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Koch group to challenge Trump on free trade

WASHINGTON — The Koch organization announced Monday it is launching a multi-million dollar campaign against one of President Donald Trump’s signature issues — trade.

It’s the group's most direct challenge to Trump so far but is just the latest in a series of campaigns by the organization where they have split with the current-day Republican Party that has embraced issues that would have been unheard of just two years ago.  

The campaign is being waged by three Koch-umbrella organizations, Americans for Prosperity, its main policy group, Freedom Partners, its political organization and LIBRE Initiative, a Hispanic-focused policy group. The multi-year, multi-million dollar campaign will include paid media, activist and grassroots mobilization, lobbying and policy analysis to promote free trade and persuade voters and elected officials of the dangers of tariffs and protectionist economic policies. 

It’s unclear how many millions of dollars the organization will spend over the next two years, but it could be impactful as voters, especially Trump supporters, wrestle with emerging trade wars as mid-term elections approach.

Trump last week extended tariffs on steel and aluminum on Mexico, Canada and the European Union and has threatened further tariffs against China, stoking concerns of a trade war.

Freedom Partners Vice President James Davis said that the campaign shows the organizations “long-term commitment to advance common-sense trade policies that will ensure America’s brightest days are ahead, and to directly confront the protectionist ideas that would hold us back.”

The free-market, libertarian-leaning organization, which has traditionally supported Republicans, has shifted its strategy of late. They have spent money attacking Republicans for votes on a government spending bill and thanked Democrats for their support of rolling back parts of Dodd-Frank banking regulations; including Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is a prime target for Republicans in November. 

Markey on infrastructure: "No climate, no deal"

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., told "MTP Daily" on Monday that he would not support an infrastructure deal unless it either included robust commitments on addressing the climate, or he received assurances that Democrats would pass a climate-centered bill after a bipartisan compromise was reached. 

As Democrats weigh a two-track path —  bringing a bipartisan compromise across the finish line while also setting up a vehicle to pass a more robust bill with only Democratic support — Markey said that his vote will hinge on whether the Senate guarantees it will tackle climate in an infrastructure bill. 

"I cannot support a deal that does not have a climate added center. No climate, no deal," he said. 

"There has to be an absolute guarantee that climate is dealt with, that the votes are going to be there to deal with the climate issues that are central to our generation's response to this crisis." 

The framework of the bipartisan deal leaves out climate and focuses on things like roads and bridges, unlike broader proposals from Democrats. Markey's stance on climate is just one of a growing number of lines progressives are drawing for opposing the compromise.

On Sunday's "Meet the Press, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said he wouldn't support a proposal that included a gas tax, electric vehicle fees or the privatization of infrastructure. 

Poll finds broad supports for expanded early voting and photo ID requirement

A new survey from Monmouth University shows broad national support for boosting access to early in-person voting and for requiring photo ID to vote — two voting rules that have been vocally embraced by Democrats and Republicans, respectively. 

But the survey also shows that making it easier to vote by mail —a key Democratic proposal — is more controversial and faces a deep partisan divide. 

The survey, which was conducted June 9 to 14, 2021 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points, comes as Democrats brace for their sweeping federal voting rights legislation to be blocked by a Senate filibuster. Republicans have vowed to stop the For the People Act, and a compromise bill put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, still lacks enough votes to overcome a 60-vote threshold. 

Manchin's compromise seeks to marry some policies from both sides of the aisle.  From the left, his outline tells states to offer 15 consecutive early-voting days in federal elections and state departments of motor vehicles to automatically register voters. From the right, it calls for mandatory voter identification at the polls with an expanded list of eligible documentation. 

People fill out ballots at the Brooklyn Museum during early voting for the primary election in New York on June 16, 2021.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

In some encouraging news for Democrats, Monmouth found that 71 percent of American adults, including 89 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans, back making it easier to vote in person.  

But Republicans will likely point to the poll’s result showing eight-in-10 Americans – including 62 percent of Democrats — also back the requirement that voters showing a photo ID, a top GOP priority. 

And about half of the public — 50 percent — say it should be easier to vote by mail. Eighty-four percent of Democrats but just 26 percent of Republicans want to see increased access to mail balloting, which former president Donald Trump has baselessly derided as fraught with fraud. 

The survey did show an appetite for federal legislation about voting generally, with 69 percent of adults supporting “establishing national guidelines to allow vote by mail and in-person early voting in federal elections in every state.” But it’s worth noting that the proposed Democratic legislation also contains provisions that go much further than that.  

Overall, the public appears more sympathetic to the default Democratic position on voting rights — that disenfranchisement is a more urgent issue than potential fraud. Half of Americans say disenfranchisement is a major problem in the country, while 37 percent say voter fraud is a major problem. Sixty-one percent say voter fraud is either a minor problem or not a problem. 

To that end, just a third of all Americans — but two-thirds of Republicans — believe ongoing audits of the 2020 election results in states like Arizona are legitimate exercises rather than partisan posturing. 

And 32 percent of adults say President Joe Biden’s election was due to fraud, a number that has not changed since November.

— Ben Kamisar contributed

EMILY's List endorses in PA Senate race

EMILY's List is backing a candidate in the crowded Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary —  Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh. 

The Democratic group backs pro-choice women candidates by marshalling direct fundraising and supporting them with independent expenditures. It announced the move Monday morning in a statement. 

“Pennsylvania, like much of the country, is at a critical moment — from the continued health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to national debates on how best to address systemic racism and climate change. If we want to continue making progress, we must expand our Democratic majority in the Senate with strong women leaders like Val, who will fight every day to improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians, and EMILY’s List is proud to stand with her," EMILY's List executive director Emily Cain said in a statement, pointing to Arkoosh's work as both a doctor and on the county commission. 

Arkoosh is the only female candidate in the field — Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan both decided not to run, so the field includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with Rep. Conor Lamb eying a potential bid too. 

The winner will face off against an open field of Republicans looking to win the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey, who is retiring at the end of this term. 

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.