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Klobuchar releases new ad ahead of New Hampshire primary

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KEENE, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is making her final pitch to New Hampshire voters the day before the first-in-the-nation primary with the release of a new closing ad airing on cable, digital and radio.

The ad, “Empathy,” includes excerpts of Klobuchar’s closing debate statement on the stage. The senator’s debate performance has widely been viewed as strong fueling additional interest in her candidacy and sparking significant fundraising totaling about $3 million. 

“There is a complete lack of empathy in this guy in the White House right now, and I will bring that to you,” Klobuchar says in the new ad. “If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you, and I will fight for you. If you have trouble deciding if you’re going to pay for your childcare or your long term care, I know you and I will fight for you. Please, New Hampshire, I would love your vote, and I would love the vote of America.”

It’s a message and sentiment Klobuchar often emulates on the campaign trail, especially in the final days while campaigning in the Granite State.

Recent polling has suggested Klobuchar is in or near third place in New Hampshire, a state where there are still many undecided voters and high independent and undeclared electorate counts. 

The Minnesota candidate has also received endorsements from the only statewide newspaper in New Hampshire, The Union Leader, and two other papers in the state, The Keene Sentinel,and Seacoast Media Group

Steyer to skip primary night in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Billionaire Tom Steyer will be skipping New Hampshire primary night to campaign in the more diverse early states of Nevada and South Carolina, his campaign confirms to NBC News.

In lieu of spending election day in the Granite State, he will kick off a bus tour in Reno, NV.

“Like he said on the debate stage, Democrats have to build a national, diverse coalition in order to defeat Donald Trump in November,” his spokesman Jake Lewis said in a statement. “So Tom stopped in Nevada the day after the Iowa caucuses and will be traveling to South Carolina today then on to Reno on the 11th for his bus tour across Nevada because these states are critically important to his strategy to build that broad coalition Democrats need to beat Donald Trump.”

His South Carolina trip had been previously announced but the campaign had not made his plans for Tuesday public until today.

Steyer spent the last five days in New Hampshire, but has only held 32 public events across seven trips to the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Sanders on his medical records: I ‘released as much’ as ‘any other candidate’

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had a heart attack last year, said Sunday that his campaign has released “as much” medical information as other candidates.

Sanders argued on “Meet the Press” that his rigorous campaign schedule stands out among his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls as proof of his good health, but that once you start releasing medical records, “it never ends.” 

“We have released as much documentation, I think, as any other candidate,” Sanders said. 

“You can start releasing medical records, it never ends. We have released a substantive part.” 

He added that his doctors have confirmed “that I am in good health. I am in good health.”

Sanders had previously told reporters last September that releasing medical records is “the right thing to do.” 

“The American people have the right to know whether the person they’re going to be voting for president is healthy, and we will certainly release our medical records before the primaries, certainly before the first votes are cast,” he said at the time.

The Vermont senator released three letters from doctors at the end of last year, which concluded he was “more than fit enough” to be president. The letters included some test results as well as more explanation of Sanders’ heart attack and his recovery.

Klobuchar campaign announces it’s raised $2 million after debate performance

DURHAM, N.H. — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is capitalizing on a strong performance in Friday night’s Democratic debate. According to the campaign on Saturday, Klobuchar has raised $2 million since the debate ended. The campaign said that this is the best fundraising haul for the team after any of the debates. 

“With proven grassroots support, Amy continues to outperform expectations and punch above her weight,” Klobuchar’s campaign manager Justin Buoen said in a statement. “Following her debate performance, we’ve raised $2 million and have seen an outpouring of donations from all 50 states which will allow us to compete in New Hampshire and beyond.”

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At an event in Durham, N.H. on Saturday, Klobuchar leaned into her debate performance telling rally-goers that it’s important to her to get to know the voters in each state. 

“I had an opportunity last night to address the people of New Hampshire. I think that I was the one that mentioned New Hampshire the most,” Klobuchar said. “Maybe that is because I realize there’s a primary coming up, and I also think it is part of being a good president and being a good elected official. That you represent the people that you see and you get to know the issues and what matters to them. That is what driven me so much in my work in public service.”

Klobuchar has received praise for her debate performances in the past, as well, but those performances haven’t always helped her in polls. In the latest poll out of the Granite State, Klobuchar registered at just 5 percent support. 

Biden hits Buttigieg on experience in new video

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign released an aggressive new video against former Pete Buttigieg on Saturday, contrasting his record on major national issues with the smaller-scale accomplishments of the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.

The video follows Biden’s remarks at the Democratic debate on Friday and on the campaign trail where he has said it’s a risk for the Democratic Party to nominate someone who’s only elected experience is mayor of a small city. On Saturday, he noted that South Bend’s population is smaller than Manchester — New Hampshire’s largest city.

The campaign’s new attack video says that while Biden helped pass the Affordable Care Act and the 2009 stimulus bill, Buttigieg “installed decorative lights under bridges giving citizens of South Bend colorfully illuminated rivers,” and “revitalized the sidewalks of downtown South Bend by laying out decorative brick.”

The video also more seriously targets Buttigieg for firing the city’s first African American police chief. 

Following the video’s online debut, Biden hit Buttigieg directly at a rallying event in Manchester. He told the crowd that for as much as Buttigieg touts how Democrats tend to pick new, underdog candidates as their nominee, he fails to mention that every nominee has won based on support from the African American community in which Buttigieg lacks support.

Buttigieg campaign spokesperson Chris Meagher responded to the ad, saying, “while Washington politics trivializes what goes on in communities like South Bend, South Bend residents who now have better jobs, rising income, and new life in their city don’t think their lives are a Washington politician’s punchline.“

“The vice president’s decision to run this ad speaks more to where he currently stands in this race than it does about Pete’s perspective as a mayor and veteran,” Meaher said.

New Hampshire officials anticipate high turnout, clean reporting for election

MANCHESTER, NH — New Hampshire’s chief election’s officer, Secretary of State Bill Gardner, says he is anticipating a record turnout on Tuesday’s primary, predicting there will be 420,000 ballots cast, including 292,000 cast specifically in the Democratic primary. 

“This would be the most votes cast in a presidential primary when an incumbent is running for re-election,” a statement from Gardner’s office said.  

Not only could this be the highest turnout election that Gardner has seen, it will also be the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary, and state officials are working to ensure that it goes off without a hitch. 

Secretary of State of New Hampshire Bill Gardner (center) addresses the audience during the second meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on September 12, 2017 in Goffstown, New Hampshire.Kayana Szymczak / for NBC News

Gardner, Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald were among state officials who tried to assuage concerns that Tuesday’s primary will have any of the chaos that consumed the Iowa caucuses. Sununu pointed to the integrity of the paper ballots during the press conference. 

“When our citizens cast their ballot, they know their vote will be counted correctly with integrity, and on time,” Sununu said.

N.H. officials are also putting into place several security mechanisms to assure the public of that integrity: there will be an Election Day hotline staffed with a team of attorneys ready to respond to issues, and every town will be visited by a polling place inspector from the Department of Justice, including midnight voting towns which is a new addition this year. 

“This is not a 100 year tradition as much as I think we see it as 100 year responsibility of getting it right,” Sununu said, applauding state officials for ensuring transparency and reliability in the process for years and even decades. “Not just the state, but the nation and even the eyes of the world do look upon New Hampshire and trust New Hampshire to lead the nation to get it right every single time.”

The primary’s results are expected to be known around 9:30 p.m. on election night, according to Gardner. At each location, moderators will read the ballot results out loud, the county’s clerk will write down the results and return envelopes to one of 36 counting locations statewide. At 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, officers will pick up the envelopes and deliver them directly to the Secretary of State’s office by 7 a.m.

Given inconsistencies in the Iowa caucuses surrounding an app that was used, officials assured that optical scanner devices used to count ballots are not connected to the internet, and instead rely on manually secured memory cards, an issue that Gardner says distinguishes New Hampshire from Iowa.

“We don’t have apps that deal with voting or tallying the votes,” Gardner said.

And as to why teams of attorneys may be needed, MacDonald said it is so issues can be resolved “collaboratively.” 

“To the extent that any issues do arise on election day — it has been our experience that they can be resolved cooperatively, collaboratively working with local election officials,” MacDonald said. 

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said he is fully confident that Tuesday’s primary will be done and counted cleanly. 

“We’ve had 100 years without an issue,” Buckley said. “We have 100 percent confidence our local election officials along with our state officials will make sure everything runs perfectly.”

Sanders hits Buttigieg for billionaire support ahead of New Hampshire primary

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. 



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Senators call on IRS to automatically send stimulus checks to seniors

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WASHINGTON — More than three dozen Democratic senators are pressuring the Trump administration to rescind or clarify new guidance that tells seniors to file a tax return to receive a stimulus payment.

Led by Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the senators wrote a letter Wednesday taking issue with IRS guidelines that say seniors who don’t submit returns “will need to file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment” under the coronavirus package.

The agency mentioned Social Security recipients in that category, which has caused confusion among some elderly Americans — an estimated 64 million Americans received Social Security benefits last year, and many aren’t required to file tax returns.

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“This filing requirement would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis,” the senators wrote in the letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, which was first reported by NBC News.

They called on the IRS to make the payments automatic without requiring seniors to file returns.

The signatories include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former candidates Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Hassan’s office argued that IRS guidance goes against the language of the law, which states that for non-tax-filing seniors, Treasury may use Social Security statements like forms SSA-1099 or RRB-1099 to determine eligibility and make payments.

It is unclear whether the IRS will fall back on those Social Security statements or whether failure to file at least a simple tax return will disqualify elderly Americans.

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A spokesperson for the IRS said Wednesday afternoon that the agency had nothing to add to its guidelines from Monday but to watch for updates.

The relief payments to help Americans through the COVID-19 emergency are available to individuals who earn less than $99,000 or married couples who make up to $198,000. They max out at $1,200 per person.

Chuck Marr, a tax policy expert at the progressive-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimated that more than 15 million Social Security beneficiaries “who currently don’t file tax returns and aren’t otherwise required to do so would have to file, if Treasury doesn’t use its authority to get those people payments automatically.”



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Coronavirus crisis: MP says Sunak MUST act to stop self-employed 'falling through cracks'

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THE coronavirus is hitting self-employed people hard, Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski has said, urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to amend the rules – and borrow more money if necessary – in order to stop many who are “falling through the cracks”.

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Biden leads Sanders in Wisconsin primary poll

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WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by over 30 points in Wisconsin, according to the latest Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday. Per this poll, Biden garnered 65 percent support among likely Democratic voters versus Sanders’ 32 percent support.

Wisconsin’s primary, which is still scheduled to take place on April 7 despite the coronavirus pandemic, is one of the only contests still taking place in April — and it could be a stunning defeat for Sanders. In 2016, Sanders won the Wisconsin primary by 14 points. On Wednesday, Sanders called for the Wisconsin primary to be postponed, have early voting extended and encouraged people to vote by mail. 

Despite lagging poll numbers, Sanders has said he will continue to assess his campaign and stay in the race. On Wednesday he said on MSNBC, “We’re taking a hard look at our campaign. We do have a narrow road, a path to victory. It’s going to be a tough fight.” 

Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at an event in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

Biden has since said that there isn’t a need for more Democratic debates, but that he will not call for Sanders to exit the race. 

The new poll also shows Biden just narrowly pushing ahead of President Trump in a general election match-up, where Sanders lags slightly behind Trump. Forty-eight percent of registered voters support Biden in a general election, with 45 percent supporting the president — however that falls within the poll’s 4.2-point margin of error. The poll’s February tracker showed the president and Biden tied in the state. 

Wisconsin could become a must-win state for both the president and the eventual Democratic nominee. President Trump was the first Republican nominee to win Wisconsin since former President Ronald Reagan in 1984. And much of Biden’s campaign has been focused on restoring the so-called “Blue Wall” in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. 

Laid off Bloomberg staffers docked taxes for campaign phones, computers

WASHINGTON — Laid off campaign staffers to Michael Bloomberg’s campaign who received their final paychecks on Tuesday were docked hundreds of dollars to cover taxes on their campaign-issued cellphone and laptop, three former Bloomberg campaign staffers told NBC News.

The deductions came as a lawsuit against the Bloomberg campaign, alleging that the campaign fraudulently promised jobs through November, has grown from one plaintiff to more than 50. The plaintiffs are seeking to get the case certified as a class action in seven states, a move that could raise the number of claimants to over a thousand.  

Former staffers told NBC News that their paychecks were docked more than $400. The Bloomberg campaign had touted how they had lured top talent to the campaign with new iPhone 11s and MacBooks, and offered to let staff keep them when they were let go. A campaign spokesperson said staffers were told during the off-boarding process that they’d pay taxes on those items, but several former staffers said they did not realize that it would be automatically deducted from their remaining paychecks.

Mike Bloomberg greets Jewish voters at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura, Fla. on Jan. 26, 2020.Andrew Uloza / AP file

Sally Abrahamson, an attorney for the former staffers suing the campaign, said her firm, Outten & Golden, is now investigating the campaign’s deduction of “purported taxes on cell phones and laptops.”

“It doesn’t sound right. How can workers be expected to pay taxes on something they didn’t want?” Abrahamson told NBC News. “The law certainly doesn’t allow an employer to pay wages with anything but money.”

Earlier this month, Bloomberg abandoned his initiative to form an independent super PAC to absorb his presidential campaign and instead transferred $18 million to the Democratic National Committee. He laid off his staff of more than 2,400 people in that process and those staff members were invited to enter a competitive hiring process for a job at the DNC. Laid off staff will lose their health insurance at the end of April amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The lawsuit, filed by a former field organizer, alleges that Bloomberg’s campaign promised potential hires they’d have jobs through November regardless of who won the nomination. Many of the 50 additional plaintiffs who joined the lawsuit in an amended complaint filed in federal court Monday said they left other lucrative jobs and relocated across the country based on the campaign’s assurances.

A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson, responding to both the docked paychecks and the expanded lawsuit, re-issued the campaign’s statement from earlier in March. 

“This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year,” the spokesperson said. “Staff worked 39 days on average, but they were also given several weeks of severance and healthcare  through March, something no other campaign did this year.”

Democratic groups significantly outspending GOP groups on airwaves since coronavirus crackdown

WASHINGTON — Democratic candidates and aligned groups are outspending their Republican counterparts in the two weeks since President Trump announced guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. 

There’s been $23.5 million spent on political advertising from March 16 (the day the administration announced its “15 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines) through Tuesday, with Democrats making up 69 percent of that ($16.2 million), Republicans making up 29 percent of that ($6.7 million), and independent groups filling in that last 2 percent. 

All of these figures are from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. 

Four of the top five biggest spenders over this period were Democrats:

  • Senate Majority PAC, the group aligned with Senate Democrats, has spent $3 million
  • Priorities USA Action, which is backing former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid, has spent $2.8 million
  • One Nation, the non-profit aligned with Republican efforts particularly in the Senate, has spent $1.7 million
  • American Bridge 21st Century, the Democratic-aligned group that plays up and down the ballot, has spent $1.3 million
  • And Unite the Country, the pro-Biden super PAC, has spent $741,000

The ad backed by the most spending in that window was from Priorities USA, which is running an ad that’s criticizing Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s spent $1.2 million to run that spot so far. 

The ad with the second-most money behind it is from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, attacking Biden on Social Security and Medicare. Although both Biden and Sanders have wound down their ad spending to a virtual halt recently, Sanders spent $620,000 to run the ad over the time period. Virtually all of that came in the days surrounding the March 17 primaries, the ad has barely run since. 

The Republican-aligned ad with the most spending behind it in recent weeks has been from One Nation, a spot that plays up Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst’s work on prescription drugs. That spot has had $333,000 behind it since March 16. 

During this time period, the top markets were the Portland-Aurburn market in Maine, Phoenix, and two markets in Florida covering Orlando and Tampa.

Maine is home to GOP Sen. Susan Collins’ re-election race; Arizona held its presidential primary on March 17 and has a competitive Senate race; and Florida also held its presidential primary on March 17.

Physician embraces his expertise while campaigning in the coronavirus era

WASHINGTON — As candidates across the country adjust to campaigning in the age of coronavirus, Dr. Cameron Webb sees an opportunity and is embracing his experiences as a physician and public health expert on the trail. 

“It’s necessary to have the range of professional backgrounds represented in our legislature,” Webb told NBC News in a recent phone interview. “I think the expertise that I have is really useful in a moment like this.” 

Dr. Cameron Webb.Dr. Cameron Webb for Congress

Webb hopes to be the first Democrat to fill Virginia’s fifth congressional seat since 2008, a GOP-held district the size of New Jersey that includes Charlottesville and much of central Virginia. A practicing physician and a public health sciences director at the University of Virginia’s medical school, he has made expanding affordable health care a major focus of his career and campaign. 

“My job is to walk into rooms and ask people where it hurts,” Webb explained. “When you have a district that’s this diverse, that’s this broad, you have to be a really skilled listener in order to meet everybody’s needs.” 

So far, the candidate thinks this strategy of listening to voters like he does with patients has been effective, and that his background allows him and his campaign to “model the leadership” required during the coronavirus crisis. 

Webb, who serves on Virginia’s Medicaid board, remarked that he’s grateful for his state’s 2019 Medicaid expansion as the pandemic takes a toll on patients and businesses.

The candidate previously worked under both Presidents Obama and Trump as a White House Fellow serving on the health care team and a drug pricing task force. When speaking to NBC News, he compared Obama’s track record on public health to Trump’s, commenting that there are “very clear differences” in how this pandemic would play out under the former president.

Although Webb stressed that he won’t use the novel coronavirus as political leverage, he argued that the crisis reveals “other fault lines” in society and called out the American health care system for failing people. 

“We’re seeing the lack of access to health care through the lens of this virus,” he said. 

Republican candidate for Virginia governor, Denver Riggleman, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, Jan. 31, 2017.Steve Helber / AP

The fifth district is widely-considered a likely Republican seat and includes counties that pivoted from pro-Obama to pro-Trump but Webb doesn’t view the race as an “uphill battle.” The physician must beat out four other candidates in the Democratic primary before facing expected GOP competitor, Rep. Denver Riggleman, who won the district by almost seven percentage points in 2018. 

The Riggleman campaign did not respond to a request for comment but the congressman’s Virginia distillery, Silverback, recently began producing hand sanitizer, which it’s offering for free to first responders and health care workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the UVA Center for Politics, told NBC News last week that Republicans are favored to win the district but that it’s competitive enough to elect a Democrat “under the right circumstances.” He noted that Webb may “fit the moment.”

The Democratic primary is currently scheduled for June 9 and the district is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of seats it aims to flip from red to blue.

Sanders: ‘There is a path’ to the nomination

READINGTON, N.J. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been coy as of late about the future of his presidential campaign, told “Late Night” host Seth Myers on Monday he believes “there is a path” for him to win the Democratic nomination.

Sanders currently trails former Vice President Joe Biden by 312 delegates according to NBC News’ delegate tracker, and most of the Democratic primary races that occur in April have been pushed to later this Spring or Summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. But on Monday, Sanders touted his grassroots support which helped him earned first place finishes in a number of the early voting states, including delegate-rich California. 

“There is a path. It is admittedly a narrow path,” Sanders said. 

He added, “We have a strong grassroots movement who believe that we have got to stay in, in order to continue the fight to make the world know that we need Medicare for All, that we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, that we need paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said. 

But Sanders did repeat his promise that he would support Biden if he himself is not the nominee.

“We’re seeing just how dangerous [President Trump] is with all of the misinformation that he is providing during this Coronavirus pandemic,” Sanders said, “So, yes, we have got to defeat Trump.”

Earlier this month when asked about the future of his campaign, Sanders said he was “focused” on coronavirus legislation, and heatedly told reporters that that he was not interested in answering campaign questions.

“I’m dealing with a f****** global crisis. You know? We’re dealing with it and you’re asking me these questions,” Sanders told reporters earlier this month. 

After suffering a series of losses in primary states in March, Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir told reporters the senator was “going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign” from Burlington, Vt. which is where Sanders has been when he was not voting in the Senate. 

Republican, Democratic super PACs place initial ad buys in fight for Senate

WASHINGTON — Key Republican and Democratic super PACs have announced big spending plans in the fight for the Senate majority. 

Both the Senate Majority PAC and the Senate Leadership Fund, groups aligned with top Democratic and Republican leaders respectively, have announced their first round of television advertising investments in recent days. The groups are focusing on five of the same states — Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina — with Senate Leadership Fund spending in Kentucky as well. 

SLF is booking $67.1 million, the group announced in a press release last week. And SMP is booking $69.2 million, it said in a press release Monday. 

Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Jan. 15, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

North Carolina is the beneficiary of the most early ad booking, with the Democratic SMP announcing plans to reserve $25.6 million there and the Republican SLF planning to book $21.8 million. There, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis will take on Democratic former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.

An NBC News/Marist University poll taken in late February of that race showed Cunningham up 5 points on Tillis among registered voters, 48 percent to 43 percent, within the margin of error. That poll took place just before the state’s primary. 

The race receiving the next-most early booking dollars is Iowa, where Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is defending her seat against whichever Democrat wins the primary currently scheduled for June 2.

Ernst’s favorability rating fell to 47 percent among Iowa adults in the March Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, but 41 percent of likely voters said they’d definitely vote to re-elect Ernst compared to 31 percent who said they’d definitely vote for someone else. 

Close behind in that early-spending figure is Arizona, where SMP is booking $15.7 million and SLF is booking $9.2 million through an affiliate group called Defend Arizona. There, Republican Sen. Martha McSally is looking to win the rest of the term vacated by the death of the late Republican Sen. John McCain.

While McSally lost the state’s 2018 Senate race, she was appointed to fill McCain’s seat after his death. A recent Monmouth University poll had Kelly up 6 points over McSally among registered voters, within the margin of error. 

Then there’s Maine, which has already been home to a significant bevy of television ad spending by other outside groups. SMP is booking $9.6 million there while SLF is booking $7.2 million ahead as Republican Sen. Susan Collins seeks to defend her seat. The top Democrat in that race is state House Speaker Sarah Gideon, but Betsy Sweet, the former director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, is also running. 

The groups are also going toe-to-toe in Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is expected to take on former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. The Democratic SMP plans to book $5.2 million there, with the Republican SLF booking $5.5 million. 

And SLF is also putting $10.8 million in early television spending into Kentucky through another affiliated group, Keep Kentucky Great. There, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection and will likely face off against Marine veteran Amy McGrath. 

These totals don’t include what’s expected to be a large digital presence by both groups, and the investments are likely to change as it gets closer to election day, with groups moving money around or injecting more money into competitive races. 

NYC Democratic House candidate announces positive COVID-19 test

WASHINGTON — New York City Democratic House candidate Suraj Patel has tested positive for COVID-19, he confirmed in a new statement Monday. 

Patel, one of the candidates featured in a recent MTP Blog story about how the new social distancing guidelines and the threat of coronavirus has fundamentally upended House campaigns, disclosed his positive test in a new statement posted on social media and on the blogging platform Medium

Suraj PatelSuraj Patel for Congress

He said he began developing symptoms earlier this month — which he described as “troubling tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing followed by a regular fever of 102 degrees. Patel lives with two doctors, one of whom is his brother, which he said underscored the need for him to test to see if had COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, so that his roommates would know whether they were at risk. 

Patel said that ultimately, he and his two housemates all tested positive. But he’s now “fully recovered” and “asymptomatic.”

“New Yorkers and Americans at large are stepping up in a tremendous unified way. We know how important it is to our most vulnerable populations that we slow the growth of this COVID epidemic. But as this becomes less abstract and more personal — when people’s loved ones start to show symptoms — human nature is such that we are going to want certainty and safety,” Patel wrote, before calling for universal COVID testing. 

“The only proven way to slow and eventually stop this pandemic is to have an accurate picture of who has had the disease, who currently has it, and who is still at risk. Social distancing and the strong leadership of Governor Cuomo and others is buying us vital time, but the question is what is our federal government doing with the time that the sacrifices of so many Americans are buying them?” he wrote. 

“If we fail to universally test, we face an indefinite amount of time in social distancing, only to see new cases of the virus arise when we ultimately return to normal life.”

Patel is running in the Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney. 

Texas Republicans back Lt. Governor on controversial coronavirus comments

HOUSTON — Republican leaders in Texas are defending Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s controversial comments on coronavirus as illustrative of his love of country, even as others see those comments as reckless amid a national crisis. 

Patrick, a Republican and popular former conservative radio host, drew headlines last week when he said he supported President Trump’s call to restart the U.S. economy as quickly as possible despite the ongoing spread of the virus.

The virus has proven most deadly to older people and those with underlying conditions, which means many of those being treated or hospitalized are elderly. Texas has almost 3,000 cases of Covid-19, the illness produced by the coronavirus, according to NBC News. Some 47 people have died.

Emphasizing the need to “get back to work,” Patrick told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”

Patrick, who turns 70 this week, added, “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.Sergio Flores / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Patrick’s comments sparked backlash online, spurring hashtags including, #NotDyingforWallStreet and #TexasDeservesBetter. But in Texas, prominent Republicans said Patrick has a point.

“He’s really telling a story which is, you know, he wants to make sure there’s an American economy for people to come home to,” Houston area state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, 61, told NBC News. “That’s a big worry. The virus is a big worry, but then the next worry is, ‘do I have a job.’”

McKinney-area state Sen. Angela Paxton, 57, told NBC News: “We want to protect people and keep them healthy. Everyone is going to agree on that. How do we do it, that’s where there’s differences.”

She added, “But I think on the other hand, there’s no one that is going to say, it doesn’t matter if we destroy our economy.”

The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, a 70-year old grandmother of six, said that while the economy is a concern so is respect for the value of life. 

“My children and my grandchildren are certainly not ready for their Tootsie to go anywhere or to put myself at risk,” Price said.

“I don’t know what talent he would sacrifice? Is it young talent? Is it the experience in seniors? Or where is it?“ Price said. “I just can’t quite get a handle around that.”

Other Texas GOP leaders suggested Patrick had been talking about a sacrifice he would be willing to make — not asking the rest of the country to do so.

“He was talking about himself,” Denton-area state Sen. Pat Fallon, 52, said. “He perfectly has every right to say, ‘I love this country so much that I would sacrifice, if I had to, my own well-being, to ensure the prosperity and opportunity that I had that my kids and grandkids could have.’ And I think it’s very noble.”

Not everyone is convinced, particularly Republicans who have been critical of Trump’s pull on their party. 

“He’s a public official, he knows what he says has policy implications and it’s absurd to think that he just meant himself,” said Rick Tyler, a former aide to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and MSNBC political analyst who has frequently criticized President Trump. 

John Weaver, a Texan and longtime Republican political strategist who has since founded a group that’s aimed at defeating Trump in November, argues Patrick wouldn’t actually be among the most vulnerable if restrictions were lifted. Texans who live along the US-Mexico border or lack access to adequate care, Weaver said, would be the ones who suffer.

“He’s talking about those people in the valley, who don’t have health insurance because they blocked the expansion of healthcare in this state. He’s talking about people in parts of Houston where, because of density and lack of healthcare, they’re more at risk.” Weaver said. “He’s not talking about himself.”

“There’s no real public policy out there where people are going to say, ‘Fine, we’ll get the economy moving again at the expense of 2 percent of the population,’” Weaver added.

In a statement released the day after the Fox News interview, Patrick seemed to reframe his message away from senior citizens potentially sacrificing their lives.

“When you close the doors of every business in America, you cannot help but destroy the economy and with it, the opportunity for the next generation to live the American dream,” the statement said.

Here’s what the Democratic presidential primary schedule looks like in the age of coronavirus

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. 

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