Pro-Trump group launches digital ad blitz for final stretch of midterms

With just over two weeks until Election Day, one pro-Trump group is launching a digital ad blitz that seeks to energize Republican voters to the polls by reminding them that Democrats — or what some of the ads refer to as the "liberal mob" — are already going.

America First Policies, a non-profit with close ties to the president, will launch a dozen new ads between now and November 6th, NBC News has learned. The group plans to spend approximately $1.5 million on the blitz, aimed at voters on Facebook and Google for competitive Senate races in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and Tennessee. AFP is also targeting tight House races in ME-02, MI-08, MN-01, MN-08, NC-13, NY-22, PA-10, TX-32, and WV-03. 

The ads — several of which were shared first with NBC News — show montages of Democrats in moments of rage over the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, or medleys of burning MAGA hats and bleeding Trump supporters over heavy metal music.

"They are voting...are you?" the ad asks.

The group plans to roll out a new ad every day between now and Election Day.

The depiction of Democrats as a "liberal mob" echoes recent messaging from the man in the White House himself. President Donald Trump said last week at a Montana rally that "Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs."

And Trump has worked hard to paint this election as a choice about "Kavanaugh, the [migrant] caravan, law and order, and common sense." Democrats, for their part, have by and large sought to make this an election about healthcare — among other issues.



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Sanders: I’ll fight to ban private charter schools

ASHEVILLE, N.C. —  For-profit charter schools will become a thing of the past, and public funds for the expansion of public charters will be frozen until a national audit is completed, according to  a plan released by Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., plans to roll out his complete education plan on Saturday, the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. On Friday, the campaign revealed a plank: significant reining in of charter schools. 

A campaign release says Sanders will fight to ban for-profit charter schools outright, and support and NAACP plan to place a moratorium on publican funds for charter school expansion until a state-by-state audit can be conducted to determine the impact of charter school growth around the country. 

Progressives have taken aim at charter schools in recent years for what they see as their siphoning off of funding for traditional public schools, and for the relative lack of accountability and oversight some receive. 

“Few charter schools have lived up to their promise," The Sanders campaign release reads.  "Instead, billionaires like DeVos and the Waltons, together with private equity and hedge fund executives, have bankrolled their expansion and poured tens of millions into school board and other local elections with the hope of privatizing public schools. Charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system.”

Warren calls for federal laws to protect women's right to choose

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., issued a call Friday for Congress to pass federal laws protecting access for women to reproductive care — including abortions — in the wake of a spate of state laws that ban or restrict the practice.

"Our democracy should not be held hostage by right-wing courts," the Democratic presidential candidate writes in a Medium post, "and women should not have to hope that Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump’s Supreme Court will respect the law."

Warren's plea for Congress to act on the issue comes as several states have placed restrictions on women's reproductive health, severely limited access to abortion. This week in Alabama, Republican governor Kay Ivey signed into law a GOP-passed bill banning abortion and criminalizing providers. Earlier this month, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, also a Republican, made law a bill that outlawed abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which can be as early as six weeks and before many women even know they're pregnant.

The Alabama law is meant to trigger a challenge to the protections of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade opinion — something Warren hopes to render moot with the passage of federal laws codifying the right to choose.

"Federal laws that ensure real access to birth control and abortion care for all women," her post reads. "Federal laws that will stand no matter what the Supreme Court does."

Warren is among the national Democrats advocating for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits women from receiving abortions from federally funded healthcare programs, like Medicaid and the VA. She also attacked the Trump administration for its rollbacks of Title X funding for family planning and its reinstatement of the gag rule

Buttigieg unveils wide-ranging policy positions

CHICAGO — After months of mounting criticism for lacking policy specifics, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has finally fleshed out his position on 27 different issues with a new issues page on his website, divided among the three major themes of his campaign: democracy, security and freedom.

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor is staking out a new position in favor of creating a nationwide gun licensing system, or registry. This puts Buttigieg in line with Cory Booker’s proposal and among the most liberal positions on gun control in the Democratic race. Previously, Buttigieg had been criticized by gun control advocates for being too soft on guns or being wishy-washy.

Buttigieg is also taking a stronger position than before on marijuana reform, saying the U.S. should legalize marijuana. Until now, he had said the U.S. needed to move in that direction, but had not outright said marijuana should be legalized.

But Buttigieg is taking a less-declarative position on reparations for slavery, a potent issue for the progressive base, saying only that he wants to “create a commission to propose reparations policies.”

You can see his full issues page here and here are some brief highlights:

  • College: Middle-income families at public colleges will pay zero tuition.
  • Gender pay gap: Large companies must publicly disclose their pay gap.
  • Federal abortion funding: Repeal the Hyde amendment.
  • LGBT rights: Pass the Equality Act.
  • Minimum wage: Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Voting rights: Introduce automatic voter registration, expand early voting.
  • Climate change: Implement a Green New Deal, commit to the Paris Agreement.
  • D.C. and Puerto Rico: DC’s House member and 2 senators should have voting power. Puerto Rico should have statehood if its people want it, and immediate representation in the Electoral College.
  • Electoral reform: Replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote.
  • Immigration: Comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship for “immigrants living, working, paying taxes, and contributing to our American story, including DREAMers.”
  • Court reform: Create a bipartisan reform commission to recommend structural improvements to depoliticize the federal judiciary.

Ryan: I would "most definitely" have a Roe v. Wade litmus test for judges

WASHINGTON—Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, told MTP Daily on Thursday that if elected president, he would only appoint judges who support abortion rights. 

When asked Thursday whether he'd have a litmus test for his judicial nominees centered on their support for upholding the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Ryan replied: "Yeah, I would."

"Most definitely. This is not something to be messed with," he said. 

"At this moment in history, people can try to dance around it--I will have someone who will protect Roe v. Wade, no question about it."

Ryan is not the first candidate to make this pledge—New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made the same promise earlier this month, after a bill was passed in Georgia restricting abortion rights, and other candidates have called for the court to protect Roe v. Wade in light of the new anti-abortion rights laws passed in states like Georgia. 

But Ryan initially joined Congress as a pro-life Democrat, shifting left on the issue over the years.

2020 roundup: de Blasio makes his case

WASHINGTON—New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is now running for president, taking aim at President Trump. 

Bestowing on the president a Trumpian nickname of "Con Don," de Blasio told reporters Thursday that his experience makes him best suited to take down the incumbent president even if he's currently at the back of the primary polls. 

 "We need to get more unified. But that’s only going to happen in truth if we confront Donald Trump because he’s been the well-spring of so much of it," he said. 

"it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.  I’ve been in so many elections where the first polls had me way way back. I’ve won ten elections in a row, I haven’t lost an election."

Read more on de Blasio's announcement and read on for more from the trail. 

  • Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced a Defense Department ethics plan that includes: a four-year cooling-off period before certain Department officials could move to "giant contractors;" a similar four-year ban on former generals lobbying the Defense Department; limitations on the stocks that Defense Department employees can hold, and subjecting defense contractors to FOIA. Read more here
  • President Trump's annual financial disclosure shows that the revenue of his Florida Mar-a-Lago property went down while other Trump businesses had mixed results. 
  • Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams spoke to MSNBC on Thursday, reiterating that she's not shutting the door on a potential presidential bid.
Mark Murray

New Steyer ad blasts House Dems over impeachment

Need to Impeach, the Tom Steyer-backed group calling for President Trump’s impeachment, has released a blistering TV ad taking House Democrats to task for not acting on Trump’s alleged wrongdoing while in office.

“Our founding fathers expected YOU — Congress — to hold a lawless president accountable. And you’re doing nothing,” people in the ad say.

“He broke his oath of office. He’s defying you. He’s laughing at you. And he’s getting away with it,” they add.

Need to Impeach says this is a million-dollar buy that will air on national cable and in Iowa and New Hampshire.


Vaughn Hillyard

Inslee introduces clean energy jobs plan

WASHINGTON — Washington Governor and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Jay Inslee released the second installment of his Climate Mission plan Thursday, focused on creating millions of clean energy jobs.

Inslee billed the proposal as a boon to workers, estimating it would create 8 million jobs over 10 years. Over that same period of time it would cost the federal government $3 trillion, with a goal of spurring an additional $6 trillion in related investments.

The 38-page plan consists of 28 individual policy proposals, ranging from a new “Rebuild America” program that would recruit workers to make existing buildings more efficient to a “Green Bank” that would invest in clean energy projects and a fivefold increase in funding for new energy technology. The plan also seeks to ensure "good union jobs" and to support communities on the front-lines of damage from climate change.

Inslee spent the day Wednesday touring flood damage in Eastern Iowa, and on Thursday will highlight his plan with an event in Washington, D.C. at a water treatment plant.

Other elements of his "Evergreen Economy" plan include: doubling federal funding for public transit, a clean water program, funding for rural energy, and a mix of grants and tax credits to encourage businesses and individuals to make use of solar power and other renewable energy sources. It includes a plan to guarantee pensions and health care for coal workers and to retrain and hire them to work in new careers or on regional projects like environmental cleanup. 

The plan did not say how it would be paid for. Inslee spokesman Jamal Raad told NBC News there were “lots of ways to generate revenue” but “the real costly route would be inaction.”

Inslee released the first part of his national clean energy plan in early May, outlining a set of benchmarks that would move the U.S. to clean, renewable and zero-emission energy by 2035, end coal-fired power plant operations by 2030, and implement zero-carbon standards for new vehicles and buildings. 

And while Inslee launched his presidential bid with climate change as his signature issue, other candidates in the 2020 race have also taken up the mantle. For example, former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke recently proposed a $5 trillion plan to combat climate change.

In the crowded field of Democrats hoping to eventually take on President Donald Trump, Inslee has sought to differentiate himself by being the climate-minded candidate who will prioritize combatting global warming above all else should he be elected president. 

2020 roundup: Democratic presidential candidates blast new anti-abortion rights laws

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidates are lining up to condemn the recent legislation in Alabama and Georgia that put major limitations on abortion rights, as they look to signal to Democratic voters that their presidencies would protect abortion rights. 

Candidates are tweeting in opposition, talking about the laws in media appearances, and using their email lists to fundraise for abortion-rights groups specifically. In the case of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., she added a trip to Georgia for a round-table at the state house in response to the abortion bills. 

The laws, which supporters say are meant to directly challenge the constitutionality of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, are the latest example of how abortion is roaring back as a 2020 issue. Read more analysis from Monday's Meet the Press: First Read newsletter, and read on for more headlines from the trail. 

  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., promised to ban the exportation of AR-15-style weapons if elected president during a Wednesday town hall.  
  • Newly announced presidential candidate Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont., released 14 years of tax returns on Tuesday. 
  • Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard told the Joe Rogan Experience podcast that she would drop the charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and pardon Edward Snowden if she were president. 
  • The Nevada Independent analyzed a Change Research poll of likely Nevada Democratic caucus-goers that found former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the top. 
  • After Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized Fox News as she publicly turned down a town-hall appearance with the network, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney offered to take her spot and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper touted his own appearance on Fox News Wednesday night as they argued Democrats should not be boycotting the network. 

'Do-over' House race in North Carolina settles on nominees

WASHINGTON — Republican state Rep. Dan Bishop cruised to victory in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District special primary, setting up a clash that will finally decide the last House race of the 2018 cycle. 

While the GOP thought it won the seat on Election Day of 2018, allegations of absentee ballot fraud by a consultant working for then Republican nominee Mark Harris prompted state election officials to toss out the results and order a new election. 

That new primary was on Tuesday, and Bishop dominated the field with almost 48 percent of the vote in a 10-person field.

Bishop easily cleared the state's 30-percent threshold to win the race outright (if he fell short, the race could have gone to a runoff). Now he'll face off against Democrat Dan McCready, the party's 2018 nominee who ran unopposed in the special primary. 

The election will likely be the closest special House election of the 2019 calendar. Bishop is best known for championing the controversial "bathroom bill" in the state legislature, which barred transgender people from using a bathroom other than the one for the gender listed on their birth certificate. The bill has since been partially repealed, so it's unclear how much of a centerpiece the issue will be in the conservative-leaning district. 

The two candidates will face off on Sept. 10. 

Buttigieg shuts down 2017 PAC

WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg is shutting down the Political Action Committee that he started in 2017 to help fellow Democratic candidates.

The Hitting Home PAC filed a termination report Tuesday with the FEC. Buttigieg had started the PAC shorty after his unsuccessful run for DNC chair in 2017 as a vehicle to support other Democrats as he weighed his own next political moves.

“We've been winding down the PAC for awhile and as of today we filed the termination papers,” Buttigieg press secretary Chris Meagher told NBC News.

As a presidential candidate, Buttigieg has pledged not to take money from registered lobbyists, corporate PACs or the fossil fuel industry.