Democrats spend big on state legislative races in three states Trump won

Two Democratic groups are investing $750,000 in key state legislative races in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin ahead of the decennial redistricting process, they told NBC News.

For this effort, For Our Future, a field organizing group founded in 2016, is partnering with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the Eric Holder-helmed group created last year to be a central hub for the party's redistricting efforts.

Money goes a long way in state legislative races and the three-quarters of a million dollars will fund targeted direct voter contact programs, such as door-to-door canvassing, in key legislative districts. All three of the targeted states swung from former President Obama Obama to President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

"Winning back key legislative seats in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin ahead of the 2020 redistricting effort is critical to restoring democracy," said Justin Myers, Chief Executive Officer of For Our Future.

For Our Future claims to have one of the largest field operations in those states, and says it has knocked on 2.73 million doors in seven states so far this year.

Democrats lost more than 1,000 state legislative seats during the Obama presidency and have been working to play catch up with Republicans in order to be better positioned to influence state laws and redraw congressional boundaries after the 2020 Census. 

latest posts from The Rundown

Pro-Trump super PAC drops first ad in NY-22

America First Action, which promotes candidates who back President Trump's agenda, is out with a new spot attacking Democrat Anthony Brindisi as an "Albany politician" too liberal for voters to choose in his race against Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney. 

The spot, the first for the group in this race, is a negative spot aimed at Brindisi that doesn't mention either Tenney or Trump. 

"Meet liberal Anthony Brindisi, another Albany politician who thinks government knows best," the ad says. 

It goes onto accuse Brindisi of "supporting socialized-style single-payer" health care while at the state legislature and for backing a bill "making it easier for illegal immigrants to go to college on New York taxpayers' dime."

The spot closes by linking Brindisi to both New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. 

America First has already booked $390,000 of television time in the state, and a spokesperson for the group told NBC News it expects to spend a total of $542,000 in the district, including on television, digital spots, mail pieces and other spending. 

The attacks in the ad echo those levied by Tenney and her allies during the campaign.

While Brindisi voted for a single-payer program while in the New York legislature, he's said he doesn't support a siimlar plan at the national level yet. He told a New York NPR affiliate in August that he preferred to work on other health care fixes before discussing whether single-payer could work on a large scale. 

He also helped to sponsor a state version of the DREAM Act, which gives undocumented immigrants access to financial aid. Tenney's campaign blasted the vote earlier this year in a statement as a vote to "put illegal immigrants first."

Both Tenney and Brindisi are locked in a tough fight in one of New York's most competitive congressional districts. A Siena College poll last month found the race within the margin of error, with Brindisi holding a slight, 2-point lead. 

Coons: Democrats could investigate Kavanaugh if they flip Senate

Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wouldn't rule out Democrats further investigating the sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh if the party is able to take control of Congress after the November elections.

"If he's confirmed, and these allegation are not treated fully and fairly and investigated, then there will be a cloud over Judge Kavanaugh's service on the Supreme Court," he said.

When host Katy Tur followed up by noting that Coons didn't dismiss the idea of a future investigation, Coons replied: "That's right. I did not say no."

Coons took issue with comments from Republicans who have labeled the allegations as part of a "smear campaign," rhetoric used by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. He said that language is "not what's appropriate" and argued that the reaction proves why "so many victims of sexual abuse and harassment don't come forward."

Kavanaugh was first accused of sexual assault earlier this month by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who says the incident took place while they were both high school students. And on Sunday, the New Yorker publicized another allegation, from Deborah Ramirez, a Yale University classmate who says he exposed himself to her at a party.

The judge has vigorously denied both allegations, saying in an interview with Fox News slated to air Monday evening that he would not step aside from the nomination.

"I'm not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process and we're looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend my integrity, my lifelong record — my lifelong record of promoting dignity and equality for women starting with the women who knew me what I was 14 years old," Kavanaugh told Fox News.

On Monday, Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee reached out to Ramirez's attorney for a preliminary inquiry. But it's unclear whether she will testify in front of Congress, like Blasey Ford is on Thursday.

NBC News/ WSJ Poll: Just 19 percent of voters view socialism positively

Despite some well-publicized victories by self-described Democratic socialists in Democratic primary races up and down the ballot this midterm cycle, fewer than one in five Americans have a positive view of socialism, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey, which included 900 registered voters, found that fully half of voters — 52 percent — have a negative view of socialism, compared with just 19 percent who view it positively.

But when asked about their feelings towards capitalism, 52 percent of voters said they felt positively, while just 18 percent said they view it negatively.

Rhetoric about the progressive embrace of Democratic socialism intensified in 2016, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) competitively challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Sanders repeatedly referred to himself as a Democratic socialist, describing the movement as one that embraces government that "works for all and not just the few."

That view struck a chord with many of his supporters—and his policy arguments, including slamming the proportion of wealth in the hands of the richest 1 percent of Americans and advocating for a Medicare-for-all program, resonated particularly with younger voters. 

This cycle, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of Democratic Socialists of America who has similar policy views to Sanders, defeated an incumbent Republican to win the Democratic nomination in New York’s 14th Congressional District. She's expected to cruise to victory in November in a safe district and join Congress next year. 

Still, the share of Democrats with a positive view of socialism remains fairly low, with just a third (33 percent) seeing it favorably. Another 27 percent of Democrats say they have negative views of socialism, while 36 percent remain neutral.

Among Republicans, 83 percent have a negative view of socialism compared with just 6 percent who view it positively.

In contrast, seventy percent of Republican voters and 40 percent of Democratic voters feel positively about capitalism. About one-in-five Democrats (22 percent) view capitalism negatively.

Among Democrats who feel positively about socialism, a plurality — 33 percent — are under 35, compared with just 19 percent who are seniors.

Democrats viewing socialism positively are also overwhelmingly white. More than seven-in-ten (71 percent) are white, compared with just nine percent who are Latino and 15 percent who are black.

In the next six weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, competing economic philosophies will dominate debate landscapes.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted September 16-19 of 900 voters. Approximately half of respondents were reached by cell phone. The margin of error for the poll was plus-minus 3.3 percent.


House battlefield polling update

Thanks to the fascination with the race for the House, there's been a rash of solid, early and independent polling of key congressional races. 

Democrats will need to net a flip of at least 23 seats to take control of the House majority after the November elections. And as you've seen from our battlefield analysis, Democrats have significantly more offensive opportunities than Democrats do. 

Here's a round-up of what some of the independent polling from this month shows in the NBC Political Unit's "Top 25" pickup opportunities, as well as results from the "Next 25" for Democrats and the top GOP pickup opportunities. 

Just one or two recent data points in each race won't tell the whole story—the margin-of-error in most of these surveys hovers around 5 percentage points and some campaigns have released their own internal polling showing tighter margins. 

But the independent polls provide a helpful glimpse at how the race for the majority is shaping up at this point.  

Top 25 

In the 13 races polled, Republicans lead in seven districts, Democrats lead in five, and the candidates are tied in one. 

Next 25

In the nine races polled, Republicans lead in seven, Democrats lead in one, and NJ-07 has two polls with differing top-lines. 

Best GOP pickup opportunities

Biden: 'More than one way' to change the political climate

As Joe Biden steps up campaigning for Democrats across the country ahead of the midterm elections, every statement is being dissected for potential clues about whether he will launch a run for president in 2020. But it was his wife may have offered the biggest hint Friday.

Asked by NBC’s Craig Melvin what she would say if her husband came to her in the coming months and said he wanted to be president, Jill Biden offered this: "I'd say, ‘Joe, you would make a great president. But let’s think about it.'" 

Both Bidens, in an interview on "Today" to discuss Friday’s Biden Cancer Summit, reflected on how their son’s death of brain cancer influenced the former vice president’s decision not to run in 2016, and may still be a factor in 2020.

"I regret not being president. But it was the right decision," Joe Biden said, a sentiment his wife immediately echoed. 

"No man or woman should go out and say I’m running for president unless they can look you in the eye and say you have my whole heart, my whole soul and all my emotion," he said. "Beau has left a gigantic hole in our hearts, for our whole family."

Joe Biden said that he "desperately want[ed] to change the landscape" in the country now, but that "there’s more than one way to do it."

"There’s a lot of really talented people we have out there: Kamala Harris, you got Cory Booker, you’ve got the former [governor] of Massachusetts. You’ve got a lot of talented people," he said. "We have to stop this degradation of the system that’s going on. That’s why I’m campaigning all over the country."

Biden predicted Democrats would not only win back the House, but also the U.S. Senate this year. This month he has campaigned for candidates in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan. Next week he’s expected to travel to South Carolina – one of the first four states in the presidential nominating process and a potentially significant one for him.

"If there were a primary here next week in South Carolina, and Joe Biden were in the primary, he would win it — going away," Rep. James Clyburn, the longtime Democratic congressman from South Carolina, told NBC in June.  

Two tough Democratic Senate ads focus on opioid epidemic

Majority Forward, a major Democratic outside group, is launching two new spots that punch at two Republicans—West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn—on the opioid crisis. 

Both new television ads are part of existing seven-figure buys in the state—the group has $1.3 million booked in West Virginia and $3.5 million booked in Tennessee from Friday through Election Day. 

The West Virginia spot includes a firefighter and paramedic in the state recounting stories of responding to overdoses in the state while criticizing Morrisey for his past work lobbying for drug companies. 

"I don't think Patrick Morrisey wants to see what hell's been wrought by drug companies he lobbied for," the man says.

"How can you trust someone who got rich while West Virginians suffered?"

And the Tennessee ad accuses a Blackburn bill for neutering the Drug Enforcement Agency in the fight against illegal drugs.

"Blackburn's what's wrong with Washington," the ad says. 

These attacks have been central to the Democratic push against the two candidates, as they look to connect with voters' personal experiences with the epidemic that has hit both states hard. 

Morrisey's drug lobbying past (as well as his wife's) was an issue during the primary election too as opponents sought to link him to the devastating epidemic in the state. He argued during debates that he didn't work on opioid issues specifically and Republicans have also raised the connections of his opponent, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, to Mylan Pharmaceuticals. 

""Washington liberals will do anything to distract from Manchin's record of being asleep at the switch as the drug epidemic took root in West Virginia. Morrisey has been a national leader in combating the drug epidemic, reaching record settlements, and forcing the DEA to crack down on the supply of illicit drugs," Morrisey spokesman Nathan Brand said in a statement.

The attack against Blackburn has also been levied by her opponent, Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen. It centers on her support for a bill at the center of a Washington Post and CBS "60 Minutes" expose that blamed the bill for tying the DEAs hands behind its back in its push to fight drug trafficking.

Supporters of the bill say it had been initially intended to make sure no one would lose access to pain medication unnecessarily. But after the story broke last year, Blackburn's office told The Tennessean that she wants to "immediately" address "unintended consequences from this bipartisan legislation." And as PolitiFact noted, she now supports a bill that rolls back those changes. 

"As a mother, grandmother and friend, Marsha understands how deeply the opioid epidemic is hurting Tennessee families. She regularly meets with victims, healthcare providers, and law enforcements officers across the state to discuss steps the federal government should take to end the opioid epidemic. Recently, she introduced bipartisan bills to increase civil and criminal penalties for bad actors and give law enforcement the tools they need," Blackburn spokeswoman Abbi Sigler said in a statement. 

"While Democrats point fingers and politicize a public health crisis, Marsha will continue to work toward a systemic solution that includes a tough stance on the distribution of illicit opioids and improves prevention and recovery efforts."

UPDATED to include statements from the Morrisey and Blackburn campaigns. 

CLF reserves another $13 million on TV ads, adds five more House races to target list

The Congressional Leadership Fund is investing another $13 million in television ads aimed at defending GOP-held seats across the country, all while expanding its reach into five new congressional districts.  

CLF is already the biggest outside advertising spender in the battle for the House majority thanks to a massive fundraising effort, and the new reservations bring the group to a total of $85 million in television advertising reservations alone. 

But the vast majority of that money is being spent on playing defense, and four of the five new targeted districts are currently held by Republicans. That expansion underscores the volatility of the House battlefield in November, where Democrats are mounting efforts in districts that previously seemed off limits. 

CLF's expanding map brings new spending to defend Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton and North Carolina Rep. George Holding. It also added Nevada's 3rd Congressional District and New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District to the list as well, where Republicans Danny Tarkanian and Yvette Herrell are running respectively in open seats. Tarkanian's seat is the only one of the new additions that is currently held by a Democrat—Rep. Jacky Rosen is vacating the seat to run for Senate. 

The group also added advertising spending to the following districts—CA-10; CA-39; CA-45; IL-12; KS-02; NY-19; NY-22; VA-07; TX-07; and WI-01. 

So far, the group has primarily ran ads meant to disqualify Democratic candidates one-by-one with negative ads. In a recent memo, the group argued that it's efforts to protect Kentucky GOP Rep. Andy Barr has been effective because its internal polling has chipped away at the favorability of his Democratic opponent, Amy McGrath. That internal polling put Barr up by 4 points, while a New York Times/Siena College poll found Barr up by 1 point. 

Five takeaways on the Senate spending landscape

Money continues to pour into the top-tier Senate races now with less than seven weeks before Election Day, with Democrats outspending Republicans in a majority of the battleground races. 

Here are a few takeaways from our analysis of TV and radio spending from Advertising Analytics of these top races (the spending is for the general election, from when the primary concluded in each state through September 20). 

  • Democrats lead in seven of the top 12 races, according to TV and radio spending figures from Advertising Analytics, while Republicans lead in four of those races. The two parties are tied in West Virginia.
  • There isn’t a single red-state Democrat — Heitkamp, Manchin, Tester, McCaskill or Donnelly — who’s being outspent right now.
  • After being outspent over the airwaves by about 50-to-1 back in May, Democrats are now close to parity in Florida.
  • In New Jersey, Hugin and Republicans are outspending incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez and Democrats by more than 2-to-1.

  • And in Texas, Beto O’Rourke is outspending Ted Cruz and Republicans by more than 3-to-1.

There's also a lot to learn from spending in some key states that AREN'T competitive this cycle. 

In Pennsylvania, Democrats are outspending Republicans by a 4-to-1 margin; in Ohio, it’s a 13-to-1 margin; and in Michigan, it’s a whopping 1,000-to-1 margin.

No wonder those races aren’t competitive.

Here's the spending breakdown in the 12 battleground races (the largest spender is in parenthesis, followed by the three less competitive races. And check out the graphic below for a round-up of the top overall Senate advertisers through September 20 from Advertising Analytics:

AZ: GOP $4.3 million, Dem 4.0 million (Majority Forward – D: $1.9 million)

FL: GOP $11.3 million, Dem $8.4 million (Rick Scott camp – R: $7.1 million)

IN: Dem $14.1 million, GOP $12.2 million (Senate Majority PAC – D: $7.6 million)

MO: Dem $13.9 million, GOP $12.6 million (McCaskill camp – D: $5.5 million)

MT: Dem $7.5 million, GOP $5.6 million (Tester camp – D: $2.9 million)

NV: Dem $13.3 million, GOP $12.2 million (One Nation – R: $5.7 million)

NJ: GOP $9.7 million, Dem $4.2 million (Hugin campaign – R: $8.5 million)

ND: Dem $6.0 million, GOP $5.8 million (Heitkamp camp – D: $2.5 million)

TN: GOP $9.0 million, Dem $6.0 million (Majority Forward – D: $3.1 million)

TX: Dem $7.3 million, GOP $2.1 million (O'Rourke camp – D: $7.3 million)

WV: GOP $8.2 million, Dem $8.2 million (Senate Majority PAC – D: $5.0 million)

MI: Dem $2.8 million, GOP $2,700 (Stabenow camp – D: $2.8 million) 1000-1

OH: Dem $6.2 million, GOP $491,000 (Brown camp – D: $6.2 million) 13-1

PA: Dem $2.7 million, GOP $681,000 (Casey camp – D: $2.7 million) 4-1

Advertising Analytics
Carrie Dann

Poll: Major gaps in views of women in politics by gender, party affiliation

As the #MeToo movement continues to reverberate around the nation’s boardrooms — and now, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing room — a new survey shows that party affiliation and gender play a significant role in views of women in positions of power in politics and business.

The poll from the Pew Research Center finds that nearly six-in-ten Americans overall say that there are too few women in political office and in positions of business leadership. But just about a third of Republicans believe women are underrepresented in politics (33 percent), while 79 percent of Democrats agree. Among all men, about half — 48 percent — say there are too few women in politics, while 69 percent of women agree with that statement.

Republicans are also less than half as likely than Democrats to say that gender discrimination is a major reason why there aren’t more women in politics. Just 30 percent of Republicans cite discrimination as a major factor, while 64 percent of Democrats do the same. Among men and women, there’s a similar divide, with 36 percent of men and 59 percent of women saying gender discrimination affects female participation in politics.

Perhaps most striking are the divisions within the Republican Party by gender when it comes to Republicans’ views of women in positions of power. Republican women are more likely than their male counterparts to say that there are too few women in politics by a 20 point margin, 44 percent to 24 percent. That’s compared with 73 percent of Democratic men and 84 percent of Democratic women.

A majority of Republican women — 62 percent — say it is easier for men than it is for women to get elected to political office, while 48 percent of GOP men say the same.

Asked if gender discrimination is a major factor in why there aren’t more women in politics, 48 percent of Republican women agree, while just 14 percent of GOP men say the same.

The study comes as an unprecedented number of women, the majority of them Democrats, are running for federal and statewide offices in the midterm elections. And it comes as Republicans face the treacherous task of addressing a decades-old claim of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh without alienating female voters, whose support for the GOP has eroded further in the Trump era.

Despite Democrats’ selection of Hillary Clinton as the first female nominee of a major political party in 2016 — or perhaps because of her surprise loss to Donald Trump — women are actually less optimistic now that voters are ready to elect women to higher office.

Forty-five percent of all Americans now cite reluctance to elect women as a major barrier to female political leadership, up from 37 percent in 2014. And that increase in pessimism has occurred almost entirely among women. A majority of women — 57 percent – now credit voter wariness of female candidates for the dearth of women in positions of political power, up from 41 percent four years ago. The share of men who say the same — about a third — is virtually unchanged in the same period of time.

Mark Murray
Carrie Dann

Tracking TV ad spending in top Dem House pickup districts

Earlier this cycle, NBC News identified the top 25 House districts that could be pickup opportunities for Democrats.

To date, Democrats have the TV and radio ad spending advantage in 12 of those 25 districts, while Republicans lead in nine. Four have no general election spending yet at all.

Here’s the full list of general election ad spending to date by party, including both candidate spending and outside groups. (The list is in alphabetical order).

Top stories