Donald Trump Jr. makes final push for Saccone in Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump's eldest son and namesake made a final push for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone on Monday. Donald Trump Jr. answered questions about Saccone, his father, and the Russia investigation (and enjoyed some ice cream) while campaigning in western Pennsylvania. 

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Kasie Hunt

Costello says he'll file to run again in new PA-6

After the GOP lost court challenges to the new Pennsylvania congressional district map, Republican Rep. Ryan Costello tells NBC News plans to file to run for re-election in the new version of his PA-6 district.

He represents an already-swing district in the Philadelphia suburbs that’s becoming distinctly more Democratic under the new map. He’s facing a top challenger in veteran Chrissy Houlahan.

Still, Costello isn’t yet firm in his plans to campaign for re-election, so stay tuned.

Andrew Rafferty

Tim Pawlenty moves closer to (another) gubernatorial bid

Tim Pawlenty continues to move closer to another gubernatorial run in Minnesota, announcing Monday he will file a campaign committee.

The former two-term governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate stirred speculation about a possible return to public office earlier this year when he announced he would abandon his post as the head of the Financial Services Roundtable. He ruled out a Senate run in January and has been reportedly raising cash this month for a potential return to St. Paul. 

Pawlenty will still need to officially file to enter the race to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. The announcement is expected “soon,” according to a statement.


Carrie Dann

'Sex and the City' star announces primary challenge to NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, best known as one of the stars of HBO's hit series "Sex and the City," is  launching a progressive primary bid against incumbent New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

"I love New York. I’ve never lived anywhere else. But something has to change.," she says in her announcement video. "We want our government to work again, on healthcare, ending mass incarceration, fixing our broken subway. We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us."

A Siena College poll out Monday showed Nixon as a heavy underdog in the primary matchup, with Cuomo getting 66 percent support among registered Democrats, compared to just 19 percent for Nixon. 

Here's her announcement video: 

Carrie Dann

How a key group — white women with a college degree — view Trump, the GOP and the midterms

The most recent NBC News/Wall Street poll shows that a key group of voters may be poised to play a big role in the upcoming election: White women with a college degree.

And they’re angry. 

White women with a college degree did support Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 election, but only by a six-point margin. According to exit polls, just over half supported Clinton — 51 percent — while 45 percent backed Trump and the remainder chose third party candidates.

But that narrow advantage for the Democratic candidate has grown into a gaping divide heading into the 2018 midterms, according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll.

President Trump’s positive favorability rating among college-educated white women, which stood just 32 percent when he was inaugurated, is now down even further to an even more dismal 27 percent, with 53 percent giving him a ‘very negative’ score. The Republican Party gets a similarly poor ranking, with just 23 percent within this group of women giving the GOP high marks. (They give Democrats a net positive score, on the other hand — 45 percent positive to 31 percent negative.)

And that ire also appears to be translating into energy against Republicans as the midterms approach.

Among white women with a college degree, Democrats have a 27 point advantage over Republicans on the question of which party they would rather win control of Congress in November.

And unlike some other voter groups like young people or independents, who show a preference for Democrats but don’t express high interest in the upcoming elections, this subgroup of women ranks among the highest when it comes to how closely they are watching the midterms. Six-in-ten report that they have high interest in the elections, one of the most pronounced levels of interest for any subgroup surveyed. 

Mark Murray

Watching enthusiasm and independents in the new NBC/WSJ poll

By now, you’ve probably seen our new NBC/WSJ poll, which finds President Trump’s job approval rating at 43 percent and Democrats regaining their double-digit lead in congressional preference.

But the poll also tells two important stories about 2018 that we’ll continue to track.

1. Democrats hold the enthusiasm advantage heading into the midterms: Sixty percent of Democratic voters say they have a high degree of interest in the upcoming elections (registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale), versus 54 percent of Republicans who say the same thing. In addition, 64 percent of 2016 Clinton voters say they have a high level of interest, compared with 57 percent of 2016 Trump voters.

And there’s this: Among all high-interest voters, 56 percent prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 40 percent who want a GOP-controlled Congress — a 16-point advantage for Democrats.

2. Independents are breaking in favor of Democrats: In the new NBC/WSJ poll, independents prefer a Dem-controlled Congress over a GOP one by 12 points, 48 percent to 36 percent. That’s up from the Dems’ 8-point lead here in January (40 percent to 32 percent) and the party’s 6-point advantage for the average of 2017 (39 percent to 33 percent).

But while independents are increasingly breaking for Democrats, they also crept back into Trump’s column, with 45 percent approving of the president’s job – up from 33 percent in January.

So watch the enthusiasm and the independents. 

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Trump nudges Tarkanian out of Nevada Senate race

President Donald Trump on Friday gently — but very publicly — persuaded perennial conservative candidate Danny Tarkanian to leave the Nevada Senate race where he is challenging Republican Sen. Dean Heller in the primary.  

The president sent the message via Twitter, writing: "It would be great for the Republican Party of Nevada, and it’s [sic] unity if good guy Danny Tarkanian would run for Congress and Dean Heller, who is doing a really good job, could run for Senate unopposed!"

Shortly after Trump's tweet, NBC News confirmed that Tarkanian is dropping out of the Senate primary and will run for Congress in the state's 3rd district instead.

With GOP candidates facing stiff headwinds for the midterm elections, Trump was backing Heller in the primary even though the two had a rough start. Heller repeatedly criticized Trump during the 2016 presidential election and the president had previously threatened to support Tarkanian in a primary.

Heller was struggling in the primary among the GOP faithful, especially in Northern Nevada, who have been  disappointed in the incumbent senator for what they say are a lack of conservative bona fides.

Anger peaked when Heller opposed efforts in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act last year, an effort to appeal to the more moderate Republicans in southern Nevada and the independents in a possible general election.

Carrie Dann

Pew: How pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions view each others' 'values and goals'

It's not exactly surprising that Trump supporters don't see themselves having that much in common with Trump opponents — and vice versa — but a new poll shows just how sizable a chunk of Americans see those who view Trump differently as vastly different from themselves on a personal level as well. 

The new survey from the Pew Research Center found that, among Trump approvers, 51 percent say that those who don't like the president also "probably don't share many of my other values and goals." 

Among those who disapprove of Trump, an even greater share — 56 percent — say pro-Trump folks don't share their values and goals. 

Here's a chart summing up Pew's findings. 

Source: Pew Research Center

Pelosi on Lamb: 'I don’t think he ran against me the entire time'

Conor Lamb pointedly said during his campaign that he wouldn't support Nancy Pelosi for Democratic leader, a move that likely neutralized GOP-led attempts to paint him as a liberal in Pelosi's mold. 

On Thursday, the minority leader disputed the idea that the disavowal played an important role in the outcome. 

"I don’t think he ran against me the entire time," Pelosi told NBC's Kasie Hunt. "I think he ran on his positive agenda." 

Pelosi added that she "just wanted him to win" and that she's a target of GOP attacks simply because she's a party leader. 

"Yes, I am a liberal — but I don’t think it’s the misrepresentations or the demonizations that are put out against any leader on the Democratic side. Whoever the leader is will be the target," she said. 

Andrew Rafferty

Chris McDaniel to run for Mississippi Senate seat vacated by Cochran

Conservative firebrand Chris McDaniel announced Wednesday he will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, abandoning his primary challenge to Sen. Roger Wicker.

"By announcing early, we are asking Mississippi Republicans to unite around my candidacy and avoid another contentious contest among GOP members that would only improve the Democrats' chances of winning the open seat," McDaniel said in a statement. "If we unite the party now and consolidate our resources, we can guarantee Donald Trump will have a fighter who will stand with him."

The move means Wicker will avoid what was already turning out to be a nasty GOP primary battle with McDaniel, and McDaniel will have the chance to compete either for an open seat or against whoever Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant chooses to fill the remainder of Cochran's term. 

McDaniel is an outspoken critic of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is pushing for Bryant to appoint someone who will have a good chance of defeating McDaniel. 

Cochran will step down April 1.  

Andrew Rafferty

New Hampshire primary status at center of brewing political battle

A political battle is brewing in New Hampshire that has some warning the state’s first-in-the-nation primary status could be at stake.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern announced he will challenge Bill Gardner, the nation’s longest serving secretary of state, to oversee New Hampshire’s elections.

Gardner has been in the influential post for 42 years and is a well-known defender of the state's role in the presidential primaries. But the Democrat angered members of his own party when he agreed to take part in President Trump’s now defunct election integrity commission and supported other tweaks to the state’s voting laws that Van Ostern told the New Hampshire Union Leader will discourage voting.

The post has considerable power during presidential years by determining the date of the first presidential primary. It has traditionally been the week after the Iowa caucuses and a good showing can give candidates a significant boost, while a poor one can effectively end their run. New Hampshire law allows the secretary of state to move the primary date a week before any “similar election.”

Gardner has sparred with Democrats in the past for being seemingly too accommodating to Republicans, but his last serious challenge came in 1984, according to the Union Leader.

“New Hampshire would lose our First-in-the-Nation prestige and our election integrity would be at risk with a political hack as Secretary of State,” the New Hampshire Republican Party said in a statement.

The secretary of state is elected by members of the New Hampshire legislature.