Feedback

Ailing Sen. Thad Cochran announces he'll retire on April 1

After months of speculation amid poor health and absences from the Senate, MIssissippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran has announced that he'll retire on April 1. 

"I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge. I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate," Cochran said in a statement Monday. 

Cochran, 80, was first elected in 1978 and is the tenth longest-serving senator in U.S. history. 

Per Mississippi law, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a replacement, and a special election will be held in November for the seat. 

That means that the state will hold not one, but two Senate elections this fall; Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker is also up for reelection.  He's currently facing a primary challenge from conservative Chris McDaniel, although Cochran's announcement could shake up the contest. 

latest posts from The Rundown

Andrew Rafferty

Poll: Cruz, O'Rourke locked in tight race in Texas

Sen. Ted Cruz may be headed for a Texas showdown this November.

The Lone Star State Republican is locked in a statistical dead heat with Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, according to a new Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday. The poll found Cruz leading O’Rourke 47 to 44 percent, within the poll's 3.6 percent margin of error.

Democrats have been hopeful that Texas’ changing demographics will soon give them a shot at winning a Senate seat in the traditionally red state. And Cruz, a firebrand conservative and 2016 presidential hopeful, is a top target.

The poll found O’Rouke leading among independent (51-37%), Hispanic (51-33%), and black (78-18%) voters. Cruz leads among male (51-40%) and white (59-34%) voters, as well as those over the age of 65 (50-43%).

Forty-seven percent of respondents said they approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 46 percent who disapprove, and his favorability rating remains slightly above water, 46 to 44 percent.

O’Rourke enjoys a favorability rating of 30 percent, compared to just 16 percent of respondents who said they disapprove.  A majority of Texas voters (53%), however, don’t know enough about the Democratic congressman to form an opinion of him.

“The key may well be independent voters. O'Rourke's 51 to 37 percent lead among that group is key to his standing today,”  Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, said in a statement announcing the results. “But Texas remains a strong GOP state so O'Rourke will need the independent strength to pull the upset.”

You can read the full survey of 1,029 Texas voters, conducted April 12 to 17, here.

Kucinich's ties to Syria's Assad roil gubernatorial fight for Ohio Democrats

With just three weeks left to go in Ohio’s gubernatorial primary, the state’s last Democratic governor is warning that one of his own party’s candidates for the job is tied to “some of the most despicable people imaginable,” saying Democrats will lose if they nominate him.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland tore into Dennis Kucinich after financial disclosures showed that a group tied to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad paid the former congressman $20,000 for a speech last year. Kucinich also met with Assad last January.

“The people of Ohio need to know ... Dennis has been a cheerleader for that regime and Assad himself,” Strickland said on a conference call organized by Kucinich’s main Democratic opponent, Rich Cordray, the former director of Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

Strickland, who is backing Cordray in the May 8 primary, accused Kucinich of trying to hide the payment, and called on the former Fox News commentator to release the details of every paid speech he gave since leaving Congress.

Kucinich’s campaign has defended his participation in what was billed as a peace conference, providing a transcript of the outspoken progressive's remarks to the Cincinnati Enquirer, in which he said overthrowing Assad “would destroy Syria.”

Kucinich has the support of a group aligned with Bernie Sander, while the senator himself notably refused to offer his own endorsement in the race. Most other Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have lined up behind Cordray.

Frank Thorp V
Leigh Ann Caldwell

Corker praises the Democrat who wants to replace him

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., isn't running for re-election but he had many words of praise Wednesday for the Democratic candidate who is trying to replace him. 

Phil Bredesen, the former Democratic governor, is running in a tight race against Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn for the open Tennessee senate seat.

Corker has donated money to Blackburn but said he won't campaign against Bredesen.

"I worked very closely with him for years, and he was a very good mayor, very good governor, very good businessperson and look, I'm not going to campaign against someone who, you know, I've been a friend with and worked with," Corker told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. 

In candid comments, Corker said Bredesen is receiving the support of Republicans in the state. 

"Will Bredesen have cross-over appeal? No question. I mean, we have significant Republican fundraisers who are hosting fundraisers for him today, so there's no question he's going to have cross-over appeal," Corker said. 

Blackburn's campaign spokesman Abbi Sigler didn't react specifically to Corker's comments, but said, "Phil Bredesen will be a solid vote for Chuck Schumer and Obama, Clinton-era liberal policies, and Tennesseans are not interested in that."

Blackburn entered the race after Corker, who was fed up with President Donald Trump and politics, said he wouldn't run for re-election. But Corker openly floated changing his mind, even after Blackburn had declared her candidacy. 

Corker added on Wednesday: "I usually don't give money to candidates I don't plan to vote for, but we'll see."

Vaughn Hillyard contributed to this story. 

New project aims to frame progressive messaging on economy, corruption and Trump

A new research project spearheaded by a coalition of progressive pollsters and advocacy group leaders released their first findings Wednesday.

Called the Navigator Project, the group’s goal is to release monthly research designed to help progressive campaigns and advocates use language that resonates better with voters.

On a call with reporters, Jeffrey Pollock, President of the Global Strategy Group and a lead pollster on the project, said that given the pace of the news cycle during the Trump administration, it is increasingly important for progressives to get their messaging right.

“We thought there was a vacuum for the right language,” said Pollock.

In this month’s survey, respondents were asked how they felt about the economy, corruption and Trump’s behavior in office.

Pollsters on the project said that although there is a general perception that the economy is doing well, there is concern about the future, and 67 percent of respondents said that “wealthy people at the top” are benefitting more than middle-class and working people. A majority — 56 percent — of respondents also said the GOP tax bill was passed to benefit wealthy donors rather than to help the economy more generally.

Some criticisms of the president landed more than others. Respondents were more concerned with descriptions of Trump being reckless or abusing his power for personal gain than they were with complaints that he is lazy or spends too much time on the golf course.

On the call, partners in the initiative said Democratic candidates should tailor the information from the survey depending on what kind of district they are in. But, Pollock noted that the perception of people “at the top” benefitting more from America’s economic success resonated everywhere.

Carrie Dann

An oops moment for Democrats in touchy Texas primary

Sometimes a misfired email is just a misfired email, and sometimes — well — there's a bit more to the story. 

The DCCC, the campaign arm of House Democrats, sent out a corrected version of a press release Wednesday morning after implying support for a candidate who is still facing off against a fellow Democrat in an unusually sensitive primary runoff. 

That candidate, Texas Democrat Lizzie Fletcher, was initially included on a press release including the organization's “red-to-blue” candidates —  Democrats running in competitive red districts who receive priority support from the national group, several of whom are also locked in competitive primaries.

A corrected version of the press release, sent six minutes later, omitted Fletcher's name. 

A DCCC aide told NBC News "This was a communications staff drafting error in a press release.” 

But it's not exactly a secret that the DCCC would prefer Fletcher as the Democratic nominee in the race, rather than her primary runoff opponent, Laura Moser.

Earlier this year, the DCCC circulated opposition research against Moser, who was once quoted remarking negatively about an area of Texas. 

Despite those efforts, Moser advanced to the runoff against Fletcher, which will be held May 22. 

The winner will face Republican John Culberson, who's viewed as vulnerable and whose seat would be a prime pickup for Democrats. 

Andrew Rafferty

Indiana Republican takes support for Trump a bit too far

One GOP Senate candidate’s embrace of President Trump apparently has gone a bit too far.

Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Indiana, has been told by Trump’s re-election campaign to take down misleading signs making it seem the president endorsed him, the Associated Press reports.

The signs appeared following an event where two volunteers from Trump’s 2016 campaign in Indiana backed Rokita. Smaller letters under the president’s and vice president’s name adds that the endorsement is from the ticket's “2016 Indiana Team Leaders.”

Indiana’s Republican Senate primary is shaping up to be one of the nastiest battles of the 2018 midterms. The three major GOP candidates hoping to defeat Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November are each attempting to prove they are the most Trumpian, and Republicans in the state and beyond are worried that the race to the right could hurt the eventual nominee’s chances in the general election.

The primary between Rokita, Rep. Luke Messer and business executive Mike Braun has also produced some of the harshest Republican-on-Republican negative ads of the cycle so far.

“This is the latest example of Todd ‘the Fraud’ trying to deceive Hoosiers. Todd the Fraud trashed President Trump's character during the 2016 campaign, has voted like a DC liberal in Congress, and spent his career in politics abusing his office for political gains,” a spokesman for Braun said in a statement about the signs.

Image: Todd Rokita
A sign promoting the campaign of GOP Senate candidate Todd Rokita is shown along a state highway in Brownsburg, Indiana on April 17, 2018. Michael Conroy / AP
Carrie Dann

Poll finds risks for Democrats toying with impeachment promise

As Democratic candidates for Congress in swing districts weigh how to talk about President Donald Trump in their campaigns, a new poll shows that they might want to hold off on using the "I" word. 

The poll from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist shows that 47 percent of registered voters say they would definitely vote against a candidate for Congress who proposed impeaching Trump, compared to 42 percent who said they would definitely vote for that candidate. One in ten voters were unsure. 

While Democrats and Republicans remained mostly in their partisan corners, with 70 percent of Democrats saying they would definitely vote for a candidate who favored impeachment and 84 percent of Republicans saying they'd do the opposite, independents were opposed to supporting a pro-impeachment candidate, 47 percent to 42 percent.

That finding comes even as independents say they have an unfavorable view of Trump overall by almost a 2-1 margin. 

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Koch groups urge Congress to pass DACA relief for Dreamers

Two Koch-backed organizations are launching a seven-figure television advertising buy, urging Congress to reach a deal on Dreamers, an issue that has eluded lawmakers. 

The ad by the LIBRE Initiative and Freedom Partners strikes a bipartisan tone, opening with vignettes of Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush talking about the importance of immigrants to this country. 

"We are a nation of immigrants but we are also a nation of laws," a clip of Clinton says. 

A narrator then says, "There's a bipartisan path forward on immigration. What are we waiting for."

Congress and President Donald Trump have failed to find agreement on relief for Dreamers after Trump cancelled the DACA program that allowed immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to be safe from deportation.

The push for bipartisan legislation is somewhat of an anomaly for the network that plans to spend up to $400 million on politics and policy. While they do promote bipartisan proposals, including criminal justice reform, their engagement in political races most often is an effort to elect Republicans. 

The Koch network has backed the two components of a plan that Trump and Democrats agreed on: a path to citizenship fir 1.8 million people eligible for DACA and $25 billion to build Trump’s border wall.

“The Dreamers are among our best and brightest. They are students, workers, and men and women risking their lives in the Armed Forces. Washington must come together and approve a bipartisan solution that provides certainty for Dreamers and security improvements along our border,” Daniel Garza, head of LIBRE Initiative, said. 

Carrie Dann
Alex Moe

Another House GOPer is calling it quits. What next?

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent — who announced last year that he wouldn’t run for reelection — now says he’ll call it quits entirely and resign in May.

So what happens next? Could there be another costly and high-stakes special election this year in the state of Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb just beat Rick Saccone in a surprising upset?

Pennsylvania election law allows for the governor (Tom Wolf, a Democrat) announce a special election if he chooses. That announcement must come 10 days after the vacancy is official, and the election itself must be no sooner than 60 days from the date of the announcement.

If Dent resigns in May, that could possibly set up a standalone special election no earlier than July. What’s more, that special election would take place according to existing congressional district lines rather than the new ones set to take effect in the fall.

Alternatively, Wolf could chose to simply set the date to replace Dent on the same day as the general election. That’s the scenario that played out in 2016, when Rep. Chaka Fattah resigned in June and the resulting vacancy was filled a few months later in November.

It’s not yet clear what Wolf will do.

In a statement, his office said "Once Governor Wolf receives an official resignation notice with an exact date, he will make a formal decision regarding scheduling the date of a special election."

Dent himself won’t weigh in, either, telling NBC News “I’ll leave this up to the governor right now. We will see what he wants to do. It’s up to him.”

The list of House GOP departures currently stands at 42, including 23 retirements, 6 resignations and 13 members who are leaving to run for higher office. 

 

Carrie Dann

Which tech giants rule when it comes to influencing our daily lives?

As recently as 25 years ago, the notions of buying detergent, finding your long-lost college roommate, accessing an obscure fact or sending your latest casual political analysis all with a single click of a button would have seemed, well, pretty ridiculous.

Now, big technology companies have reshaped how we do everything from reading the news to buying toothpaste. So which tech giants rule when it comes to influencing our daily lives? 

A new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal finds that nearly half of Americans or more have incorporated Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple into their routines. 

Fully 70 percent of Americans say they conduct Google searches on a daily basis; 63 percent own at least one Apple product; 50 percent check Facebook daily and 46 percent are members of Amazon.com's "prime" program. 

The exception to the rule? While the president of the United States has long used Twitter as his preferred method of communicating with Americans, just nine percent of adults in the country say they access Twitter on a daily basis. 

Here's how usage breaks down, overall and by generation.