IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

McCaskill camp hits back at attack ad resurrecting allegations against husband

The Club for Growth is out with a tough new television ad that evokes decades-old domestic violence allegations against the husband of Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

The new spot, which drew a harsh rebuke from McCaskill's campaign, questions whether McCaskill can be an advocate for victims because of allegations made against her husband, Joseph Shepherd, at the end of his first marriage.

The spot includes pictures of a petition for a protective order filed against Shepard claiming he "tripped" and "hit" his first wife.

"As victims cry for help, is Claire McCaskill listening? Even after McCaskill's political benefactor and now husband was accused of abusing his then wife, McCaskill looked the other way," the narrator says.

The ad closes with the narrator talking behind a silhouette of a person being hit to the ground.

The ad is running statewide, according to The Washington Examiner. Data provided by Advertising Analytics shows it had already run about 30 times in St. Louis and Springfield by Monday afternoon.

McCaskill's campaign released a brief statement from Shepard's ex-wife, Suzy Shepard, blasting the attack.

"I support Claire and hope she is re-elected. This attack is terribly unfair and the worst kind of disgusting dirty politics," she said. 

And Meira Bernstein, McCaskill's communications director, criticized the ad in her own statement.

"This is an ugly and shameful personal attack. Claire will not be discussing her husband's divorce, which occurred over 20 years ago. Missourians deserve so much better. Josh Hawley should be ashamed," she said.

McCaskill's husband has been at the center of the political attacks against her, especially as her race against Missouri Republican Attorney Gen. Josh Hawley heats up. But until now, those attacks centered on his business record.

Hawley's campaign had no role in the ad and it cannot coordinate with the Club's messaging.

When asked about the criticism, Club spokeswoman Rachael Slobodien defended the ad. 

"Claire McCaskill pretends to be an advocate for women, but it's abhorrent that she continues to ignore her husband's prior record of domestic violence," she said.

"And now she's gone so far as to cover for him and says it doesn't matter. Well it matters to Missouri voters. She's unfit to be Senator."

Update: Kelli Ford, a Hawley campaign spokeswoman, told The Hill in response to the ad that he "doesn't like personal attacks."

"If he had his way, this race would focus 100% on how he and Claire McCaskill differ in the way they approach the job of being Missouri's Senator. Josh believes our Senator should represent Missouri's views while Claire is willing to do whatever helps herself and the Democratic Party elites," Ford added. 

This week on the campaign trail: Gov and Senate races heat up

Six months since Election Day of 2020, the pace is already picking up on the campaign trail ahead of elections this fall as well as next year's midterm elections.

Here are some top headlines you may have missed: 

Sean Parnell jumps into open Pennsylvania Senate race

The former Republican congressional hopeful and Army veteran launched his Senate campaign this week in the hopes of filling the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

Parnell joined a lawsuit to overturn his state's decision to certify President Joe Biden's win there, a suit the Supreme Court refused to take up last year and a suit Parnell has said he stands by. 

He'll be running in a crowded field that includes businessman and former Republican lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos, and a field that could get bigger as a handful of others consider running too. 

Trump's former campaign manager advising on a possible primary bid against DeWine 

NBC reported on Wednesday that Brad Parscale, who previously served as former President Donald Trump's campaign manager for much of his re-election campaign, is advising former Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, on a potential primary bid against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

Renacci lost a bid to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in 2018, but is considering whether to run against DeWine. Last year, Trump mused on Twitter about who may run for governor in Ohio in 2022, a message many believed was a tacit call for a primary challenge to DeWine

Virginia governor's race heats up 

The biggest development in Virginia's gubernatorial race, 2021's marquee election? Republicans have a nominee, businessman Glenn Youngkin, after a complicated but relatively smooth primary process. Youngkin's challenge was made even more clear right after his victory — Trump immediately endorsed him in a move Republicans hope will keep the party together, but Democrats immediately used the endorsement to argue Youngkin is not the right fit for a state Trump lost by double-digits in 2020.

Democrats still have a month before they choose their nominee, with the field looking to break out and cut into former Gov. Terry McAuliffe's lead. Former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign announced Thursday she's been backed by feminist leader Gloria Steinem

Two Texas-sized developments 

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, was involved in two new developments on the elections front this week.  First, he set the runoff election date for the 6th Congressional District (vacated by the death of the late Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas) for July 27. Both candidates who advanced to the runoff are Republicans, meaning voters will choose between Wright's widow, Susan Wright, and state Rep. Jake Ellzey. 

And Abbott drew a primary challenger this week too — former state Sen. Don Huffines, who appears to be trying to hit the governor from the right, even as polling shows Abbott has a solid favorable rating in the state.

Trump endorses VA GOP gov. nominee Youngkin

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Glen Youngkin, the GOP nominee for Virginia's gubernatorial race, on Tuesday in a statement released by his political action committee. 

The quick endorsement came the morning after Youngkin was named the party's nominee in a protracted, ranked-choice drive-in convention. It gives the GOP hope the party can unify around Youngkin after a contentious convention that prompted frustration about the complicated process, but it also could play into the hands of Democrats who want to tie Youngkin to Trump in a state the former president lost by double-digits in 2020. 

"Congratulations to Glenn Youngkin for winning the Republican nomination for Governor of Virginia. Glenn is pro-Business, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Veterans, pro-America, he knows how to make Virginia’s economy rip-roaring, and he has my Complete and Total Endorsement!" Trump said. 

The rest of Trump's statement ripped former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, his party's frontrunner in their gubernatorial primary. But McAuliffe hasn't won the nomination, he's running against four other candidates in a primary that Democratic voters will decide on June 8. 

McConnell says 'proper price tag' for infrastructure bill is $600-$800 billion

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a new interview that the "the proper price tag for what most of us think of is infrastructure is about six to $800 billion," a shift from McConnell saying on May 3rd that "we're open to doing a roughly $600 billion package." 

The top Senate Republican made the comments in an interview with Renee Shaw on Kentucky PBS station KET. President Joe Biden is calling for a $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan while the GOP proposal, led by Sen Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., clocks in at just under $600 billion.

McConnell predicted "I think they'll see if they can pass this thing by getting everybody in line, if they can't, then we're open to talk about infrastructure and how to pay for it."

Biden will meet with McConnell and the rest of the two parties' leaders in the House and Senate this week, a meeting where infrastructure is likely to come up. He's also planning to meet with Republican senators Thursday on the issue. 

Analysis: Trump’s hold on the GOP is more than primary threats

The expected purge of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. from her position in House GOP leadership has some asking: Why are Republicans looking to recover from a loss in 2020 by rallying around President Trump, who just months earlier lost them the White House, Congress, and the Senate? 

One reason is that he commands the loyalty of many base voters, who can potentially primary his opponents. But just as important, he can credibly threaten to take those voters away from the GOP entirely, dragging down Republicans of all stripes. 

This reality undergirds a political argument Senator Lindsey Graham, R-.S.C. made for standing by Trump after criticizing him over the insurrection in January. 

“I would just say to my Republican colleagues: 'Can we move forward without President Trump?' The answer is no,” Graham said on Hannity on Thursday. “I've always liked Liz Cheney, but she's made a determination that the Republican Party can't grow with President Trump. I've determined we can't grow without him.” 

Graham has little to fear from a primary; he won re-election in November. But he does care a lot about the overall state of the GOP and he’s concerned that Trump’s economic populism brought in millions of new voters who might leave without him.

But why can’t Republicans like Graham just run on economic populism without entertaining Trump and his election lies, which are currently tearing their party apart and rallying the Democratic base in opposition? One problem is that Trump can take the party down with him in response.

In 2015, Republicans leaders resisted calls to expel Trump, who was seen as dragging down the party’s brand, in part because he was threatening to run as an Independent — and they believed him. Unlike other Republicans, he’s never made a pretense of putting the party’s health over his own ambitions.

This dynamic returned earlier this year as the party momentarily wavered on whether to abandon him over the Capitol attack. While they deliberated, reports suddenly emerged that Trump was considering a new third party. He ruled it out shortly after his acquittal in the impeachment trial. 

It’s important to note Cheney’s argument is being made primarily as a defense of truth and American democracy, not as a political feint justified by raw vote totals.

But if Trump were to withdraw his support for Republicans in 2022 or declare the elections fatally compromised, the results could be devastating. His campaign to delegitimize the vote in Georgia may have cost Republicans the Senate by depressing conservative turnout, prompting statehouses around the country to pass new voting restrictions aimed in part at reassuring Trump voters who believe his false claims.

President Lyndon B. Johnson reportedly said he would prefer to keep a party rival “inside the tent peeing out, then outside the tent peeing in." This isn’t quite the same thing: There’s nothing Republicans can do to keep Trump from making a mess. But the alternative might be Trump taking out the tent poles and crashing the entire structure. 

Charlie Crist announces Florida gubernatorial bid

Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., is running for governor, he announced Tuesday, an attempt to return to the state's executive mansion — this time, as a member of the other party.

Crist governed the state from 2007-2011 — while elected as a Republican, he finished out his term without any party affiliation after a failed 2010 Senate bid. He later joined the Democratic Party (after an unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial bid) and is in his third term in Congress. 

Now he wants to take on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been seen as a rising star on the right and has been trumpeting his state's response to the pandemic. 

Crist's announcement video tries to make a contrast with DeSantis as it runs through Crist and supposed Floridians looking back fondly on his time in the governor's mansion, as well as his work in Congress during the pandemic. 

"Today, Florida has a governor that's only focused on his future, not yours. While COVID took the lives of 35,000 Floridians, DeSantis attacked doctors and scientists," Crist says. 

"DeSantis is stripping away your voting rights, he's against a $15 minimum wage, he doesn't believe in background checks for guns, doesn't believe in a woman's right to choose, doesn't listen, doesn't care, and unless you can write him a campaign check, you don't exist." 

And for the eagle-eyed political junkie, the video also includes praise from former President Barack Obama during a 2009 event on the Great Recession, an event where the then-Republican embraced the Democratic president in an image that helped to sink his career within the GOP

The announcement makes him the first major Democrat to throw their hat into the ring, but he's not expected to be alone. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has repeatedly nodded at the prospect of running, and has been a vocal critic of DeSantis. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., released a social-media bio spot produced by her congressional campaign on Tuesday, shortly after she retweeted a call for Florida's next governor to be a woman. 

DeSantis has become one of the more visible governors during the pandemic, often clashing with reporters and Biden administration public health officials about things like vaccine mandates and public-health restrictions. 

During a press conference on Monday where he signed a bill that prohibited businesses from requiring customers to certify they've been vaccinated for Covid-19 before entering, the Republican took a victory lap on his handling of the pandemic. 

"We focused on lifting people up. We wanted people going back to work, we wanted our kids to be in school," DeSantis said, criticizing liberal cities across the country for implementing new Covid-19 related restrictions. 

"We wanted our economy to be healthy, we wanted our society to be healthy, we wanted people to be happy living in Florida. That was the path that we trodded, it was the road less traveled at the time, but. think we're sitting here now seeing the state is much more prosperous as a result of that." 

Liberal group launches $12 million TV ad buy to boost Democrats' sweeping elections bill

The liberal group End Citizens United is launching a $12 million TV ad campaign nationally and in key states Tuesday, aimed at getting the Democrats’ sweeping election overhaul bill over the finish line.

The ads, first reported by NBC News, include a national spot and separate ads for five states that include key Democratic senators: Arizona, GeorgiaNew HampshireNevada and West Virginia.

The House has passed the bill and a Senate committee plans to mark up S.1, titled the “For The People Act” on May 11. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has indicated the full chamber will consider the bill.

West Virginia will be a focal point because Sen. Joe Manchin is the only Democrat in the 50-member caucus who hasn’t cosponsored the bill. He said Friday on WV MetroNews Talkline that it is “a far-reaching, 800-page bill which I do not support in its totality,” and has called for bipartisan policies to protect trust in elections. 

The group's West Virginia ad doesn’t mention Manchin by name and appears aimed at creating political space for the centrist Democrat to support the bill. “Now's our moment,” a narrator says. “Together we can give power back to people, limit the influence of corporate special interests, get big money out of our politics.”

Manchin “has talked about how important it is to protect free and fair elections and reduce the influence of money in politics. He has a record of supporting many of the proposals in this bill, which have broad bipartisan support,” said Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund.

The other four states are home to Democratic senators who face re-election and are top Republican targets. In Arizona, there are English and Spanish-language ads giving air cover to Sen. Mark Kelly, who comes before voters next fall; and thanking Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate Democrat who sometimes breaks with her party, for backing the bill.

"End Citizens United/Let America Vote is ramping up all aspects of our campaign as the bill continues to move closer to a vote on the Senate floor, where we expect it to pass,” Muller said.

“This bill will stop billionaires from buying elections, counteract the wave of voter suppression being carried out across the country, and put in place ironclad ethics laws to make Washington work for everyone.”

Democrats have a slim 50-50 majority in the Senate and no support for the bill among Republicans, who have blasted it as a partisan-power grab. Even if Democrats were to unify their caucus and secure a majority, they would need to eliminate or get around the 60-vote threshold to pass the legislation.

Conservative groups have been vocal about their opposition to the legislation, too. The American Action Network launched digital ads against it in key swing districts back in March, and the Heritage Action announced that month it would spend $10 million on what it dubbed an "election integrity campaign," which includes opposing the Democratic plan. 

Ossoff is latest tapped for commission on China

WASHINGTON – Amid growing momentum in Congress for comprehensive legislation to confront China, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appointed freshman Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., to a bipartisan commission focused on human rights abuses in the region. 

The Congressional Executive Commission on China, created in 2000, is tasked with “monitoring human rights and development of the rule of law in China” and is required to submit an annual report to the president. 

This past January, the commission on China revealed new evidence in a report accusing China of possibly committing “genocide” in its treatment of minority Muslims, like Uighurs, in the Western province of Xinjiang. 

“The whole world faces a stark choice between government based on the consent of the governed, rule of law, and universal human rights, or totalitarianism and oppression,” Ossoff said in a statement provided to NBC. “I will apply my experience investigating human rights abuses and war crimes to expose and demand accountability for political repression and human rights abuses in China or anywhere on Earth.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., attends the Senate Appropriations Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021.Evelyn Hockstein / Pool via AFP - Getty Images file

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., will serve as the chairman of the commission on China, while Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., will be the co-chairman.

Congressional leaders are responsible for naming the remaining 16 members, with Schumer expected to announce that Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Angus King, I-Maine., will be  joining the commission, according to multiple people familiar with the process. Reps Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Brian Mast, R-Fla., are also expected to be among the members named, according to those familiar with the commission.

Poll: Americans divided over the future of filibuster

As some frustrated Democrats advocate for an end to the Senate filibuster, a new poll from Monmouth University shows the American public divided over the rule — with a significant share still unsure about what it is at all. 

The survey, which was conducted April 8-12, found that Americans are about evenly divided over approval of the filibuster, which the poll defines to respondents as “a procedure used in the Senate to block a bill from being put to a vote until a supermajority of 60 senators agree to end debate on it.” About a third approve (34 percent), a third disapprove (34 percent) and a third have no opinion (33 percent)

But most people may be a little fuzzy on the facts.

Just one in five Americans (19 percent) say they’re very familiar with the filibuster, while 40 percent say they’re only somewhat familiar. An additional 12 percent say they’re not too familiar or not familiar at all with it, and about one in three Americans — 29 percent — say they have never heard of the Senate filibuster.

The poll also shows little enthusiasm nationally for throwing out the filibuster wholesale, although reforms to it are more popular. Only about one in five Americans (19 percent) say they support completely eliminating the filibuster, while 38 percent say it should be kept but with reforms. Another 38 percent say the filibuster should be kept in place as it is. 

The data also show a partisan gap, reflecting Democrats’ recent frustrations with their inability to pass what they believe are popular agenda items — like gun ownership reforms — because a sufficient number of Republicans don’t cross the aisle to support them.  

Two-thirds of Republicans (64 percent) want to keep the filibuster as it is. But despite a push among some progressives to ditch it entirely, the critical mass among Democrats appears to be around reform rather than a wholesale elimination of the filibuster. A third of Democrats (30 percent) want to kill it entirely, while 49 percent support keeping it with changes. 

 

The survey was conducted April 8-12 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

GOP Rep. Budd jumps into North Carolina Senate race with Club for Growth endorsement

Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., announced Wednesday that he's running for Senate in 2022 to fill the seat that will be vacated by the retiring incumbent Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

The third-term congressman launched his bid with a three-minute video where he pokes fun at the extravagance of some announcement video, evokes former President Trump with video of Trump praising him at a campaign rally, echoes conservative frustrations about cancel culture and accuses congressional Democrats of "shredding our Constitution."

"I'm a small businessman who was so fed up by the liberals' attacks on our faith, our family and our way of life that I ran for Congress to stand and fight alongside Donald Trump, drain the swamp and take our country back," Budd says. 

"We all know that Joe Biden is a weak leader who won't stand up to the radical left. Today, the U.S. Senate is the last line of defense against having a woke socialist wasteland, and I'm running to stop that, period."

Budd joins a Republican primary field that includes fellow Congressman Mark Walker and former Gov. Pat McCrory. Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, has also said she's interested in running but hasn't decided yet. 

Shortly after Budd's announcement, the conservative Club for Growth PAC backed Budd in statement from its president, former Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind.

Trump backs Susan Wright, widow of former congressman, in special election

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Texas Republican Susan Wright in the special election to replace her late husband, former Republican Rep. Ron Wright. 

Trump made the endorsement through an emailed press release — he remains banned from virtually all social media platforms in the wake of the January attack on the Capitol by his supporters — hewing very closely to the boilerplate language he typically uses while backing a candidate. 

"Susan Wright will be a terrific Congresswoman (TX-06) for the Great State of Texas. She is the wife of the late Congressman Ron Wright, who has always been supportive of our America First Policies," Trump said.

"Susan will be strong on the Border, Crime, Pro-Life, our brave Military and Vets, and will ALWAYS protect your Second Amendment."

Wright is running in a crowded race to fill the seat vacated by the death of her husband, who served one term before passing away in February. There are 23 candidates in the special election, which pits every candidate on the same ballot, regardless of party. If no candidate wins a majority on the first ballot, the top two move onto a runoff. 

Loyalty to Trump has been a big theme on the Republican side of the race. One candidate, Michael Wood, has spoken out against Trump. But many of the other Republicans, in a field that includes multiple former Trump administration officials, have tried to hug him tight. One candidate, former WWE wrestler Dan Rodimer, has pointed to his 2020 congressional endorsement from Trump to argue he's "the only one that has ever been endorsed by President Trump." That comment prompted Trump adviser Jason Miller to tweet last week clarifying that Trump hadn't yet weighed on the special election. 

Former Democratic Rep. Cunningham running for governor of South Carolina

Former Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., is running for governor in an underdog bid to become the first Democrat elected governor of South Carolina since 1998. 

After weeks of speculation, the Democrat broke the news on social media, tweeting out a video announcement focused primarily on his family and his own biography. He criticized the South Carolina state government as too extreme for the state, pointing to new restrictions on abortion and voting, as well as the decision to loosen restrictions on the open carry of firearms. 

Cunningham then turned his criticism to Gov. Henry McMaster, the Republican he hopes to defeat next November.

"Gov. McMaster has been cheering them on every step of the way. It's embarrassing. The challenges we face aren't because of our people, they're because of our politicians," he said.

"After 20 years of trying the same thing, it's time for something different, something new, which is why I'm announcing that I'm running for governor of SOuth Carolina because my son, and your kids, deserve something better. We all do."

Cunningham is a one-term congressman who served in Congress from 2019 to 2020 after winning the Charleston-area seat once represented by the state's former GOP Gov. Mark Sanford. Sanford lost his primary in 2018 to Republican Katie Arrington, who Cunningham narrowly beat. He lost two years later to Republican Nancy Mace, who now represents the district in Congress. 

The Democrat has experience winning over a Republican-leaning area — he pointed to his 2018 victory, where he won in a district that voted for then-President Donald Trump by double-digits just two years prior, in his announcement video. But no Democrat has won statewide there since the 2006 election for superintendent of education, according to The Post and Courier