With 100 days left until the "first in the South" Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell says that more than a dozen candidates have made nearly 100 visits combined to the Palmetto State. According to the Post & Courier, that has amounted to more than 460 events held by dozens of candidates since the start of the race.
While some of those candidates have since suspended or ended their presidential bids, former Vice President Joe Biden has remained the frontrunner in the state by at least 22 points since the summer. In the November CBS News Battleground Tracker, he outpaced the field by 28% as Democrats' first choice for nominee in the state.
Though Biden has sustained a steady lead in the state, Mitchell reports that it's author Marianne Williamson who has spent the most days in the Palmetto State (30 days) and California Senator Kamala Harris has visited more times than any other candidate since launching her campaign. This weekend, Harris will return to South Carolina for her 15th visit. According to a campaign press release, she will be appealing to supporters at the "Black Women's Weekend of Action."
South Carolina state Representative Patricia Moore Henegan was one of Harris' earliest supporters in the state and she says that the senator's "hands-on" approach to community outreach is what makes her campaign unique in the state. "When you're running for office, you want people to know you and it's not just from reading about you but to truly know you and then to watch how you interact with people," said Henegan. She added that early on she noticed that Harris would hug voters at events and displayed a knowledge of the importance of connecting with voters.
Another candidate that has made regular stops through the state is Senator Cory Booker, who has received seven new endorsements from community leaders in the state following his performance in the fifth Democratic presidential debate. While his team is stacked with experienced state politicos, he hasn't polled above 4% in the state according to CBS News Battleground trackers. During an event at the College of Charleston earlier this month, however, Booker told a crowd of over 100 attendees that it's still early and polls are meaningless. He also added that then-Senator Obama was down in state polls at this time in 2007.
Leading in the amount of paid South Carolina staffers is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders with 62 paid staffers, half of whom are native to the state, according to South Carolina campaign spokesperson Michael Wukela.
On Wednesday, the team announced a shake-up in state leadership with the promotion of Jessica Bright to state director. Bright, who says she's "honored" to be in this role, notes that the team is using faults from Sanders' 2016 state operation to improve and expand, which has resulted in outreach to over 800,000 unique voters according to the campaign.
"Me being in leadership, an African American women, is a testament to us changing," said Bright. "Our field staff is a lot larger and a lot [more] robust and then also the investment of local people, people that actually know South Carolina."
And while some campaigns have been in the state since the beginning of the year, others, like that of billionaire Tom Steyer, are newer to the playing field in the state but growing quickly. South Carolina spokesperson Tiffiany Vaughn Jones says the team has 50 paid staffers, and that's up 20 people within just the past two weeks. The team's goal is to reach 100 paid staffers in the state by December.
When asked, Steyer told CBS News that the goal in South Carolina is a goal that most campaigns would probably agree to share: "Talk to as many people as possible, have as big a presence on the ground as possible."
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Joe Biden is gearing up for an eight-day, 18-county bus tour across Iowa that is set to begin next Saturday. "When Joe first announced he was running, he told Iowans they'd be seeing a lot of him - and he meant it," said Campaign Manager Greg Shultz in a statement. "With less than 75 days to the caucus, Joe is going to work harder than anyone else to earn the support of Iowans across the entire Hawkeye State."
Biden's campaign says the tour will include visits to places that will account for 974 state delegate equivalents. So far this year, CBS News campaign reporters Musadiq Bidar and Adam Brewster say Biden has held 52 campaign events across 28 counties in Iowa. During this upcoming bus trip, Biden will visit 14 new counties for the first time.
Kamala Harris announced endorsements from six Iowa educators and community leaders following last night's Democratic debate, according to Bidar and Brewster. Former Iowa State Senator Pat Harper said she is endorsing Harris because of her knowledge of ethics and the law.
"She shows deep respect for our laws," Harper said. "It is what our country needs after so much deviousness and disrespect for the law from our current president."
Thursday's list of endorsements for Harris also include Iowa City Housing and Community Development Commissioner Megan Alter. Atler said Harris can and will stand up to "what will remain a horrible fractured Congress, while also trying to find ways to get work done." Alter said she is "excited" to be all-in for Harris. Alter added that Harris has a "strong legal mind," and is an "experienced legislator" who is "campaigning on both huge issues and the ways they affect people's daily lives." Harris will be back in Iowa this weekend and will also spending Thanksgiving with her family in the state.
Bernie Sanders spoke in the shadow of a Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the Morehouse campus Thursday afternoon where he introduced his plan for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Before he did that, CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte says Sanders spoke at length about his younger years.
The Vermont senator spoke about his Polish-born father fleeing "the father of white supremacy, Adolf Hitler." Sanders said he learned at a young age about, "racism, Arianism, and all that crap." He pledged to "end all forms of discrimination" in America when elected. He then went into detail on how, as a student at University of Chicago, he was arrested at an anti-housing segregation rally.
"I'm one of the few candidates ever to tell you proudly that I was arrested and went to jail fighting segregation," said Sanders. "That's usually not the kind of thing candidates advertise but it's a better way to go to jail than the corruption that currently goes on in White House."
Sanders says his plan would bolster funding for teacher recruitment and medical schools at HBCU's. He listed multiple data points that spoke to racial disparities in the health care profession. For example, he said only 4% of doctors are black.
Sanders did the same with public education, saying 7% of public school teachers are black. he also spoke at length on criminal justice reform and marijuana legalization. One thing we also heard from the senator, which we almost never hear in his stump, was the call to end capital punishment. Sanders said that this would be done under his administration.
Finally, Sanders referenced Stacey Abrams' failed gubernatorial run in Georgia, saying, "the governor should not have been the governor." He thanked Abrams for her work in get-out-the-vote efforts and voter registration. The crowd loudly chanted "STACEY" in return.
Elizabeth Warren announced 25 endorsements from current and former Iowa leaders. The list includes State representative Art Staed, bringing Warren's total of endorsements this cycle from current Iowa state legislators to 10, the most of any candidate in the race. Bidar and Brewster say Warren also earned the endorsements of two former state legislators, six current or former local elected officials and six Democratic activists.
Staed, who represents Iowa's 66th district, which covers parts of Cedar Rapids, said "even in these times of polarization, we can make big, structural change if we lead with compassion." He added that Warren has "the passion and intellect to do unite and lead our nation."
And yesterday, 50 current New Hampshire State Representatives backing Warren penned an open letter also endorsing the Massachusetts lawmaker. "Our constituents want us to take action to halt the effects of climate change, end our students' loan debt crisis, and pass common sense gun laws. They are counting on us to pass paid family and medical leave, raise the minimum wage, and fight the opioid epidemic by supporting recovery efforts and taking big pharma to court," the letter reads. "But attempts to address these issues have failed time and again in Washington."
While many current New Hampshire officials have yet to endorse a presidential candidate, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says Warren's announcement represents nearly a quarter of 233 Democratic representatives in the New Hampshire State House.
HARRIS VS. BUTTIGIEG
Senator Kamala Harris says South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg sounded "a bit naïve" when he brought up the discrimination gay Americans face during a back-and-forth about his problems attracting support from black voters at Wednesday's Democratic debate. CBS News Campaign Reporters Tim Perry and Jack Turman report that Harris said it was wrongheaded for Buttigieg to "compare our struggles."
"Those of us who've been involved in Civil Rights for a long time we know that it is important that we not compare our struggles. It is not productive, it is not smart and strategically it works against what we need to do which is build coalition." Harris said Thursday during a Black Women Power Breakfast hosted by Higher Heights, a national political organization for black women that endorsed Harris earlier this month. "We know that in our ongoing fight for civil rights if any one of us starts to differentiate ourselves in a certain way and in particular what he did on the stage, it's just not productive. And I think it's a bit naïve."
Buttigieg rejected Harris' accusation Thursday, saying "there's no equating those two experiences." The South Bend mayor told reporters, "What I do think is important is for each of us to reveal who we are and what motivates us and it's important for voters to understand what makes me tick, what moves me and my sources of motivation and ensuring that I stand up for others." He added, "Last night I shared that some of my sources of motivation included my personal experience, my governing experience and my personal faith."
Former New York Mayor has filed paperwork to run for president of the United States — but his team says he's not in yet. Bloomberg's team filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday that says he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination. An aide familiar with his plans says this "is another step towards running but not a final decision or announcement." A final decision is not expected Thursday or Friday, aides said.
In essence, CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe says Bloomberg was forced to take this step Thursday because he filed paperwork to appear on the Democratic primary ballot in Alabama and Arkansas earlier this month. By doing so, he was required to file paperwork with the FEC within 15 days.
On Wednesday, CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson says Bloomberg also filed to be on the Texas ballot. All three southern states hold primaries on Super Tuesday, March 3. He is working to obtain signatures on the ballot in Tennessee, another Super Tuesday state. He is not planning to contest the New Hampshire or South Carolina primaries or the early caucuses in Iowa and Nevada.
California's Supreme Court has struck down a state measure passed over the summer that would have forced White House hopefuls - including President Trump - to disclose income tax returns in order to be listed on the Super Tuesday contest's primary ballot. Citing California's constitution in its unanimous decision issued Thursday, CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye wrote that "it is the voters who must decide" whether candidates refusing to release such information "will have consequences at the ballot box."
At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the impeachment inquiry has helped their small dollar donations and that it is "activating" GOP voters like the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings did. "It's the first time during Kavanaugh, that I've actually had people call and say, 'I'm going to give you money,' without me having to call them. It was magnificent from a chair perspective," she said.
On the numbers, CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports McDaniel said they raised $5 million online within the first 24 hours of the impeachment inquiry announcement and $3 million online on the first day of the impeachment hearings. She said "the investment is as strong as ever, which shows that this [impeachment inquiry] is partisan. If our donors were concerned they'd be pulling back." In October, the RNC raised $25 million and has collectively raised $194 million for the year. By comparison, the Democratic National Committee brought in $9 million in October, with $75.5 million raised throughout the year.
McDaniel also weighed in on Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate and said nothing she saw concerned her. "I was surprised that more of them didn't go after Buttigieg with him surging in the polls. They do seem to be very gloves-off on him right now," she said.
When asked about outside groups and Democrat super PACs spending on ads and data operations in swing states, McDaniel said it allows the Democratic candidates to be "very self-righteous." "[They] say we don't want any big corporate money or dark money when they know that there are billionaires outside flooding hundreds of millions into those states… so I do think there's a lot of hypocrisy in that." she said. "Yeah, it's a challenge that they have so much money flooding in and that's why the RNC has to be the best it's ever been."
McDaniel also fielded questions about her uncle, Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, and his previous spats with President Trump. "I've said these are two grown men, very capable. They can work out their differences," she said.
CLOSED DOOR MEETING
It's no secret that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg got grilled by Congress last month over his company's policies on political ads and cryptocurrency. But until this week, few knew he had an off-the-books meeting with President Trump at the White House.
CBSNews.com writer Caroline Cournoyer reports the two had dinner, along with the first lady. And, according to NBC News, the dinner also included venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who is a major Trump campaign donor, one of Facebook's board members and the chairman of Palantir, a data technology company that has been awarded major government defense contracts since Mr. Trump entered the White House.
The October meeting was first reported by NBC News on Wednesday, and it was the pair's second meeting in two months. Zuckerberg met with the president in the Oval Office in September — that meeting appeared on the president's schedule.
The topic of the more recent meeting and the reason for the lack of transparency surrounding it have not been revealed. The social media company defended the previously undisclosed meeting.
"As is normal for a CEO of a major U.S. company, Mark accepted an invitation to have dinner with the President and First Lady at the White House," a Facebook spokesperson told CBS News on Thursday. But Elizabeth Warren, who is running on a platform that includes increasing regulations on technology companies, said that "this is corruption, plain and simple."
"This is how the government keeps working for giant corporations and the wealthy and well-connected. It's no wonder that companies like Facebook have been allowed to consolidate economic and political power without any real accountability," she tweeted on Thursday. She vowed, "I won't cozy up to Facebook when I'm president."
Compared to Google and Twitter, Facebook takes a more lenient approach toward political advertisements — a fact that Mr. Trump, whose campaign relies heavily on social media — has praised. The company has also resisted congressional efforts to regulate it. Google announced Thursday it would make it more difficult for political ads to target specific groups of people beyond broad categories. It also bans ads making false claims and "deepfakes."
Twitter bans political ads, although it allows issue ads.
With the release of their FEC report for October, Navarro says the National Republican Congressional Committee has been outraised by their Democratic counterparts for 10 straight months. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $2.2 million more than the NRCC in October, and has a $30 million overall advantage for all of 2019.
"Voters know that Democrats are fighting for kitchen-table issues that affect everyday Americans, and they are standing with us as we work to protect and expand this House Majority," DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter said in a statement.
One potential bright spot for the NRCC? RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Thursday morning that they have recruited 160 women to file for races across the country, in hopes of increasing the low numbers of female Republican House members
The Republican Governors Association announced Texas Governor Greg Abbott will be its new chairman in 2020, taking over for Pete Ricketts of Nebraska. Abbott previously served as vice chairman in 2019 and will be succeeded by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. "With governor's races in 11 states in 2020, we are focused on defending our incumbents and competing to flip governorships from blue to red," Governor Abbott said in a statement.
For Democrats, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will take over for Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as chair of the Democratic Governors Association heading into 2020. Next year, Democrats have to defend their seats in four states while Republicans have seven states they want to retain, says Navarro.