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On heels of opposing Kavanaugh, Heitkamp flexes her independence in new ad

UPDATED: The Heitkamp campaign removed the ad before it ran on television, instead launching another where she explains her decision to vote no on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The ad was re-released on Wednesday, Oct. 10. 

ORIGINAL: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is out with a new campaign ad touting her political independence on the heels of announcing her opposition to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday.

The ad, obtained by NBC News, will begin running on Friday and comes as Heitkamp is being attacked by Republicans for siding with most Democrats and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in their opposition to Kavanaugh. She is in a tough re-election against Rep. Kevin Cramer, where public polling shows her trailing. 

Heitkamp doesn't mention Kavanaugh in the new ad, but criticizes both parties, especially Democrats. “Too many Democrats don’t appreciate our commitment to faith and self-reliance or recognize that we know how to handle guns safely,” she said, looking straight at the camera. 

“And while Republicans too often side with the powerful, Democrats too often judge how we live,” she continues. “And both parties do nothing but fight.”

The six-figure ad buy running on cable and broadcast television in North Dakota and on digital is not a traditional end-of-campaign ad, which tend to be negative in nature. Instead, it’s a last minute testament to Heitkamp, who is well liked in the state but must overcome the challenge of running in a solidly Republican state that President Donald Trump won by 36 points and is still very popular.

“Heitkamp was elected to represent the people of North Dakota in the Senate, but she has failed, and a new TV ad can’t erase that,” Jake Wilkins, spokesman for the North Dakota Republican Party, said in a statement.

Heitkamp’s statement announcing her opposition to Kavanaugh says she decided she will vote against him because “last Thursday’s hearing called into question Judge Kavanaugh’s current temperament, honesty, and impartiality. These are critical traits for any nominee to serve on the highest court in our country.”

GOP Sen. Young predicts bipartisan infrastructure framework will lead to law

Sen. Todd Young, the Indiana Republican who is one of the 11 GOP Senators backing a bipartisan framework for an infrastructure bill, predicted on Thursday's "MTP Daily" that the deal would ultimately lead to legislation that will be passed into law. 

"It's a historic investment under the framework, without raising taxes, in core infrastructure," Young said about the agreement, which is supported by 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the Senate. 

"I think we get the votes to pass it out of the Senate, and I think with presidential leadership it passes out of the house and is signed into law."

While the agreement lacks many specifics that will need to be ironed out to craft actual legislation, it amounts to the most bipartisan support an infrastructure plan has received in the Senate. Even so, some Democrats have said they would vote against the package unless it addresses issues like climate change, which they have argued should be considered addressed by an infrastructure package. 

Young went onto argue that other pieces of the Democrats' infrastructure push, including "human infrastructure" and "the care economy" should be taken up separately. 

Also on "MTP Daily," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said she wanted to "fight for a big and bold package" nonetheless. 

"When you look at the fact that the president and the Democrats in the Senate have been negotiating trying to get a bipartisan package, yes, that’s the ideal, but at this point, I think we have to go big, we have to go bold," she said, noting unified Democratic control of Congress and the White House. 

"We can’t forget we have the care economy that we must focus on, our elder care, child care, we have climate issues, we have health care issues. All of this should be in one package, because all of this speaks to the needs and the aspirations of the American people."

Former GOP congressman launches Arizona gubernatorial bid

Former Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., is running for governor of his home state in an attempt to return to elected office after a decade in Congress and multiple flirtations with higher office. 

Salmon, who announced his retirement from Congress in 2016, jumped in with an announcement video released on YouTube and on social media. Without mentioning former President Donald Trump by name, he called for an "Arizona first agenda," ticking off a laundry list of conservative grievances and criticizing what he called a liberal push to "turn Arizona into California."

"In the coming months, I'll be listening and learning from you, securing our border and enforcing our immigration laws, and stopping the flow of drugs and criminals into our neighborhoods; building on Arizona's strong economic foundation, cutting taxes and attracting new industries and jobs," Salmon says.

"Banning critical race theory, expanding school choice and hiring more math and science teachers to prepare our kids for the workforce; protecting the integrity of our elections, strengthening voter ID and banning ballot harvesting." 

Salmon's mention of election integrity comes amid a GOP-led audit of Maricopa County. While many Trump-backers across the country are visiting the audit site to show their support amid Trump's unfounded claims of widespread electoral fraud, the audit has exposed deep divisions within the party and prompted criticism from Democrats and others. 

The national conservative group Club for Growth quickly endorsed Salmon's bid, calling him "a conservative star."

Salmon becomes the first federal officeholder to jump into the GOP primary for the seat — incumbent Gov. Doug Doucey, R, is term-limited. The field of GOP opponents include state treasurer Kimberly Lee. On the Democratic side, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and former U.S. Customs and Border Protection official Marco López Jr. are running. 

New poll shows Biden approval rating lower amid inflation concerns

President Joe Biden's approval rating has dipped under 50 percent in a new poll that also shows his policy proposals winning high marks from Americans despite concerns about inflation. 

Forty-eight percent of adults surveyed in the new Monmouth University poll approve of Biden's job performance, down from 54 percent in Monmouth's April poll. While Biden lost some ground with Democrats and independents, he gained approval from Republicans since the April survey. Forty-three percent of Americans say they disapprove of his job. 

Majorities of adults support the Covid-19 stimulus package passed by Congress and championed by Biden (60 percent); Biden's infrastructure plan that includes spending on "clean energy" (68 percent); and plans to expand health care, child care, paid leave and college tuition support (61 percent). 

President Joe Biden speaks before an EU - US summit at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on June 15, 2021.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

But they're divided on how Congress and Biden should handle passing those plans — 46 percent say Democrats should pass them "as is" regardless of a lack of bipartisan support, while the same percentage believe legislation should be "significantly cut" to win more support from Republicans or shelved entirely.

While Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of passing those plans as is, independents and Republicans are significantly more divided on a path forward.

Forty percent of Republicans want Congress to not pass the new spending plans at all, while 34 percent are looking for significant concessions to win bipartisan support and 18 percent say Congress should pass the plans as is. Thirty-six percent of independents want Congress to pass the plans as is, 27 percent want significant cuts, and 26 percent want Congress to give up on them entirely. 

A clear majority, 71 percent of adults, say that they are at least "somewhat" concerned that Biden's plans could lead to inflation in the future. 

The new poll also shows some regression on the question of whether the country is heading in the right direction, as well as significant concerns about inflation.

Fifty-seven percent say the country is on the wrong track while 37 percent say the country is on the right track. While that's close to the most pessimistic adults have been in Monmouth polls since Biden took office, the public remains more optimistic now than they were at any point of the Trump administration since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Monmouth University polled 810 adults between June 9 and 14th, by landline and cellular telephone. The error margin is +/- 3.5 percent. 

New York City mayoral fundraising reports show last-minute momentum, stalls

It's one week from when New York Democrats will head to the polls for the city's mayoral primary, and the most recent campaign fundraising figures provide another glimpse into who is gaining and losing momentum down the stretch. 

Kathryn Garcia, the former city sanitation commissioner who received recent endorsements from the New York Times and the New York Daily News, raised more this fundraising period (May 18 through June 7) than any other candidate, $700,000. That amounts to her tripling her fundraising clip from the previous fundraising period, which largely took place before those key endorsements. Garcia spent $2.8 million during the recent, three-week period.   

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams raised $620,000 in the most recent period, doubling his previous fundraising rate. That increase comes as Adams has topped a handful of recent polls in the race, including one the WNBC/Marist/Politico/Telemundo 47 poll released Tuesday. Adams spent $5.9 million over that three-week stretch too, more than any other candidate in the race. 

Mayoral candidate Eric Adams arrives for debate at CBS Broadcast Cente on June 10, 2021.Lev Radin / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty images

Former city lawyer Maya Wiley also saw a significant uptick in her fundraising rate too — she raised amost $290,000 during this period, during the end of which she was endorsed by prominent progressives like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and spent $2.3 million. 

And then there's Andrew Yang, the former Democratic presidential nominee who had been seen as an early frontrunner. While other candidates increased their fundraising rates, Yang's stayed stable, which still allowed him to raise $440,000 during the most recent fundraising period but meant he didn't see the same fundraising improvements that his opponents did. Yang spent $3.4 million over this period. 

The new campaign finance reports include some other nuggets on lower-polling candidates too. Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has been accused twice of sexual misconduct, has seen his fundraising all but dry up — he raised under $50,000 over the three weeks, but still spent $2.9 million. Ray McGuire, the former Citigroup executive who has been spending big despite finishing with just 3 percent in the recent WNBC poll, raised $210,000 and spent $1 million. And Dianne Morales, whose campaign has been roiled by tumult among her staff, raised just $31,000 but spent $430,000. 

New York City also provides candidates who hit certain fundraising requirements additional matching funds. 

Early voting has already begun ahead of the final debate on Wednesday. And the race will be decided by ranked-choice voting, where the votes cast for low-finishing candidates will be reallocated along the voters' preferences until one candidate reaches a majority. 

Eric Adams has edge in new WNBC poll of New York City Democratic mayoral primary

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leads the Democratic field in the New York City mayoral primary with a little more than a week to go before voters head to the polls to choose their nominee, according to a new WNBC/Telemundo 47/POLITICO/Marist poll

Adams wins 24 percent support in the poll, ahead of former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia's 17 percent, former city attorney Maya Wiley's 15 percent and former Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang's 13 percent. 

And Adams holds the edge in the poll's modeling of what will happen on primary day, when the new ranked-choice system means that the bottom candidates' votes will be reallocated to voters' preferences for second, third, fourth and fifth choices, depending on whether those candidates are still viable. 

Click here to read more from WNBC

The poll was conducted between June 3 and June 9 with 876 interviews. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points. 

Hartzler jumps into crowded Missouri Senate race

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., officially jumped into her state's Senate race, making her the first woman to join what's already become a crowded field. 

Speaking in Lee's Summit, outside of Kansas City, Hartzler said that Democrats are "destroying the country you and I love, and they must be stopped," criticized government regulations meant to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, pointed to her work on the Armed Services Committee as proof she supports the military, and touted her work to help her district respond to natural disasters. 

"Our nation is at crisis. The socialist Democrats are endangering our security, bankrupting our nation, killing our jobs, fueling inflation, harming our children, defunding our police and rewriting our history," she said. 

"We must stand strong for what is right. We must not give up or back down. And we in Missouri must lead the charge, that's why, today, I am announcing I am running for the U.S. Senate to protect our freedoms and preserve out greatness."

Hartzler is the first member of the state's congressional delegation to enter the race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. But she may not be the only one. Missouri Republican Reps. Ann Wagner, Billy Long and Jason Smith haven't ruled out bids either. 

But even if no one else decides to run on the GOP side, the field is already large. It includes embattled former Gov. Eric Greitens, controversial attorney Mark McCloskey and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt. 

The Democratic field currently includes former state Sen. Scott Sifton, activist Tim Shepard and Marine veteran Lucas Kunce. 

Virginia nominees for governor go on the offensive with field set

Now that the Virginia governor's election is set, Republican Glenn Youngkin and former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe are trying to define the stakes for their high-profile clash this fall  — with the Democrat seeking to paint Youngkin as a near clone of former President Donald Trump and the Republican dismissing McAuliffe as old news.

The far-and-away favorite for the Democratic nomination, McAuliffee had been focusing most of his campaign on the general election already. But now that he's officially the nominee, he's stepped up the attacks on Youngkin and Trump in a new digital spot, as well as during a Wednesday interview with "MTP Daily."

"Donald Trump is still around. Glenn Youngkin, my opponent, has said he is in the race because of Donald Trump. Trump came out the next day and gave him his 'total endorsement.' I'm not sure if Donald Trump has the courage to come to Virginia," McAuliffe said Wednesday, goading the former president in a state that he lost by 10 percentage points. 

With McAuliffe focused on lumping Youngkin in with Trump, as well as arguing his record as governor means he deserves another term, Youngkin has argued he represents a new direction for the state, criticizing McAuliffe as the past. 

One of the GOP spots uses a McAuliffe primary opponent, former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (who has since endorsed McAuliffe), to make that point. After a super-cut of Carroll Foy criticizing McAuliffe as a politician of "the past," Youngkin appears to briefly call for a "new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia. A second spot shows Youngkin walking against the flow of a group of men in suits as he says he'll be the antidote to politicians "taking us in the wrong direction." 

New Democratic super PAC aims to stop Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Ark. governor’s race

Democrats don't know who they will nominate for governor in Arkansas next year, but they're certain who they want to keep out of the office: Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

A new super PAC called Liberty and Justice for Arkansas is announcing its formation Wednesday with a new digital ad imploring state voters to "stop Sarah Sanders," the onetime communications director in former President Donald Trump's White House and daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, NBC has exclusively learned.

The ad, produced by former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee aide Martha McKenna, begins with images of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and members of Trump's family, including Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, who have been reported to have interest in possible future bids for office. 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talks to reporters outside of the White House on April 4, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

"Stopping Trump's power means stopping Sarah Sanders now," a narrator says. "Stop Sarah Sanders. Stop them all."

“Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ announcement to run for governor of Arkansas was the starting line of Trump’s plan to consolidate power and continue his legacy of divisiveness and hate” Celeste Williams, Liberty and Justice for Arkansas spokesperson, said in a statement provided to NBC News. “Her run for governor is part of Trump and his supporters’ broader strategy to infiltrate all levels of government across the country. Stopping Trump means stopping Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Arkansas is just the beginning.”

Leah Garrett, the group’s director, said one Arkansas donor gave $100,000 to get the super PAC's operations up and running but declined to name that individual. 

Sanders faces at least one opponent for the GOP nomination in state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, while multiple Democrats, including 2018 lieutenant governor candidate Anthony Bland and businesswoman Supha Xayprasith-Mays, have announced bids. 

Trump, who has endorsed Sanders, won Arkansas 62 percent to 35 percent in 2020 and 61 percent to 34 percent in 2016. 

Eric Adams leads in new NY1/Ipsos poll of NYC Democratic mayoral primary

Eric Adams, the former police officer and current Brooklyn Borough President, leads a new poll of the New York City Democratic mayoral primary with weeks to go before the vote. 

The new NY1/Ipsos poll shows Adams with support from 22 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, an increase of 9 percentage points since the news outlet's last poll in April. Former Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang sits behind Adams with 16 percent, 6 points lower than he sat in April. 

The big mover in the June poll is Kathryn Garcia, the city's former sanitation commissioner who has received endorsements from the editorial boards at both the New York Times and the New York Daily News. She has support from 15 percent of likely voters, up 11 points since April. 

Rounding out the top five are Comptroller Scott Stringer at 10 percent (down 1 point from April) and former city counsel Maya Wiley (up 2 points from April). Sixteen percent of likely voters say they're undecided, down from 26 percent in April, as voters begin to make up their minds before the election. 

Yang's drop from first place comes as voters say they're far more familiar with the Democratic field than they were back in April. 

But while the top-line of the poll shows who voters may prefer as their first choice, this race will be especially difficult to poll because it's being done through ranked-choice voting (here's the city's primer on ranked-choice, which allows a voter to rank up to five candidates in order of preference and redistributes votes from low-finishing candidates until one candidate wins the majority). 

When voters' first and second choices are combined, Adams leads with 36 percentage points, followed by Yang's 26, Stringer's 25, Garcia's 24 and Wiley's 21 percentage points. 

NY1 and Ipsos polled 906 likely Democratic primary voters through an online panel from May 17 through May 31. The poll has a credibility interval of +/- 2.4 percentage points. 

Since the poll only stretched through the end of May, the results don't include any potential movement generated by more recent flashpoints in the race, like Wiley winning the endorsement of progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Stringer being accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman

Former Rep. Stivers goes up on airwaves to endorse his pick for successor

Former Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, launched a new television ad Thursday where he backed state Rep. Jeff LaRe to replace him in this fall's special election to fill the seat he vacated. 

In the new spot paid for by his former campaign, Stivers speaks directly to camera as he asks Republicans to back LaRe in the August primary election. 

"I'm proud to support Jeff LaRe for Congress. Jeff LaRe is a former law enforcement officer and a strong conservative leader who has fought to make our communities safer," Stivers says, adding LaRe will "protect our conservative values."

Stivers abruptly announced in April that he would step down the following month to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, leaving his seat vacant. Per Ohio special election laws, the primary is scheduled for August and the special general election will be on Election Day 2021. 

LaRe is running in a crowded field in a seat that Republicans have had little trouble holding since the last round of redistricting. Stivers won re-election in 2020 with 63 percent of the vote, and former President Donald Trump won the seat by double digits during his two presidential elections, although 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney won it by single digits, per the Daily Kos

South Carolina state lawmaker aims to be state's first Black governor

South Carolina Democratic state Sen. Mia McLeod announced her bid for governor on Thursday as she hopes to make history as the state's first Black governor. 

McLeod announced her bid with a social-media launch video where she criticized the politicians of the Republican-dominated state for having "forgotten about all but those who agree with them or fund their campaigns." 

"Fixing what's broken is all of our responsibilities," she says in the video.

"I'm running for governor to build a South Carolina that can work for all of us, to bring new jobs to our state, and to support the people and industries that are the backbone of our economy." 

Having served in the state legislature for a decade, McLeod is one of the handful of Black women across the country running to be the first Black, female governor in American history. 

In an interview with The Associated Press, she said that she wants "to be the person that is running not because I’m a woman, and not because I’m Black, but because I am so connected to and so much like the people that I represent."

“It’s a tremendous responsibility, but it’s one that I’m excited about.”

Before she can take on the GOP's nominee, likely to be Gov. Henry McMaster, she'll face off against former Rep. Joe Cunningham, who served one term in Congress before losing his re-election last year.