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Buttigieg is relying on grassroots movement in California

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Buttigieg is relying on grassroots movement in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With just 18 days until the California primary on Super Tuesday, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is heavily relying on momentum and a “badass grassroots organizing program,” as one aide called it, to build support in the state.

But Buttigieg has yet to spend any dollars on TV ads in the state, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have blanketed the airwaves, despite having raised more than $80 million over the last year. Instead, the campaign contends it has fortified a volunteer network throughout each of the state’s congressional districts and is now actively moving more organizing staff into the state to help mobilize those volunteer operations.

He does not have a single endorsement from any one of California’s 45 Democratic members of Congress. Sen. Dianne Feinstein backed former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris has yet to weigh in since her own exit from the presidential race. The state’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis announced her endorsement of Buttigieg on Thursday ahead of his Sacramento town hall on Friday. 

Pete Buttigieg speaks at a Get Out the Vote rally at Elm Street Middle School on Feb. 9, 2020 in Nashua, N.H.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Prior to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, campaign officials dismissed the need to have invested in a robust staff in California or other Super Tuesday states, suggesting, instead, that they would utilize campaign resources on ad buys and rely on the momentum that they’d garner from strong showings in the early states. 

Last September, the Buttigieg campaign secured 2016 Democratic nominee Sec. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 California state director to play the same role for its own Golden State effort. Because California awards its delegates on a proportional basis, the strategic targeting of the millions of Californians will be key, but more difficult, with the vastness of the state — more than 10 media markets and 53 congressional districts.

On Super Tuesday, the state will proportionally award its 416 delegates, with 273 of its delegates determined by results in each congressional district — dividing delegates proportionally among each candidate based on the outcome in that district. The other 144 delegates will be apportioned proportionally based on candidates’ statewide performance. 

California will then send 54 additional delegates — also known as automatic delegates — to the convention. These delegates, mostly party leaders and elected officials, are not required to vote for any one particular candidate, and they will only be able to vote at the convention should the nominating process head to a contested convention and a second ballot vote is required.

In California, voters can register and change party affiliation on Election Day at their polling place, which prompts a potential increase in more moderate and conservative voters to take part in the Democratic primary process. There are more than 9 million registered Democrats in California, and an additional 5.2 million Independent voters. While Buttigieg focused heavily on rural counties in Iowa, he will also likely need to rely on burgeoning support from the more affluent, college-educated voters of California, including from parts of Orange County and San Diego. 

But the Buttigieg campaign hopes that their good showings in Iowa and N.H. will impact the early vote in California — California counties began mailing voters their mail-in ballots on the day of the Iowa contest.

California will also, however, require that he expand his support among voters of color. 

The Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan public policy research center in the state, reported last year that its survey of the state’s electorate showed that about half of likely Democratic voters are white, while Latinos form 24 percent of the party’s electorate, Asian-Americans account for 12 percent and African-American voters make up 10 percent. Buttigieg has suffered to build support outside of his mostly white coalition.

Buttigieg has made few stops in California open to the public — instead heavily fundraising in the state. He has raised more than 20 percent of his money from donors in California, per The Center for Responsive Politics

And it doesn’t seem Buttigieg is changing that plan. With limited time left ahead of March 3, Buttigieg will make two more California private fundraising stops on Friday in the greater Bay Area.

Bloomberg catches up to Warren in congressional endorsements

WASHINGTON — Less than three months since he declared his 2020 candidacy, Michael Bloomberg is tied in major endorsements with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who officially joined the presidential race over a year ago. 

In an NBC News tally of endorsements from members of Congress and governors, both Bloomberg and Warren have a total of 14 endorsements. The two are tied for second place behind Joe Biden with 47 and ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with just eight.

Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 13, 2020.Jonathan Drake / Reuters

Bloomberg, who has yet to participate in a Democratic debate or be on the ballot in Iowa or New Hampshire, has seen a recent surge in endorsements allowing him to tie with the Massachusetts senator.

Warren had a weaker than anticipated performance in the two early states, placing third in the Iowa Caucus and failing to earn any delegates in New Hampshire. 

Since the first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday, Bloomberg has racked up four endorsements, totaling eight this month. Notably, two Congressional Black Caucus members — Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath of Georgia and Gregory Meeks of New York — voiced their support for Bloomberg this week. 

Warren on the other hand, hasn’t received an endorsement from a member of Congress since Rep. Joaquin Castro, TX-20, formally backed her on January 14. Before that, the last time Warren was endorsed was July, 2019. 

Warren’s endorsements stem from her home state and some of the most progressive members of Congress. While she has no gubernatorial endorsements, her fellow Massachusetts Senate Democrat, Ed Markey, supports her candidacy.

Bloomberg has yet to receive the formal backing of any senator but is endorsed by Rhode Island’s Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo. He has also garnered the support of moderate Democratic House members serving in former Trump districts like Rep. Max Rose in New York and Rep. Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey.

Tom Steyer’s wife moves to South Carolina ahead of primary

WASHINGTON — The wife of presidential candidate and entrepreneur, Tom Steyer, moved to South Carolina this weekend to campaign for her husband ahead of the upcoming primary in the state on February 29. 

Kat Taylor resigned from her position as the CEO of a California-based bank and relocated to South Carolina where she’s renting a house for the remainder of Steyer’s 2020 campaign. Taylor will also hit the trail in Super Tuesday states.

Tom Steyer participates in the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP – Getty Images file

“I’ve always been in support of my husband, because of that I came to Columbia to show my full support,” Taylor said in a statement to the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Taylor said that when the two took their wedding vows, they “made a commitment to leave everything on the table in a fight for a better world.”

Tiffiany Vaughn Jones, Steyer’s South Carolina Communications Director, told NBC News Wednesday that Taylor wants to take on a more active role in the campaign. The two plan to focus on improving both air and water quality, increasing access to affordable health care and housing, generating jobs, and creating a better future for young voters while on the trail. 

Vaughn Jones said that the 2020 race is clearly “wide open and the primary is now shifting to states that dramatically favor our campaign.”

“Our continued surge in South Carolina and Nevada demonstrates that Tom is the only candidate who is building the diverse coalition that will beat Donald Trump in November,” she said. 

South Carolina is widely considered the first diverse state of the primary cycle and a place where Democrats are competing to win over the black vote. The demographic makes up about two-thirds of the party’s electorate in the state.

Steyer has repeatedly emphasized throughout his time on the trail the importance of the minority vote, stating at Friday’s debate hosted by ABC News that, “We have not said one word tonight about race. Not one word.”

Taylor will also address racial issues while campaigning for her husband. She kicked off her time in South Carolina by hosting college students to discuss Steyer’s plans for increasing funding for historically black colleges and universities Tuesday afternoon.

Up to this point in his candidacy, Steyer surpasses the Democratic field in total spending, coming in second after Michael Bloomberg. In just the last seven months, he has spent $14 million on ads and recruited about 100 new staffers and additional volunteers in South Carolina alone. 

Other candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have argued that the billionaire is buying his way through the race.

Bloomberg gets endorsed by two CBC members

DES MOINES, Iowa — Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic representative to Congress from the U.S. Virgin Islands and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., are endorsing former Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign.  

Plaskett, who had backed Sen. Kamala Harris until the California senator ended her White House bid, says she is backing Bloomberg in order to “bring the fight to Donald Trump.” 

Michael Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event on Feb. 5, 2020, in Providence, R.I.David Goldman / AP file

Plaskett worked with Bloomberg after Superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2012, and said in a statement that the former New York City mayor “not only has the policies to bring equality and wealth creation to communities of color and economic development to keep us competitive in the world, he’s not afraid to fight.”  

McBath cited Bloomberg’s “unmatched record in gun violence prevention” as a primary reason for her decision.  “Nobody running for president has done more for the gun violence prevention movement than Mike,” she said in a statement. “I am proud to stand with him in this race, and work with him when he is in the White House to keep our communities safe.”

This comes after a new national Quinnipiac poll showed Bloomberg with the support of 22 percent of black Democratic primary voters, eating away at former Vice President Joe Biden’s support among the demographic. Shortly after that poll was released, video and audio clips resurfaced online in which Bloomberg defends his controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy during his time as mayor, clips re-circulated by a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. A Bloomberg official says the campaign was aware of at least one of the recordings and was braced for them to surface as a major issue at some point in the campaign. 

One of the recordings, verified by NBC News, is audio from a 2015 Aspen Institute appearance, in which Bloomberg said, “you can just Xerox [copy]” the description of male minorities aged 16-25 and hand it to police. He also said, “We put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do you do it? Because that’s where all the crime is.” 

As the Trump campaign widely circulated the videos as well on Monday, Bloomberg spent the morning meeting with over 20 African American faith leaders in New York City. The leaders released a statement following the meeting, reading, “[Bloomberg] expressed regret over his past insensitivity regarding policies like stop and frisk and showed a continued interest in restorative justice. To be clear: None of us believe that Mike Bloomberg is a racist. Actions speak louder than words, and Mike has a long record of fighting for equality, civil rights, and criminal justice reform.”

Chants of ’46’ raise prospect of Donald Jr. as a dynasty builder

MANCHESTER, N.H. — While introducing the man who hopes to be Donald Trump’s successor in 2024 here Monday night, the president’s eldest son experienced something that had never happened before.

In-between touting his father’s accomplishments and slamming Democratic candidates, Donald Trump Jr. paused briefly to let a chant ricochet around the SNHU Arena: “46! 46! 46!”

It started out, seemingly organically and from just a few sections of the 11,000-person venue before it caught like wildfire. Moments later, Vice President Mike Pence took the stage and received huge applause from the crowd, but none as forward-looking as the acclaim Trump Jr. had just received.

Donald Trump Jr. speaks with his brother Eric and wife Lara, as well as his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle in Des Moines, Iowa on Feb. 3, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images

And it didn’t just happen once. Later in the rally, as the president called members of his family up to the podium to the stage, thanking them for what they’ve “gone through” in recent years,” the audience again broke into the “46!” cheers.

“It was incredible,” Trump Jr. told NBC News outside a polling station in Derry on Tuesday. “I have not heard that one either. I had heard 2024 a couple times, but then it wasn’t like one guy in the front. It went pretty viral. And I’m sitting there like, ‘hey, let’s worry about 2020 first!’” 

Trump Jr. also told Fox News Tuesday that he found the crowd reaction “an incredible honor and very humbling” but maintained his “only focus” is this year’s race.

But while Trump supporters in New Hampshire were eager to cast their ballots for the incumbent on Tuesday, some also admitted they were already thinking about four years from now.

“He’s done a great job being his dad’s right-hand and he would definitely do a good job in his footsteps,” said Alexa Firman, owner of “Simply Delicious” bakery in Bedford, where Trump Jr. and his girlfriend — also a senior adviser to the campaign — Kimberly Guilfoyle stopped by unannounced on primary day. 

The couple also did retail stops in Iowa, in and around the caucuses there last week, and they said they plan to continue the kind of local politicking Trump himself rarely engages in.

The president’s other children are also quite involved in the re-elect effort. Eric and Lara Trump are part of the campaign, and son-in-law Jared Kushner is the main conduit between the White House and 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale. Ivanka Trump has focused more on her administration role but she has vowed to stump for her father as the general election nears and even appeared with Pence at a few stops in the Granite State this week.

The prospects for a potential Trump dynasty got another boost in New Hampshire Tuesday, where early exit polls showed that those voting in the GOP primary there were overwhelmingly supportive of the president and said they had more allegiance to Donald Trump (54 percent) than the Republican Party (34 percent).

Nevada Democratic Party prepares for caucus after Iowa chaos

WASHINGTON — The Nevada Democratic Party released a memo to reporters Tuesday morning detailing the early voting process that will take place ahead of state’s caucuses next Saturday, February 22. 

“From the beginning, NV Dems’ priority has been to execute the most accessible, expansive, and transparent caucus yet,” Alana Mounce, Nevada State Democratic Party Executive Director, states in the memo originally sent to Nevada campaign staff Monday.

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden prepare to caucus for him in the gymnasium at Roosevelt High School, Feb. 3, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

“That’s why we expanded upon Caucus Day to include four days of in-person early voting, multilingual training and caucus materials, and a robust training program for our nearly 3,000 volunteers,” she continues. 

Early voting will take place from February 15 through February 18 at over 80 locations throughout Nevada. Democrats can vote wherever they’d like in their respective counties as they are not assigned to specific precinct sites. 

If a voter is not a registered Democrat or must update their registration, they are able to do so at their early voting location.

Among the memo’s highlights are bullet points explaining that early voting will be conducted on paper ballots, which will then be transported to a secure location and scanned at the end of each early voting day. Voter check-in will be done on iPads available on-site. 

The votes however, will not be tabulated until Caucus Day. While campaigns will receive early vote data showing who has voted early, official presidential preferences will not go public until precinct caucuses have begun.

It is not yet clear how the Nevada Democratic Party will safely store voting information to avoid any sort of tampering though the memo states that the ballot transportation process to hubs will be tracked. 

“A clear chain of custody outlined on the ballot box —  from the time the ballot box leaves NV Dems HQ to the time it is dropped off at their designated hub — will be documented,” the memo reads. 

Mounce adds that Nevada Democrats have tested and “simplified the voting process” in order to “streamline information and to ensure we minimize errors.”

The announcement comes after the Iowa Democratic Party was controversially forced to delay releasing caucus results due to both technological errors and necessary corrections to the tallies. The Buttigieg and Sanders campaigns have both requested a partial recanvass in some of the Iowa Caucus precincts, arguing that their campaigns undeservedly suffered from discrepancies in the party’s official results. 

Most voters think President Trump will win reelection, new poll finds

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Two-thirds of voters believe that President Trump will be re-elected in November, according to a new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday. Of those, 27 percent said they think Trump will “definitely” be re-elected, while 39 percent said they feel he will “probably” win again.

The poll also finds that just 11 percent of registered Democrats say their party’s eventual nominee will “definitely” beat Trump, while 38 percent said “it is more likely than not” that President Trump will win. 

President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally on Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H.Evan Vucci / AP

In the Democratic primary race, the poll shows a new front-runner, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leading the field at 26 percent support among Democratic and lean-Democratic voters — up from 23 percent in the last national Monmouth University poll, taken before the Iowa caucuses. Former Vice President Joe Biden fell to 16 percent support in this poll — in January he was at 30 percent. 

And former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg saw the biggest bump post-Iowa. In the new poll, Buttigieg rose to 13 percent, tied with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In the previous Monmouth poll, Buttigieg’s support was at just 6 percent. 

The poll also finds former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with 11 percent support nationally, making this his third qualifying poll, out of the four he needs, to make the Democratic debate stage in Nevada. Because Bloomberg will likely not receive a delegate from the New Hampshire race, where he is not on the ballot, Bloomberg’s only way to qualify will be through the polling thresholds

Democratic voters also raised concerns about the party’s nominating schedule. Twenty-six percent of Democratic voters said they felt that having Iowa and New Hampshire go first in the contest “makes it less likely” that the party will “nominate the best candidate for president.” And that’s the argument that some candidates, like Biden, are making on the morning of the New Hampshire primary contest. 

Klobuchar declines to set expectations for New Hampshire

EXETER, N.H. — Amy Klobuchar declined to set expectations for Tuesday’s primary here, saying in an interview that it would be for “many others” to decide what constitutes success, adding that she has “kept meeting every single standard” set before her thus far.

The Minnesota senator has ridden a wave of post-debate momentum the last three days: raising more than $3 million and jumping to third in one prominent tracking poll.

Klobuchar has avoided being pinned down on whether a third place finish is her goal, but has pledged to go on to Nevada regardless, where she is scheduled to speak at a League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) conference Thursday.

The candidate acknowledged that her road ahead will be challenging. She has spent far less time in diverse Nevada and South Carolina than she did in Iowa or New Hampshire, and in a Quinnipiac national poll released Monday, she failed to register any support among African American voters. 

“I have had significant African American support in all my races that I have run, and that is in Minnesota. A number of the leaders from my state have been out campaigning for me including the mayor of St. Paul — went out to L.A., went out to Iowa for me. And so that’ll be part of my strategy,” Klobuchar told NBC News. “And the other piece will just simply just be getting people to know me, they don’t know me.”

Poll roundup: Sanders and Buttigieg on top in New Hampshire, Bloomberg rising in national poll

WASHINGTON — With one day to go before the New Hampshire primary, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg sit at the top of the newest polls of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. 

Sanders secures 29 percent in the newest results from CNN and the University of New Hampshire’s three-day tracking poll, with Buttigieg trailing at 22 percent, a margin within the poll’s plus-or-minus 5.1 percent margin of error.  

Then, there’s a pile-up significantly behind those two candidates, with former Vice President Joe Biden at 11 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 10 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 7 percent, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at 5 percent and businessman Andrew Yang at 4 percent. 

Then there’s the WBZ/Boston Globe/Suffolk University tracking poll, which has the same top two candidates with Sanders at 27 percent and Buttigieg at 19 percent, within the plus-or-minus 5.6 percent margin of error 

But that poll shows Klobuchar in third place with 14 percent, ahead of Biden and Warren’s 12 percent each. 

While part of the CNN poll was conducted before Friday night’s debate, all of the WBZ poll was conducted after that debate, which could help to explain some of the differences between the two. 

Both polls show that a significant portion of the electorate is open to changing their mind before Tuesday’s vote —  almost half of the CNN/UNH respondents say they’re only leaning toward a candidate or still trying to decide, while 38 percent of WBZ poll respondents say they’re open to changing their mind. 

Looking beyond New Hampshire, Quinnipiac University dropped another national poll that found Sanders holding firm and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rising. 

Sanders leads with 25 percent, followed by Biden at 17, Bloomberg at 15, Warren at 14, Buttigieg at 10 and the rest of the pack very far behind. That sample has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points. 

Those results represent a modest increase for Sanders and a modest decrease for Biden when compared to Quinnipiac’s last national poll from two weeks ago. But Bloomberg’s share of the vote shot up significantly from 8 points in late January to 15 points now. 

And while the margin of error for smaller groups is larger, Biden’s numbers with black voters dropped 22 points between the two polls, while Bloomberg’s rose by 15 points. 

In head-to-head matchups against President Trump, Bloomberg performed the best, ahead by 9 points. Sanders led Trump by 8 points, Biden by 7 points, Klobuchar by 6 points, and Warren and Buttigieg by 4 points each.  

Sanders and Buttigieg campaigns request partial recanvass of some Iowa caucus precincts

DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are officially calling for a partial recanvassing of the results of last week’s Iowa caucuses, claiming they found discrepancies in the party’s official results that hurt their campaigns.  

The state party announced Sunday that Buttigieg had won 14 national convention delegates from what it said was a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses. Sanders received 12 delegates; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren won eight delegates; former Vice President Joe Biden secured six delegates; and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar won one delegate. 

But while those results were based on the party’s revised results, the NBC News Decision Desk has not called the race for any candidate or issued its own delegate allocation after a series of delays and inconsistencies surfaced in the days following the caucuses

The Sanders campaign says it wants the Iowa Democratic Party to recanvass 25 precincts and three satellite caucuses, arguing that there are errors in the data that could flip a national delegate to Sanders. 

“Our volunteers and supporters worked too hard, and too many people participated for the first time to have the results depend on calculations that even the party admits are incorrect,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement.

“Once the recanvass and a subsequent recount are completed in these precincts, we feel confident we will be awarded the extra national delegate our volunteers and grassroots donors earned.” 

The Buttigieg campaign requested a recanvass in 66 precincts and the in-state satellite caucuses in what a campaign aide told NBC News was in direct response to Sanders’ request. 

In a letter sent to Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price, the Buttigieg campaign contends this recanvass would result in a net gain of 14 State Delegate Equivalents for Buttigieg. A campaign aide notes that the Sanders’ campaign recanvass request would at most result in a net gain of fewer than six SDEs.

New Hampshire leaders stay on the sidelines ahead of primary

WASHINGTON — Less than 24 hours before the New Hampshire primary, the only member of Congress from the state who is endorsing a presidential candidate is Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster.

Kuster, who has represented New Hampshire’s second district since 2013, announced her endorsement of former South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, on January 15.

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg visits The Works Cafe with Rep. Annie Kuster in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 17, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

“With our country so consumed by division, @PeteButtigieg is the leader who can finally turn the page on the Trump presidency and bring our nation together,” Kuster tweeted that day. “He has the courage to break from the past to lead us to a better future — I’m excited to endorse him to be our next president.”

Buttigieg shortly after thanked Kuster for her backing, writing in a statement that amid a time of dysfunction in Washington, Kuster has united constituents and “spent her career delivering results for New Hampshire families.” 

The congresswoman co-chairs the campaign and has hit the trail with Buttigieg. 

No other national politicians from the state have yet to formally support a 2020 presidential candidacy for the first-in-the-nation primary. The Granite State’s lack of endorsements also stands in contrast with the number of Iowan endorsements issued ahead of last week’s caucuses.

Three out of four congressional districts in Iowa are represented by Democrats and all of them announced endorsements of 2020 Democrats prior to the February 3 caucus in the state.

Democratic Reps. Abby Finkaneur and Cindy Axne of IA-01 and IA-03 respectively endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in January. David Loebsack of the Hawkeye State’s second district endorsed Buttigieg the same month.



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Ireland chaos: Brexit panic as Dublin leaders hit by coronavirus – Varadkar on alert

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THE danger to Ireland if the UK severs ties with the EU at the end of the year without a trade deal in place was stressed by the country’s foreign minister Simon Coveney during a meeting with Northern Irish political leaders.

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As polls show Iowa tightening, Trump campaign and outside group spending goes in different directions

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WASHINGTON — Three recent polls released this week show Iowa a toss-up race between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. But the Trump campaign and its aligned outside groups are moving in different directions as far as spending. 

Trump led Biden by 3 percentage points, 49 percent to 46 percent, in Monmouth University’s new poll of likely voters; Biden led Trump by 3 percentage points with likely voters in the New York Times/Sienna College poll released this week, a margin of 45 percent to 42 percent; and both candidates were tied in the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll at 47 percent among likely voters. 

The Trump campaign hasn’t spent any money on television or radio in the state since July 28, according to Advertising Analytics. 

But one Republican outside group, Preserve America PAC, has been spending heavily in the state since the start of September in the hopes of filling that spending gap — it’s spent almost $4.2 million over that span, more than 90 percent of the total money spent on TV and radio since the Trump campaign went dark. 

Many of Preserve America’s ads have centered on either criticizing Biden by linking him to the “Defund the Police” movement that some Democrats are supporting, or saying that Biden can’t lead the military

The Democrats had largely stayed quiet on the airwaves too, but there’s been a more recent shift. After not spending a dime on TV or radio in Iowa the entire campaign, Biden’s campaign has spent about $280,000 since Sept. 15. 

Biden’s top spots focus on health care, telling a personal story about the crash that killed his first wife and daughter as well as on the importance of health care during the pandemic. 

Maura Barrett contributed

Pennsylvania Republicans seek to reverse mail-in ballot deadline decision in battleground state

READING, Penn. — After a state Supreme Court ruling last week allowed Pennsylvania ballots to be counted up to three days after the election, as long as the ballots are postmarked by Nov. 3, NBC News has learned the Republican Party intends to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The GOP argued extending the deadline “creates a serious likelihood that Pennsylvania’s imminent general election will be tainted by votes that were illegally cast or mailed after Election Day,” according to court documents.

The move follows several key decisions last Thursday which ruled in favor of extending the deadline for mail-in ballots to the Friday after Election Day and allows the use of ballot drop boxes in Pennsylvania, two measures seen as wins for Democrats.

The expected petition comes just days ahead of President Donald Trump’s announcement of his Supreme Court Justice nominee, which is expected Saturday, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday.

State Republicans are also seeking a stay in the commonwealth’s highest court to stop last week’s ruling from taking effect.

In a statement to NBC News, Pennsylvania’s Republican House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff said, “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an openly partisan decision ignoring the federal and state constitutions that jeopardizes the security and integrity of our elections and will potentially put Pennsylvania in the middle of a disastrous national crisis as the world awaits for our Commonwealth to tally election results days or weeks following Election Day.”

A Supreme Court confirmation weeks before Election Day would be first in modern history

WASHINGTON — As the rhetoric over the push by Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump’s to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg escalates into a series of arguments over historical precedence, one thing is sure: No president has seated a Supreme Court nominee within three months of a presidential election, according to Senate historical records dating to 1900

The closest comparison to the current landscape would be President Woodrow Wilson’s successful confirmation of John Clarke in July of 1916. 

On Monday, Trump said he wanted a vote on his nominee — who he says will be announced on Saturday — to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day on Nov. 3.  While there’ve been a number of confirmations to the high court in election years, including several in lame duck sessions after an election, none of them have taken place weeks before an election, according to Senate historical records reviewed by NBC.

During the tumultuous election year of 1968, President Lyndon Johnson did attempt to replace retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren by elevating Associate Justice Abe Fortas to be chief justice and naming Homer Thornberry, an appeals court judge, to the high court.

After a filibuster of the Fortas nomination over ethical questions, however, Johnson withdrew those and declined to nominate a new justice, saying then that, “in ordinary times I would feel it my duty now to send another name to the Senate for this high office. I shall not do so.”  He added that “these are not ordinary times. We are threatened by an emotionalism, partisanship, and prejudice that compel us to use great care if we are to avoid injury to our constitutional system.”

Johnson by then had already declared his intention not to seek re-election and the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, subsequently lost to Republican Richard Nixon.

“He didn’t try to do something quickly in the fall,” said presidential historian John Meacham of Johnson. “The moment we’re in,” he added, “is about the acquisition and use of power. It’s not driven by constitutional principle or practice. The more honest we are about that better.” 

Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are defending the push to hold a vote prior to the election on the premise that control of the White House and Senate constitutes a mandate from the voters. In 2016, when he blocked President Barack Obama’s election-year nominee, Merrick Garland, McConnell argued that the “people” should decide in an election year.  

Meacham called both those arguments “invented,” but they are heightening political tensions around the nomination.

“Perhaps more than any other single issue,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday, “the American people strengthened this Senate majority to keep confirming this President’s impressive judicial nominees who respect our constitution and understand the proper role of a judge.”

Democrats are quick to point out that Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 3 million votes. And Democrats picked up 40 House seats in 2018, their biggest House gain in 40 years.

But the House doesn’t have a say in the judicial confirmation process, and Republicans expanded their Senate majority during those same midterm elections, a point that GOP senators have said re-enforces their argument.

Of nominations made during presidential election years since 1900 in which a vacancy existed, five were made during years when a President was running for reelection—1912 (Taft/confirmed in March), two in 1916 (Wilson/confirmed June & July), 1932 (Hoover/confirmed February), and 1940 (Roosevelt/confirmed January).

Democratic Pennsylvania election official warns state Supreme Court ruling could lead to 100,000 rejected ballots

READING, Penn. — Philadelphia’s top election official issued a warning Monday that thousands of ballots statewide could be rejected during the November 3rd election, following a recent state Supreme Court decision that required county boards of elections to throw out absentee and mail-in ballots that arrive without a so-called secrecy envelope in the battleground state.

Lisa Deeley, the Democratic chairwoman of the city commissioners, predicted that could mean more than 30,000 voters in Philadelphia and 100,000 across Pennsylvania could see their ballots rejected this November. She warned this could “set Pennsylvania up to be the subject of significant post-election legal controversy, the likes of which we have not seen since Florida in 2000.”

“When you consider that the 2016 Presidential Election in Pennsylvania was decided by just over 44,000 votes, you can see why I am concerned,” Deeley wrote. 

In a letter to leaders in the Republican-controlled state legislature, Deeley urged, “while everyone is talking about the significance of extending the mail-ballot deadline, it is the naked ballot ruling that is going to cause electoral chaos.”

Sixteen states require the use of secrecy envelopes, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures, which require voters to place their ballots into an extra envelope before it’s inserted into a larger one to mail back – preventing officials from seeing how a ballot’s been cast.

Counties were not required to disqualify ballots returned without the added envelope in June’s primary.

Republicans maintain the use of the secrecy envelopes is an important step in ensuring the privacy of voters, and the practice has been in place in Pennsylvania since before the expanded vote-by-mail bill was passed last fall. Deely claims such use of the envelopes is a “vestige of the past” and is not needed because the speed at which ballots are now processed by machines maintains the anonymity of a ballot.

Her letter follows several key decisions late last week which ruled in favor of extending the deadline for mail-in ballots to the Friday after Election Day and allows the use of ballot drop boxes in Pennsylvania. 

In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for Republican House Speaker Bryan Cutler, said, “The state Supreme Court was very clear in its ruling last week that the law requiring a proper secrecy envelope is clear and fair.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” Deely said, “we are talking about the voting rights of our constituents, whether they be Democrats, Republicans, independents, whose ballots will be needlessly set aside.”

Biden has big cash on hand advantage over Trump

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign says its campaign effort ended August with $466 million in cash on hand, exceeding President Donald Trump’s re-election for the first time since Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee in April.

The Biden campaign, the DNC, and Biden’s joint fundraising committees managed to end August with $466 million cash on hand. The New York Times reported Sunday night that the Trump campaign, RNC and its committees ended the month with $325 million in cash-on-hand. 

That difference — roughly $140 million between the two sides — is striking. It shows that while the Biden campaign was criticized heavily for not spending much during the spring and early summer, they have now flipped the script on the Trump fundraising behemoth. And the Biden cash advantage comes as the campaign announced Monday that they’re expanding their paid ad strategy, going up with television and digital ads in the red-leaning states of Georgia and Iowa.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks in Hermantown, Minn., on Sept. 18, 2020.Carolyn Kaster / AP

Heading into April, the GOP effort had an about $182 million cash-on-hand advantage over Biden and the DNC.

But that gap continued to shrink as Democrats began to donate more to Biden and the Biden Victory Fund’s virtual fundraisers. Trump and the RNC have largely opted to hold in-person fundraisers during the pandemic. 

By the end of July, the Biden-effort claimed to have $294 million in cash-on-hand, while the Trump campaign claimed its combined effort had an “over $300 million war chest.”

While campaigns and national party committees have to report their fundraising monthly, their affiliated committees do not have to report as regularly, which is why the campaigns are self-reporting their total cash-on-hand at this time. Since those joint fundraising committees file quarterly, September’s Federal Election Commission filings will include the full picture from all the relevant committees. 

Biden digital ads target Puerto Rican voters with Marc Anthony

In a continued effort to win over Latino voters with about a month left until Election Day, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is calling on the Puerto Rican community to remember the devastation of the Island caused by Hurricane Maria three years ago Sunday.

The new English and Spanish-language digital ads features singer Marc Anthony, whose family hails from Puerto Rico, saying that it is “Prohibido Olvidar” or “forbidden to forget” how President Donald Trump failed to adequately provide help to the island in the weeks after the hurricane decimated their communities.

“Remembering is not easy for everyone. It’s difficult to relive the destruction of our homes, the crying of those who lost a loved one and the terrifying uncertainty when thinking ‘what will my children eat tomorrow,’” Anthony said referencing the continuing hardships pain Puerto Ricans have endured since Hurricane Maria. “However forgetting is forbidden.”

While the ad never mentions Trump, it does show him at the Oval Office’s resolute desk when Anthony reminds voters how “it’s forbidden to forget that in moments of true darkness, when the cries for help fell on deaf ears.” Anthony notes that the only the community can rely on itself to rebuild and fight for a better future in a get-to-vote message to defeat Trump at the ballot box.

The over one-minute digital ad is targeting Puerto Ricans living in Florida and Pennsylvania, two states that saw thousands relocate from the territory to the mainland following the hurricane.

It makes for a ripe set of voters to convince heading into the election in a community that already leans more Democratic. Just last week Biden kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month in Puerto-Rican rich Kissimmee, Fla. while his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, spoke to Hispanic leaders at a Puerto Rican cultural center in Philadelphia, Penn. They both pledged to uplift the community and support their decision for self-determination. 

“The way Donald Trump botched Maria was a terrible precursor to Covid-19: He failed to prepare, failed to respond like a president, and failed to protect American citizens from harm,” Biden said in a statement commemorating the anniversary of Hurricane Maria. “We all deserve better. Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans deserve better. There is no place in the United States to ever treat any of our own citizens as second-class.”

Early voting starts in Virginia after expansion of options

RICHMOND, Va. — With over six weeks until Election Day, early voting kicked off Friday in Virginia and the state began mailing out absentee ballots to voters who have requested them.  

As voters showed up for early in-person voting in the state Capitol, it resembled any normal Election Day but with Covid-related safety measures: voters checked their registration by speaking to a worker behind a plastic divider, used paper ballots that they filled out behind a cardboard privacy screen, and then inserted their ballots into a machine to be scanned and counted. 

“We’ve had a lot of changes with our voting laws in Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam told NBC News after he cast his own ballot early in Richmond. “We now have no-excuse absentee voting, early voting. This is such an important election. All of our elections are important but this this is especially important, rather than wait till November the third.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam feeds his ballot into the counting machine in Richmond, Va., on Sept. 18, 2020.Bob Brown / Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

Long a Republican stronghold, Virginia has become a more reliable Democratic state. Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump here by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin in 2016. Still, the state’s 13 electoral votes remain an important part of the presidential contest.

The Virginia General Assembly passed a law that went into effect July 1 allowing voters to request an absentee ballot without a reason for not being able to vote in-person.

And Virginians have options when it comes to voting early — they can cast their ballots ahead of the election in-person, through curbside drop-offs for absentee ballots if they don’t feel comfortable going inside buildings, or by mailing in their ballots.

The in-person early voting period in Virginia runs from Friday, Sept. 18 through Saturday, Oct. 31. Early voting is available for Virginians at their local registrar’s office or a satellite voting location in their city or county.  

“In Virginia we don’t register by party, so what we’ve seen is excitement all around,” Christopher Piper, Commissioner for The Virginia Departments of Elections, told NBC. “We’ve got more than 800,000 requests for absentee ballots through yesterday. We’re seeing this huge line here today. Our goal with the Department of Elections is to ensure that anybody who’s eligible to vote has the opportunity to vote and this shows that that’s working for us today.” 

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine also came out to cast his ballot early in Richmond on Friday, telling NBC after his vote that he feels confident that voters have enough information to make decisions about how best and safely to vote during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The good news is Virginia is finally committed so we want to make it easy for people to vote, not harder.”

At the Richmond registrar’s office, a new building location that opened publicly just days ago in anticipation of voters coming in-person, Virginians that spoke with NBC overwhelmingly expressed confidence in the safety precautions in place to vote in-person on day one.

One early voter, Ramona Taylor of Richmond, told NBC that she had some concerns about voting by mail so decided to come in person for the first day.

“I do have a lot of concern about the fact that the ballot will be received on time, you just never can tell the way things are because this is one of the largest voting elections that I’ve ever experienced,” Taylor said. “So, I just feel like I’m able bodied and able to come out and vote in-person and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“My husband has medical issues and so it was easier to take advantage of this,” said Diane Jay, who along with her husband Jim opted for the curbside drop-off option for voting. Jim was on oxygen in the car when NBC spoke with them about their voting decisions.

“We didn’t do absentee, just knew we were gonna do in person,” Diane said. “And so what happened was we saw this and drove up and they said they could take care of us curbside.”

Senate GOP group jumping into Alaska Senate race with $1.6 million in ads

WASHINGTON — Senate Leadership Fund, the top super PAC aligned with Senate Republicans, is making its first ad investment in Alaska, a state that’s seen a recent influx of Democratic spending aimed at taking down Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan. 

SLF will spend $1.6 million on TV, radio and digital ads there to start on Wednesday and run for 18 days, the group confirmed to NBC News. 

Sullivan is facing off against Al Gross, an Independent who is being backed by Democrats and won the state’s Democratic primary. 

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, leaves a Senate Republican policy meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

In a statement to NBC along with the announcement of the ad buy, SLF President Steven Law took aim at Gross’ independence from Democrats. 

“Chuck Schumer and DC Democrats are quietly pouring millions into Alaska, trying to pull one over on voters and buy this seat for far-left fake independent Al Gross. That’s not going to happen on our watch,” he said. 

It’s an argument Sullivan’s team has tried to make, focusing in ads on how Gross plans to caucus with Democrats

But Gross, a physician whose family has deep ties to the state, has been working to stake out that independence, including in a recent ad where he opposes the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. 

Groups aligned with Gross have been jumping onto the airwaves in recent weeks — 314 Action has spent more than $530,000 this month, according to Advertising Analytics. A group with Democratic ties launched this month and has already run more than $100,000 in ads in Alaska and Vote Vets, which is backing Gross, started running ads attacking Sullivan. 

SLF’s investment will help to narrow the pro-Gross ad-spending advantage. As of Thursday evening, pro-Gross groups have spent $1.53 million on television and radio advertising compared to $740,000 for pro-Sullivan groups, per Advertising Analytics. 

Progressive groups highlight pandemic death toll with comparisons to U.S. cities in new ads

WASHINGTON — As the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. approaches 200,000 — equivalent to the entire population of some major U.S. cities, including Tallahassee, Florida, Tempe, Arizona or Grand Rapids, Michigan — the grim milestone is being noted by two major Democratic-aligned groups with an ad campaign in presidential swing states. 

The Center for American Progress Action Fund and Priorities USA have partnered to purchase full-page ads to run Friday depicting gravestones etched with reminders of the death toll. The ads will appear in 11 newspapers in five states: Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  

The groups are also running digital ads on newspaper websites serving presidential swing state cities with populations of approximately 200,000, including Warren and Pontiac, Michigan; Port St. Lucie, Florida; Allentown, Bethlehem and Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Green Bay, Appleton, Kenosha and Racine, Wisconsin.

The ads call for a national plan to address the pandemic. And while President Trump isn’t mentioned, the intention is clear. 

Democratic groups are running ads in some U.S. cities where the pandemic death toll has surpassed the population, such as this one in Tallahassee, Fla.Center for American Progress Action Fund

“We have a president who has given up on fighting the coronavirus,” Jesse Lee of the CAP Action Fund said in a statement. “Not one more day should go by without a real national plan, and none of us can become numb to the tragedy that is unfolding day after day.”

The 200,000 number is greater than the populations of 670 major U.S. cities, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. With the exception of Spain, the U.S. is alone in the Western world when it comes to the number of COVID deaths per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Worldwide, only Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil have higher deaths per 100,000 population.

While President Trump has defended his record, insisting his policies have kept the US death toll from climbing even higher, a Columbia University study found 84 percent of deaths and 82 percent of cases could have been prevented if the U.S. had instituted social distancing measures on March 1, just two weeks earlier than many cities instituted lockdowns.

From January to early March, Trump consistently downplayed the threat of the virus. Journalist Bob Woodward recently released audiotapes of Trump privately acknowledging, in early February, that the virus was “deadly stuff.”  Days later, on Feb. 10, Trump publicly insisted that “a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat.” 

It wasn’t until March 15 that Trump said “this is a very contagious virus” that amounted to a “pandemic.” Around the same time, in mid-March, Woodward privately taped Trump acknowledging he liked to “play it down” when it comes to the virus in order to prevent “panic.”

In response to the ads, Trump 2020 communications director Tim Murtaugh told NBC News that “Americans have seen President Trump out front and leading the nation in the fight against the coronavirus. The President’s task force began meeting in January and he restricted travel from China, and then Europe, early on. At the time, Joe Biden criticized the decision, calling it ‘hysterical xenophobia’ and ‘fear-mongering,’ so we know Biden would not have done it. We would be in far worse position today if Joe Biden had been president in January.”

Biden tells Democratic senators he takes ‘nothing for granted’ during caucus call

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called into the Senate Democrats’ daily caucus meeting Thursday afternoon and reassured members that he would mount a vigorous effort in the final stretch of his campaign to be more physically present — particularly in key swing states.

During the 20-minute call, Biden said he takes “nothing for granted” and thanked the senators for their help and support.

“Overall uplifting and engaging call. Took a series of questions, he spoke about the theme of the campaign, fighting for the soul of the country. What were the things that made him decide to run, how optimistic he is about the election,”  Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks after participating in a coronavirus vaccine briefing with public health experts in Wilmington, Del., on Sept. 16, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

“But he must have said this three times, ‘I take nothing for granted’ — he said, ‘I know the polls look okay right now but I’m working tirelessly … I was just in Florida, I’m about to go to Scranton, I’m heading to Duluth.’ That kind of stuff,” Coons added. 

Several vulnerable members up for re-election this year urged Biden to join them on the campaign trail in their home states.

“Just basically making the plea for every state, you know, everybody wants him, ‘Please come to our state you come to our state, okay,’ this and that and everything, that type of a thing,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., explained.

Among those making those requests were Democratic Sens. Tina Smith of Minnesota, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Gary Peters of Michigan.

“You can tell he’s real fired up, he’s working hard, he’s going to be out there and be everywhere as much as he possibly can,” Peters said. “I’ve certainly encouraged him and Kamala to be in Michigan as much as they can.”

Notably, policy barely came up during the short call — no talk of the filibuster, election security, and “no time talking about Trump,” per Coons, a longtime Biden ally.

“We are happy that even in some states that aren’t traditional battlegrounds where there are Senate races that are important, I mean he and his team are very aware of that and that they’re being helpful,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said.

“I said Joe, people need to know that you recognize the dignity of the work that people have built this country and I said the coal miners that have been left behind all the hard factory workers that are left behind,” Manchin told NBC News.  “He’s very, very, just appreciative. It was just Joe. If you don’t like Joe, you don’t like yourself.”

Battleground voting update: A mail-in voting extension in Pennsylvania and a warning in Wisconsin

WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court issued a handful of rulings Thursday shifting the contours of the vote-by-mail fight in that state, as officials in Wisconsin are warning they likely won’t know the state’s final results by the night of Election Day. 

Pennsylvana’s high court ruled Thursday that election officials cannot discard mail ballots solely because of questions about the authenticity of a voter’s signature; that ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. will be counted; that third parties cannot deliver people’s ballots; and that counties can use dropboxes or other official addresses for voters to return ballots to, among other decisions. 

The state also kicked the Green Party presidential and vice-presidential candidates off the ballot for failing to follow the necessary procedures to make the ballot. In 2016, about 49,000 Pennsylvanians voted for Jill Stein, and Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the state by about 44,000 votes. 

The news out of Pennsylvania wasn’t the only notable tidbit to come from the swing states on Thursday. 

During a virtual forum hosted by Marquette Law School, officials warned that the “unprecedented volume” of absentee ballots, paired with the statutory restrictions in processing these ballots until election day, will result in a delay in posting results.

Milwaukee resident Jennifer Taff holds a sign as she waits in line to vote at Washington High School in Milwaukee on April 7, 2020. “I’m disgusted. I requested an absentee ballot almost three weeks ago and never got it. I have a father dying from lung disease and I have to risk my life and his just to exercise my right to vote” she said, as she’d been in line almost two hours.Patricia McKnight / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Network

Municipal clerks started sending out ballots on Wednesday, and the state election commission says more than 1 million voters have already requested absentee ballots. 

It’s “a volume that’s much different than what we’ve seen in the past,” Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said Wednesday.

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said that “we are not anticipating that we will be done and have results right at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. but I’m hopeful that by the time the sun comes up on Nov. 4th we will be finished and have election results.”

But she cautioned that “a delay does not mean any cause for concern or invalidate the entirety of the election results whatsoever on election night.”



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EU panic: Brussels announces 'urgent' overhaul as bloc loses access to London after Brexit

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BRUSSELS today announced an “urgent” overhaul of its financial markets to safeguard the bloc from Brexit.

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