WILMINGTON, Del. — After a nearly three year hiatus, Joe Biden is once again a protectee of the United States Secret Service.
A protective detail began its assignment with the former vice president and Democratic front-runner this week, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News, even as Biden is expected to remain off the campaign trail amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Biden campaign’s formal request for Secret Service protection was submitted last week to senior congressional officials, who by law consult with the secretary of Homeland Security to consider if candidates should receive security from the elite law enforcement agency.
Since kicking off his campaign last April, Biden has had minimal security on the campaign trail — one private security guard often supplemented by local law enforcement from jurisdictions where he campaigned. The lighter security footprint allowed Biden to engage in the type of one-on-one, retail-oriented campaigning he preferred, especially in the early-voting states where voters place a premium on it.
Campaign officials have long been concerned about his safety given his high profile as a former vice president and the highly partisan environment. A high-profile incident in California this month, when a pair of dairy protestors stormed the stage as Biden celebrated a string of victories on Super Tuesday, pushed congressional Democrats publicly and Biden’s campaign privately to seek more rigorous protection.
Biden is not a stranger to Secret Service protection, of course. He first became a protectee of the agency in August 2008 when Barack Obama chose him as his vice presidential running mate. He and his family had a security detail throughout his eight years as vice president, and Biden for several additional months after he left office in 2017.
Illinois governor backs Biden for president
WASHINGTON — Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker is backing former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid, he announced Monday.
The endorsement came one day before the state’s Democratic presidential primary and one day after Biden faced off against Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in a one-on-one debate Sunday night. The endorsement also comes as governors across the country are scrambling to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and spread.
“As our nation faces some of the biggest challenges of our time, I know Vice President Joe Biden is the right candidate to beat Donald Trump and lead us into a new era. It’s time to unite as Democrats to restore respect to our nation’s highest office,” Pritzker said in a statement.
“Joe will stand on the side of working families and serve as a partner to us in Illinois as we work to create good paying jobs, expand healthcare and invest in education,” Pritzker said. “After four years of Donald Trump’s failure to lead with honor, tell the truth, or stand up for the middle class, we need a steady hand and a President who is ready to move our nation past the divisiveness and vitriol that have become the norm in 2020. I trust Joe to lead with his head and heart, to do what’s right, and to get things done for the American people.”
During Pritzker’s successful 2018 bid for governor, Biden praised the billionaire businessman-turned politician during a campaign swing through Illinois. Biden had already received an endorsement from Penny Pritzker, JB’s sister who served in the Obama administration as the commerce secretary.
Biden already has the endorsement of both Illinois Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as a handful of other prominent Illinois politicians including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and eight Democratic members of Congress from the state.
—Marianna Sotomayor contributed
Biden touts support of Warren’s bankruptcy reform plan as a bridge to progressives
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden surprised audiences when he announced his support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy reform plan during a virtual town hall, an issue both famously sparred over in public 15 years ago.
In his first virtual appearance before voters since cancelling public events to mitigate coronavirus concerns, the former vice president told a questioner from Illinois that one of the ways he would win over Bernie Sanders supporters is by coming to agreement on “a whole range of things” they’re both passionate about reforming, including bankruptcy.
“For example, one of the things that I think Bernie and I will agree on — I’ve endorsed Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy proposal,” he said during the Friday evening livestream. “Allows for student debt to be relieved in bankruptcy. Provides for a whole range of other issues that allows us in fact impact on how people are dealing with their circumstances.”
Biden’s full throttled backing of the proposal is a notable shift from the position he held while serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he faced Warren, then a Harvard professor, in a hearing to debate the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCA). Warren laid out her case against why the bill that Biden supported was unfair because it made it harder for people to file for bankruptcy. The bill was ultimately signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Warren outlined how she would undo parts of BAPCA in a Medium article posted in January when both were seeking the presidential nomination. While Warren campaign allies did not respond to questions about Biden’s newfound support for her plan, former staff members took to social media to encourage any candidate adopt her plan.
“Elizabeth Warren did the homework, now *please* copy it — everyone,” Warren’s former social media director wrote in a tweet.
The timing of Biden’s endorsement comes as the former vice president is trying to unite all Democrats, including the most progressive wings of the party, as he faces off with Sanders. In recent weeks Biden has earned 11 endorsements from former 2020 Democratic candidates, but Warren has notably sat out on backing the two final contenders in the primary race.
While Biden said supporting Warren’s plan is one area for finding common ground with the Vermont senator, Sanders has often attacked Biden for his support for the 2005 bankruptcy bill. He often brought it up as a consequential stain in Biden’s Senate record alongside his support of the Iraq War and trade deals.
“The fact of the matter is I’m not beholding to the banks. I supported the bankruptcy bill because I believed taking a very bad bill was going to pass overwhelmingly and make it better made sense,” Biden said in a July 2019 speech where he defended controversial parts of his record that had come under attack by his opponents.
The Biden campaign told NBC News that Biden, who recently reviewed Warren’s plan, will likely speak more about why he supports her proposals at Sunday’s Democratic debate.
Biden’s first virtual event encounters technological glitches
WASHINGTON — The virtual campaign is proving a bit complicated, after a Friday event for former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign encountered some technological glitches.
Biden is the first Democratic candidate to hold a virtual town hall due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and public events. The attempt to broadcast the first of two scheduled “virtual events” in the next several days involved a garbled-voiced Biden and ended roughly four minutes after the Facebook Live video began streaming in Illinois.
The former vice president acknowledged the issues while ending the livestream.
“Well, I’m sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections, but there is a lot more to say and I’ve probably already said too much,” Biden said.
But the appetite for these events appears to be there — the short event garnered more than 5,000 viewers.
On Saturday morning, the campaign released a link to a full, updated video without the technical glitches.
Much of the event focused on Biden explaining how he’d work to respond and recover the country from pandemics. He also tried to downplay the need for panic and outlined ways in which everyone can take precautions to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, while still connecting to people.
“Campaign events are no exception that’s why we’re connecting virtually today. We’re going to have to get better at the technical side of this,” Biden said.
Biden, Sanders increase ad spending amid virtual campaign
WASHINGTON — While the traditional campaigning in the 2020 race has come to a halt due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the Democratic presidential candidates have increased their TV and radio ad spending for the upcoming March 17 primaries, with millions of dollars on the airwaves in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.
Here’s a look at the ad spending in these four states through March 17, according to data from Advertising Analytics:
- Sanders: $1.4 million
- Biden: $564,000
- Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $522,000
FYI: Michael Bloomberg had spent $8.9 million in the state before dropping out
- Sanders: $6.0 million
- Biden: $5.1 million
FYI: Bloomberg had spent $44.6 million
- Sanders: $2.2 million
- Biden: $1.9 million
FYI: Bloomberg had spent $18.6 million
- Sanders: $2.3 million
- Biden: $1.3 million
FYI: Bloomberg had spent $15.4 million
Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman formally backs Biden
WASHINGTON — The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), California Rep. Karen Bass, announced Friday that she is endorsing Joe Biden for president, making her the 37th member of the CBC to back the former vice president.
In a statement released by Bass, the congresswoman said that Biden is the person who can provide a “steady hand that can bring an end to the past three and a half years of daily trauma inflicted” on Americans by the Trump presidency.
Bass added that during his time as vice president, she has come to know Biden as a true leader domestically and internationally — someone who “works tirelessly on behalf of all Americans, especially those purposely forgotten and antagonized by the current administration.”
In an interview with PBS, the chairwoman elaborated on her decision to back Biden and revealed that his rival, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, “called one time” to invite her to meet “last minute,” but when she couldn’t make it, he never called back. Her and Biden in contrast, have spoken “a number of times” during the campaign.
Bass also told PBS that Biden’s vice presidency reveals a “historic connection with African Americans,” and that Sanders “does not have a historic connection like that.” She continued to criticize Sanders, saying that if she were to run for president, she would work “years in advance on building ties and building relationships — not just with African Americans — with all communities.”
Sanders will ‘wholeheartedly’ support Biden if he’s the nominee, adviser says
WASHINGTON — Senior adviser to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign Jeff Weaver said Thursday that Sanders will support former Vice President Joe Biden “wholeheartedly” if Biden is the Democratic nominee.
In an interview on MSNBC, Weaver said that the Sanders campaign is looking at the rest of the Democratic primary on a “week by week” basis, but that if he does not win the nomination, he would campaign for the former vice president. However, Weaver wouldn’t say if that decision would come before or after the Democratic convention in July.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Weaver said. Adding, “Right now we are working hard and working hard to win.”
The campaign is looking to shore up wins in this Tuesday’s upcoming nominating contests — focusing specifically on Illinois and Arizona where Sanders performed well in 2016. However, states like Florida and Ohio will also be voting on Tuesday where Biden has a substantial likelihood of winning a larger share of delegates.
What might Michigan’s primary turnout say about the general election?
WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders had hoped a strong showing in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary would help supercharge his fledgling campaign, but his campaign appears poised for a double-digit loss there.
NBC News contributor Dante Chinni, the director of the American Communities Project at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, pulled out three important takeaways from Michigan’s primary:
- There are cracks in Sanders’ coalition of young, college-age voters as well as the older working-class voters.
- Sanders’ success in areas that support President Trump “seems to have fizzled.”
- And turnout suggests Biden “might be the candidate to bring blue-collar voters back to the Democrats in 2020.”
Click here to read his full analysis.
Gabby Giffords backs Biden ahead of Arizona primary
Giffords, who represented a Tucson-area district from 2005-2012, became a nationally recognized gun control activist after she was shot and critically wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011. Her endorsement comes ahead of next week’s Arizona primary between Biden and Bernie Sanders, whose strength among Latino voters could prove significant in the state. Sanders won 53 percent of Latino voters in Nevada’s caucuses on February 22 and 41 percent in Texas on Super Tuesday.
Arizona votes on March 17, along with Florida, Illinois and Ohio.
“Joe Biden leads with his heart. He has the compassion and toughness to lead on gun safety. I’ve witnessed him comfort the survivors of gun violence, and I’ve seen him fight for solutions to gun violence — and win. This is the leadership we need in the White House. Joe Biden is the choice for a true gun safety president,” Giffords said in a statement provided to NBC News.
“Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is an American hero who embodies the courage and tenacity we need to take on and defeat the gun lobby,” Biden said in a statement to NBC News. “I have been proud to work alongside Gabby in the fight to end gun violence and am honored to have her support today.”
The endorsement could undergird Biden’s momentum coming off his strong showings in the March 10 primaries.
Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, is expected to be the Democratic challenger to Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the highest-profile Senate contests this year.
Sanders has come under criticism from Biden and gun control activists for some of his past votes on gun measures, particularly a law that shields gun manufacturers from liability.
As a presidential candidate, Sanders has emphasized his support for universal background checks and his D- minus rating from the NRA.
Giffords and Biden have worked together in the past on gun safety measures, including in the aftermath of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 first graders and six educators were killed. Two years later, they sat together off the Senate floor watching as a bill Giffords had fought for to expand background checks failed by five votes.
Biden leads Sanders by dozens of endorsements after big wins
WASHINGTON — Since his big win in the South Carolina primary less than two weeks ago, Joe Biden has earned more than 50 endorsements from Democratic governors and members of Congress.
That’s compared with just one endorsement for Bernie Sanders since the Vermont senator’s win in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22.
Overall, Biden has a total of more than 100 endorsements from major Democratic politicians, while Sanders has about ten.
The gap in their support has continued to widen as the former vice president racks up primary victories. Following Biden’s near-30 percentage point margin win in South Carolina on Feb. 29, most of his former primary opponents have endorsed him.
In the last week and a half alone, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey have all rallied for Biden. Mike Bloomberg and John Delaney have also put their support behind him.
Other influential politicians who have jumped on board include Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton ally who previously served as Chair of the Democratic National Committee and the governor of Virginia.
The only former competitor backing Sanders after his definitive victory in the Nevada caucuses is author Marianne Williamson. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., dropped out of the race last week but she has yet to endorse Biden or Sanders.
Those backing Biden and Sanders also vary drastically in their ideologies and policy positions.
Since the South Carolina primary, Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Elissa Slotkin, and Andy Kim — moderates who all flipped their seats from red to blue in the 2018 midterms — have endorsed Biden. Kim is one of several House members who previously endorsed Buttigieg and then transferred his support to Biden after the former South Bend mayor suspended his campaign.
While just one member of Congress — Rep. Mark Takano of California — has decided to throw his support behind Sanders since his strong performance in Nevada lifted him into temporary front-runner status, those who backed the Independent Vermont senator prior to the caucuses come from the bluest of districts. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for example, are ardent Sanders campaigners.
From the start of his candidacy, Sanders has failed to win over any governors. Five governors in contrast, have issued formal endorsements for Biden, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer whose state is voting today.
Sanders and Biden scrap on the airwaves in Tuesday’s states
WASHINGTON — It may not be super, but as the Democratic race hits the latest round of contests today, Joe Biden is looking to replicate his strong showing on last week’s Super Tuesday and widen his delegate lead over Bernie Sanders.
The Sanders campaign is outspending Biden on the TV and radio airwaves across the six states that hold their nominating contests today — $2.9 million to Biden’s almost $2.2 million, according to Advertising Analytics. But Biden’s effort has been boosted by spending from his allied super PAC, Unite the Country.
Both campaigns are spending the most in Michigan — Sanders and Biden have spent about $1.2 million each, with Unite the Country spending another almost $400,000.
The Biden campaign and his super PAC have also run ads in Missouri and Mississippi, but neither have spent a cent on TV or radio ads in Washington, Idaho and North Dakota.
The Sanders campaign, by comparison, has gone up on the airwaves in all six states voting Tuesday.
Sanders’ top ad across these states, according to Advertising Analytics data, is one that attacks Biden on social security by using audio from a speech in 1995 where he called for a spending freeze across the government. His campaign has spent more than $644,000 to air the ad in states holding votes on Tuesday.
The Biden campaign has bristled at those attacks, and has spent almost $200,000 in those states on ads that criticize Sanders for going negative and argue Biden has said he’d expand Medicare and Social Security.
Biden’s top ads in the states voting Tuesday are different versions of the same spot, which feature former President Obama’s praise of Biden as “an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service.”
And Unite Our Country has spent $376,000 in these states on a spot that quotes Biden talking about his campaign, and includes some brief swipes at Sanders (Biden is quoted int he ad saying he wants to “build on ObamaCare” instead of scrapping it, and “Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat”).