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Wednesday February 26th, 2020 5:04AM

The Latest: Bloomberg says he's prepared to take on Trump

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the 2020 presidential primary campaign (all times local):

8:50 p.m.

Michael Bloomberg says none of the other candidates in the Democratic primary field had answers when asked in last week’s debate why they’re better prepared than he is to take on President Donald Trump.

“No, I didn’t plant it,” Bloomberg joked while campaigning Wednesday in Nashville to mark the first day of early voting in Tennessee.

The billionaire former New York City mayor didn’t mention any of his rivals by name. But he says he has “workable and achievable plans” and knows how to get the work done. He said he could provide health insurance to everyone by building on “Obamacare” and without massive tax increases.

That’s a clear distinction with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary and has championed “Medicare for All.” Sanders has built his campaign around criticizing billionaires.

Bloomberg also said he can build the broadest coalition possible to beat Trump. He was introduced by Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin even though he’s not running in that state’s primary.

Bloomberg says there’s nothing “that Trump can do or say that can hurt me.”

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5:35 p.m.

Joe Biden's campaign has told top donors that it doesn't expect the powerful Culinary Union or former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid to endorse any Democratic presidential candidate ahead of the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22.

But the campaign told donors in a Wednesday call that the former vice president has good relationships with union leaders and expects strong support in the state from union members. That's according to a participant on the call who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about internal campaign discussions.

Privately, Biden aides have acknowledged that Bernie Sanders has strong appeal with many rank-and-file union members in the state.

The Culinary Union distributed a flyer this week that said Sanders' single-payer health insurance proposal would "end" workers' health coverage won through collective bargaining. Biden has made similar appeals as he touts his proposal to add a "public option" to existing insurance markets but allow workers to keep their private insurance if they so choose.

The Wednesday donor call came after Biden's fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary delivered another blow to his campaign following his fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. But Biden maintains that his fortunes will improve now that the contest is advancing to more racially diverse states.

— AP writer Bill Barrow

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5:05 p.m.

More than 457,000 ballots were cast in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.

Officials results released Wednesday by the New Hampshire secretary of state show 300,622 ballots were cast in the Democratic primary and 156,418 in the Republican primary.

The total is about 37,000 more than Secretary of State Bill Gardner had predicted and sets a record for the most ballots cast in a presidential primary when an incumbent is running for reelection.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won Tuesday’s Democratic primary with 25%, followed by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 24% and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 19.5%.

President Donald Trump got 83% of the Republican vote.

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This item has been corrected to include absentee ballots in the Republican primary total.

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4:50 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has raised $2.5 million after her third-place finish in New Hampshire, money that will help the Minnesota senator compete in next-up Nevada, South Carolina and beyond.

Klobuchar's campaign says about 60% of the donations that came in after polls closed Tuesday were from first-time donors. They say it's a sign her message is resonating with new voters and her campaign has room to grow.

The money is on top of the roughly $4 million the campaign received in the days after a strong debate performance Friday in New Hampshire.

Tuesday was the first time Klobuchar has broken into the top tier of the 2020 Democratic race. She finished in fifth place in Iowa, well behind Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, who essentially tied for first, and Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. Sanders won Tuesday's primary, and Buttigieg finished second.

Klobuchar spokeswoman Carlie Waibel says the funds will allow the campaign to run ads in Nevada and South Carolina, and to hire staff there and in the states that will vote in the March 3 “Super Tuesday” contests.

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3:25 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has raised roughly $4 million since his lackluster performance during the Iowa caucuses and will run radio ads in Nevada and South Carolina as part of a retooled strategy that aims to reclaim lost ground.

That was the message from the former vice president and his senior advisers, who spoke with donors during a conference call Wednesday. The remarks were described by a participant on the call, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign deliberations.

Biden finished fourth in Iowa's Feb. 3 caucuses and fifth in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

He and his advisers say the outcomes provided a gut check to a candidate once viewed as the front-runner in the race. The radio ads will be part of a media strategy that will see Biden doing more interviews.

The campaign told supporters that even though he didn’t do as well as hoped in the first two contests, he has a bedrock of support with minority voters, who are a far larger voting block.

Biden’s campaign noted that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have not yet been subjected to harsh media scrutiny and that once it happens, it could change the dynamics of the race.

— AP writer Brian Slodysko

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3:15 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is pulling TV advertising from South Carolina just over two weeks out from the state's primary.

That's according to information tweeted Wednesday by Ad Analytics, a firm that tracks political advertising spending.

The firm says the Massachusetts senator will go dark on TV in South Carolina after Sunday, a move that adds to further cuts published earlier this month.

The Warren campaign says the decision was made Tuesday to shift the money to radio and print buys in South Carolina, as well as TV air space in Nevada and Maine, the latter of which votes on Super Tuesday.

The move came the same day that campaign manager Roger Lau wrote to supporters about Warren's strength heading into that March 3 contest, with its massive cache of delegates.

Nevada's Democratic caucuses are Feb. 22. South Carolina votes a week later, on Feb. 29.

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2:55 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is getting a jump on Super Tuesday by campaigning in Tennessee on the day early voting begins.

The former New York City mayor told an overflow crowd of supporters outside the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga on Wednesday that they could hit the polling place rather than standing in the cold rain listening to his speech through a speaker. None of his major competitors have yet announced stops to Tennessee.

Bloomberg’s campaign says more than 1,000 people came out to the event. Some of the attendees were protesters, including one who seized the microphone at the indoor space before the event began.

“That’s not democracy, that is plutocracy,” the woman said before the microphone was cut off. She and others were protesting the billionaire Bloomberg’s self-funding of his campaign and his past support for the stop-and-frisk policing tactic.

A volunteer than led the crowd in a chant of “We like Mike.”

“Let’s say it so loud they can hear it all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!” he shouted.

Tennessee is one of 14 states that holds its primary March 3.

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2:15 p.m.

The Iowa Democratic Party has approved requests from Pete Buttigieg's and Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns for a partial recanvass of the Iowa caucus results.

The party says it expects the recanvass of more than 80 precincts to begin on Sunday and last two days. A recanvass is not a recount, but a check of the vote count against paper records created by caucus leaders to ensure the counts were reported accurately.

The latest caucus results give Buttigieg a lead over Sanders of two state delegate equivalents out of 2,152 counted, or 0.09 percentage points, but The Associated Press has decided that it remains unable to declare a winner based on the available information.

The caucuses were upended by significant issues in collecting and reporting data from individual precincts on caucus night. There were also errors in the complicated mathematical equations used to calculate the results in individual caucus sites that became evident as the party began to release caucus data.

The party has said it will not change mistakes in the math and the only opportunity to correct it would be a recount, which would be the candidates' next option after the recanvass is completed.

___

12:55 p.m.

Joe Biden's top campaign officials are arguing that nothing was settled in the overwhelmingly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire because the Democratic Party's non-white base has yet to vote.

They insisted Wednesday that diverse electorates in Nevada and South Carolina can resurrect the former vice president's campaign after fourth- and fifth-place finishes.

Senior Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders says Democrats won't declare a winner of this nomination “without hearing from black voters and Latino voters.”

Biden is not campaigning publicly Wednesday. He'll be in New York for media interviews and fundraisers Thursday before a three-day swing in Nevada, whose caucuses are Feb. 22. South Carolina's primary follows on Feb. 29.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire’s presidential primary Tuesday, edging former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

___

12:10 p.m.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has ended his 2020 campaign after his late bid failed to catch fire or resonate with voters.

He was the last remaining African American candidate in a Democratic presidential field once defined by its diversity.

Patrick said in a statement Wednesday: “The vote in New Hampshire last night was not enough for us to create the practical win at the campaign’s back to go on to the next round of voting.”

Patrick came in second-to-last in New Hampshire on Tuesday with just over 1,200 votes, after ignoring Iowa and focusing most of his time and resources on the first primary.

His decision leaves just one other candidate of color, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Samoan American, in the Democratic contest. It brings the number of Democrats in the presidential primary race to eight.

Patrick launched his bid for president in mid-November but failed to register in polling and fundraising and never made it onto a presidential debate stage.

___

8:40 a.m.

Georgia congresswoman Lucy McBath has endorsed former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg for president.

McBath cites Bloomberg's “unmatched record in gun violence prevention."

McBath's 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death in 2012 following an argument at a gas station in Florida over loud music. The shooting drew a spotlight on “stand-your-ground" laws. The shooter was a 45-year-old man named Michael Dunn, who claimed he'd done it in self-defense but was convicted of attempted murder.

McBath says in a statement issued Wednesday she met Bloomberg when she was looking for ways to fight against “dangerous gun laws that ripped" her son from her life.

McBath ran for Congress following her son's death and was elected in 2018. She became the first Democrat elected to her seat since 1979.

Bloomberg has been aggressively courting black voters. His effort has taken him across Southern states that vote on Super Tuesday.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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