Updated ad spending in PA-18: $11.7 million

Democrats and Republicans will end up spending nearly $12 million on TV and radio ads in Tuesday’s highly competitive special congressional election in Pennsylvania — all for a district that won’t exist in its current form in November due to the state’s new congressional map.

According to updated figures from Advertising Analytics, a whopping $11.7 million has been spent on ads in the race, with Republicans out-advertising Democrats, $7.3 million to $4.4 million.

But with Democrat Conor Lamb outspending Republican Rick Saccone by more than a 3-to-1 margin — remember, campaigns get discounted ad rates compared with outside groups — the gap in broadcast spots aired is much smaller: 4,240 for the GOP, 3,242 for the Democrats. 

latest posts from The Rundown

Voters split on ICE as battle over agency rages

Americans are evenly divided over their feelings on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, as the push on the left to "Abolish ICE" has become the latest political football on the campaign trail.

Data from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 38 percent of Americans had a positive view of ICE, compared to the 37 percent who held a negative view of the agency.

While the polling question does not directly address whether to abolish the agency, it does reveal deep ideological divisions across key demographics. Those divides could influence how the issue resonates in key midterm races.

Sixty-nine percent of registered Republican voters view ICE positively, while 63 percent of Democrats feel negatively about ICE.

Pluralities of men, whites and registered voters over 35 years old all have positive feelings about ICE. But pluralities of women, non-whites and younger voters view ICE negatively.

Progressives have started to rally around the cry to "Abolish ICE" after last month's New York City primary victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive political neophyte who dethroned longtime Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y. Since then, there's been a steady drumbeat of prominent Democrats backing the proposal.

ICE is an agency under the Department of Homeland Security tasked with enforcing customs and immigration laws. While it works with the Customs and Border Patrol, which is responsible for the protecting the border, ICE investigates immigration violations across the country.

Those who want ICE gone argue that the push isn't necessarily as drastic as the slogan seems. Most plans to "Abolish ICE" include creating something new in its place under stronger oversight.

Republicans have seized on the push as a way to tar the party as moving too far to the left. They've already begun running ads in key races leveraging the push to argue that Democratic candidates are becoming too radical for moderate votes, even trying the tactic in races where Democrats haven't backed the "Abolish ICE" push.

The new polling suggests that the issue isn't a home-run issue for Republicans across the board, with registered voters as a whole deadlocked on the issue. But it shows that ICE is far more popular on the House and Senate battlefield, and that the debate could energize both parties' bases.

Forty-six percent of registered voters in key House districts identified by the non-partisan Cook Political Report have a favorable view of ICE. Those voters live in districts rated by the analysts as either toss-ups or leaning in favor of one party.

On the flip side, just 28 percent of voters in those districts hold negative feelings about ICE.

Positive feelings are more common in GOP-held House districts too, which make up the lion's share of the House battlefield this fall. Forty-four percent of registered voters in those districts view ICE positively, compared to the 31 percent who view it negatively.

The same dynamic exists in the Rust Belt--identified by the poll as Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All five of those states have Democratic senators up for reelection in states Trump won in 2016.

Forty-four percent of Rust Belt registered voters have positive feelings toward ICE, while 23 percent view the agency negatively.

The NBC/WSJ poll reached 900 registered voters, almost half by cellphone. The poll contacted voters from July 15-18 and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.

Republican Jewish Coalition launches first wave of midterm endorsements

The Republican Jewish Coalition is rolling out its first slate of congressional endorsements and encouraging members to donate to its candidates facing tough races in November.

The group is backing six Republican House candidates—Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock; Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo; New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance; Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam; Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus; and Young Kim, a former state lawmaker running to replace GOP Rep. Ed Royce in California.

The group is also endorsing three of the GOP's Senate hopefuls — Indiana businessman Mike Braun, North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer; and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

NBC News obtained an early look at the new slate ahead of the Monday announcement.

The group is looking to play an expanded role in the 2018 midterms in both defending incumbents as well as candidates they see as integral to their agenda. The RJC's new website will also help to bundle campaign contributions to its endorsed candidates, a first for the group.

It's already begun wading into marquee races this cycle. Last month, the RJC dropped more than $500,000 in television ads blasting Democrat Scott Wallace, a Philadelphia-area congressional candidate, for donations his family foundation made to groups that supported the "Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions" policy to target Israel. Wallace is running against Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., in a district that's targeted by Democrats.

House Democratic campaign arm significantly outraises Republicans in June

House Democrats continue to rake in the cash ahead of the November elections, this time with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee almost doubling their Republican rivals' fundraising in June. 

The DCCC announced Thursday that it raised almost $15.2 million last month, while the National Republican Campaign Committee reported on Friday that it raised $7.7 million in June.  

Both committees are sitting on significant reserves for the upcoming fight — the DCCC has more than $68 million banked away while the NRCC still has more than $64 million in the bank. 

But the strong fundraising haul by the DCCC helps to fill their coffers after spending millions to both ensure the party wouldn't be shut out in key races thanks to California's "jungle primary" system, as well as to help their favored candidates to victory. 

And it's not just the Democratic committee seeing a financial windfall. An NBC News analysis earlier this week found that Democratic candidates outraised Republicans in 90 percent of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report's top 40 congressional races. 

Charlotte officially announced as 2020 Republican National Convention host city

The Republican National Convention is heading to Charlotte in 2020, as the national party formally announced the city as its pick for the next presidential nominating convention. 

The Republican National Committee's 168 members voted unanimously Friday in favor of Charlotte during its quarterly meeting in Austin, Texas, officially ending the party's search for a convention home. 

Charlotte quickly emerged as the clear frontrunner during the search and the decision had been expected after the Charlotte City Council voted this week to approve the convention.

"Charlotte has so much to offer, and we are excited to bring delegates to a city that has demonstrated its southern hospitality, showcased its vibrant energy, and proven that possibilities are endless," Ron Kaufman, an RNC member from Massachusetts and the convention's site selection chairman, said in a statement released by the party.

"I am confident the Queen City will be the ideal backdrop as the Republican Party continues its work to Make America Great Again."

Charlotte was the host city for the Democratic Party in 2012, when President Obama was nominated ahead of his successful reelection. 

The proposal faced pushback from some local Democrats. But Charlotte Democratic Mayor Vi Lyles has defended the bid as a way to showcase the city on a national stage, although she told a local Democratic women's club she would not give a welcome speech at the event, according to the Charlotte Observer

The RNC has not yet set a date for its 2020 convention, while Democrats plan to hold theirs between July 16 and July 20 in either Milwaukee, Miami Beach or Houston. 

Bass emerges as one to watch in Dem leadership race

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., is starting to generate buzz as a sleeper pick to snag a spot on the leadership ladder or even possibly become speaker if Democrats win the House.

Her emergence as a potential party leader, cited by several Democratic officials in discussions with NBC News, comes as many Democrats are jockeying for position in the wake of Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley’s loss and amid a string of declarations from lawmakers and candidates that they won’t back Nancy Pelosi in the next party elections, 

The 64-year-old Bass, now in her fourth term, is a former speaker of the California Assembly and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. While it’s unlikely she could win the support of all Californians, African-Americans and women in a competitive contest, that trifecta is a heck of a pool of possible supporters to start with in a Democratic leadership election.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., said the sky’s the limit if Bass decides to throw her hat in the ring once the midterms shake out. 

“My view is that she would be an excellent Democratic Leader, meaning if we take the majority to be the speaker,” said Higgins, a white Democrat from Buffalo who worked closely with Bass on a plan to rewrite Democratic caucus rules. In any event, he said, her experience as the leader of a state assembly, her acumen as a legislator and her ability to negotiate the shoals of interpersonal relationships in the House, should put her on the “short list” in any conversation about leadership in the next Congress.

Right now, Democrats don’t know whether they’ll be filling out a leadership roster in the majority or the minority and whether any or all of the current top leaders — Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. — will remain in power. 

For the most part, hopefuls are focused on the caucus chairmanship that Crowley will be vacating. Two other California Democrats, Linda Sanchez and Barbara Lee, are part of those discussions. Sanchez has announced she’ll run for the post.

Fox's Guilfoyle to quit network and join pro-Trump group

Fox News anchor Kimberly Guilfoyle is leaving the network to join a pro-Trump group and hit the campaign trail ahead of the midterm elections. 

Guilfoyle has traveled with Donald Trump Jr., her new boyfriend, on the stump in recent months and a source familiar with her move confirmed to NBC News that she wanted to ramp up her political involvement. Trump Jr. is one of the White House's key surrogates and has begun to crisscross the country to campaign for Republican candidates. 

The former co-host of Fox's "The Five" will be taking on a role with either America First Action or America First Policies, the source added. The two groups are allies, with the former a super PAC backing pro-Trump candidates and the latter a nonprofit promoting President Trump's agenda.  That move will free her up to hit the stump with Trump Jr. 

Gabe Sherman, a reporter with Vanity Fair, first reported that Guilfoyle would leave Fox. 

Vulnerable House Republican: Putin is manipulating Trump

Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd, one of the most vulnerable incumbents ahead of November's midterm elections, had some harsh words about President Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Friday New York Times op-ed

The former intelligence officer lamented how Russian intelligence is "manipulat[ing]" Trump, and said all Americans should be concerned about both "the president's failure to defend the United States intelligence community's unanimous conclusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and condemn Russian covert counterinfluence campaign."

"By playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad," Hurd added.

The language is tough coming from a member of Trump's own party. But it's indicative of the unease of many in the GOP about Trump's meeting with Putin and the fallout, where Trump and his White House have had to repeatedly walk back statements about the meeting. 

Hurd hasn't shied away from criticizing Trump in the past and leaned on his own intelligence community experience to warn Trump against meting alone with Putin in the first place. 

He's running against Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, D, and is fighting for reelection in a district Trump lost in 2016. 

Republicans take 'Abolish ICE' opposition to the airwaves

Republicans believe that the left's push to axe the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is a political winner, and they're beginning to put their money behind the theory. 

The GOP has upped the pressure on Democrats in recent weeks to widen their split over whether to "Abolish ICE." Just yesterday, House Republicans held a vote on a nonbinding resolution stating support for ICE in the hopes of forcing Democrats to go on the record on the issue. 

Now, Republicans are also starting to highlight the "Abolish ICE" push in ads, hoping to leverage the controversial issue into victories in November.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC aligned with House Republican Leadership, is out with a new ad that tries to link Democrat Danny O'Connor to the "liberal resistance" that supports the policy. O'Connor is running in next month's special House election in Ohio's 12th Congressional District. 

Another GOP group has been trying to make the issue stick against Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in his tough Senate race. One Nation, an allied group of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, ran ads this month that criticizes the push to abolish ICE and calls on Manchin to back President Trump's call for border security funding. 

Politico reported Thursday that One Nation decided to stop the ad buy a week early, but the group had already spent more than $60,000 to run the ad more than 200 times across the state, according to data provided by Advertising Analytics. 

The issue is also making its way into state-level races as well. The Republican Governors Association is currently running two similar ads highlighting how ICE has been a force in fighting gang violence and sex trafficking while  keeping drugs off the streets, while hitting Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls David Garcia and Kelly Fryer for backing the "Abolish ICE" push. 

While the proposal to shutter ICE has only recently made it to the national conversation, it hasn't polled well in any early surveys. And Republicans see the issue as an easy way to frame their rivals for being too extreme. 

That said, Democrats who support the measure argue the full nuance of the proposal isn't captured by the bumper-sticker slogan. And the hard-line stance on immigration hasn't always worked for the GOP — Republican Ed Gillespie lost his 2017 gubernatorial election in Virginia by a significant margin despite the campaign and its allies trying to rally the GOP around a conservative message on immigration and fighting gangs. 

Microsoft executive says three 2018 campaigns have been targeted by phishing attacks

ASPEN, Colo. — The campaigns of three candidates in the midterm elections were targeted in a phishing attack similar to the ones targeting the Clinton campaign in 2016, a top Microsoft executive said Thursday.

Microsoft could not identify the campaigns targeted and said no individuals were infected by the attack. The tactics were similar to those outlined in the indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller against Russian GRU operatives.

“They were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint as well as an election disruption standpoint,” Tom Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for customer security and trust, said during a panel discussion at the Aspen Security Forum focused on election security issues.

The attempted hackers registered fake Microsoft web domains to serve as a landing page for phishing attacks. Similar tactics were used in 2016 during the Republican and Democratic conventions, though the company did not identify them as being orchestrated by the Russian government, Burt said.

Microsoft has made it a priority to identify such phishing attempts and used a novel legal strategy to prevent them from being successful, quickly seeking court orders to transfer the fake domains to what Burt called a “Microsoft-controlled sinkhole.” He said Microsoft has been working with other large technology firms to share intelligence about such threats.

In the same panel, Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Jeanette Manfra, whose portfolio includes election security issues, said that while there has been a “concerning increase” in attempts by foreign states to infiltrate critical U.S. infrastructure, there were no indications that it included elections infrastructure.  

“While we see Russians continuing to attempt to influence and undermine our democracy, we’re not seeing the targeting of the actual state and local elections systems that we saw in 2016 right now,” Manfra said.

MN-02: Rep. Jason Lewis faces backlash from radio show commentary

Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) is in the news (again) for making disparaging comments about women on his talk radio show, “The Jason Lewis Show”, which he hosted from 2009 to 2014.

CNN’s KFile obtained 15 months of audio in which Lewis laments not being able to call women “sluts”, stating that “it used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard. We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”

In the audio recordings, Lewis also argues that women vote for Democrats because they are “guided by emotion not reason” and do not understand economics. He also suggests that young women who vote based on birth control coverage are not human beings and do not have a brain.  

Lewis is facing a tough reelection race and is viewed as one of the House's most endangered Republicans. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates MN-02 as a “toss up”. His Democratic opponent, Angie Craig, ran against Lewis in 2016 and lost by less than 2 percentage points. If elected, she would be the first openly gay mother to serve in the House.

This is not the first time Lewis has been in the spotlight for his crude commentary. In 2016, when Lewis was first elected to Congress, The Atlantic published a smaller sampling of Lewis’ radio comments about gender and race, which earned him the title “Mini Trump”.

This time around, in the age of #MeToo, Democrats are not letting Lewis off easy.

Emily’s List, which has endorsed Craig, stated that “time and again, Jason Lewis has shown us just how little he respects or understands women” and the DCCC was quick to email the audio out to its supporters. Craig herself tweeted that she was “deeply disappointed” by Lewis’ remarks and that she would “fight like hell so women have the opportunities they deserve and all families can thrive.”

Lewis's campaign released a statement arguing that  “this has all been litigated before, and as Congressman Lewis has said time and time again, it was his job to be provocative while on the radio.”