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Inside Warren’s early-state sleeper campaign

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WASHINGTON — Late last month, Gabriel di Chiara Spada, a political operative for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, showed up at The Writer’s Block bookstore in downtown Las Vegas to hear children read emotional accounts about President Donald Trump’s plan to end the “temporary protected status” for immigrants from certain countries.

“Separating families is wrong, no matter which agency or program or court is responsible,” he tweeted along with a picture of an 8-year-old girl reading an op-ed about children who are U.S. citizens being cut off from parents who are not. “The words of these kids proves it.”

It’s a bit unusual for a presidential campaign’s staff to invest time in events that aren’t directly related to the candidate’s election. But for Warren’s team, it’s all part of the plan: A small army of her organizers has deployed to early-voting states and embedded into local communities.

“She is generating buzz because her campaign shows up everywhere,” said one prominent Nevada Democrat who asked to remain anonymous to give a candid assessment. “Every time there’s a community event, there is Warren representation there.”

By pitching in locally, Warren’s organizers hope to demonstrate at a personal level that they are investing in the concerns of the same voters — and potential volunteers — whose support they are courting for the Massachusetts Democrat at the federal level. It’s just one part of a political organizing operation designed to match Warren’s message of igniting a movement, voter by voter, that creates “big, structural change” in the country.

“We have to build something that has a line through the primaries, through the general election, through getting Congress to do big things,” said the Warren campaign’s chief strategist, Joe Rospars, who worked on Barack Obama’s two winning bids for the presidency.

That idea is to mobilize a force not only on election days, but also to use activism to move Congress on issues for which there is broad existing public support — restrictions on military-style semi-automatic weapons, for example — as well as on those where a president might want to change public opinion.

The secret to Warren’s success — so far — has been talking to voters about the issues that motivate them and the ones that motivate her.

Democratic officials and operatives in early-voting states told NBC News that they started noticing the Massachusetts senator’s organizers integrating themselves into nonpolitical community activities many months ago, a sign that her first-out-of-the-box New Year’s Eve launch date may turn out to have been a good decision. As others have scrambled to get going, her campaign is widely cited as the most developed in Iowa, which kicks off the primary season with its caucuses in February.

Warren’s bounce in Iowa, where she gained 12 percentage points in four months to get to 19 percent among likely Democratic caucusgoers in the latest Monmouth University poll, has been attributed in part to her team’s work on the ground.

“A strong field organization seems to have given Warren a boost,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

Veteran Democratic operatives are taking note of Warren’s innovations — most of which have been tested before in longer-arc campaigns than the primaries and caucuses of the presidential nominating contest — and they say she could have an edge in tightly fought battles as a result.

“What the Warren campaign is doing at the hyperlocal level to tie traditional grassroots organizing with nonpolitical organizing within communities in a very methodical way puts her ahead of the presidential field on the ground,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, who ran the Ready for Hillary Super PAC before joining Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

If she’s going to get blown out in a state, the organizing might not matter so much. But in a close statewide race — or if delegate accumulation ends up making a difference at the national convention — Warren’s organizing force could be a crucial factor.

This isn’t the first time she’s raised the eyebrows of the Democratic operative class. But where faces are now stretched in impressed surprise, they were once contorted with one eyebrow cocked in self-assured disapproval.

She was roundly second-guessed — even mocked — in party circles after declining to hire consultants, announcing she wouldn’t hold high-dollar fundraisers and burning through what appeared to be limited cash reserves to hire staff by the score.

Then Warren began a steady rise in national and early state polls, banked $19 million in the second fundraising quarter — all while she was using her time to take questions from, and selfies with, voters — and turned in widely praised performances in the first two Democratic debates of the 2020 cycle.

A Quinnipiac survey released Tuesday showed her trailing front-runner Joe Biden, 32 percent to 21 percent — having closed their gap by 9 points since a July 29 poll. The poll of 807 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents had a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

It turns out that traveling the country and hiring hundreds of operatives to work on digital fundraising, grassroots organizing and other campaign tasks was a solid plan for raking in the kind of cash haul that can be replicated in small-dollar donations for months to come.

Of course, not all of her upward trajectory owes to her political organizing, but her team says it is confident that its investment of money and labor is paying dividends in the form of building a multiplying force for Warren on the ground.

It starts with the simple idea of one-on-one contact, which reflects the now-famous approach Warren herself takes on the campaign trail. She waits patiently to talk with voters after town hall meetings, poses for pictures with them in seemingly endless selfie lines all across the country, and surprises them with personal telephone calls.

The all-across-the-country part matters because this could be a long-haul nominating contest, as the last two competitive Democratic primaries were, and Warren aides say her organizing strategy should look much the same in later-voting states as it does now.

In the early states, her paid organizers work to echo her effect by welcoming in volunteers, many of whom come in asking to help at the national level with a text message or through the campaign’s website.

The staff at the national headquarters, where operatives work together in one big room and most specialists have experience in other areas of a campaign, coordinates closely with the organizers on the ground to make sure volunteers are tapped into quickly and given tasks that align with the time and skills they can offer.

“In Iowa, if you are willing to raise your hand, you will be having coffee with an organizer within 24 hours,” Rospars said. “We’re in service of the volunteers who are actually going to do the work.”

Trav Robertson, the Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, said Warren’s is among a handful of campaigns that have put boots on the ground in the early stages of the race. He said he hasn’t seen as much community involvement from the Warren campaign as others have, but that he anticipates that may be coming.

“They are in a position that they are in the process of putting together a good grassroots organization,” he said. “They are fixing to make a significant investment in a field organization.”

But other Democrats in the state privately say Warren’s team has clearly been doing more than the competition — both at expressly political events and at those with no direct relationship to the election: for instance, Warren organizers provided food and drinks for teachers at an “All Out” protest in May and participated in “Lights Out For Liberty” vigils across the state in support of migrants in detention camps on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In theory — and in practice, if it works — Warren’s campaign isn’t just talking about representing communities, it’s becoming a part of those communities.

“If all politics are local, we want to ensure that we’re embedding ourselves in the community,” Richard McDaniel, Warren’s national organizing director, said.



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National parties give members, candidates new campaign guidelines amid coronavirus

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National parties give House members, candidates new campaign guidelines amid coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Congressional candidates plodding ahead in light of the coronavirus pandemic have received some recent guidance from national party organizations as they look to balance the needs of their campaigns with new public health restrictions. 

A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson told NBC News that the organization is “urging campaigns to follow the guidance of national experts and their local public health experts and make sure that they are continuing to connect with voters, but doing that safely,” while erring on the side of caution to keep their campaign staff, volunteers and voters all safe. 

The DCCC is also recommending that campaigns shift where possible to virtual events like tele-town halls, virtual phone banks or live-streamed roundtables. 

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., sent Republican House members a memo that ran through some suggested “best practices” on issues like fundraising, public events and communications. 

Lally Doerrer, right, and Katharine Hildebrand watch Joe Biden during his Illinois virtual town hall in Chicago on March 13, 2020.Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Some of that guidance mimics what the DCCC told their members — the NRCC suggests limiting grassroots events, shifting field work to phone canvassing and launching tele-town halls. 

On fundraising, Emmer cautioned that candidates should continue to fundraise but “be sensitive that your donors may have suffered financial losses during this pandemic” and ask their donors how they are holding up in light of the crisis. 

Emmer specifically asked members to reconsider “snarky” comments and be sure not to spread misinformation. 

“At times like this you need to ask yourself if your press release or snarky comment are in poor taste,” Emmer wrote. “If you share information on the coronavirus, do it from trusted sources like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services. Do not spread misinformation from politicized news stories.” 

Chris Pack, the NRCC’s communications director, told NBC that the campaign arm sent additional guidance to non-incumbent candidates. Emmer left his member with this: “Do not get complacent. Use common sense, but put the health of yourself, your campaign staff and volunteers, and constituents at the forefront of every decision,” he wrote. 

Biden, Sanders campaigns ramping down ad spending amid coronavirus spread

WASHINGTON – With the coronavirus outbreak prompting several states to postpone their primary elections, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders are slowing their ad spending to a virtual halt. 

A Biden campaign spokesman told NBC News there is “no plan right now” to go up with TV or radio ads, largely because their ad strategy focuses on creating ads based on the issues voters in that upcoming primary state find to be most important. Facebook’s ad-tracker shows the campaign is still running digital ads on the platform, however. 

That same tracker shows that Sanders isn’t currently running any Facebook ads. And data from Advertising Analytics shows that the Sanders campaign is dark on traditional media too (television and radio). 

As the Biden campaign continues to iron out the best ways to campaign in this unprecedented time for presidential politics, the spokesman caveated that their current plan for remaining silent on the airwaves could change. One area where investments could be made is in digital ads now that most people are turning to video websites like YouTube and Hulu while they work from home.

Biden ads featured in states from Michigan to Georgia featured President Barack Obama thanking Biden for his commitment to “Service” and Biden’s call for Democrats to unite in an ad called “Always” to defeat President Donald Trump. They also rolled out new Spanish-language ads in Florida, Arizona and Illinois discussing Biden’s records on guns, healthcare and the need for leadership to prevent future global panic like the one caused by coronavirus.

Unite the Country, the Super PAC supporting Biden’s candidacy, will also not be on the airwaves or on digital in the coming weeks as they focus on expanding their group with sights set on the general election, Steve Schale, a top strategist for the group, told NBC News. 

After projected losses in the Florida, Illinois and Arizona primaries on Tuesday night, Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said in a statement that Sanders “is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign” but that “In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”

Through March 10, before the campaign was completely upended by coronavirus, the Sanders campaign had significantly outspent the Biden campaign on the television and radio airwaves—$42.2 million to $14.6 million respectively. 

Mike Memoli contributed. 

While Maryland delays primary, special election to replace Cummings will stay as mail-in only

WASHINGTON — As Maryland delays most primary elections from late April to early June in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the state will not push back the special election aimed at replacing the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Instead, that election will go on as scheduled, but all voters will cast their ballot by mail. 

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement Tuesday as part of the larger decision to shift the state’s primary elections from April 28 to June 2. He directed the state elections board to come up with a plan to conduct a June primary “in a way that protects public health and preserves the integrity of the democratic process.” 

But Hogan added that while the election board told him it couldn’t shift the entire state to vote-by-mail in time for the April primary to go on as scheduled, he felt it was “imperative that the people of the seventh congressional district have a voice in the House of Representatives and that Maryland has a full delegation representing our state in Congress.” That’s why he decided to keep that district’s primary on schedule. 

Maryland’s 7th Congressional District has been vacant since Cummings died on Oct. 17, 2019. The state held a special primary for the seat on Feb. 5, with former Democrat Rep. Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik, a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, moving onto the special general election. 

Biden under Secret Service protection again

WILMINGTON, Del. — After a nearly three year hiatus, Joe Biden is once again a protectee of the United States Secret Service.

A protective detail began its assignment with the former vice president and Democratic front-runner this week, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News, even as Biden is expected to remain off the campaign trail amid the coronavirus crisis. 

The Biden campaign’s formal request for Secret Service protection was submitted last week to senior congressional officials, who by law consult with the secretary of Homeland Security to consider if candidates should receive security from the elite law enforcement agency.

Anti-dairy industry protestors are pulled from the stage as Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at his Super Tuesday night rally in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 3, 2020.Kyle Grillot / Reuters

Since kicking off his campaign last April, Biden has had minimal security on the campaign trail — one private security guard often supplemented by local law enforcement from jurisdictions where he campaigned. The lighter security footprint allowed Biden to engage in the type of one-on-one, retail-oriented campaigning he preferred, especially in the early-voting states where voters place a premium on it.

Campaign officials have long been concerned about his safety given his high profile as a former vice president and the highly partisan environment. A high-profile incident in California this month, when a pair of dairy protestors stormed the stage as Biden celebrated a string of victories on Super Tuesday, pushed congressional Democrats publicly and Biden’s campaign privately to seek more rigorous protection.

Biden is not a stranger to Secret Service protection, of course. He first became a protectee of the agency in August 2008 when Barack Obama chose him as his vice presidential running mate. He and his family had a security detail throughout his eight years as vice president, and Biden for several additional months after he left office in 2017. 

Illinois governor backs Biden for president

WASHINGTON — Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker is backing former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid, he announced Monday. 

The endorsement came one day before the state’s Democratic presidential primary and one day after Biden faced off against Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in a one-on-one debate Sunday night. The endorsement also comes as governors across the country are scrambling to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and spread.

“As our nation faces some of the biggest challenges of our time, I know Vice President Joe Biden is the right candidate to beat Donald Trump and lead us into a new era. It’s time to unite as Democrats to restore respect to our nation’s highest office,” Pritzker said in a statement. 

“Joe will stand on the side of working families and serve as a partner to us in Illinois as we work to create good paying jobs, expand healthcare and invest in education,” Pritzker said. “After four years of Donald Trump’s failure to lead with honor, tell the truth, or stand up for the middle class, we need a steady hand and a President who is ready to move our nation past the divisiveness and vitriol that have become the norm in 2020. I trust Joe to lead with his head and heart, to do what’s right, and to get things done for the American people.” 

During Pritzker’s successful 2018 bid for governor, Biden praised the billionaire businessman-turned politician during a campaign swing through Illinois. Biden had already received an endorsement from Penny Pritzker, JB’s sister who served in the Obama administration as the commerce secretary. 

Biden already has the endorsement of both Illinois Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as a handful of other prominent Illinois politicians including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and eight Democratic members of Congress from the state. 

—Marianna Sotomayor contributed

Biden touts support of Warren’s bankruptcy reform plan as a bridge to progressives

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden surprised audiences when he announced his support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy reform plan during a virtual town hall, an issue both famously sparred over in public 15 years ago. 

In his first virtual appearance before voters since cancelling public events to mitigate coronavirus concerns, the former vice president told a questioner from Illinois that one of the ways he would win over Bernie Sanders supporters is by coming to agreement on “a whole range of things” they’re both passionate about reforming, including bankruptcy.

Elizabeth Warren speaks as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders listen at the seventh Democratic 2020 presidential debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 14, 2020.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

“For example, one of the things that I think Bernie and I will agree on — I’ve endorsed Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy proposal,” he said during the Friday evening livestream. “Allows for student debt to be relieved in bankruptcy. Provides for a whole range of other issues that allows us in fact impact on how people are dealing with their circumstances.”

Biden’s full throttled backing of the proposal is a notable shift from the position he held while serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he faced Warren, then a Harvard professor, in a hearing to debate the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCA). Warren laid out her case against why the bill that Biden supported was unfair because it made it harder for people to file for bankruptcy. The bill was ultimately signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Warren outlined how she would undo parts of BAPCA in a Medium article posted in January when both were seeking the presidential nomination. While Warren campaign allies did not respond to questions about Biden’s newfound support for her plan, former staff members took to social media to encourage any candidate adopt her plan.

“Elizabeth Warren did the homework, now *please* copy it — everyone,” Warren’s former social media director wrote in a tweet.

 

The timing of Biden’s endorsement comes as the former vice president is trying to unite all Democrats, including the most progressive wings of the party, as he faces off with Sanders. In recent weeks Biden has earned 11 endorsements from former 2020 Democratic candidates, but Warren has notably sat out on backing the two final contenders in the primary race.

While Biden said supporting Warren’s plan is one area for finding common ground with the Vermont senator, Sanders has often attacked Biden for his support for the 2005 bankruptcy bill. He often brought it up as a consequential stain in Biden’s Senate record alongside his support of the Iraq War and trade deals.

“The fact of the matter is I’m not beholding to the banks. I supported the bankruptcy bill because I believed taking a very bad bill was going to pass overwhelmingly and make it better made sense,” Biden said in a July 2019 speech where he defended controversial parts of his record that had come under attack by his opponents.

The Biden campaign told NBC News that Biden, who recently reviewed Warren’s plan, will likely speak more about why he supports her proposals at Sunday’s Democratic debate.

Biden’s first virtual event encounters technological glitches

WASHINGTON — The virtual campaign is proving a bit complicated, after a Friday event for former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign encountered some technological glitches. 

Biden is the first Democratic candidate to hold a virtual town hall due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and public events. The attempt to broadcast the first of two scheduled “virtual events” in the next several days involved a garbled-voiced Biden and ended roughly four minutes after the Facebook Live video began streaming in Illinois.

The former vice president acknowledged the issues while ending the livestream.

“Well, I’m sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections, but there is a lot more to say and I’ve probably already said too much,” Biden said. 

But the appetite for these events appears to be there — the short event garnered more than 5,000 viewers. 

On Saturday morning, the campaign released a link to a full, updated video without the technical glitches.

Much of the event focused on Biden explaining how he’d work to respond and recover the country from pandemics. He also tried to downplay the need for panic and outlined ways in which everyone can take precautions to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, while still connecting to people.

“Campaign events are no exception that’s why we’re connecting virtually today. We’re going to have to get better at the technical side of this,” Biden said.

Biden, Sanders increase ad spending amid virtual campaign

WASHINGTON — While the traditional campaigning in the 2020 race has come to a halt due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the Democratic presidential candidates have increased their TV and radio ad spending for the upcoming March 17 primaries, with millions of dollars on the airwaves in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

Here’s a look at the ad spending in these four states through March 17, according to data from Advertising Analytics:

Arizona

  • Sanders: $1.4 million
  • Biden: $564,000
  • Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $522,000

FYI: Michael Bloomberg had spent $8.9 million in the state before dropping out

Florida

  • Sanders: $6.0 million
  • Biden: $5.1 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $44.6 million

Illinois

  • Sanders: $2.2 million
  • Biden: $1.9 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $18.6 million

Ohio

  • Sanders: $2.3 million
  • Biden: $1.3 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $15.4 million

Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman formally backs Biden

WASHINGTON — The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), California Rep. Karen Bass, announced Friday that she is endorsing Joe Biden for president, making her the 37th member of the CBC to back the former vice president.

In a statement released by Bass, the congresswoman said that Biden is the person who can provide a “steady hand that can bring an end to the past three and a half years of daily trauma inflicted” on Americans by the Trump presidency.

Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus prebuttal to the State of the Union address in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020.Michael Brochstein / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Bass added that during his time as vice president, she has come to know Biden as a true leader domestically and internationally — someone who “works tirelessly on behalf of all Americans, especially those purposely forgotten and antagonized by the current administration.”

In an interview with PBS, the chairwoman elaborated on her decision to back Biden and revealed that his rival, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, “called one time” to invite her to meet “last minute,” but when she couldn’t make it, he never called back. Her and Biden in contrast, have spoken “a number of times” during the campaign.

Bass also told PBS that Biden’s vice presidency reveals a “historic connection with African Americans,” and that Sanders “does not have a historic connection like that.” She continued to criticize Sanders, saying that if she were to run for president, she would work “years in advance on building ties and building relationships — not just with African Americans — with all communities.”  

Sanders will ‘wholeheartedly’ support Biden if he’s the nominee, adviser says

WASHINGTON — Senior adviser to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign Jeff Weaver said Thursday that Sanders will support former Vice President Joe Biden “wholeheartedly” if Biden is the Democratic nominee. 

In an interview on MSNBC, Weaver said that the Sanders campaign is looking at the rest of the Democratic primary on a “week by week” basis, but that if he does not win the nomination, he would campaign for the former vice president. However, Weaver wouldn’t say if that decision would come before or after the Democratic convention in July. 

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Weaver said. Adding, “Right now we are working hard and working hard to win.” 

The campaign is looking to shore up wins in this Tuesday’s upcoming nominating contests — focusing specifically on Illinois and Arizona where Sanders performed well in 2016. However, states like Florida and Ohio will also be voting on Tuesday where Biden has a substantial likelihood of winning a larger share of delegates. 

What might Michigan’s primary turnout say about the general election?

WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders had hoped a strong showing in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary would help supercharge his fledgling campaign, but his campaign appears poised for a double-digit loss there. 

NBC News contributor Dante Chinni, the director of the American Communities Project at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, pulled out three important takeaways from Michigan’s primary: 

  • There are cracks in Sanders’ coalition of young, college-age voters as well as the older working-class voters. 
  • Sanders’ success in areas that support President Trump “seems to have fizzled.”
  • And turnout suggests Biden “might be the candidate to bring blue-collar voters back to the Democrats in 2020.”  

Click here to read his full analysis. 

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Andrew Yang nonprofit announces coronavirus relief effort for the Bronx

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Yang nonprofit announces coronavirus relief effort for the Bronx

As Congress and the White House work to pass an emergency economic stimulus bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is taking matters into his own hands.

Yang’s new nonprofit organization, Humanity Forward, announced Friday it will be distributing at least $1 million in $1,000 cash payments to 1,000 working poor households in the Bronx as part of a coronavirus relief fund in partnership with other organizations. 

“Given the nature of this crisis, we thought it was imperative to act now and get money into people’s hands, and also demonstrate that this is exactly what our government should be doing,” Yang told NBC News. 

Andrew Yang speaks during a campaign event in Milford, N.H., on Feb. 5, 2020.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

The one-time payments will be provided within the next two weeks to clients of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, a financial empowerment nonprofit. Additionally, Humanity Forward is also partnering with One Fair Wage, a nonprofit advocacy group, to support service workers across New York City who have been impacted by COVID-19-related closures — through cash relief payments of $213 to symbolize the $2.13 an hour tipped minimum wage.

“The coronavirus has seized up our economy and sent it into a tailspin and the people that are suffering most are service workers,” Yang told NBC News. “New York City is also the most densely populated part of the country, and if there’s any place you would want people to have the ability to stay home and look after themselves and their families, it would be in New York.”

Sources familiar with Yang’s thinking say the entrepreneur is seriously considering a run for New York City mayor, where he could implement UBI at a local level — he even spoke with Michael Bloomberg recently about a potential bid.

His organization’s coronavirus relief effort will also include $100,000 in micro-grants of $250 or $500 to individuals who request emergency funds directly via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

Yang said the direct cash payment proposal in the Senate GOP relief bill is going to be an “instrumental and vital” game-changer for millions of Americans.

“I’m thrilled that they’re landing on direct cash in Americans’ hands,” he said. “If it had been up to me, I perhaps wouldn’t have means-tested it at that level, but it’s going to help tens of millions of Americans and that’s the goal. So I’m glad that they’re heading in the right direction.”

Yang was critical of the Trump administration’s response to the crisis, but hopes the president will support an emergency universal basic income plan regardless of any political downside for Democrats.

“Most everyone thinks that they botched the handling of trying to impede the spread of the virus initially, so I can’t imagine anyone who thinks that this is going to be a political positive for the Trump administration,” said Yang. “We’re in this mess, we have to try and take care of our people.” 

Yang added that his team has been in communication with the White House legislative office, providing research on cash transfers for citizens to the Treasury Department. Yang says he also has been in contact with former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, but would not speculate on cabinet possibilities.

Yang said his current priority is providing immediate relief to those most affected by the coronavirus, but he hopes to fund UBI pilot programs in the future

“I think people are going to like it, and that after it happens in response to this crisis, then people will say, ‘Wait a minute, I’d probably like it no matter what, and it will prepare us for the next crisis,’” Yang said.

Yang is confident that exploring universal basic income will be part of the conversation in the general election.

“Americans are going to be dramatically impacted by getting money into our hands, and I think there’s a real chance that this becomes a major issue in the 2020 election itself — and it may be in the Democratic Party platform,” Yang told NBC News. “I believe that this is going to become the law of the land sometime in the next number of months and years because it’s going to be hard to put the genie back in the bottle honestly.” 

“I would never be someone who would wish this terrible crisis and pandemic on our country, but I do believe that our campaign might have advanced this particular solution right at the right time.”

Disability community vote up for grabs in 2020, poll finds

WASHINGTON — A new poll finds that more than half of potential voters in battleground states say they have a disability (16 percent), a family member with one (32 percent), or a close friend who does (11 percent), and the voting bloc is largely contested ahead of the 2020 elections. 

The results released by the Democratic polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), and the disability rights organization, RespectAbility, also show that the disability community favors Joe Biden over Senator Bernie Sanders in head-to-heads with President Trump.

Wheelchair-accessible voting machines at a polling station in Chula Vista, Calif., on March 3, 2020.Bing Guan / Reuters file

Among battleground voters in the disability community, 49 percent prefer Biden compared to 44 percent who support the president — only a five point difference, which is within the poll’s margin of error. With Sanders as the Democratic nominee however, 45 percent favor Trump while 44 percent prefer Sanders.

For those identifying as personally having a disability, Biden has a greater advantage. 53 percent of the group back the former vice president versus Trump’s 41 percent. Just 45 percent of disabled voters prefer Sanders compared to a close 44 percent who support Trump. 

The results from the disability community closely resemble the results from all voters interviewed in battleground states. Similar to that subset, 49 percent and 45 percent of all voters support Biden and Trump respectively. Trump holds a one percentage point lead over Sanders, 46 percent to 45 percent, among all voters. 

On a phone call with reporters Thursday, the Chairman of RespectAbility, Steve Bartlett, said that the poll results reveal that the disability community “is a very large segment of the voting public” and that the demographic is really “up for grabs” this election season.

“Candidates should not take this lightly,” he said, noting that attention to disability issues can garner candidates more support from the voting bloc.

In Senate and House races, the poll shows that the disability community leans slightly Democratic but is largely split between supporting Democratic and Republican candidates. In a generic Senate vote in the battleground states, half of the disability community reported they would back the Democratic candidate while 47 percent would support the Republican. On the House side, just over half — 51 percent — said they would vote Democratic compared to 46 percent who would go with the Republican.

Health care was top of mind for voters in the disability community with nearly 40 percent of the group reporting that the issue is an important consideration in determining which candidate to support in the 2020 elections. The economy and jobs came in a close second with just over one third of the disability community highlighting the issue.

Only eight percent said that the novel coronavirus is a major issue for them heading into the elections though, GQRR CEO, Stan Greenberg, said that these numbers will likely change as the pandemic worsens.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps, and interviewed 1,000 registered voters over the phone from March 9 to March 16 in sixteen presidential and Senate battleground states. The states included Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. 

590 respondents are members of the disability community and reflect voters in battleground states overall in terms of their demographic makeup. The poll’s margin of error is three percent. 

National parties give House members, candidates new campaign guidelines amid coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Congressional candidates plodding ahead in light of the coronavirus pandemic have received some recent guidance from national party organizations as they look to balance the needs of their campaigns with new public health restrictions. 

A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson told NBC News that the organization is “urging campaigns to follow the guidance of national experts and their local public health experts and make sure that they are continuing to connect with voters, but doing that safely,” while erring on the side of caution to keep their campaign staff, volunteers and voters all safe. 

The DCCC is also recommending that campaigns shift where possible to virtual events like tele-town halls, virtual phone banks or live-streamed roundtables. 

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., sent Republican House members a memo that ran through some suggested “best practices” on issues like fundraising, public events and communications. 

Lally Doerrer, right, and Katharine Hildebrand watch Joe Biden during his Illinois virtual town hall in Chicago on March 13, 2020.Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Some of that guidance mimics what the DCCC told their members — the NRCC suggests limiting grassroots events, shifting field work to phone canvassing and launching tele-town halls. 

On fundraising, Emmer cautioned that candidates should continue to fundraise but “be sensitive that your donors may have suffered financial losses during this pandemic” and ask their donors how they are holding up in light of the crisis. 

Emmer specifically asked members to reconsider “snarky” comments and be sure not to spread misinformation. 

“At times like this you need to ask yourself if your press release or snarky comment are in poor taste,” Emmer wrote. “If you share information on the coronavirus, do it from trusted sources like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services. Do not spread misinformation from politicized news stories.” 

Chris Pack, the NRCC’s communications director, told NBC that the campaign arm sent additional guidance to non-incumbent candidates. Emmer left his member with this: “Do not get complacent. Use common sense, but put the health of yourself, your campaign staff and volunteers, and constituents at the forefront of every decision,” he wrote. 

Biden, Sanders campaigns ramping down ad spending amid coronavirus spread

WASHINGTON – With the coronavirus outbreak prompting several states to postpone their primary elections, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders are slowing their ad spending to a virtual halt. 

A Biden campaign spokesman told NBC News there is “no plan right now” to go up with TV or radio ads, largely because their ad strategy focuses on creating ads based on the issues voters in that upcoming primary state find to be most important. Facebook’s ad-tracker shows the campaign is still running digital ads on the platform, however. 

That same tracker shows that Sanders isn’t currently running any Facebook ads. And data from Advertising Analytics shows that the Sanders campaign is dark on traditional media too (television and radio). 

As the Biden campaign continues to iron out the best ways to campaign in this unprecedented time for presidential politics, the spokesman caveated that their current plan for remaining silent on the airwaves could change. One area where investments could be made is in digital ads now that most people are turning to video websites like YouTube and Hulu while they work from home.

Biden ads featured in states from Michigan to Georgia featured President Barack Obama thanking Biden for his commitment to “Service” and Biden’s call for Democrats to unite in an ad called “Always” to defeat President Donald Trump. They also rolled out new Spanish-language ads in Florida, Arizona and Illinois discussing Biden’s records on guns, healthcare and the need for leadership to prevent future global panic like the one caused by coronavirus.

Unite the Country, the Super PAC supporting Biden’s candidacy, will also not be on the airwaves or on digital in the coming weeks as they focus on expanding their group with sights set on the general election, Steve Schale, a top strategist for the group, told NBC News. 

After projected losses in the Florida, Illinois and Arizona primaries on Tuesday night, Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said in a statement that Sanders “is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign” but that “In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”

Through March 10, before the campaign was completely upended by coronavirus, the Sanders campaign had significantly outspent the Biden campaign on the television and radio airwaves—$42.2 million to $14.6 million respectively. 

Mike Memoli contributed. 

While Maryland delays primary, special election to replace Cummings will stay as mail-in only

WASHINGTON — As Maryland delays most primary elections from late April to early June in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the state will not push back the special election aimed at replacing the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Instead, that election will go on as scheduled, but all voters will cast their ballot by mail. 

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement Tuesday as part of the larger decision to shift the state’s primary elections from April 28 to June 2. He directed the state elections board to come up with a plan to conduct a June primary “in a way that protects public health and preserves the integrity of the democratic process.” 

But Hogan added that while the election board told him it couldn’t shift the entire state to vote-by-mail in time for the April primary to go on as scheduled, he felt it was “imperative that the people of the seventh congressional district have a voice in the House of Representatives and that Maryland has a full delegation representing our state in Congress.” That’s why he decided to keep that district’s primary on schedule. 

Maryland’s 7th Congressional District has been vacant since Cummings died on Oct. 17, 2019. The state held a special primary for the seat on Feb. 5, with former Democrat Rep. Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik, a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, moving onto the special general election. 

Biden under Secret Service protection again

WILMINGTON, Del. — After a nearly three year hiatus, Joe Biden is once again a protectee of the United States Secret Service.

A protective detail began its assignment with the former vice president and Democratic front-runner this week, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News, even as Biden is expected to remain off the campaign trail amid the coronavirus crisis. 

The Biden campaign’s formal request for Secret Service protection was submitted last week to senior congressional officials, who by law consult with the secretary of Homeland Security to consider if candidates should receive security from the elite law enforcement agency.

Anti-dairy industry protestors are pulled from the stage as Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at his Super Tuesday night rally in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 3, 2020.Kyle Grillot / Reuters

Since kicking off his campaign last April, Biden has had minimal security on the campaign trail — one private security guard often supplemented by local law enforcement from jurisdictions where he campaigned. The lighter security footprint allowed Biden to engage in the type of one-on-one, retail-oriented campaigning he preferred, especially in the early-voting states where voters place a premium on it.

Campaign officials have long been concerned about his safety given his high profile as a former vice president and the highly partisan environment. A high-profile incident in California this month, when a pair of dairy protestors stormed the stage as Biden celebrated a string of victories on Super Tuesday, pushed congressional Democrats publicly and Biden’s campaign privately to seek more rigorous protection.

Biden is not a stranger to Secret Service protection, of course. He first became a protectee of the agency in August 2008 when Barack Obama chose him as his vice presidential running mate. He and his family had a security detail throughout his eight years as vice president, and Biden for several additional months after he left office in 2017. 

Illinois governor backs Biden for president

WASHINGTON — Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker is backing former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid, he announced Monday. 

The endorsement came one day before the state’s Democratic presidential primary and one day after Biden faced off against Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in a one-on-one debate Sunday night. The endorsement also comes as governors across the country are scrambling to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and spread.

“As our nation faces some of the biggest challenges of our time, I know Vice President Joe Biden is the right candidate to beat Donald Trump and lead us into a new era. It’s time to unite as Democrats to restore respect to our nation’s highest office,” Pritzker said in a statement. 

“Joe will stand on the side of working families and serve as a partner to us in Illinois as we work to create good paying jobs, expand healthcare and invest in education,” Pritzker said. “After four years of Donald Trump’s failure to lead with honor, tell the truth, or stand up for the middle class, we need a steady hand and a President who is ready to move our nation past the divisiveness and vitriol that have become the norm in 2020. I trust Joe to lead with his head and heart, to do what’s right, and to get things done for the American people.” 

During Pritzker’s successful 2018 bid for governor, Biden praised the billionaire businessman-turned politician during a campaign swing through Illinois. Biden had already received an endorsement from Penny Pritzker, JB’s sister who served in the Obama administration as the commerce secretary. 

Biden already has the endorsement of both Illinois Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as a handful of other prominent Illinois politicians including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and eight Democratic members of Congress from the state. 

—Marianna Sotomayor contributed

Biden touts support of Warren’s bankruptcy reform plan as a bridge to progressives

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden surprised audiences when he announced his support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy reform plan during a virtual town hall, an issue both famously sparred over in public 15 years ago. 

In his first virtual appearance before voters since cancelling public events to mitigate coronavirus concerns, the former vice president told a questioner from Illinois that one of the ways he would win over Bernie Sanders supporters is by coming to agreement on “a whole range of things” they’re both passionate about reforming, including bankruptcy.

Elizabeth Warren speaks as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders listen at the seventh Democratic 2020 presidential debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 14, 2020.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

“For example, one of the things that I think Bernie and I will agree on — I’ve endorsed Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy proposal,” he said during the Friday evening livestream. “Allows for student debt to be relieved in bankruptcy. Provides for a whole range of other issues that allows us in fact impact on how people are dealing with their circumstances.”

Biden’s full throttled backing of the proposal is a notable shift from the position he held while serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he faced Warren, then a Harvard professor, in a hearing to debate the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCA). Warren laid out her case against why the bill that Biden supported was unfair because it made it harder for people to file for bankruptcy. The bill was ultimately signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Warren outlined how she would undo parts of BAPCA in a Medium article posted in January when both were seeking the presidential nomination. While Warren campaign allies did not respond to questions about Biden’s newfound support for her plan, former staff members took to social media to encourage any candidate adopt her plan.

“Elizabeth Warren did the homework, now *please* copy it — everyone,” Warren’s former social media director wrote in a tweet.

 

The timing of Biden’s endorsement comes as the former vice president is trying to unite all Democrats, including the most progressive wings of the party, as he faces off with Sanders. In recent weeks Biden has earned 11 endorsements from former 2020 Democratic candidates, but Warren has notably sat out on backing the two final contenders in the primary race.

While Biden said supporting Warren’s plan is one area for finding common ground with the Vermont senator, Sanders has often attacked Biden for his support for the 2005 bankruptcy bill. He often brought it up as a consequential stain in Biden’s Senate record alongside his support of the Iraq War and trade deals.

“The fact of the matter is I’m not beholding to the banks. I supported the bankruptcy bill because I believed taking a very bad bill was going to pass overwhelmingly and make it better made sense,” Biden said in a July 2019 speech where he defended controversial parts of his record that had come under attack by his opponents.

The Biden campaign told NBC News that Biden, who recently reviewed Warren’s plan, will likely speak more about why he supports her proposals at Sunday’s Democratic debate.

Biden’s first virtual event encounters technological glitches

WASHINGTON — The virtual campaign is proving a bit complicated, after a Friday event for former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign encountered some technological glitches. 

Biden is the first Democratic candidate to hold a virtual town hall due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and public events. The attempt to broadcast the first of two scheduled “virtual events” in the next several days involved a garbled-voiced Biden and ended roughly four minutes after the Facebook Live video began streaming in Illinois.

The former vice president acknowledged the issues while ending the livestream.

“Well, I’m sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections, but there is a lot more to say and I’ve probably already said too much,” Biden said. 

But the appetite for these events appears to be there — the short event garnered more than 5,000 viewers. 

On Saturday morning, the campaign released a link to a full, updated video without the technical glitches.

Much of the event focused on Biden explaining how he’d work to respond and recover the country from pandemics. He also tried to downplay the need for panic and outlined ways in which everyone can take precautions to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, while still connecting to people.

“Campaign events are no exception that’s why we’re connecting virtually today. We’re going to have to get better at the technical side of this,” Biden said.

Biden, Sanders increase ad spending amid virtual campaign

WASHINGTON — While the traditional campaigning in the 2020 race has come to a halt due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the Democratic presidential candidates have increased their TV and radio ad spending for the upcoming March 17 primaries, with millions of dollars on the airwaves in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

Here’s a look at the ad spending in these four states through March 17, according to data from Advertising Analytics:

Arizona

  • Sanders: $1.4 million
  • Biden: $564,000
  • Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $522,000

FYI: Michael Bloomberg had spent $8.9 million in the state before dropping out

Florida

  • Sanders: $6.0 million
  • Biden: $5.1 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $44.6 million

Illinois

  • Sanders: $2.2 million
  • Biden: $1.9 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $18.6 million

Ohio

  • Sanders: $2.3 million
  • Biden: $1.3 million

FYI: Bloomberg had spent $15.4 million

Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman formally backs Biden

WASHINGTON — The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), California Rep. Karen Bass, announced Friday that she is endorsing Joe Biden for president, making her the 37th member of the CBC to back the former vice president.

In a statement released by Bass, the congresswoman said that Biden is the person who can provide a “steady hand that can bring an end to the past three and a half years of daily trauma inflicted” on Americans by the Trump presidency.

Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus prebuttal to the State of the Union address in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020.Michael Brochstein / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Bass added that during his time as vice president, she has come to know Biden as a true leader domestically and internationally — someone who “works tirelessly on behalf of all Americans, especially those purposely forgotten and antagonized by the current administration.”

In an interview with PBS, the chairwoman elaborated on her decision to back Biden and revealed that his rival, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, “called one time” to invite her to meet “last minute,” but when she couldn’t make it, he never called back. Her and Biden in contrast, have spoken “a number of times” during the campaign.

Bass also told PBS that Biden’s vice presidency reveals a “historic connection with African Americans,” and that Sanders “does not have a historic connection like that.” She continued to criticize Sanders, saying that if she were to run for president, she would work “years in advance on building ties and building relationships — not just with African Americans — with all communities.”  

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Cuomo pushes New York primary date from April to June due to coronavirus

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that the date of the state’s primary election will be moved from April 28 to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amid an update on the latest number of New Yorkers infected by coronavirus, Cuomo said that he would push back the election nearly two months.

That order comes after at least 10 states and one territory have moved their presidential primaries because of the the coronavirus pandemic. Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico have all postponed their primaries.



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