk into messaging on health care.
Those themes have been the centerpiece of the most frequent ad run in the district during the special election cycle, a McCready ad that’s aired more than 2,370 times to the tune of $785,000, according to data from Advertising Analytics.
In it, McCready shares his biography as a marine and small business owner, emphasizing his “bipartisan” message of putting “country over party” and highlighting his support for a plan to lower prescription drug prices.
McCready’s third most prevalent ad is completely focused on health care, accusing Bishop of blocking efforts to lower the cost of health care.
Outside groups are singing in lockstep, even in attack ads.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent more than $900,000 on two ads that attack Bishop on health care; Environmental Defense Action Fund Votes has dropped $469,000 on another spot that plays up McCready’s bio while criticizing Bishop on health care; and House Majority Forward’s main spot fleshes out both his biography as a former Marine as well as his “country over party” message.
While McCready’s campaign is the top Democratic spender in the race, the Republican spending in the race is being paced by outside groups.
Those outside groups (primarily the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC) appear to have landed on a clear strategy too — tarring “Greedy McCready” as unethical by attacking his business, tying him to lobbyists and energy hikes in the district.
The two groups have spent a combined $4.4 million on ads in the district.
For the $1 million Bishop’s campaign has spent on ads in the race, he’s taken a different approach — hugging President Trump tight and playing into the culture war/liberal boogeyman argument.
Bishop’s top ad quotes Trump blasting McCready as an “ultra liberal” during a July rally in North Carolina, accusing him of being “backed by radicals” amid a photoshopped picture of him standing with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Three of Bishop’s five ads evoke some combination of Pelosi, Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar and other prominent, out-of-state liberals. And one attacks a Charlotte sheriff’s immigration policy, mentioning McCready for the first time at the 20-second mark.
Harris releases her criminal justice reform plan
HOUSTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Monday released her criminal justice reform proposals with a focus on transforming the system and public safety.
Harris's plan is broken down into four parts: ending mass incarceration and investing in safe and healthy communities; building trust and accountability with law enforcement; treating incarcerated people equally and humanely; and protecting vulnerable people within the system.
Harris lays out proposals to reduce racial disparities when it comes to incarceration rates, including legalizing marijuana, incentivizing states to hire a more diverse police workforce and holding schools accountable for “discriminatory practices in suspensions and expulsions.”
“My entire career has been spent making needed reforms and fighting for those who too often are voiceless," Harris said in the campaign's release of the plan. "This plan uses my experience and unique capability to root out failures within the justice system.”
“As president I’ll fix this broken system to make it fairer and more accountable for communities across the country,” she said.
The plan outlines proposals to reform accountability and trust between communities and law enforcement, such as creating a National Criminal Justice Commission which would study “individuals incarcerated for violent offenses” to figure out evidence-based methods to hold violent offenders accountable and prevent recidivism.
Harris also plans to work with Congress to create a National Police Systems Review Board, supports a national standard on the use of deadly force and plans to require police data reporting to increase transparency.
Unique to Harris’ plan is a noteworthy investment in children’s justice, through a creation of a Bureau of Children and Family Justice — something Harris similarly created as Attorney General of California. She says she will end life sentences of children, end the transfer of children to adult prisons and end solitary confinement for children.
She also lays out investments in mental health care, noting that involving criminal justice intervention in cases of people with an untreated mental illness are far more likely to end with deadly force. Harris plans to improve and invest in methods to better handle how law enforcement responds to these cases.
Additionally, the plan calls for greater accountability for prosecutorial offices and more support for public defenders.
To ensure that the system treats incarcerated people “equitably and humanely,” Harris says she will get rid of the death penalty, solitary confinement and the cash bail system. She also wants to prohibit prisons from charging high rates for supplies and making phone calls.
In protecting vulnerable communities, Harris reiterates a plan she previously released to clear the rape kit backlog in the country and outlines her history of protecting consumers from fraud from big banks and for-profit colleges.
Harris’ plan does not specify a timeline for her proposed actions and investments, nor does she provide a cost estimate.
Harris faced criticism on her criminal justice record from both Tulsi Gabbard and Joe Biden in July’s debate but touts herself as a “progressive prosecutor.” She often leans into her record on the trail. When she has gotten questions about her time as a prosecutor, her response has been consistently strong in saying she is “proud” of what she accomplished as District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California.
Pompeo on possible Kansas Senate bid: 'I'm incredibly focused on what I'm doing'
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly refused to rule out a Senate bid in 2020, although he he told "Meet the Press" Sunday that he's "incredibly focused" on his current job.
Pompeo tried to swat aside repeated rumors that he's eying a Senate bid to replace the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., but would not categorically rule out the prospect of appearing on a ballot in 2020.
"Others want to speculate on my future a lot more than I do. As you can see from today, I'm incredibly focused on what I'm doing," he said.
"It's not just Hong Kong and Afghanistan. We've got opportunities all across the world. That's what I'm focused on," he added. "And I intend to continue to do that so long as President Trump asks me to be his secretary of state."
When asked to rule out a bid, Pompeo added that "the American people should know their secretary of state thinks about one and one thing only: protecting America's national security interests and trying to deliver diplomacy."
Pompeo told NBC's "Today" in February that he had "ruled out" a Senate bid in Kansas, where he served as a congressman before taking the job as CIA Director (before later moving over to the State Department). But over the summer, he told KCMO Radio that while he's focused on his job, "I always leave open the possibility that something will change."
Pompeo would jump into the race as both the presumptive favorite to win both the GOP nomination and the seat, as well as the Republicans’ best chance to crowd out controversial former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Kobach lost the 2018 gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly despite the state’s heavy conservative lean, a result that has made many Republicans concerned Kobach could make the Senate race similarly competitive if he’s the nominee.
It’s been a busy week in the race’s Republican primary — State Treasurer Jake LaTurner decided to drop out of the race to run for the HOuse instead, while Rep. Roger Marshall announced his own bid.
This week's round-up of the biggest political and campaign stories
WASHINGTON — As Congress prepares to return from its summer recess, here are some of the biggest political and campaign stories of the week:
The former Colorado senator and presidential candidate will endorse Bennet before the New Hampshire Democratic State Party Convention on Saturday, Bennet's campaign tells NBC News.
President Trump started the week on Sunday tweeting that Alabama would be hit by Hurricane Dorian. After the National Weather Service corrected that fact, the president spent the week attacking the media for reporting the NWS's statement and on Wednesday showed an early projection of Hurricane Dorian with an extended line to include Alabama.
The Pentagon's decision to move $3.6 billion from military funding will impact 127 construction projects. Officials said half of that money would come from international projects, and the other half could potentially come from domestic projects.
When Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Ireland to visit with officials, Pence and his family stayed at the president's golf club in Doonbeg, instead of Dublin where the meetings were taking place. Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff, originally said the president made the "suggestion" for Pence to stay at the club. Later, the vice president's office said it was so Pence could stay closer to his family's ancestral home.
The ten Democratic presidential candidates who will participate in the third presidential debate took part in a marathon 7-hour town hall to discuss their plans to deal with climate change.
Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, became the fifth House Republican from Texas to announce he won't seek reelection in 2020. Thirteen House Republicans have announced they are either retiring or not seeking their current seat in the next election.
The special election in North Carolina's 9th district will be the final 2018 House race to be resolved. While this district shouldn't be a toss-up — President Trump carried it by 12 points in 2016 — the 2018 Republican nominee for the seat had his win thrown out when one of his consultants committed absentee ballot fraud.
Three judges in North Carolina threw out the state's legislative district based on the extreme partisan gerrymandering that they say violated the state's constitution.
Gary Hart to endorse Michael Bennet ahead of New Hampshire convention
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., will be receiving the official endorsement for president from Gary Hart tomorrow morning ahead of the New Hampshire Democratic State Party Convention here, his campaign tells NBC News.
Hart, 82, was a Colorado senator when he ran for president in the 1984 election cycle, and won the New Hampshire primary. He ultimately lost the nomination battle to former Vice President Walter Mondale.
“A number of years ago, the voters of New Hampshire provided an opportunity for a young Colorado senator to build a strong national candidacy,” Hart said in a statement provided to NBC News. “They have the chance now to do it again. Michael Bennet has the intelligence, experience, and judgment to put our nation back on track at home and abroad."
Hart was barely registering in polls at the time of his '84 run until he had a breakout performance at the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention.
Bennet and Hart will appear together at a press conference here Saturday morning ahead of this year's convention. Hart will then introduce Bennet at the convention Saturday afternoon and the two will then greet voters afterwards.
Pete Buttigieg becomes latest presidential hopeful to hit the Iowa airwaves
WASHINGTON — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the latest Democratic primary candidate to hit the TV airwaves in Iowa, launching a new :30 second spot that highlights his pitch for national unity.
With Buttigieg in the mix, here’s how the major TV and radio spending in the first-caucus state breaks down by candidate, per ad trackers at Advertising Analytics.
Note: This data includes both current and future buys (which could potentially be cut) on radio and TV on Iowa airwaves.
Tom Steyer: $3.3m
Kirsten Gillibrand (dropped out): $924k
Joe Biden: $687k
Kamala Harris: $562k
John Delaney: $492k
Pete Buttigieg: $369k
Tulsi Gabbard: $245k
Julian Castro: $26k
Firefighters Union begins ad push to tout endorsement of Biden
MANCHESTER, N.H. — The International Association of Firefighters, which endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden quickly after he announced his candidacy in April, is running their first paid media program on his behalf starting with a full page ad running in Friday's New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper.
Officials involved with the union say they are also launching an online digital program. The IAFF will also be doing visibility for Biden at this weekend’s New Hampshire Democratic Party convention in Manchester. Biden is holding events in the first-in-the-nation primary state tomorrow ahead of the convention.
"Joe Biden is a lot like fire fighters. He is a problem solver who cares deeply about America," the ad reads. "As an advocate for people who work every day to support themselves and their families, Joe knows that a strong middle class means a strong America. He’s fighting to improve the lives of millions of hardworking, patriotic Americans who want nothing more than to earn a decent wage, send their kids to college, have affordable health care and enjoy a dignified retirement."
The ads ends: "That’s why we urge you to vote Joe Biden for president."
Climate town hall shows how candidates prioritize climate change
WASHINGTON — Before Wednesday’s CNN town halls on climate change, we said to pay attention not only to the Democratic presidential candidates’ actual plans — but also to who prioritizes addressing climate change if they win the White House.
So during the nearly seven hours of town halls, which of the 10 candidates who participated made it their top priority?
Well, both Amy Klobuchar and Julián Castro said they’d take immediate executive actions.
“On Day 1, I will bring us back into that international climate change agreement,” Klobuchar said. “On Day 2, bring back the clean power rules that President Obama had worked on for so many years – you can do that without Congress.”
“My first executive order that afternoon [of Jan. 20, 2021] will be to rejoin the Paris climate accord so that we lead again on sustainability,” Castro added.
Beto O’Rourke, meanwhile, said he’d make climate his first priority as president. “The most important thing is to arrest the rate of climate change on this planet,” he said. “That’s my No. 1 priority, and that’s why climate was the first plan I released as a candidate for the presidency.”
But other candidates side-stepped how they’d prioritize the climate. Here was Bernie Sanders' answer to CNN's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: ... [E]very president has to prioritize in terms of where they're going to put -- what is the priority on climate change compared to all these others, if you have to choose?
SANDERS: Well, I have the radical idea that a sane Congress can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. And, you know, Anderson, there are so many crises that are out there today. I worry very much that we lose 30,000 people a year because they don't have the money to go to a doctor when they should and that 87 million people are uninsured or underinsured. And I will implement as president a Medicare for all single-payer program.
And Joe Biden, when asked a similar question, used it to defend former President Barack Obama.
QUESTION: Even though President Obama knew of the seriousness of the climate crisis back in 2008, he chose to spend his political capital on health care and then wasn't able to enact the kind of systemic change needed to prevent climate catastrophe. How will you prioritize climate change action if you become president?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, in defense of President Obama, everything landed on his desk but locusts. We were heading toward -- we had the greatest financial catastrophe in the world, short of a depression. Nothing ever had occurred like that before. It was just getting America out of a ditch. We were in real, real trouble. He got the economy back on a footing and began a period of economic growth. He moved on, on health care because he thought it was so important that it happened at the time.
Biden never answered how he’s prioritize dealing with climate change.
Amy O'Rourke holds first solo campaign event with NH gun violence roundtable
CONCORD, NH — Amy O’Rourke made her first solo appearance as a campaign surrogate for her husband, former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, at a gun violence roundtable in New Hampshire Thursday.
O'Rourke joined the event led by the Kent Street Coalition, a local grassroots political action organization founded in response to the 2016 election. Eleven guests from KSC, Moms Demand Action, and the medical community joined the nearly hour-and-a-half conversation.
After sharing her background and the story of how she met her husband, O'Rourke spoke personally about her trip with her husband to El Paso in the wake of last month’s mass shooting.
“When someone came from outside of El Paso and targeted people of El Paso because of the color of their skin or because of the country they potentially come from, we felt so violated,” she said.
“And it was as in every other community that has experienced this horrific tragedy, and really almost no words to describe the sadness, and then also the fear of people telling us that they now felt like targets.”
She praised the work of Moms Demand Action (another group that wants stricter gun laws), reflected on O’Rourke’s experience visiting a gun show, and often told stories from her husband's Texas senate race about convincing people to compromise and refusing to moderate his platform.
“It’s bringing everyone to the table and not writing them off, even if they have an NRA sticker on their car,” she said.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News after the event, O’Rourke said she viewed her surrogate role as a listening one.
“I think more than anything, I want to get out on the road, hear from people, learn from people, and then be able to bring that back so that Beto and I are hearing as many stories as we can,” she said.
She told an anecdote of waiting three hours in line for the funeral of an El Paso victim (whose husband invited the public to her funeral because she had no family in the area) and described it as “as a beautiful representation of our community.”
She added that she’s seen this post-El Paso fire in her husband “many, many, many times” and thinks his “confidence in calling it out for what it is, and saying the hard truths” is now coming through.
“Beto is such a great listener," she said when asked why she supports his bid, pointing to "his frankness, his directness, and then his desire to bring everybody together and be a part of that conversation, not write anybody off.”
She added that they’ve always made every important decision in their lives together.