Kamala Harris Reopens Medicare-for-All Debate: Campaign Update

Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou

(Bloomberg) -- Kamala Harris’s response to a health-insurance question at fundraiser in the Hamptons has reopened one of the major fault lines in the Democratic presidential primary: Medicare for All.

Harris once co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’s legislation in the Senate that would collapse all insurance into one government plan, has at times tripped up when asked to defend that position and has repeatedly expressed discomfort with the idea of ending private insurance.

“As you may have noticed, over the course of the many months, I have not been comfortable with Bernie’s plan, the Medicare for All plan. And I’ll tell you why,” she told supporters at a fundraiser Sunday. “It comes back to listening.”

Harris said union members who negotiated health care as part of long-term contracts convinced her to allow private insurance. “So there will be a public plan option and a private plan option,” she said.

Sanders shot back at Harris on Twitter Monday: “I don’t go to the Hamptons to raise money from billionaires. If I ever visited there, I would tell them the same thing I have said for the last 30 years: We must pass a Medicare for All system to guarantee affordable health care for all, not just for those who can afford it.”

Warren Apologizes for Native Heritage Claim (1:23 P.M.)

Elizabeth Warren apologized directly to a Native American audience Monday for the “harm” done by her past claims of Native heritage.

“Like anyone who has been honest with themselves, I know I have made mistakes,” the Massachusetts senator said at a forum on Native American issues in Sioux City, Iowa, that was streamed online by the event organizers. “I am sorry for the harm I have caused.”

Warren had previously expressed regret for identifying herself as part Native American and for a widely criticized video last year of her taking a DNA test that showed distant American Indian ancestry. Earlier this year she apologized to the Cherokee Nation after some American Indian groups and activists said taking a DNA test and using the results to claim affiliation with them showed a lack of understanding about what constitutes Native identity.

Warren at the forum said she is “grateful” for conversations with Native Americans since the test. “I have listened and I have learned a lot.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly mocked Warren for the claims, calling her “Pocahontas” -- which some Native groups regard as a slur -- and said he would be stepping up such attacks in the future.

Before the forum, Warren released policy proposals to aid Native Americans, calling for the protection of tribal lands and increasing funding for Native programs. -- Emma Kinery

Democrats Sign Up for Climate Change Town Hall (12:25 p.m.)

Most of the top-polling Democratic candidates have agreed to join a CNN town hall on climate change, one of the top concerns of the party’s voters in early primary and caucus states.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who are leading in the nomination, will be joined at the Sept. 4 town hall by Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Senator Kamala Harris of California, currently in fourth place in most polls, cited a scheduling conflict in declining an invitation to take part, according to CNN. Harris’s campaign declined to elaborate, though some of her top bundlers are set to host fundraisers for her in Los Angeles the same night as the town hall.

The candidates were invited based on whether they reached 2% support in at least four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee conducted between June 28 and August 21. That left out Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who has centered his campaign on addressing climate change. -- Emma Kinery

Joe Biden Makes First TV Ad Buy in Iowa (10:26 a.m.)

Joe Biden has made his first advertising buy of his presidential campaign, booking $59,255 worth of air time in three Iowa television markets.

The former vice president remains the front-runner in Iowa polling, and has a 9 point advantage over his nearest rival in the RealClearPolitcs average, but some of his rivals have begun spending heavily in the state -- and narrowing his lead.

The ads, booked to start running Tuesday until Sept. 9, will mostly air in the Des Moines market, according to Advertising Analytics LLC, which tracks spending on political commercials. Biden also booked small amounts of air time in Sioux City and the Quad Cities.

Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, made their first Iowa ad buys of the campaign last week. Billionaire Tom Steyer has been running spots in early primary states, including Iowa, since launching his campaign in July.

Biden’s campaign has yet to release the spot it will air. -- Bill Allison

Pete Buttigieg Dodges Talk About Black Support (6:24 A.M.)

Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay person to run for president, dodged a question from CNN’s Jake Tapper about whether his sexual orientation was a factor in his lag in catching on with black voters, especially in the South.

Buttigieg has done well in fund-raising, collecting $7 million in the second quarter, but he still polls well behind Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday he was asked about the difficulty making inroads with black voters, especially in the South, and whether being gay was a factor.

Buttigieg dodged the question, reverting to talking points about his policy proposals.

“I think most black voters, like most voters in general, want to know what the candidates are actually going to do to improve their lives,” he said on CNN.

A 2017 Pew Research Center poll showed the share of African Americans who favor same sex marriage at 51%, up from 39% in 2015. Support among Americans overall was 62%.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has also struggled with black voters because of what some saw as a mixed performance of his handling of a police shooting of a black man in South Bend earlier this summer. -- Ros Krasny

COMING UP

After the Democratic presidential candidates speak before the Native American voter forum in Iowa, they’ll meet up again at the Iowa AFL-CIO gathering. Then they all head out to San Francisco for the Democratic National Committee meeting Aug. 22-24.

--With assistance from Ros Krasny, Bill Allison, Emma Kinery, Gregory Korte and Sahil Kapur.

To contact the reporter on this story: Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou in Washington at megkolfopoul@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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