Biden campaign commits to three presidential debates amid reports Trump’s team is pushing for more
WASHINGTON — The Biden campaign has officially committed its candidate to participating in no more than the three previously scheduled presidential debates set up for the fall, pre-emptively denying any potential requests from President Trump for more debates.
Although formal invites by the Commission on Presidential Debates will be sent out after the nominating conventions this summer, the Biden campaign also made clear that their yet to-be-announced vice presidential pick will also participate in their early October debate.
In a letter obtained by NBC News, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon tells the Commission that they hope President Trump and Vice President Pence will signal their willingness to participate rather than “make excuses” to dismiss the election tradition of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. The letter comes after recent reports circulated that the Trump campaign has signaled a desire to add more general election debates to the schedule — a reversal of the president’s previous position on debates.
“Now that Donald Trump is trailing badly in the polls, and is desperate to change the subject from his failed leadership of the country, we are seeing reports that he has his own proposal for debates,” O’Malley Dillon said in the letter. “No one should be fooled: the Trump campaign’s new position is a debate distraction.”
The campaign manager also requested that the Commission confirm it’s plans for holding a safe debate amid the coronavirus pandemic with measures like social distancing in place to ensure that the debates won’t be cancelled.
New outside group drops big money to help Hickenlooper ahead of primary
WASHINGTON — With a little more than a week left before the June 30 Democratic Senate primary in Colorado, a new group is spending big money to help former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The group has about $800,000 booked on the airwaves right now between Monday and the primary, and spent a little more than $100,000 over the weekend.
It’s not the only group coming to Hickenlooper’s defense — the Senate Majority PAC’s $1.4 million in spending booked through the primary. The Democratic super PAC launched an ad last week defending Hickenlooper after the state ethics board found he broke gift rules twice while serving as governor.
It’s unclear who is funding Let’s Turn Colorado Blue, as its late arrival onto the scene means it will not have to legally disclose its donors until after the primary.
Hickenlooper has been the favorite to move on to face Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., in one of the highest-profile Senate races of 2020. But Hickenlooper has been on the defensive in recent weeks.
Biden campaign releases two new ads focused on the Black community
WASHINGTON — The Biden campaign released two new digital ads focused on the Black community as a part of their $15 million, five-week ad buy in battleground states. The campaign started to run these digital ads on Juneteenth as well as radio and print advertisements as part of their “mid-six figure” investment in Black media in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and North Carolina.
The one-minute ad titled “Always” recounts how Biden’s career has been shaped by wanting to “stand up and act” against injustices. It briefly touts his early career fighting for the Black community by combating housing discrimination to being chosen former President Obama’s vice president.
In a memo obtained by NBC News last week, the campaign’s director of paid media explained the ad would re-introduce voters to the former vice president at a time when the Trump campaign is trying to discredit his civil and voting rights record. Notably the ad does not mention Biden signing the 1994 crime bill.
The second one-minute digital ad stresses what’s “at stake” in this election, particularly in light of the civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd. The ad shows images of hurt protestors and armed officers as well as President Trump’s now infamous walk to St. John’s cathedral after police aggressively dispersed peaceful protestors.
With Klobuchar out, the V.P. pool narrows for Biden
WASHINGTON — The V.P. field narrowed Thursday night when Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar withdrew from the vetting process.
“America must seize on the moment and I truly believe — as I actually told the V.P. last night when I called him — that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket,” Klobuchar said in an interview on MSNBC.
Biden responded to her decision on Twitter, saying Klobuchar has the “grit and determination” to take on any challenge and help “beat Donald Trump.”
But as Klobuchar noted, calls for Biden to put a woman of color on the ticket are only growing. Here are the moves vice presidential contenders still in the veepstakes made this week:
Sen. Kamala Harris: Harris was among a group of senators to put forward a bill to commemorate Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Harris is one of four Black women known to be advancing to a more comprehensive vetting stage with the Biden campaign. She joins Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Florida Rep. Val Demings and former national security adviser Susan Rice.
Harris’ stock in the veepstakes has remained steady since Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee. She has defended her past as a prosecutor — an issue that dogged her in the primary race with progressives — and her personal relationship with the Biden family could make her more likely to appear on the ticket than those with less name recognition.
Rep. Val Demings: Demings may have not considered herself a possible contender for Biden’s running mate originally, but as she said this week, sometimes “the situation chooses you.”
The Florida congresswoman hasn’t been hesitant to promote her qualifications to be vice president. On “The View” this week, Demings said that this moment in time is what makes her the best candidate.
“Sometimes the situation chooses you. And I do believe this is one of those moments,” she said, hinting at her background as the former Orlando police chief.
Demings added, “I believe I have the on the ground experience, the credibility and the political will and courage to get this done.”
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: The Atlanta mayor has dominated national headlines recently following the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in her city, amplifying her bully pulpit as mayor and raising her profile as a veep contender.
And during a Women for Biden call Thursday, Lance Bottoms credited Biden for proving to her in the early days of their relationship that he values the Black and other minority communities.
“It was not lost on me that this was an older white man who was willing to stand alongside, and quite often behind, a younger African American man to lead our country,” Bottoms said, noting that “representation is everything” for her.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Despite Klobuchar’s decision to drop out of the veepstakes Thursday, Warren — who like Klobuchar, is white — continues to pursue her running mate ambitions.
The Massachusetts senator helped Biden rake in a whopping $6 million dollars Monday, the most money raised in a single Biden fundraiser. Warren previously vowed to not take part in high-dollar fundraisers during her presidential run, saying on the trail, “we’re tearing this democracy apart” by involving big money in politics.
But during the event, Biden praised Warren for her “fearless work” standing up to Wall Street and teased that he’s still working to get her on his side. Biden has emphasized in the past that he needs a veep who shares his approach to leadership but who is willing to challenge his positions.
And early this week, dozens of Warren allies wrote a letter to the presumptive Democratic nominee urging him to choose her, pointing to her policy expertise, working-class background, and ability to unite the party.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Multiple bills in the works to make Juneteenth a federal holiday
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., told MSNBC on Thursday that she will announce legislation as soon as the end of this week to make Juneteenth, the annual June 19 commemoration of the end of slavery, a national holiday.
Harris said she will sponsor the legislation with Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tina Smith of Minnesota, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
In the wake of nationwide anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, dozens of companies have announced they intend to make June 19 a holiday for employees. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, also recently announced he would make Juneteenth as a state holiday.
There are additional efforts to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson signaled Thursday during his visit to the National Archives with first lady Melania Trump that making it a holiday has been a part of White House discussions.
Because the holiday has Texas roots, memorializing the 1865 announcement by a Union general to approximately 250,000 enslaved Africans in Galveston that had no idea that their freedom had been secured, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also announced on Thursday he intends to file a bill making it a national holiday. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said earlier this week she plans to file a similar bill in the House.
Cornyn and Lee sponsored a bill earlier this year for a federal study of creating a National Emancipation Trail from Galveston to Houston, which would follow the path of slaves freed on June 19, 1865, to spread the news. Trump signed that into law in January.
Biden campaign debuts first general election ads in $15 million effort across key states
WASHINGTON — The Biden campaign debuted its first general election ads after months off the air Thursday morning in part of a five-week, $15 million ad campaign targeting several battleground states that President Trump won in 2016.
The first 60-second spot, “Unite Us,” features remarks from Biden’s recent speech in Philadelphia, and largely emphasizes the need to bring the country together, which Biden implies Trump is failing to do.
“The county is crying out for leadership,” Biden says, vowing not to “fan the flames of hate.”
The third 60-second spot is in Spanish with the aim of reaching out to Latino voters, and likewise focuses on the state of the economy. In it Biden touts his role in handling the 2008 recession under the leadership of President Obama.
Announcing the effort in a statement, the Biden team said that the latest spots are part of a $15 million campaign that includes TV, digital, radio, and print advertising in six critical states ahead of November. They also note that the ads will air on national cable, including Fox News.
The states targeted include Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona, all of which Trump won in 2016.
The Biden campaign has been able to stay off the air since April — when the former vice president became the Democratic nominee — instead relying on two supportive super PACs to carry the Democrat’s message through the spring.
Priorities USA, which has mainly driven Trump contrast messaging on the novel coronavirus, and Unite The Country, which recently turned to positive Biden spots with an economic focus, have been active on the air for Biden. The DNC also went on the air this week.
The Trump campaign has been blitzing key states. Republicans have outspent Democrats on television and radio ads in the presidential race $33.7 million to $19.7 million since April 8, the day Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, data from Advertising Analytics shows.
President Trump’s campaign is responsible for $25.2 million of that spending, while the top Democratic group, the Priorities USA super PAC, has spent $10.6 million.
—Ben Kamisar contributed.
Nebraska Democratic Party calls on Senate nominee to withdraw after ‘sexually inappropriate comments’
WASHINGTON — The Nebraska Democratic Party is calling on its party’s Senate nominee to step down after he made what it calls “sexually inappropriate comments” about a campaign staff member.
A former staffer of Omaha baker and Democratic Senate nominee Chris Janicek sent the party a formal complaint about Janicek, turning over a copy of the text message containing the remarks. That prompted the state party to privately demand Janicek’s decline the party’s nomination by Monday, as state party officials have the power to replace him on the ballot if he withdraws by Sept. 1.
But upon learning Janicek would not step down, the party’s executive committee voted unanimously to strip him of all party resources and released a statement publicly calling for him to step aside.
“Our Democratic Party has no tolerance for sexual harassment,” Jane Kleeb, the state party chair, said in a statement.
“Our party will not extend resources or any type of support to any candidate that violates our code of conduct and doesn’t treat men and women with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The Omaha World-Herald reported Tuesday that Janicek sent the text in a group message to at least five others, where he made a sexual comment directed at the former female staffer. That staffer was also a part of the group text.
Janicek and his campaign did not immediately respond to a request to comment from NBC News. But he told the World-Herald that “This is a moment in time where I made a terrible mistake in a text message.”
And a spokesman, Scott Howitt, told the paper that Janicek apologized to all of the staffers he sent the message minutes after he made the comments.
Janicek is running against Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who won his 2014 election by more than 30 percentage points.
DNC launches ad campaign on Trump ‘descent’
WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee is beginning its general election offensive against President Donald Trump Tuesday, with a new television and digital ad campaign running in battleground states.
The effort marks the five year anniversary of Trump’s 2016 presidential candidacy, which he announced after a ride down a golden escalator at Trump Tower. The opening DNC ad, titled “Descent,” revives that image, tying it to the decline of American jobs, health care, race relations, and immigrant rights.
“Five years ago — Donald Trump descended to the basement of Trump Tower. And for the last five years, he’s brought America down with him,” says the ad provided to NBC News.
It’s the first television ad campaign the DNC has run in four years, and signifies a more visible role for the organization following the turmoil in 2016 that culminated in the resignation of former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the eve of the party convention. That year, a Russian-led hack of DNC computer servers unearthed internal emails suggesting staff unfairly favored the candidacy of former Senator Hillary Clinton over her then-challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In an effort to demonstrate unity across the party, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive voice who competed for the Democratic nomination this year and is under consideration to be Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate, will help kick off the campaign in a press call on Tuesday and join DNC Chair Tom Perez for a battleground state tour.
Perez will also team with other party leaders, including Florida Rep. Val Demmings, who’s also on Biden’s short list of potential vice presidential contenders.
The ad campaign will run for five weeks, and will focus on holding Trump accountable “for four years of failures driven by his own ego and self-interest and defined by his incompetence as a leader,” according to a memo shared with NBC News. The committee declined to provide a specific price tag but said it would be a “six figure television buy.”
The Biden campaign hasn’t aired any TV ads since March, when the former vice president effectively secured the nomination. Before that, the campaign spent some $12 million on ads ahead of the primaries in Michigan, Florida, Missouri and Illinois. It’s now prioritizing digital ads, leaving it to super PACs and the DNC to battle on the airwaves.
One of the DNC ads will focus narrowly on Trump’s trade dispute with China, which the committee claims has cost an estimated 300,000 jobs. Another will zero in on Trump’s early reassurances that China had the coronavirus under control and that it would just go away on its own.
The spots preview a general election messaging strategy, arguing that Trump’s supposed strength as a businessman, honed over decades in real estate and reality TV, has in fact been a weakness.
Amy McGrath books big ad buy against Charles Booker as Senate primary heats up
WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath is booking a flury of ads with one week before her Senate primary faceoff with state Rep. Charles Booker, flexing the muscle of one of the best-funded Senate campaigns in history.
As of Monday afternoon, McGrath has $1.4 million in TV and radio ads booked before the June 23 primary. Booker has $335,000. So far this week, Booker has primarily run a spot calling himself a “real Democrat” and contrasting with McGrath’s past comments supportive of President Trump’s agenda. McGrath meanwhile has run a smattering of ads that focus on general election issues and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
While Booker has caught fire in recent days — winning endorsements from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as from prominent newspapers in the state — McGrath is still raking in the cash.
She’s raised $41.1 million through June 3, according to the most recent fundraising filings, and had $19.3 million by that point. Booker, by comparison, raised $793,000 and had $285,000 banked away at that point, which was before the endorsements from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, who weild significant strength in the grassroots-fundraising space.
So as Booker has snagged the recent headlines, McGrath continues to overwhelm him on the airwaves.
Biden and DNC say they raised more than $80 million in May
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign announced that it raised $80.1 million in May in partnership with the Democratic National Committee, the most the joint effort has brought in to date and marking a turnaround in fundraising momentum.
The May total marks another improvement from April, when the Biden-DNC joint haul was $60.5 million. The campaign has raised more in the month of May than it did the first three months of the year, which totaled $74 million in the first quarter.
In an email to supporters Monday, Biden said that more than half of its May donors gave for the first time. Full results will be available once the campaign files its required monthly report by June 20.
The campaign is crediting its fundraising haul to the growth of small-dollar donors, which they say has tripled since February. And the uptick comes after the campaign established a joint-fundraising committee with the DNC, which allows the campaign to raise money in tandem with the national party.
In potential foreshadowing for June’s fundraising numbers, the campaign announced that they’ve brought in 1.5 million new supporters in just the last two weeks alone.
It’s a significant turnaround since pre-South Carolina primary days, when the campaign struggled with online and small-dollar fundraising. It also proves that the campaign can bring in significant amounts of money after facing criticism that virtual fundraisers may not have the same appeal as courting large-dollar donors in-person.
“I’m in awe of this sum of money. Just a few months ago, people were ready to write this campaign off. Now, we are making huge dents in Donald Trump’s warchest. Every single dollar is going to make sure he is only a one-term president,” Biden said in an email to supporters.
The largest donation sum to date for the presumptive Democratic nominee occurs even as the campaign has been approaching online fundraising more delicately during the COVID-19 pandemic and national protests on criminal justice.
Earlier this month, fundraising emails specified that the campaign was not soliciting donations from supporters with ZIP codes in areas with significant demonstrations for one week. All fundraising emails now give recipients the option of pausing solicitations for two weeks noting that it is “a difficult time for our country” and “it may be an especially difficult time for many of you personally.”
Relying solely on virtual fundraisers due to the coronavirus pandemic has forced the campaign to get creative with their large-dollar and grassroots fundraising. As of late, Biden has held fundraisers alongside A-list celebrities, called on endorsers to hold cooking and yoga classes and began to court grassroots supporters directly.
Biden held his first grassroots fundraiser alongside Pete Buttigieg last month that raised over $1 million. On Monday night, he is holding a virtual finance event with Elizabeth Warren, who he’s previously tasked with calling small-dollar donors to thank them for supporting Biden.
Meanwhile, President Trump has restarted his own in-person fundraising in recent days and his reelection effort raised more than $27 million in a span of four days that covered an extensive digital fundraising effort as well as two in-person fundraisers.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorses Biden
WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political wing of Planned Parenthood, announced its endorsement of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president Monday, praising him for his record of expanding health care for women.
“Joe Biden is the only candidate in this race who will stand up for our health and our rights,” the group’s acting president, Alexis McGill Johnson, said in a statement, noting that President Trump has “attacked access to abortion and reproductive health care” along with “the people that Planned Parenthood health centers serve,” like women, racial minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Responding to the endorsement in a statement, Biden said: “As President, I’m going to do everything in my power to expand access to quality, affordable health care, including reproductive health care. I’m proud to stand with Planned Parenthood in this fight.”
In both the group’s statement and a video announcing the endorsement, Planned Parenthood Action Fund applauds the former vice president for his work on the Affordable Care Act, which expanded birth control access for women nationwide, and for sticking up for abortion rights. The statement even goes on to point out that Biden is committed to repealing the Hyde Amendment, which largely bans federal funds from being used for most abortions. Critics argue that the Hyde Amendment unfairly reduces access to abortions for low-income, minority women who rely on Medicaid.
But Biden’s views on abortion, and particularly on the Hyde Amendment, have changed over time. It was just one year ago that Biden reversed his long-maintained support of the Hyde Amendment, saying last June at a DNC gala that he could no longer “justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need.”
“If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” he added.
Biden’s faith has also clouded his views. The former vice president revealed in his 2007 book “Promises to Keep” that as a Roman Catholic, he personally opposes abortion and grapples with the issue though he said he would not impose his religious beliefs on others.