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Beto O’Rourke heads to Iowa as all signs point to a 2020 run

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By Garrett Haake, Kailani Koenig and Vaughn Hillyard

WASHINGTON — Beto O’Rourke is heading to Iowa. The potential presidential candidate will make his initial foray into the first 2020 nominating state this weekend, multiple Democratic sources tell NBC News, amid growing signs that the former Texas congressman plans to announce his decision on a White House bid before the end of March.

O’Rourke will campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, on Saturday on behalf of Democratic state Senate candidate Eric Giddens, according to multiple Democratic sources. On Monday night, Giddens released a video of O’Rourke wearing a University of Northern Iowa hat and encouraging students to support him in his upcoming race.

Iowa Democratic political circles were also abuzz Monday with word that O’Rourke may have recruited a top Iowa political consultant and Hawkeye state native onto his potential campaign team.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price told NBC News that Norm Sterzenbach had left his role as a consultant with the party on Friday after launching its caucus operations for 2020, including the formation of virtual caucuses that will allow Iowans to participate if they are out of state on Election Day.

Sterzenbach, who formerly served as the state party’s executive director, left his position to join the efforts of a potential presidential candidate’s team, Price said. Sterzenbach did not immediately respond to calls from NBC News.

O’Rourke will also speak on a conference call this weekend with the High School Democrats of America, the group announced late Sunday. The HSDA website says questions for O’Rourke must be “brief and unrelated to Beto as a potential 2020 candidate.”

Presidential Democratic candidates Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii have also spoken to that organization, as has former Vice President Joe Biden.

O’Rourke burst on the national stage last year when he challenged GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in one of the most closely watched Senate races of the 2018 midterm elections, losing by just 2.5 points in the heavily Republican state. His campaign was propelled by enormous grassroots support for his candidacy and national appeal among younger Democrats. That support immediately fueled rumors of a likely presidential bid that have only grown stronger since November.

Anticipating a possible announcement, the conservative Club for Growth released a two-minute ad on Monday targeting O’Rourke that will run in the Des Moines media market, the group told NBC News, with “five figures” worth of spending behind it.

O’Rourke must still overcome several logistical hurdles before he can enter the 2020 race. With no PAC support and not current holding an elected office, he cannot and has not officially hired any staff. But a person familiar with O’Rourke’s plans told NBC News on Monday there are “active discussions with staff to be ready for Day One.” Further, exact details of how and when an announcement will be made remain in flux, sources close to O’Rourke say.

Recent polling in Iowa and nationally has shown that O’Rourke remains popular with Democratic primary voters, months after his closer-than-expected loss in Texas. In early voting states, support for O’Rourke remains strong and he consistently polls in the top five among potential Democratic candidates.

But his delay in announcing a campaign, and his lengthy blog posts during and after a recent road trip, has led to some eye-rolling and complaints about wasted time among Democratic operatives and analysts.

“I think that’s all a little overblown, but the sooner he gets into the field, the better,” Boyd Brown, a former South Carolina state senator and DNC member, told NBC News. “We’re just under a year out, so there’s plenty of time. Somebody who can catch fire as quickly as he will, the clock isn’t really an issue.”

“His prospects in South Carolina would be very good. There’s certainly a lane there for an exciting, young, inspiring candidate. He clearly fits that mold. He brings a lot of good issues to the table, a lot of energy to the Democratic Party,” Brown said.

O’Rourke’s team has also had conversations about potential campaign staff positions with people linked to the nation’s first primary state of New Hampshire, according to several Democrats connected to the state who are not involved in an effort to draft O’Rourke.

“There is a lot of interest in Beto O’Rourke visiting” New Hampshire, said Concord attorney Jay Surdukowski, who hosted a “Draft Beto” house party and has been one of the most outspoken advocates there for his candidacy. “In some ways, this kind of unorthodox strategy of playing ‘hard to get’ may pay dividends.”

Although Surdukowski has had limited contact with O’Rourke’s team, he’s been a vocal enough supporter of the former congressman that “not a day goes by that I don’t get a dozen calls or emails from folks all over the state asking, ‘Have you heard anything?’ There are at least a dozen groups that want to host him, and that number will probably grow larger if he does make any kind of announcement.”



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Brexit extension EXPLAINED: Which is most likely – two, three months, one or two years?

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MPS have voted to back an extension on Article 50 – effectively asking for a delay to Brexit. But how long could the delay be?

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No deal Brexit plans get MAJOR BOOST – UK agrees £30bn agreement with Iceland and Norway

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THE UK’s Trade Secretary boosted no deal Brexit plans by announcing a new trade agreement with the two Scandinavian countries as the Government looks to secure 39 EU trade deals before Brexit day.

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Booker denounces Trump’s rhetoric as ‘causing pain and fear’

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By Ludwig Hurtado

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker said in an interview set to air Monday night that President Donald Trump’s rhetoric “hurts people” and is “causing pain and fear.”

“Racists think he’s racist, and his language hurts people,” the New Jersey senator said when asked by MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews if he believes Trump is racist. “His language is causing pain and fear. The way he’s talking is making people afraid.”

In making the criticism, Booker, who spoke with Matthews while in Davenport, Iowa, referenced an increase in hate crimes around the country, saying, “people are afraid to go worship at a mosque or a synagogue because hate is on the rise, and these hate incidents are rising.”

“We have a president that can’t stand up with any moral authority and remind us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and it’s despicable,” he added.

Booker’s comments come in the wake of the New Zealand mosque massacre on Friday, in which a white supremacist allegedly killed 50 people. The alleged shooter wrote in an apparent manifesto that he supported Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” although he said he disagreed with his policies.

Trump, who has made inflammatory comments about immigrants, Muslims and white nationalists, condemned the shooting on Friday. But when asked if he believes white nationalist terrorism and violence is a rising concern globally, the president said, said, “I don’t really.” He added that he thinks “it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

On Monday morning, Trump tweeted, “The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!”

There have been several white nationalist or white supremacist attacks in the U.S. over the past few years, including the massacre of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last fall and the murder of nine black churchgoers at a congregation in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

At a campaign event in Detroit on Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also condemned Trump’s rhetoric.

“A president who calls Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, a president who wants to ban all Muslim travel to the United States of America because, the implication being, Muslims are somehow more dangerous or violent than people of other traditions of faith, a president who calls Klansmen, and Nazis and white nationalists ‘very fine people’ is giving permission to others in this country and around the world to commit acts of hatred,” the former Texas congressman said.

Beto O’Rourke speaks with Chuck Todd in Iowa for “Meet The Press.”NBC News

O’Rourke noted that a mosque in his home state was burned to the ground on the day that Trump signed his Muslim travel ban.

“It’s not just the words,” O’Rourke said. “It’s the actions that follow.”

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended Trump during a pair of interviews on the Sunday political talk shows.

“You’ve seen the president stand up for religious liberty, individual liberty,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president is not a white supremacist. I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. And to simply ask the question, every time something like this happens overseas, or even domestically, to say, ‘Oh, my goodness, it must somehow be the president’s fault,’ speaks to a politicization of everything that I think is undermining sort of the institutions that we have in the country today.”



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