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New Hampshire poll shows Sanders leading, Buttigieg and Biden fighting for second

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has a slim lead in New Hampshire according to a poll from Monmouth University released on Thursday, receiving 24 percent support from likely Democratic voters in the Granite State. 

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden trail with 20 and 17 percent support respectively. 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – JULY 30: Democratic presidential candidates Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) (L-R), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (L-R) , Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), take the stage at the beginning of the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. 20 Democratic presidential candidates were split into two groups of 10 to take part in the debate sponsored by CNN held over two nights at Detroits Fox Theatre. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)Scott Olson / Getty Images

The poll finds Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 13 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 9 percent support, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang both with 4 percent. Philanthropist Tom Steyer trailed the field with 3 percent support and all other candidates earned 1 percent or less. 

Just five days away from the first-in-the-nation primary here, voters minds aren’t made up. Just 49 percent of likely voters say they are “firmly set” in their choice. And with the New Hampshire primary just five days away, candidates and their surrogates have descended on the state to make their final pitches to voters. 

Even though the difficulties in reporting the winner from the Iowa caucuses stunted one candidate from being able to claim an outright victory, the fallout has changed the thinking of some candidates’ supporters. Twenty percent of Biden’s supporters said they were less confident in him after the Iowa caucuses, where it appears he came in fourth. On the contrary, 56 percent of Buttigieg’s supporters said Iowa made them feel more confident about their choice — Buttigieg is still in a race for first against Sanders in the Hawkeye State. 

Perhaps the best news for Biden and Warren though, who is looking at a third place finish in Iowa, is that for 78 percent of New Hampshire voters, the caucuses didn’t make them rethink their candidate choice.

Bernie Sanders raises $25 million in January, announces new ad campaign

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced a $25 million fundraising haul in the month of January on Thursday. According to the campaign, more than 649,000 people made 1.3 million donations, and over 219,000 of the donors in January had never donation to the Sanders campaign before.

The campaign said the average donation was $18. 

“Bernie’s multiracial, multigenerational, people-driven movement for change is fueling 2020’s most aggressive campaign for president,” Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement. “Working class Americans giving $18 at a time are putting our campaign in a strong position to compete in states all over the map.” 

Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally, on Feb. 5, 2020, in Derry, N.H.Steven Senne / AP

Sanders also announced a $5.5 million TV and digital ad buy to build up their footprint in Super Tuesday states as well as expand their airwaves time in early states like South Carolina. The ad campaign funding will be split between 10 total states: Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, California, Texas. 

The fundraising announcement comes after Sanders’ 2019 fourth quarter filing showed him to have raised the most money of all the Democratic candidates for president. Sanders also ended 2019 with the most money in the bank going into the primary season. 

Sanders’ fundraising figures were released while he remains in a tight race for first place in in the Iowa caucuses and days before the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11. 

Republicans rest on Trump legal team’s arguments for acquittal votes

WASHINGTON — Despite its rejection by more than 500 of the nation’s leading legal scholars and the star constitutional scholar who testified on behalf of House Republicans, several Republican senators said they are leaning heavily on arguments made by celebrity defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz for their votes to acquit President Trump on Wednesday.

During the Senate trial, Dershowitz argued that “abuse of power,” one of the impeachment articles against Trump, is not impeachable unless it falls into certain categories, including treason, and that a modern day statutory crime or criminal like offenses need to have been committed.   

When asked which constitutional experts the GOP conference consulted in deliberating their votes, at least three senators referred NBC News only to the president’s own defense team, on which Dershowitz served.

Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Braun of Indiana and Tim Scott of South Carolina cited no opinions other than Trump’s defense team in deliberations over Trump’s guilt or innocence.

Among the team, Dershowitz made the “constitutional case” for the president. Former special prosecutor Ken Starr also participated in the president’s defense presentation.

The arguments forwarded by Dershowitz have drawn the most criticism.

“Alan is completely alone,” said Prof. Frank Bowman, whose area of expertise at the University of Missouri includes impeachment.  “There’s no disagreement on the stuff Alan’s peddling. Zero, zip, nadda,” he said. “You can’t find anybody who’s actually an impeachment expert saying what he’s saying.” 

More recently, the Harvard assistant professor whose work Dershowitz pointed to in his presentation, Nikolas Bowie, said Dershowitz was incorrectly citing his work

Dershowitz insisted Bowie’s work product still supports his underlying argument; yet in an email to NBC, he could not reference any other living constitutional scholars who agree with him.

“Several prominent 19th century scholars led by Dean Dwight of Columbia law school agreed that a crime was required. Contemporary professors deserve no more credibility for their views than academics and judges who were closer in time to the adoption of the constitution,” he said.

Even self-identified conservative scholars dispute the legal case Dershowitz made on the Senate floor. Larry Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law expert, called it a “crackpot theory.”

But impeachment is an inherently political process and Republicans like Rob Portman of Ohio, who concede the president acted inappropriately, are voting to acquit based, at least partly, on Dershowitz’s argument. 

“In this case, no crime is alleged,” Portman said Tuesday on the Senate floor. 

“I think Ken Starr’s a pretty good constitutional scholar and former solicitor of the United States,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told NBC News. “But that’s not the point. The point is what Speaker Pelosi made early and often, which was that impeachment should never be a partisan exercise.”

The Senate heard no additional witnesses, relying solely on arguments made by attorneys for both sides. By contrast, during the 1999 impeachment of Bill Clinton, the Senate heard from 19 constitutional scholars in person and many others submitted written opinions, said Bowman.

Interviews with GOP senators underscore the exceedingly narrow universe of constitutional expertise that informed the Senate’s expected verdict that Trump did not engage in impeachable conduct.  

Attorney Alan Dershowitz addresses a question from senators during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate Chamber, Jan. 29, 2020.Senate TV / Reuters

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., did not name any scholars GOP senators consulted in deliberations other than Dershowitz for his reasoning.

“I can tell you it gave a framework for many to think about it,” he said. “For many of us … it struggled to rise to where you can have a slam dunk case,” he said, because “it was how it originated.” 

When pressed for additional scholars who were consulted, he said: “I don’t know that. All I can tell you the discussion of [Dershowitz’s argument] was a plausible one in terms of how you can look at what rises to the level of impeachment.”  

“The partisan nature of it was as compelling as anything,” Braun said. 

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said the retired Harvard professor gave the party a single opinion and that was enough. 

“They sort of dressed it up in someone they can point to as a constitutional scholar … So there you have it,” she told reporters. “At the end of the day, they’re saying ‘he did it, so what?’”

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in his floor speech that there are other experts who agree with Dershowitz, before citing only Dershowitz.

“It came from others who were well respected attorneys on each side,” said Inhofe. “The president didn’t commit a crime,” he stated, saying that distinguishes Trump from former presidents Bill Clinton, who committed perjury under oath, and Richard Nixon.  

Inhofe’s press office did not return calls and an email seeking names of the attorneys who support Dershowitz.

Scott, the South Carolina senator, declined a request for a reporter to accompany him on a Senate subway to discuss the constitutional case.

“You cannot come with me,” he said.

When asked if he considered opinions other than Dershowitz, Scott said: “You’ll have to ask the president’s team.”

Warren highlights Obama praise in new ad

MANCHESTER — In a new digital campaign ad coming out this morning, Elizabeth Warren is highlighting her relationship with former President Barack Obama and his support of her work building the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

The new ad, which the campaign says will also soon air on TV, comes after former Vice President Joe Biden’s apparent fourth-place finish in Iowa and on the same day that Michael Bloomberg debuted an ad featuring his work with Obama, as well. 

The ad, first shared with NBC News, is titled ‘Elizabeth understands” and begins with a 2010 Rose Garden address, where Obama lauds Warren for her work fighting for the middle class. 

“She’s a janitor’s daughter who has become one of the country’s fiercest advocates for the middle class,” Obama says at the top, “She came up with an idea for a new, independent agency standing up for consumers and middle class families.”

On the campaign trail, Warren often ends her town halls telling audiences about her time fighting to build the CPFB, a message that ties into an overall theme in her campaign: she’s a fighter.

The ad also touches on that message, too with a line from Obama, referring to the uphill battle Warren faced while trying to start the CPFB, calling Warren tough.

“She’s done it while facing some very tough opposition. Fortunately, she’s very tough,” he said.

The ad will be released in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Candidates shuffle ad dollars ahead of New Hampshire primary

DES MOINES, Iowa — With the New Hampshire primary less than a week away, the Democratic presidential candidates shuffling their ad spending in the hopes of trying to gain an edge in the next contest and get the kind of bounce that never came from Iowa

Here’s a look at the ad-buy shuffle, with data courtesy of media-monitoring firm Advertising Analytics. 

  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who sits in third place in Iowa as the results continue to be counted, cut $375,00 in television ad dollars from Nevada and South Carolina on Tuesday.
  • Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who’s currently in fourth place in Iowa, added $433,000 in TV spending to markets that cover New Hampshire. 
  • Businessman Andrew Yang placed $280,000 in New Hampshire-area markets. 
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden cut $58,000 in Nevada TV ads and placed $90,000 in New Hampshire-area TV ads.
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg added almost $400,000 in TV ads as his campaign foreshadowed a large increase in TV spending by the billionaire that’s already launched a historic ad blitzkrieg. 
  • Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg placed $137,000 in New Hampshire-area television ads.
  • Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer dropped $212,400 onto the airwaves in the New Hampshire area.
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard booked $53,000 on the New Hampshire airwaves
  • Vote Vets, a progressive veterans group backing Buttigieg, is spending another $191,000 on TV ads in New Hampshire.
  • And Unite the Country, a super PAC supporting Biden, announced it’s investing $900,000 in television and digital ads backing Biden in New Hampshire. 

New Hampshire Democrats say they’re ready for their turn in the spotlight

MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Democratic candidates descend upon New Hampshire, the state is ready for its closeup less than a week before its first-in-the-nation primary, according to two New Hampshire Democratic Party officials. 

Amy Kennedy, the executive director of the NHDP, said on Tuesday that she expects voter turnout to be at an all-time high, and voter enthusiasm to be strengthening head of next Tuesday’s contest. 

“There’s just such an appetite to remove Donald Trump from office that we’re going to see something larger than what we had in 2018 and 2019 with both our midterms and our municipal elections,” Kennedy said. 

Those expectations come in spite of several of the candidates missing key opportunities to campaign in the Granite State because of the Senate’s impeachment trial. 

Audience members wait for the start of a campaign event with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in in Keene, N.H., on Feb. 4, 2020.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Kennedy pointed out that many of the candidates have been coming to New Hampshire for months and sometimes visiting “before they even start having conversations about running for president.”

“I think the energy and excitement is still up. And again, they’ve got six more days now to hear from all the candidates directly,” Kennedy said. 

And as campaigning heats up in the state, the NHDP feels confident about their turn in the spotlight in the wake of Iowa’s struggles

“This is our hundredth anniversary of the New Hampshire primary, and so we have had a process in place for years with our voting systems that we have absolute confidence in,” said Amy Kennedy, executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “There’s no reason to doubt their ability to do this properly. And we also have measures like paper ballots and additional counts, recounts that have to happen if there’s any question.” 

And after a chaotic end to the Iowa caucuses, some in the Granite State would like everyone to remember the popular saying, “Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks presidents.” 

“New Hampshire voters do pick presidents and we think that with the time and the focus that New Hampshire gets for the primary, it’s a good place for a candidate to really shine and then decide how they want to run their campaign,” Kennedy said. 

The Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests have faced criticism for going first in the primary season because both states are majority white and and aren’t representative of the Democratic Party. After Monday’s reporting issues after the Iowa caucuses, those criticisms renewed

But Kennedy, and NHDP communications director Holly Shulman said that their state’s contest is evened out by Nevada and South Carolina going third and fourth. 

“We’re really excited by the inclusion of South Carolina, and about it into the early state combination here. We’re proud to have them as our sister early states, and with them we believe that this is representative of our Democratic Party as a whole,” Kennedy said. 

Shulman added, “The polling of all the candidates here has been really closely tracking what’s happening in South Carolina and Nevada,” so the results aren’t “that different.” 

While energy is up in New Hampshire, voters’ minds aren’t made up. And according to Shulman, candidates would do well to remember that to voters “everyone is someone else’s second choice.” 

“[Voters] have lots of choices and they love all of them, and that’s why they’re waiting so long to make their decisions,” Shulman said. “The candidates know that, and they understand that the only way to win over voters is to make sure that they’re focused on the general election, and on their message and on on their policies.” 

RGA hits Michigan governor ahead of SOTU rebuttal

WASHINGTON — The Republican Governors Association launched a digital ad campaign Tuesday targeting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who will deliver the Democratic Party’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address tonight.

According to a statement from the RGA released Tuesday, the initiative will call attention to Whitmer’s “broken promises and tanking approval rating.”

The ads are set to air on Facebook and Instagram around the Michigan State Capitol and in the Lansing area — where Whitmer will rebut Trump from a local high school. 

One of the ads, titled “Broken Roads, Broken Promises,” includes media coverage accusing Whitmer of failing to fulfill her primary campaign promise best captured by the slogan: “Fix the damn roads.”

About one-minute long, the ad highlights the Michigan Governor’s decision to veto infrastructure funding for Michigan totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. It also features unflattering polling depicting her approval rating on the decline.

Whitmer has said she vetoed that funding because it was only a short-term fix and that she’s focused on achieving a “a real, long-term funding solution that will actually fix the damn roads. “

President Trump even makes an appearance, criticizing Whitmer at a rally in her home state in December. 

“I understand she’s not fixing those potholes,” the president says on screen.

When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, announced the Democrats’ selection of Whitmer to represent the party following the State of the Union, he boasted about her action on issues that the RGA scrutinizes in its ads. 

“Governor Whitmer’s dedication to Michiganders is a model for public servants everywhere,” he said. “Whether it’s pledging to ‘Fix the Damn Roads’ or investing in climate solutions, Governor Whitmer’s vision for the future is exactly what this country needs, and I’m thrilled she is giving the Democratic response.”

In its statement, the RGA also singled out “Whitmer’s attempt to get back on track in her recent State of the State address,” which faced blow back after experts determined that her new transportation plan would “saddle future generations with debt and fail to fix the majority of roads in the state.”

FILE PHOTO: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer reacts with her daughters, Sydney (L) and Sherry after declaring victory at her midterm election night party in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/File PhotoJeff Kowalsky / Reuters

Communications Director of the RGA, Amelia Chassé Alcivar, said Tuesday that Whitmer’s failure to make substantive progress on her campaign pledge is “no joke” for Michigan residents “still driving on the crumbling roads she promised to fix.”

The spokeswoman also stressed that Michiganders need their governor “to do her damn job.”

The ad campaign announcement came around the same time that Whitmer held a press conference outlining her plan to rebut President Trump. 

“When I stay tethered to the dinner table issues I know it resonates with people all across our country,” the governor said. 

Bloomberg: ‘No question’ that Trump is ‘worried about me’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there’s “no question” that President Donald Trump fears running against him in a general election, after a feud between the two New Yorkers escalated over the weekend. 

In an exclusive interview with NBC News in California, Bloomberg looked past his Democratic rivals who are competing in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, insisting his own future in the race won’t be affected by results of the caucuses. Instead, Bloomberg said he’s “running against Donald Trump.” 

“I think there’s no question that he’s worried about me, because otherwise he wouldn’t respond,” Bloomberg says. “Donald doesn’t want to run against me because he knows I’ve taken him on, and every time, I’ve beaten him. I’m trying to tell the public what I did and what I will do and not get into a silly contest. He can’t run on his record.” 

Bloomberg’s comments come as the gloves have come off in Bloomberg’s growing rivalry with Trump, who took to Twitter over the weekend to insult Bloomberg over his height — claiming, without evidence, that Bloomberg was arranging to stand on a box during an upcoming debate. That led Bloomberg’s campaign to push back, calling Trump “pathological liar” and asserting that the campaign is now on a “wartime footing” with the Republican president. Trump and Bloomberg also aired dueling ads during the Super Bowl on Sunday at a cost of some $11 million. 

With his numbers starting to climb in national polls, Bloomberg has sought to portray himself as above the fray of the Democratic primary and primed to defeat the president, which Democratic primary voters have widely said is the top quality they’re seeking in their nominee. That argument has gained fresh attention amid signs of a surge by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who more moderate Democrats have said they fear may be too liberal to win over centrist voters needed to defeat the president.

In the interview, Bloomberg said he plans to stay in the race even if a candidate like former Vice President Joe Biden emerges as a clear front-runner out of Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first and second primary contests.

“I’m not running against Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, I’m running against Donald Trump and whether they win in one of these states or both of these states or not, it just doesn’t influence what I’m going to do,” Bloomberg said.

After entering the race too late to compete in the earliest states, Bloomberg has mounted an unconventional campaign focused on the delegate-rich states that vote later in the calendar, as well as on general-election battlegrounds that will be key to deciding the next president.

So as the other Democrats converge on Iowa on Monday for the caucuses, Bloomberg is in California, which kicks off its early and mail-in voting periods this week.

Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg addresses supporters during a campaign stop in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 3, 2020.Rich Pedroncelli / AP

The stakes are high: California has 10 times the number of delegates as Iowa in the Democratic primary nominating contest. More Democrats are expected to vote early in California than in the Iowa caucuses in total.

In the interview, Bloomberg also lamented the all-but-certain acquittal of Trump in the impeachment trial, where closing arguments are taking place in Washington on Monday ahead of an expected final vote on Wednesday.

“It’s a disgrace, no question about that,” he said, adding that the whole Republican Party was contributing to it. “I don’t like impeachment, but there’s so much evidence we had to do it. I’m not a senator, but I’d vote to convict.”

He added: “It’s obvious they’re going to let him off the hook and the public will have its chance on November 3.”

Iowa will test whether Steyer’s spending strategy works

DES MOINES, Iowa — With voting set to start in the 2020 Democratic presidential contests, billionaire Tom Steyer is about to face a critical test: whether the prodigious spending that has thus far buoyed his candidacy will win over enough voters to propel it into the next phase of the contest.  

The 62-year old former hedge fund manager is also sharpening his message, casting himself as an uncompromising progressive in hopes of capitalizing on the distaste and discomfort a distinct coalition of voters feel toward the political establishment. But Steyer, well behind in most polls both nationally and in early voting states, needs to turn out more than just a handful of voters tired of the political system. 

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer exits after a campaign stop at the The Living Room on Jan. 31, 2020 in Clinton, Iowa.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By portraying himself as a leader with experience outside the Beltway, Steyer, in the final to sprint through Iowa and other early states, aims to turn out voters who don’t always participate in elections — highlighting his investment in commonly overlooked communities.

He’s also contrasting himself with other 2020 contenders like former Vice President Joe Biden who are leaning into their willingness to work across the aisle if elected — touting their relationships with Republicans. Steyer argues that the other side isn’t interested in compromise. 

“There’s no point in talking to someone who refuses to talk,” Steyer recently told a group of voters in Clinton, Iowa, referencing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Have you seen any give? Did he ever compromise with Barack Obama?”  

It’s a message that seems to be resonating voters who say they are fed up with the political system in Washington. One voter at a recent town hall in Burlington, Iowa said he’d never caucused before but liked Steyer because he wasn’t a political insider.

On his last bus tour through Iowa, Steyer drew in larger crowds. More than 120 voters showed up to the Clinton town hall — double the number the campaign expected — and a few of his audiences have topped Biden’s in size.  

In Iowa, where Steyer has spent nearly $16 million on TV and radio ads, the campaign has focused on barnstorming corners of the state not traditionally considered Democratic strongholds — like Storm Lake, where Steyer is one of only four candidates with an operating field office.    

And it’s not just where or who the campaign is targeting but about the message to these voters, too. 

Steyer regularly highlights the need for congressional term limits on the trail. He also touts his investments in rural communities and his long history of fighting climate change.

“There’s something about Tom and his message — being that outsider on traditional messaging — that appeals to rural Iowans,” Ben Gerdes, Steyer’s senior press secretary, told NBC News. 

Looking past Iowa, Steyer has rapidly staffed up in South Carolina. With 92 paid staffers, his presence is the largest in the state —and roughly double that of Biden’s. Formerly incarcerated men make up a large portion of that number and have been tasked with campaigning for Steyer in their neighborhoods.  

In New Hampshire, where he’s made a total of only six trips, Steyer also highlights his outsider status and regularly brings up climate change on the stump. He’s made targeted outreach efforts to areas like the Seacoast, where the risks and impacts of rising tides hit closest to home. 

Steyer maintains his status in the race doesn’t necessarily depend on the results Monday night in Iowa. 

When asked for a best-case scenario, Gerdes was optimistic, but also realistic: “Our belief is, even just beating expectations, showing some momentum here where no one expects us to do anything … then the whole dynamic of the races changes.”  

Bernie Sanders raised more online from Iowans than rest of Dem field

DES MOINES, Iowa — As the clock ticks closer to Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, new federal election filings from the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue provide the latest glimpse as to each candidates’ financial strength in the Hawkeye State. 

That new data shows that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders raised more money online from Iowans, $703,000, than his Democratic presidential rivals in all of 2019. 

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised the second most with $519,000, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s $418,000, former Vice President Joe Biden’s $251,000,  Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s $185,000 and businessman Andrew Yang’s $142,000. 

No other active presidential candidate raised more than $100,000 in Iowa online donations, according to ActBlue data. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a campaign field office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters

ActBlue processes all virtually every online donation to Democratic candidates and is required to itemize every single donation in its report to the Federal Election Commission, unlike campaigns that aren’t required to disclose information for donations under $200. 

So its semi-annual filing journalists, campaigns and data-nerds the ability to comb through those online donations for analysis. 

Click here for more coverage from the latest federal election filings. 

For Warren, ‘unity’ is more than a talking point

IOWA CITY, Iowa — As she makes her closing pitch to Iowa voters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has increasingly stressed the need for party unity.

“I’ve been building a campaign from the beginning that’s not a campaign that’s narrow or not a campaign that says us and nobody else,” Warren said at a rally in Cedar Rapids Saturday. “It’s a campaign that says, ‘come on in because we are in this fight together. This fight is our fight.’”

Jonathan Van Ness, of the Netflix series Queer Eye, introduces Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Jan. 26, 2020 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Her comments come after a surrogate for Bernie Sanders pointedly joined in with a group of the Vermont Senator’s supporters to boo Hillary Clinton Friday night.

But Warren’s push is more than just a reactionary move, there’s some data behind it as well. 

A Warren aide tells NBC News that among people they’ve identified as planning to caucus for Warren who also caucused in 2016, there’s a 50-50 split between those who supported Sanders and Clinton. 

That means unity isn’t just a messaging point, it’s borne out in who the campaign sees its attracting at this point. It’s why they weren’t (and aren’t) directly attacking Sanders and why she doesn’t directly engage on questions about Clinton. 

In fact, speaking to reporters on Saturday, Warren skirted questions on both of those issues — re-emphasizing that message of needing to come together.

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Biden debuts podcast in his virtual campaign for president

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WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic.

The podcast “Here’s the Deal” is intended to provide listeners “a voice of clarity during uncertain times” by delving into pressing subjects affecting Americans’ day-to-day lives in conversations between Biden and “national top experts,” according to a description of the podcast shown to NBC News.

“Hey, Team Biden. It’s Joe, and I’m sitting in Wilmington, Delaware,” Biden says at the top of the debut podcast. “It’s a scary time, people are confused, things are changing every day, every hour so I wanted to have this conversation with you now if we could.”

The title plays on one of Biden’s favorite phrases he uses before launching into an explanation about a subject he wants people to understand.

In the 20-minute episode recorded last Tuesday, Biden interviews his former chief of staff, Ron Klain, who also served as the Obama administration’s Ebola czar, on how President Donald Trump should be handling the pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 people in the U.S.

Both take turns talking about the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis before Biden brings up his coronavirus and economic plans.

“It’s critical for the president not to resort to fear-mongering and also baseless downplaying or lying about the situation,” Biden said during the phone interview. “The president needs to be honest, needs to follow the science, needs to be transparent with the American people.”

Listeners asked Biden and Klain questions about the initial plans they put into action during the Ebola crisis and asked Biden what he is doing to practice social distancing.

“First, I’m recording this podcast to connect with all of you instead of traveling across the country as I have been doing most of the last year,” he said. “It’s just not worth it to go out there and take a chance of getting sick and further spreading the virus.”

The podcast is another way for the campaign to try to connect with voters confined to their homes a challenge recent political candidates have not had to face. The launch comes one week after Biden debuted his home TV studio in his basement, where he was able to reinsert himself into the national conversation on cable news following several technical difficulties encountered in his first week of “working from home.”

The campaign said it plans to upload episodes regularly and to expand the conversations beyond the pandemic, although staffers acknowledge the topic will be revisited often as the nation continues to grapple with its life-altering effects.

In the past week, the campaign has held a number of virtual events, including question-and-answer sessions with workers helping patients recover from COVID-19, and a “happy hour” with young adults. It also launched a newsletter that will be emailed to supporters, featuring Biden’s recommendations on how to prevent coronavirus spread and movies to watch as they stay at home.

The podcast also allows the campaign to remind listeners what Biden is doing to stay on top of the crisis as he battles for national news coverage that has turned away from the presidential campaign to focus on the coronavirus.

“I think it’s important for people to know that you’re talking to almost, every day, top economists about what to do about this,” Klain told Biden on the podcast. “You’re talking to Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill and making the point that it’s important that as we fight this economic crisis, we focus on people and families, not corporations.”

“Bingo,” Biden responds.

Besides trying to provide “clarity” on important issues, the podcast promises to bring “the heart, compassion and wisdom” of Biden to Americans as the campaign contrasts President Donald Trump’s crisis-management leadership to that of the former vice president.

“Why am I doing this?,” Biden asks listeners. “So we can keep talking to each other. We can’t hold rallies anymore, but we’re not gathering in big public spaces. We’re living in the new normal, but I want you to know that I’m with you and I’m on your side and we’re going to get through this together as a country.”



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‘I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew’

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he wouldn’t mind running against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for president, adding that he thought Cuomo would make a better candidate than former Vice President Joe Biden.

In an interview on Fox News, Trump was asked to react to speculation that Cuomo would be a better candidate for the Democrats.

“If he’s going to run, that’s fine,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew. I’ve known Andrew for a long time. I wouldn’t mind that but I’ll be honest, I think he’d be a better candidate than sleepy Joe.”

The president added, “I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew; I don’t mind running against Joe Biden.”

“I think probably Andrew would be better,” Trump continued. “I’m telling you right now, you know, I want somebody [for] this country that’s gonna do a great job, and I hope I’m going to win.”

Cuomo, of course, is not running for president and the race for the Democratic nomination is now down to just Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Speaking at his daily coronavirus press conference later Monday, Cuomo dismissed rumors he is considering jumping into the race.

“I am not engaging the president in politics,” he said. “My only goal is to engage the president in partnership. This is no time for politics.”

“I’m not going to rise to the bait of a political challenge,” Cuomo added. “I’m not running for president, I was never running for president. I said from day one I wasn’t running for president. I’m not running for president now. I’m not playing politics.”

Some have suggested that Cuomo should have launched a White House bid because they say he’s handling the coronavirus crisis well in New York. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about it over the weekend and said she asked Cuomo if the current situation has revived his dreams of a presidential run.

“No. I know presidential politics. I was there in the White House with Clinton. I was there with Gore. No, I’m at peace with who I am and what I’m doing,” Cuomo told Dowd.

Dowd wrote that Cuomo’s friends said the New York governor will be loyal to Biden. But they said if Trump is re-elected, Cuomo could run for president in 2024.

As for the approval of the job Cuomo is doing, Trump took some credit, saying Monday that the governor is doing well because of the federal government, which has dispatched a hospital ship and ventilators to the state.

“One of the reasons he’s successful is because we’ve helped make him successful now,” Trump said.



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Democratic presidential primary schedule changes due to coronavirus

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WASHINGTON — States continue to postpone Democratic presidential caucuses and primaries as the threat of coronavirus looms large and White House social distancing guidelines remain in place for another month. 

All presidential contests before March 17 were held as scheduled but the list of states that have altered voting plans due to the novel coronavirus is extensive.

A voter casts their ballot at a polling station in Hillsboro, Va., on March 3, 2020.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here’s the modified schedule so far listed by original contest date.

March 17

Arizona primary (held)

Florida primary (held)

Illinois primary (held)

Ohio primary: now set to be an all-mail election on April 28

March 24

Georgia primary: postponed to May 19

March 29

Puerto Rico primary: postponed to April 26 at the earliest.

April 4

Alaska Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with the deadline on April 10

Hawaii Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with a deadline of May 22

Louisiana primary: postponed to June 20

Wyoming Caucuses: in-person caucuses suspended in favor of mail. The deadline is April 17

April 7

Wisconsin primary

April 28

Connecticut primary: postponed to June 2.

Delaware primary: postponed to June 2.

Maryland primary: postponed  to June 2.

New York primary: postponed to June 23.

Pennsylvania primary: postponed to June 2.

Rhode Island primary: postponed to June 2, will be “primarily” by mail.

Saturday, May 2

Kansas Party-Run primary (DNC considers this a caucus)

Guam caucuses

Tuesday, May 5

Indiana primary: postponed to June 2.

Tuesday, May 12

Nebraska primary

West Virginia primary

Tuesday, May 19

Kentucky primary: postponed to June 23.

Oregon primary

Tuesday, June 2

Montana primary

New Jersey primary

New Mexico primary

South Dakota primary

Washington, D.C. primary

Saturday, June 6

Virgin Island caucuses

New Biden digital ad argues Trump’s ‘ego will cost lives’ to coronavirus

WASHINGTON – The Biden campaign is issuing a cautious warning about President Donald Trump’s leadership in a new video, saying that his “ego will cost lives” in the fight against coronavirus. 

In a digital video posted to Twitter and Facebook Saturday evening, the campaign uses Trump’s own words during a White House press briefing, where he admitted to telling Vice President Mike Pence not to call Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, two Democrats, because he is “wasting” his time speaking with them.

“You don’t want to call the governor of Washington? You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” the video shows Trump saying.

In response, the campaign posts text on the screen over horror-movie like music that say, “His failure will cost lives. His downplaying will cost lives. His incompetence will cost lives. His ego will cost lives.”

The digital video, which is currently not a paid ad, already has about 5 million views on Twitter and thousands of engagements on Facebook and Instagram.

Biden has spent the past week criticizing Trump for his slow response to preventing the spread of the COVID-19, often pointing to numerous examples of Trump downplaying the seriousness of it earlier this year. The claims in the video are the furthest the campaign has gone in sharply pointing out how Trump’s continued approach to leading the effort could lead to American deaths.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Biden’s criticisms of the president were not as aggressive as his campaign’s.

While his campaign has repeatedly warned that Trump’s reaction to the crisis could cost American lives, Biden says he thinks it would be “too harsh” to say Trump has blood on his hands.

“He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists,” Biden said.

Whitmer also deflected Trump’s direct attacks against her in a “Meet the Press” interview.

“I’ve talked to the vice president a number of times. We’re working with everyone from the White House on down through FEMA, DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers because it’s got to be all hands on deck. We are not one another’s enemies. The enemy is the virus,” she said on Meet the Press.

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in latest national poll

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by nine points in the latest Fox News general election poll. The poll, released Saturday, shows Biden garnering 49 percent support of registered voters, and Trump at 40 percent — pushing Biden outside the poll’s three-point margin of error. 

The subsection groups show even stronger support for Biden. Suburban women, a key group in the 2018 midterms, support Biden over Trump by a 57-34 point margin. Biden also won self-described “moderates” with 53 percent support — Trump garnered just 24 percent support from the same group. 

Joe Biden addresses supporters at his South Carolina primary night rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

The Fox News poll shows overall stability of Biden’s support. In their February poll, Biden led Trump 49-41 percent, and in January he led 50-41 in the same poll. However, this is the first Fox News poll to also measure support of potential general election tickets. 

Biden announced at the last Democratic presidential debate that he would choose a woman as his running mate. Registered voters seem to agree with that decision — in this poll, 63 percent of registered voters approve of that choice. And of three potential female senators Biden could pick, each ticket leads the Republican Trump-Pence ticket. 

Fox News polled Biden with California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — all former presidential candidates in this cycle. Harris and Klobuchar have since endorsed Biden, while Warren has yet to endorse either Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to this poll, a Biden-Harris ticket and a Biden-Klobuchar ticket beat Trump-Pence with a 50 to 42 percent margin. A potential Biden-Warren ticket had a larger margin of victory at 52-42 percent support. All three ticket victories were outside of the poll’s margin for error. 

The Fox News poll was conducted between March 21 and 24. 

Democratic super PAC expands ad on Trump’s coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA is expanding their ad buy attacking President Trump on his coronavirus response to Arizona, a source with knowledge of the activity told NBC News.

NBC News reported Thursday that the group had been inquiring about rates in Arizona, a state that tends to vote Republican but has become more competitive for 2020. Later Thursday, Priorities USA announced it would spend $600,000 to run the ad in Arizona.

The ad, titled “Exponential Threat,” splices remarks by the president downplaying the threat of the coronavirus alongside a chart that shows growing cases.

The Trump campaign had already issued letters to TV stations Wednesday arguing that the ad should be taken down because it contains “false, deceptive, and misleading information” about the president and threatened to take legal action if they didn’t immediately stop airing it. 

The ad was part of a $6 million TV and digital buy from Priorities USA in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is still running in all four states despite the Trump campaign’s efforts, the source with knowledge said on Thursday.

 

Bernie Sanders’ big delegate math problem

WASHINGTON — With Senator Bernie Sanders deciding to remain in the Democratic presidential race — possibly all the way through June — it’s time to crunch the delegate numbers once again.

And the exercise shows just how challenging the math is for the Independent Vermont senator.

Overall, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sanders by 312 pledged delegates, according to NBC News’ Decision Desk.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden during a Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 12, 2019.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

Biden has won 1,174 pledged delegates or 53 percent of all allocated pledged delegates, while Sanders has won 862 or 39 percent. 

To reach the magic number of 1,991 — a majority of all pledged delegates — Biden needs to win 46 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.

Sanders, by contrast, needs 64 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to obtain a majority.

There are two main reasons why Sanders’ deficit is so daunting.

The first is the Democrats’ proportional-allocation system. Unlike Republicans, who often award their delegates based on winner-take-all rules, Democrats award theirs proportionately — so if you win a state or congressional district 55 percent to 45 percent, you get 55 percent of the available pledged delegates while your opponent gets 45 percent.

So the only way to rack up huge delegate hauls is to win a state decisively — like Biden did last week in Florida, when his 62 percent-to-23 percent victory in the state netted him 100-plus more delegates than Sanders earned in the Sunshine State.

Bottom line: Narrow victories in future contests for Sanders won’t really cut into Biden’s lead.  

The second delegate challenge for Sanders is that there are fewer caucus contests than were four years ago.

In 2016, Sanders was often able to keep close with Hillary Clinton because he’d rack up decisive victories in caucus states like Colorado or Washington state. But this time around, those states — and a few others — are holding primaries instead of caucuses, which keeps Sanders’ margin and his resulting delegate hauls smaller than they were in 2016.

Sanders might trail Biden by just 312 delegates. But that deficit is really wider than those numbers suggest.

Former Obama labor secretary among those launching new pro-Biden super PAC

WASHINGTON — A group of Democrats, including former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, are launching a new super PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden that is aimed at helping him secure pivotal western battlegrounds in a general election bid against President Trump. 

NBC News has learned that the group, Win the West, will launch Thursday with Solis, a current member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who served with Biden in the White House, as the group’s first co-chair. Former Biden speechwriter Mathew Littman will serve as the executive director. 

While Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running in the Democratic primary race against Biden, the NBC News Decision Desk projects he trails Biden by more than 312 delegates, as the nominating contest has been upended by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Joe Biden delivers remarks at his primary night election event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images file

Win the West aims to protect two blue-trending states in Nevada and Colorado, while also taking the battle to two red-leaning states where Democrats have had recent success, Texas and Arizona. Its leadership argues that while other groups are focusing on more conventional swing states, it can be effective in those western states where Democrats believe demographics are shifting in their favor. 

“America is at a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Now, more than ever and especially during this time of crisis, it’s vital that we elect a true patriot, someone who values facts and the truth, and who has a profound understanding of how government works and how it can help everyday Americans who are hurting,” Solis said in a statement announcing the group’s creation.

“The only candidate who meets this criteria is former Vice President Joe Biden, and that is why I was proud to be an early endorser of his campaign for President. I know, because I’ve worked with Joe and I’ve seen him in action.”

Along with the announcement of the group’s launch, Win the West is out with its first video, a digital ad that primarily points to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to argue the president has not lived up to the moment. 

The digital spot highlights Trump’s late January comments to CNBC that his administration had the coronavirus outbreak “totally under control,” the administration’s decision not to replace top officials who handled pandemics after they had left their jobs, and uses a mash-up of Trump’s comments compared to recent headlines to argue that the president “has downplayed the coronavirus.” 

The Trump campaign and its allies have spent the past few weeks defending the administration’s response to the outbreak, arguing that Democrats are politicizing the moment and obfuscating about the president’s response. 

“While Joe Biden and his allies are spreading falsehoods about the administration’s response to coronavirus, President Trump, his administration and Congressional Republicans are stepping up and making sure Americans are safe,” Joe Ascioti, the Republican National Committee’s research director and deputy communications director, said in a Wednesday statement criticizing another pro-Biden super PAC’s ad hitting Trump on the virus response. 

Administration’s mixed messaging on Defense Production Act causes confusion

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed the Defense Production Act (DPA) a week ago today but there has been consistent confusion as to whether it is being utilized to produce medical equipment needed for the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bottom line: the DPA has not yet been used in this manner, despite calls from governors and mayors of the hardest-hit areas to fully activate the DPA. Medical professionals have been among the most outspoken on the desperate need for certain equipment and supplies. 

The Korean War-era DPA would allow the federal government to control the supply chain and compel companies to produce much-needed items. So far, according to the president, several private sector corporations like 3M, Ford, General Motors and Tesla are already doing this themselves without needing the DPA.

Boxes of N95 protective masks for use by medical field personnel are seen at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York on March 17, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters

Here’s a timeline of how the president and his administration have discussed the DPA in recent days: 

March 18, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We’ll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it.  In other words, I think you all know what it is, and it can do a lot of good things if we need it.  And we will — we will have it all completed, signing it in just a little while.  Right after I’m finished with this conference, I’ll be signing it.  It’s prepared to go.  So we will be invoking the Defense Production Act.”

Trump tweeted that same day: 

March 19, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We hope we are not going to need that…I’ve done it. Yeah, if we find that we need something, we will do that, and you don’t know what we’ve done. You don’t know whether or not we’ve ordered. You don’t know if we’ve invoked it. You don’t know what’s been ordered, what’s not been ordered…I also just invoked the Defense Production Act to help facilitate distribution of essential supplies if necessary.”

March 20, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “I did it yesterday…We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things…. We are using it.” 

March 21, 2020

President Trump to Kelly O’Donnell at briefing: “ If I don’t have to use — specifically, we have the act to use, in case we need it. But we have so many things being made right now by so many — they’ve just stepped up.” 

March 22, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on Meet the Press: “Yeah, so I think it’s an insurance policy. Right? It’s a lever. If we have to throw that lever we will… And so we haven’t had to use it yet. Will we have to use it? Maybe.  

March 22, 2020

White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro at briefing: “Now what I can tell you so far is that the Defense Production Act, sir, has given me quiet leverage. When you have a strong leader you can take a light hand initially. So what we’ve seen with this outpouring of volunteers from private enterprise, we’re getting what we need without, without putting the heavy hand of government.”

March 24, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on CNN: “Just a little while ago my team came in and we’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on. And the second thing we’re going to do it we’re going to insert some language into these mask contracts that we have for the 500 million masks. DPA language will be in that today.” 

March 24, 2020

FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow clarifies in statement to NBC News: “At the last minute we were able to procure the test kits from the private market without evoking the DPA.” 

March 24, 2020

President Trump tweet: “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.”

March 24, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “Private companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the DPA in order to get them to do what they have to do.  It’s called leverage.  You don’t have to use it from the standpoint of — actually, it’s been activated, but you don’t have to use it.  But the threat of it being there is great leverage.  And companies are doing as we ask, and companies are actually — even better than that, they’re coming through and they’re calling us.  And it’s been, really, something to see. This morning, Ford, 3M, and General Electric Healthcare are making tremendous numbers — they’ve already started — of respirators ventilators and face shields.  They’re working together.  We didn’t have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way.  The fact that we have it helps, but we didn’t have to.  And for the most part, we won’t have to.”

Biden says there have been ‘enough debates’ with Sanders

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be ready to debate former Vice President Joe Biden, but the frontrunner and current delegate-leader in the Democratic primary thinks it may be time to move on. 

In a virtual press conference with campaign reporters on Wednesday, Biden responded to Sanders’ latest signal that he’s staying in the race by wanting to participate in an April Democratic debate. A debate has not yet been scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Biden said after noting that his focus since stepping off the campaign trail two weeks ago has been devoted to the coronavirus crisis.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders during a debate in Washington on March 15, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

Biden and Sanders remain as the only two Democratic candidates still vying for the nomination as the campaign trail has come to a halt. While Sanders continues to mull staying in the race, his announcement to debate Biden and organizing investments in New York suggest he will remain a competitor at least through April’s primaries.

On Tuesday, Biden said on MSNBC that he intends to continue to campaign regardless of how long Sanders stays in the race. 

“As I said from the beginning, that’s not for me to decide,” Biden said. “I’ll continue to make the case why I think I could be president and should be president now and make the case for it. It’s in a sense putting all politics aside.”

Brenda Jones announces bid against Rashida Tlaib in 2018 rematch

WASHINGTON — Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib is poised for a rematch against Detroit City Council President and former Rep. Brenda Jones two years after voters briefly sent both women to Congress on the same ballot. 

Jones, who officially announced her bid for Congress on Wednesday, narrowly won the Democratic primary in the special election to replace the late Rep. John Conyers and serve out the rest of his term in 2018. But Tlaib edged her out in the party’s primary for the next full term, which began on 2019, by a similarly small margin. 

With both Democrats cruising through the general election in the deep-blue seat, that meant Jones served in Congress for a few weeks before turning the seat over to Tlaib to start 2019. 

Rashida Tlaib, left, and Brenda Jones speak during a rally in Detroit on Oct. 26, 2018.Paul Sancya / AP file

Jones officially filed paperwork declaring her bid with the Federal Election Commission on March 18, but announced her bid on Wednesday in a video. She said she recorded the video instead of holding a press conference because she wanted to set an example of following the new social distancing policies being championed to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In that video, she addressed the “period of uncertainty” as coronavirus has dramatically changed Americans’ way of life, let along upended the political campaign process

“You cannot live without hope. That’s why my candidacy is based on hope — hope for a better tomorrow, hope for our children, hope for our families, and hope for the hopeless,” Jones said. 

She went on to lay out a “three-pronged” plan for the district if elected: Bringing resources to the district, “uniting the district,”  and focusing on important issues.  

And she pointed to her city council experience as indicative of how she’d serve if elected again to Congress. 

In 2018, there were six total candidates on the Democratic primary ballot running for the full term in Congress, with four on the ballot to serve out Conyers’ partial term. As of Tuesday, Jones and Tlaib are the only two major Democratic candidates running, with a third candidate, Stephen Michael Patterson, having not reported spending or receiving any money so far this cycle. 

Tlaib has become a national name since she took office, partially because of her standing among progressives and work with a group of female freshman Democrats nicknamed “The Squad,” a group that  includes Tlaib as well as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar .

The group of lawmakers has been a top target for Republicans as, particularly President Trump

Recently, Tlaib has been appearing with Omar and Ocasio-Cortez during livestreamed roundtables with Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who they’ve endorsed to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, on coronavirus. 

“Rep. Tlaib looks forward to running a strong campaign and winning re-election regardless of who is on the ballot, but at this time she is 100% focused on responding to the coronavirus and getting our communities and residents the resources they need to protect human health and our local economy,” Denzel McCampbell, a Tlaib spokesperson, told NBC by email. 

“Rep. Tlaib is hard at work pushing groundbreaking policies to make direct payments to all Americans to weather this storm, leading legislation to save state and local governments from financial collapse, and preventing utility shutoffs, evictions, and foreclosures.”

Congressional candidates put elections on back burner

WASHINGTON — While coronavirus has shut most of America behind closed doors, congressional candidates are juggling the uncertainty of the situation with the electoral reality.

The guidelines from the White House aimed at curbing the spread of the virus makes it virtually impossible for candidates to fundraise and campaign in the way they normally would. 

“The character of our district and neighborhood is one of social interaction. We don’t have large living rooms, homes and yards to spread out,” Suraj Patel, a Democrat who is challenging Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney for her deep-blue, New York City seat, told NBC News. 

Patel told NBC that his entire campaign staff has shifted to remote and digital work, focusing on community service, holding virtual town hall meetings with those affected by the economic slowdown, and releasing policy proposals aimed at recovery. 

Meanwhile, he said his staff has used telephone canvassing software to check in with seniors, delivering supplies and handmade cards across the district. 

Maloney told NBC her campaign shifted quickly to remote work too, suspending its attempts to collect signatures to qualify for the ballot and pledging not to challenge any opponents’ signatures so that they could keep all staff safe. The primary for the seat is on June 23, and New York has not yet announced if any of their primaries will be moved because of coronavirus. 

With her team contacting constituents to keep them informed about the crisis, she said she’s remained “laser-focused on taking action to alleviate the suffering that people are experiencing during the crisis, passing bills that will help everyday Americans get through the challenges of the coming months, and holding the administration accountable.”

Another elected official balancing a run for Congress during the crisis is Republican New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis — she represents a coronavirus hotspot and is trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Max Rose in New York’s 11th district. 

But Malliotakis says her priority is no longer her congressional campaign. 

“The campaign’s on the back burner. I’m 100 percent focused on doing my job as an Assembly member, making sure that we do important things that need to be taken care of in Albany,” Malliotakis said. 

She also said this has been a time to work across party lines — she’s been in constant contact with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as Rose too. 

Empty voting booths during a primary election at Madero Middle School in Chicago on March 17, 2020.Joshua Lott / Reuters

“We may be adversaries often times when it comes to policy,” Malliotakis said of Democrats, but noted that in New York, “we are working together really closely.” 

And Rose is on the same page. 

“All I care about is addressing the incredibly serious public health crisis,” Rose told NBC. “Elections be damned, we’ve got lives on the line.” 

Rose added that when it comes to elections, there is “no balance” with campaigning until this pandemic subsides, and that politics has no place in current conversations. 

“Right now, nobody should be talking politics in any way, shape or form. Nobody. Now, the only thing that anybody should be concerned about is saving lives,” Rose said. 

On that front, challenger candidates like Malliotakis are hoping that focusing on their current jobs will end up as their biggest campaigning tool. 

“Quite frankly, if I don’t do a good job in the position that I’m elected right now, I wouldn’t deserve to be elected to Congress,” Malliotakis said. 

Malliotakis’ focus on her current position is similar to that of another state Assemblywoman, Christy Smith in California. Smith and Naval officer Mike Garcia are facing off in the CA-25 special election, currently slated for May 12. 

Smith told NBC in a statement that she is “focused on my work as this community’s public servant, ensuring state response to my local constituents and connecting people with essential information, services, and resources.” She added that she’ll “revisit campaign-related issues” after the crisis is at bay. 

While Garcia doesn’t hold public office, he told NBC he’s prioritizing getting accurate information out to his would-be constituents, primarily through his website, which includes a list of local and small business resources as well as official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“This coronavirus is a serious challenge. We are taking it seriously,” Garcia said “We have no choice. We have to do it with class, we have to do it with grace.” 

Sanders campaign ramps up virtual organizing ahead of potential New York primary

BURLINGTON, VT — Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has shifted to entirely virtual organizing while Americans socially distance due to the coronavirus outbreak but the campaign put out a release Tuesday touting New York state staffing and volunteer organizing. While some states have moved their primaries due to the outbreak, New York’s Democratic Primary is still set for April 28.

The Sanders campaign says they hosted a volunteer call with thousands of New York supporters this week, signing up more than 1,300 call and text shifts. The campaign is using their proprietary “BERN” app and old-fashioned phone banking, as well as organizing “Digital house parties,” while New Yorkers are holed up at home. 

While the Sanders campaign shifts resources to future states, the campaign continues to say nothing has changed since last week’s statement that the candidate is assessing the status of his campaign and having conversations with supporters on a path forward. 

Sanders has been focused this week on coronavirus, holding multiple campaign live-streams on the topic with experts and congressional colleagues, raising millions for charities involved in coronavirus aid, and releasing a $2 trillion plan of his own. 



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