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Sanders hits Buttigieg for billionaire support ahead of New Hampshire primary

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., went after Pete Buttigieg Friday for the former South Bend mayor’s support from big-money donors at the final New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “Politics & Eggs” event of the cycle.

Sanders singled out Buttigieg and billionaire candidates Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg in the same breath while speaking to the crowd at Saint Anselm College, reading a series of newspaper headlines like Forbes’ “Pete Buttigieg has most exclusive billionaire donors than any Democrat” and The Hill’s “Pete Buttigieg tops billionaire donor list,” among others.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the Democratic presidential primary debate on Jan. 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

“I like Pete Buttigieg, nice guy,” Sanders said to awkward laughs in the room. “But we are in a moment where billionaires control not only our economy but our political life.”

Sanders also mused about a general election against President Trump, saying that he has read that “some of his advisors tell him that I will be the toughest candidate for him to run against.”

The senator faced the reality that turnout in Iowa — where he and Buttigieg remain essentially tied amid questions about the accuracy of the vote count — was not what his campaign had hoped for but pointed out some positives. 

“The Iowa caucus is behind us and while the voter turnout is not as high as I would have liked, you know what did happen? We saw a 30 percent increase in young people under 29 voting,” Sanders said. “If we’re gonna defeat Trump, we need a huge increase in young people’s participation in the political process.”

He added that his campaign needs to reach out to “some of Trump’s working class supporters and make it clear that they understand the fraud that he is.”

Sanders was asked about criticism that his candidacy is similar to that of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing candidate who lost badly in last month’s elections there, and whether he was concerned that could foreshadow what happens in the United States in 2020. 

Sanders responded that while Trump will be a difficult opponent to run against, he believes that having the largest voter turnout in history will be key for Democrats.

“I think we are the candidate,” Sanders added. “We are a multi-generational, multi-racial campaign that has the capability of reaching out to communities all across this country, bringing them into the political process to defeat Trump.”

The New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “Politics & Eggs” is sponsored by companies such as Comcast, Bank of America and Eversource Energy — in other words, the entities Sanders consistently attacks.

The room’s walls were plastered with the groups’ signage and many audience members present work for the companies. This was not a typical crowd for a Sanders event. Instead of the usual chants of “Bernie, Bernie!,” Sanders was met with polite applause. 

Sanders and Buttigieg will both attend ABC News’ presidential debate tonight. 

-Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.

Democratic group says congressional fundraising dominance isn’t trickling down-ballot

WASHINGTON — Forward Majority, a Democratic super PAC focused on helping the party win control of state legislatures, is warning that Democrats’ congressional fundraising dominance isn’t trickling down to key state legislative races.

In a memo outlining a recent analysis of 2019 fourth quarter fundraising numbers circulated by the group last week, Forward Majority notes that “Democrats are being significantly out-raised by Republicans in the most competitive” state legislative campaigns.

Beto O’Rourke campaigns with Texas State Representative candidate Dr. Eliz Markowitz in Katy on Jan. 11, 2020.Annie Mulligan / for NBC News

Although congressional Democrats “have been clobbering their Republican opponents,” candidates further down the ballot are struggling. 

Data from other groups support these claims. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which aims to reclaim the chamber majority, brought in $60 million in 2019 and reported record-breaking numbers surpassing the GOP in the fourth quarter of 2019.

On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $125 million in 2019 — $40 million more than its GOP rival organization. About three quarters of that cash came from moderate Democrats’ campaigns in Trump districts.

That’s not the case in state legislative races even in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, which are in the national spotlight as 2020 congressional and presidential candidates focus on the states. 

In Florida, Republicans outpaced Democrats in the fourth quarter by a whopping six-to-one margin in areas Democrats hope to pick up. In 2019, Republicans raised over $3.5 million across Florida House targets while Democrats gained only half a million. 

The GOP more than doubled Democrats’ earnings in key State House races in Texas, raking in over $2 million last year. 

In Arizona, where both the State House and State Senate are up for grabs, Democrats only raised 38 percent of the GOP’s haul in target races — about $650 thousand compared to $1.7 million in 2019. 

Forward Majority says that the discrepancy between Democratic fundraising at the national level versus the state level has led to different election outcomes, pointing to 2018 results as proof. 

The PAC launched a $10 million initiative, “Roadmap 2020,” in January to transfer power from Republicans to Democrats in the three competitive sunbelt states plus North Carolina.

2020 pick-ups are particularly important for state Democrats because the congressional redistricting process, a responsibility of state legislatures, begins in 2021 following the release of this year’s census.

Forward Majority’s communications director, Ben Wexler-Waite told NBC News Wednesday that the PAC will spend “where we believe establishing legislative majorities will upend Republicans’ ability to rig the national electoral playing field.” 

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments on a partisan gerrymandering case on Oct. 3, 2017.Olivier Douliery / Getty Images file

States like Texas and Florida, Wexler-Waite said, matter for redistricting because they’re gerrymandered and set to gain new congressional seats after the census. The next redistricting process begins in about a decade. 

“At this critical moment in history, it’s never been more important for Democrats to fight back,” the spokesman noted. 

Pieter Brower, a regional press secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) — the official organization dedicated to electing Democrats to state legislatures — told NBC News Thursday that it’s not surprising that Republicans are ahead in fundraising though his group is making strides for Democrats. 

“It’s no secret that Republicans have deep-pocketed donors at their disposal,” Brower said. “Looking at a tough district and deciding that there’s no way we can win becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“We’re going on complete offense this year,” he added. 

Former presidential candidate Joe Sestak endorses Klobuchar

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Pennsylvania Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate, Admiral Joe Sestak, is endorsing Senator Amy Klobuchar for president, her presidential campaign tells NBC News.

“We need a nominee with a depth and breadth of experience to govern effectively, a proven track record of winning in red and blue districts and states so we can unite this country again, and an understanding of the need to rebuild our global leadership so we can convene the world to tackle the defining challenges of our time,” Sestak said in a statement.

Amy Klobuchar greets people after speaking at a World Affairs Council event in Manchester, N.H. on Feb. 6, 2020.Rick Wilking / Reuters

“Having seen her on the campaign trail and observed her work in the Senate, it’s why I know Amy Klobuchar is uniquely qualified to be President. I’m proud to endorse her,” he added.

Sestak will campaign for Klobuchar in New Hampshire throughout the weekend ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary, hosting events at veteran’s organizations throughout the state alongside fellow Klobuchar endorsers, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Jim Smith and retired Brigadier General Kevin Ryan.

Klobuchar often leans into her ability to unite voters of varying political ideologies on the campaign trail.

“I bring the receipts to this primary, and that is that I have been able to win big in the rural of rural areas in the reddest of red congressional districts, never losing once in every congressional district in my state,” Klobuchar said Thursday in Manchester.

“I think if we are going to have the kind of coalition that we need to bring patriotism and decency, back in the White House, we have to bring people with us,” she said.

The endorsement from Sestak comes as Klobuchar holds a steady fifth place in recent polling, on top of earning the endorsements of all three New Hampshire newspapers that have endorsed so far.

Andrew Yang campaign sheds staff after Iowa results

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Businessman Andrew Yang’s campaign confirmed on Thursday that they have fired dozens of staffers across Iowa as well as some national staff, including its policy and political directors.

“As part of our original plans following the Iowa caucuses, we are winding down our Iowa operations and restructuring to compete as the New Hampshire primary approaches,” Yang’s campaign manager Zach Graumann said in a statement. “These actions are a natural evolution of the campaign post-Iowa, same as other campaigns have undertaken, and Andrew Yang is going to keep fighting for the voices of the more than 400,000 supporters who have donated to the campaign and placed a stake in the future of our country.”

The firings were first reported by POLITICO. 

Several laid-off staffers told NBC News that the layoffs occurred en-masse and unexpectedly. Emails announcing the changes were sent to staff members shortly before midnight on Wednesday, two days after Yang appeared to place sixth in the Iowa caucuses after receiving just 1 percent of the state delegate equivalents — a disappointing finish for the candidate who had been touting for days a possible surge.

In the email sent to fired staff obtained by NBC News, the Yang campaign wrote that they have experienced “unprecedented success” and credited much of the success to the soon-to-be-fired staffers. 

“However, the campaign has had to make tough decision [sic] to remain viable in the race for the presidency,” the email said. “We have explored many options, including the restructuring of the campaign and various use case scenarios.”

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks at the Ideal Social Hall on Jan. 30, 2020 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The announcement continued, “After reviewing our options, we have concluded that we must eliminate several positions within the campaign. It is with deepest regret that I inform you that your position is one that will be eliminated effective Feb. 5. This decision is final and will not be modified.”

The Yang campaign confirmed in a statement that there was a dispute with unionized workers in Iowa and that its legal team “was not provided sufficient time” to review a memorandum of understanding provided by some unionized staffers the weekend before the Iowa caucuses.

“Despite our repeated attempts to negotiate with these select individuals, we were rebuffed with no reason given,” the statement read. “After months of hard work on the ground organizing volunteers, knocking on doors, and making phone calls, our organizers deserve better. They should not be exploited for personal gain and attention by a select group of individuals with suspect motivations within their ranks.”

Several former staffers turned to social media to announce their surprise that their campaign emails were locked and their gas cards turned off. 

“I just got a notification that my gas card was shut off and my campaign email was disabled,” one former Iowa field organizer wrote on Twitter. “Is this how we tell folks they’re fired in the campaign?” 

The former staffer later followed up with another tweet: “No worries guys, got it all straightened out — this IS how they tell you.” 

However, the staffer told NBC News that she was not harboring a grudge against the campaign and said “I believe in Andrew wholeheartedly, and I know he cares about and respects me, just miscommunication that hurt my feelings, but I know it’s not intentional” and says she plans to volunteer in New Hampshire for the Yang campaign. 

A former headquarter staffer told NBC News, “Overall it came as sort of a surprise, that it was just in an email and then other stuff got deactivated.”

This staffer didn’t know how many staff members were fired but said that others from ballot access, email response, youth organizing teams and volunteer organizing staff received the same email. 

“It’s definitely understandable as our organization continues to have to reallocate resources to N.H. at this time. Despite the layoff of my colleagues, we still do wholeheartedly support the Yang campaign,” the staffer said, confirming the campaign’s statement that this restructuring was considered “before the Iowa results.”  

Another headquarters staffer said, “I’ve loved working with this team and it’s been an awesome experience to work with them” but this may have come down to money concerns. 

Joe Walsh ends long shot presidential campaign

WASHINGTON — Former Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, one of President Donald Trump’s long shot primary challengers, announced Friday he’s suspending his campaign due to “cult-like” support for the incumbent in the party.

Walsh came in at only 1 percent in the Iowa caucuses, despite spending considerable time in the state in recent months. Walsh told CNN that “any Democrat” would be better than Trump and vowed to help support the eventual nominee, but declined to say which candidate in the opposing party would receive his backing.

With Walsh’s exit, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is the president’s lone challenger in the race ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Walsh and Weld both filed to be on the ballot last November. 

Michael Bloomberg releases plan for military families

DES MOINES, Iowa – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a policy plan for military families on Friday. The plan focuses on the economic and health concerns of military families and specifically addresses increasing access to mental health services through public-private partnerships and to fully fund the Housing and Urban Development-Veteran Affairs’ supportive housing program. 

The six main highlights of the plan include: 

  • Increased access to mental health services, and provide annual mental health exams for active duty service members
  • Eliminate co-pays for preventative health care services and expand telehealth services to veterans in rural areas
  • Provide resources to cover in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for service-women and female veterans, and expand availability for childcare for military families at on-base childcare centers 
  • Require people across the Department of Defense and in Veterans Affairs to be trained to handle reported sexual assaults
  • Reverse the ban on transgender Americans, and grant honorable discharge to those forced out of the service due to this plan
  • Fully fund HUD-VA’s supportive housing program

Bloomberg’s campaign highlighted some of Bloomberg’s work with veterans while he was mayor, like launching the Veterans Employment Initiative and mandating that every city agency appointed a liaison to coordinate with the mayoral office veterans affairs. 

Buttigieg gets endorsement from swing-district N.J. Rep. Kim

NASHUA, N.H. — Fresh off a strong performance in Iowa, Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is getting the endorsement of Freshman New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim, a former national security officer in the Obama and Bush administrations.

“I represent a district that Trump won by six points,” Kim told NBC News. “The approach that he’s taking is one that will excite people in places like my district and other parts of this country that are frankly frustrated with how things have been operating and really looking for somebody that’s going to do things differently.”

“I used to work at the White House,” Kim told NBC News. “I spent a lot of time in the Situation Room, a lot of time in the oval office on tough issues.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg greets supporters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire the morning after the flawed Iowa caucus on Feb. 4, 2020 in Manchester, N.H.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Kim says he has seen first-hand the challenges a President Buttigieg might face, but that the candidate has been “tested in hard times,” and has a strong moral compass that would serve him well in the White House. 

Like Buttigieg, Kim knows what it’s like to run as the underdog candidate. In 2018, Kim defeated GOP incumbent Tom MacArthur and acknowledges that Buttigieg still faces a long road to the nomination.

“The challenge is really one of being able to tell your own story,” Kim said. “I’ve experienced it just in my own congressional district, and to be able to have to do that, across this entire country is just such an enormous task.”

However, with a wave of momentum coming out of Iowa, Kim says Buttigieg has the organization required to go the distance.

“I definitely think he has the capacity, and the organization, and the team that can put him in those types of positions to really get in front of people.“

Buttigieg and Kim have known each other for more than 15 years, the two first met before heading off to Oxford together as Rhodes Scholars. Buttigieg was even there when Kim met his future wife during graduate school orientation and both men attended one another’s weddings. 

“He is a really honorable person and he’s somebody that’s just been extraordinary to watch over the years and developing in his leadership,” Kim said of the former mayor.

Kim first endorsed Senator Cory Booker for president before the New Jersey lawmaker suspended his campaign.

He is the seventh member of Congress to endorse Buttigieg.

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

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.



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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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